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The Great Commission...
Make Disciples of All The Nations
General James Green
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:19, 20).
I N “ETERNITY IN THEIR HEARTS,” Christian author Don Richardson relates that, “missiologist Ralph Winter once startled an audience by affirming, ‘Jesus did not come to give the Great Commission! He came to take it away—from the Jews who had already possessed it in prototype for nearly 2,000 years, and had done almost nothing with it! It was time for the world to see what believing Gentiles, entrusted with that same imperative in the New Testament form, would do with it!’” (found on page 186, published by Regal Books, 1981).
I had never looked at the Great Commission this way. Would Yahweh really take what He had given to them in the Abrahamic covenant, and give it to another? He did just that! Dr. Winter claims that Genesis 12 is where the beginning of Biblical missions really starts; all before that, he states, is the introduction. He is right of course.
Chapter 12 of Genesis, verses 1-3 tells us that those 3 verses contain Yahweh’s initial articulation of the Abrahamic Covenant. All Christians should know these verses. Some may call it God’s “promises,” or “promise,” but here we do find God’s coherent purpose for His people Israel.
Verse two is especially revealing: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you (with abundant increase of favors) and make your name famous and distinguished, and you shall be a blessing—dispensing good to others” (Amp. version).
This covenant was given to Abraham by the Almighty God, creator of ALL, not some small tribal god among many. “...and you will be a blessing”...how? “And ALL peoples on earth will be blessed through you”...how? We’ll see later.
This is not the first time that God revealed Himself to man, previously, He revealed Himself to: Adam, Cain, Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, and Job, all the way to Abraham. But why Abraham? Whatever the intent of God, this special revelation turned out to be redemption through the Messiah Jesus Christ the Lord. And the target of that “blessing” is “all peoples of the earth.”
Please do not get the idea of universal salvation [without repentance through Jesus Christ] here, the Abrahamic covenant is not the basis for such a doctrine (some believe it is though).
Some have a hard time reconciling Gen. 12:1-3 with Deut. 7:1, 2—where God told the Israelites to destroy the seven nations that inhabited the land of Palestine. And as to the carrying out of that injunction (7:2), read the harsh sentences in Deut. 20:10-17. How does war of that kind bring all nations into peace and blessings with God? This is very troubling to many.
Some Bible scholars explain that thru the destruction of idolatrous pagans, it made great souls among the pagans understand that “the glory of the people Israel” must grow to become “a light to lighten the Gentiles.”
No doubt the inspired prophets of the Old Testament looked forward to a day when “many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain (kingdom) of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob,” (see Isaiah 2:3); in that day it could indeed be said of the seed of Abraham, “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
I’m sure that neither the prophets, nor Israel, fully comprehended this idea—the emergence of a universal family in God. But that day did come into history by Jesus the Christ—who lived, and died, not to be the Savior of ONE nation only, but by His sacrifice, to make, as Acts 17:26 tells us, “of ONE blood ALL nations of men for to dwell on ALL the face of the earth.” It is this family of mankind that God had in mind with Abraham.
What does the phrase “all peoples” mean? According to the renowned Don Richardson (recognized for his anthropological and linguistic work), “all peoples” constitutes a divine recognition of ethnic distinctions within our race. He says that Moses mentions 36 pagan peoples by name in the course of describing Yahweh’s dealings with Abraham.
Yahweh, in Genesis 22:15-18, actually binds Himself by an Oath to “all peoples.” “And in your Seed (Christ) shall ALL THE NATIONS of the earth be blessed and (by Him) bless themselves, because you have heard and obeyed My Voice” (Amplified Bible, also see Acts 3:25, 26; Gal. 3:16).
Hebrews 6:17 tells us that: “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His Counsel, confirmed it by an OATH.” Immutability represents “the unchanging nature of His purpose.”
What is His purpose? we ask...to bless Abraham (the father of our faith), and his seed (not just the Jewish race, but “all races”), and then to make Abraham’s seed a blessing to “all peoples.” This is MISSIONS at work!
If we start at Genesis 12 and go forward, we can’t miss the significance of God’s people “witnessing” to the pagans. Take note of when Abraham himself witnessed to the Canaanites, Philistines, Hittites and also to the Egyptians. Take note of when Joseph, the spies, Naomi, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Solomon, Daniel and his 3 friends, Esther, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and many more, declared the Word of the LORD to the various Gentile nations. The promise of the LORD marches on today...we Gentiles witness to other Gentiles, and to the Jews.
Richardson, in his sequel to “Eternity in their Hearts,” lists over 300 DECLARATIVE PASSAGES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT WHICH SPEAK OF GOD’S OATH-SEALED PROMISE TO BLESS ALL NATIONS ON EARTH.
But what about the New Testament? We’ll take Galatians for example: five times the apostle Paul mentions the (oath) connection between the New Testament Gospel, and the Abrahamic Covenant. Take note:
1) Gal. 3:8—“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the Gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.”
2) Gal. 3:14a—“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus.”
3) Gal. 3:16—“The promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed, the Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds’, meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’, meaning one person, who is Christ.”
4) Gal. 3:19—“(The law) was added...until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.”
5) Gal. 3:29—“If you belong to Christ, then you’re Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
These passages alone should cause us to want to missionize the world—to bring the lost and heirless into the Abrahamic Covenant thru the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Galatians 3:14b, when it says: “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” it’s saying that we might receive His righteousness, life, and all other spiritual blessings.
