The Disciples’ Commission

KEY VERSE: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and to, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age].” —Matthew 28:19,20


THIS commission to his disciples contained some of the last words Jesus spoke before he ascended into heaven. Earlier, Jesus sent his disciples into the ministry, but restricted the field of their activity. They were not to go to the Gentiles, nor to any city of the Samaritans. (Matt. 10:5,6) But now these restrictions were removed. They were to continue their work among the Israelites in Jerusalem and in all Judea, but in addition were to spread the Gospel of the kingdom to other nations, even to the “uttermost part of the earth.”

Actually there were still three and one-half years of exclusive opportunity for the Jews to hear the Gospel before it could go to the Gentiles.

But Jesus did not mention this detail when he gave his disciples the commission to go into the uttermost part of the earth with the message. They were to begin in Jerusalem and in Judea, and he knew that in the natural course of events the short remaining period of special favor to the Jews would have expired before they were able to do any witnessing among the Gentiles, and this proved to be the case.

Cornelius was the first Gentile convert, but he did not hear the Gospel because of any effort the disciples were making to witness to the Gentiles. Indeed, it required a miraculous intervention of divine providence to induce Peter to go to the home of Cornelius and preach the Gospel to him. (Acts 10:9-48) Peter visited Cornelius’ home, and he and all his household accepted Christ. From that time forward Gentiles came freely into the church and became fellow-heirs of the promises with the Jews.

Many have made the mistake of supposing that this worldwide proclamation of the Gospel was for the purpose of converting the world and preparing all mankind to go to heaven. But this is not true. James informs us concerning Cornelius, “how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) This people for his name are the sons of God who will be united with Christ as the divine ruling family during the Millennial Age.

The work of God in the earth during this present Gospel Age is to reach these through a general proclamation of the truth, that through their acceptance of and obedience to it they might be prepared to live and reign with Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote that the preaching of the Gospel to many would seem foolish. “After that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (I Cor. 1:21) Here the apostle is declaring that what the world calls ‘foolishness’, God is willing to use for our salvation. To worldly-minded people, the message that salvation is based upon faith in Christ’s death and resurrection may appear absurd, especially is this so to those who believe that man is gradually saving himself through the processes of evolution.

The importance of witnessing for the Gospel is emphasized in Romans 10:10, where Paul says that “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This would indicate that simply to believe the Gospel oneself and not endeavor to proclaim it to others, would not lead to salvation.

But, as Paul points out, in order for one to believe on Christ and accept the Gospel, it must first be made known to him—“How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14) Thus, from two standpoints, we see the importance of witnessing. It is essential to our own salvation, and in the divine plan of salvation, God has made it the means whereby his saving grace through Christ and the Gospel is made known to others. The apostle then quotes from the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 52:7, where the messengers of the Gospel are shown proclaiming “good tidings.”

Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” Who would be ashamed of such a message! It glorifies God and reveals his great love for all mankind. To know such a message, and to have it in one’s heart, is to have a burning desire to tell it out to all mankind!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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