Take Gal. 4:6 for instance: “And because ye are Sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” One of the Holy Spirit’s tasks is to create in the born-again Child of God a feeling of “sonship,” and filial love that causes him/her to KNOW GOD AS THEIR FATHER. Mere dead religion can’t do this. The term “Abba” is Aramaic meaning “O Father.”
Acts 3:25 states: “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. And you are heirs of the prophets, and of the Covenant God made with our fathers, He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring ALL peoples on earth will be blessed.’” This was spoken after Jesus told His disciples to tarry for the POWER from on high (the baptism of the Holy Ghost) mentioned in Acts 1:4, 5.
Then He adds this: “But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes on you; you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in ALL Judea and Samaria, and to the ENDS of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That is their “marching order” for missions! Our “Marching Order” is found in Matt. 28:19.
Acts 3:22 states, “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything He tells you’” (NIV). The apostle Peter is explaining that the LORD would raise up His Son, Jesus, to become Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, to bless them first.
Acts 3:26 says, “When God raised up His servant, He sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways” (NIV). This FIRST implies that God also had a contiguous second blessing to the Gentiles. This was not, as some think, a casual insight, but a predetermined plan and purpose. Eph. 3:3 calls it: “...the mystery made know to me (Paul) by revelation.” Verse 2 tells us: “...you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me FOR YOU.”
The Apostle Paul speaks along this same line in Rom. 16:25, 26, and in Colo. 1:25-27. A real good Scripture is found in Rom. 15:8, 9 where it says, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the PROMISES made to the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, ‘For this reason I will confess to you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name’” (See also 2 Sam. 22:50 and Ps. 18:49).
It was Paul’s missionary heart, inflamed with Holy Ghost Fire!, that wanted to missionize the Gentiles (read Eph. 3:9-11).
I once belonged to a church that laughed at the idea of missionary work. Those poor deceived souls (many outstanding young people, both male and female my age were there) thought it almost rebellion for my wife and I to start our journey from Montana to go all the way to South America, to be a witness for Christ. We did complete our journey with plenty of hardships, but we saw souls saved and saw several outstanding miracles to boot! (This was in the late 1970's.) Since those days, we have traveled the world several times over, and have seen thousands of souls saved, plus many, many miracles.
HOW CAN ANY BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN NOT WANT TO BE A WITNESS FOR CHRIST? Don Richardson writes: “The Abrahamic covenant, in all the manifold outworkings...is the very backbone of the Bible—the spinal column of special revelation.” I wholeheartedly agree; without a missionary vision, any Christian will inevitably be spineless!
My wife and I were saved thru the ministry of a lone missionary in Montana on Dec. 6, 1971. We were not converted in a nice church, attended by a nice pastor, who was an overseer of a congregation of nice people. This missionary was told by God to go to a certain place where a lost soul would be reaped for the kingdom. He obeyed and I was that soul: drunk, stoned on drugs, mad as Hell at the world, and worse yet, I hated my very existence. But God knew me!
The missionary servant of God drove me 80 miles up north to our lonely and desolated cabin in the wilds of that country. There on our wooden floor, this brave missionary explained the great Gospel of Jesus Christ to both of us (my wife was extremely abusive and hateful to this loving servant). Needless to say, Jesus captured our wicked and lost hearts that day! Today, going on 44 years later, we have a missionary vision...that vision stems back to the Abraham Covenant. WE ARE BLESSED!!
Our Great God’s missionary plan and purpose still reaps fruit today...even after 4,000 years. Jesus Christ, our loving Savior, said to some incredulous Jews: “I tell you the truth...before Abraham was born, I AM!” (John 8:58). I AM!, another Jewish name for God-Jesus’ life on earth, His death, His burial, and His resurrection were inextricably connected with Yahweh’s promise to share the wonderful blessings of Abraham.
Jesus’ physical lineage was merely foundational, but His spiritual life was to give light and life to those who were (and are) living (rather dying!) in the shadow of death, (see Luke 1:72-79). Jews understood this to mean the Gentiles (read Luke 2:30-32 also). John the baptizer also speaks of this great salvation for ALL mankind (Luke 3:4-6, see also Isaiah 40:3-5).
Don’t you think, Christian, that millions still sit in darkness that we need to take the light to (read Matt. 4:15, 16; also Isaiah 9:1-2)? Do we too think we’re safe because we are in the New Testament covenant, just as the Jews of Jesus’ day thought they were safe because they were in the Abrahamic Covenant? Could we too be obnoxious to God by our attitude towards missions? So many churches never take Jesus’ “ALL-PEOPLES” seriously. Millions of dollars are spent each year on foolish things by church folks (and so-called ‘Christians’), while millions of Christian brothers and sisters in other lands go without Bibles, some without decent food and clothing. Do we care? Does God care? Yes, He does, but too many professing to be His “children” are RELUCTANT TO OBEY THE GREAT COMMISSION.
Are we afraid of a cross-culture mission? It is frightening to see so much time, energy, and money WASTED on carnal pursuits among the church crowd...and actually it is even SINFUL—grossly sinful!
The covenant is unchanging “Christians.” Sadly, the modern church is, by far, more IN LOVE WITH Sodom/ Egypt, than with the Abrahamic and Jesus the Messiah’s Covenant. The church’s affinity with fun, food, and filthy fellowship is a sure sign of a backslidden generation.