The Great Commission

“Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” —Jeremiah 1:9,10

JEREMIAH THE PROPHET was commissioned by the Lord to speak for him to declare a message of truth pertaining to Israel as well as to other nations. The Lord gave the prophet the message he was to preach, in order that he might be properly equipped to carry out the mission to which he was appointed: ‘Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth’. Jeremiah was not commissioned to proclaim his own opinions or deductions. If he were to be faithful to the Lord the only course open to him was that of being a messenger of the Word of the Lord.

This principle has held true with respect to all those who have been Divinely appointed to represent God among the people. The only true servants of God have been those who faithfully proclaim the message he has entrusted to them; and their fidelity to the Lord’s cause has called for earnestness in their endeavor to ascertain the message the Lord would have them proclaim. As Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy, they studied to show themselves approved by God, workmen who would have no need to be ashamed, because they had rightly divided the Word of truth.—II Tim. 2:15

The message Jeremiah was commissioned to proclaim was of a twofold nature. He was to call attention to the sins of Israel and the dire consequences of continued disobedience to God’s Law; and he was also to announce the blessings God proposed to bestow upon the nation and upon all the world under the arrangements of the New Covenant. (Jer. 31:31-34) Included in his commission was the explanation that these blessings were to be so far-reaching as to include the resurrection of the dead. (Jer. 31:15-17) These two phases of the message are epitomized in our text, for in it Jeremiah was told that he was ‘to pull down, and to destroy’, and also ‘to build, and to plant’.

Actually, of course, Jeremiah did not embark upon a work of destruction; and he was powerless to do anything along the line of ‘planting’ or ‘building’. However, from the Lord’s standpoint he was reckoned as having a part, both in the work of destruction and in the work of rebuilding, simply by being faithful in declaring to the people what the Lord intended to do along these lines. It is important to recognize this principle in God’s dealings with his people, for it will help us to understand more clearly some of the prophecies pertaining to the position occupied by the people of the Lord in the present transition period between the Gospel and Millennial Ages.

In the experience of Jeremiah, while he was commissioned to warn Israel of the impending disaster that was to come upon the nation, the instrumentality actually used by the Lord to overthrow the nation was the king of Babylon and the Babylonian armies. The prophet was given a vision in which he saw forces out of the “north,” “a seething pot” (Jer. 1:13-15), that was to come against Jerusalem. Like many other prophecies, while this doubtless had a limited fulfillment in connection with the overthrow of Israel in 606 B.C., it can have a larger fulfillment now. Also, the Lord has commissioned his people to declare this “day of vengeance.”—Isa. 61:2


In the case of the ancient prophets of Israel, each one of them was commissioned by God individually to proclaim a specific message to his people. There was, of course, an overall harmony in all these messages, for in a general way they always contained a warning against the results of disobedience, a call to repentance, and promises of blessings which ultimately would come to Israel and the whole world. These promises were later summed up by Peter as meaning “times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”—Acts 3:21

But, in the Gospel Age God does not bestow individual commissions upon his servants, except in the case of Jesus, the Head of the Christ company. At the time of his baptism he was anointed by the Holy Spirit, and shortly thereafter he explained to a group of Jewish worshipers at a Nazarene synagogue that this anointing constituted his authority to preach glad tidings to the meek, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. The ‘proof text’ which the Master used in this connection was that of Isaiah 61:1-3.

However, this foretold commission of the Holy Spirit to preach the glad tidings did not end with the Master. The apostle speaks of the anointing which we have received from him, indicating that those who by one spirit are baptized into his body, partake of the same anointing which came upon the Head. Jesus explained this matter in non-symbolic language, saying to his disciples that just as he had been sent into the world, so he was sending them. Later he told them to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, the glad tidings.

The commission we have received to represent the Lord differs from that which was given to the individual prophets in the sense that we share in the one great anointing, or authorization, which came first upon our Head, Christ Jesus, and is participated in by all the members of his body. One member of the body of Christ is not given a commission to declare a different message from another. All come under the same anointing; all are given the same truth; and all are authorized to lay down their lives in proclaiming it to others.

The message the church has been authorized to make known to the world has not been unlike that which each of the prophets in turn declared to Israel. First of all, it has been a message of repentance. Paul explained to the Athenians on Mars’ Hill that now God commandeth all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30) This has not been done by displaying a call to repentance across the skies, but rather, through his faithful servants, the footstep followers of Jesus. The church in the flesh has been pictured by Elijah, whose efforts were directed to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. But his efforts failed, just as the efforts of the church fail.

In his prophecy of the Elijah work, the Lord warned that if repentance was not forthcoming on the part of the world under the influence of the Gospel message, he would “smite the earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4:5,6) The Rotherham Translation of these verses says: “smite the land with utter destruction.” This is, no doubt, a reference to the great time of trouble that was to come upon this present evil world, causing its destruction and preparing the way for God’s new world. We see the beginning of this trouble in our day—a trouble that could have been averted had those warned really heeded the call to repentance and endeavored to obey God’s righteous laws, but they did not. Hence now, and in an ever-increasing measure, they will feel the sting of the foretold smiting work, the curse of the time of great tribulation.

Not only, however, is it the privilege of the church to announce to the world the need for repentance, and to explain the meaning of the present trouble, but we are also to assure the people—those who have hearing ears—of the wonderful time of blessing which is so near at hand. Like the prophets of old, we, too, are to speak of the ‘times of restitution of all things’ which are to be ushered in as a result of the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. And what a joy it is to sing this sweet theme song of God’s love!


In the great commission of the Holy Spirit as outlined in Isaiah 61:1-3, the thought is stressed that we are to proclaim the glad tidings only to the “meek.” These, after all, are the only ones who will benefit from the message. It is quite beyond our powers, however, to seek out the meek of the earth individually so that we can direct the message exclusively to them. Rather, the method the Lord gives us is that of proclaiming the truth far and wide by every means possible, with the realization that in the Lord’s providence it will reach the hearing ears of the meek. We are to sow beside all waters, for we know not which will prosper, this, or that.

Our message is to be that of glad tidings. Even when we explain the meaning of the great time of trouble, our message should be coupled with that of hope for the future—the hope that is based upon the promises of God pertaining to the blessings to be showered upon the people through the instrumentalities of the Divine kingdom. Such a message cannot do other than bind up the brokenhearted. It will also assure the earnest seekers after truth that those who are held in slavery to sin and superstition, as well as those who are bound in the great prison house of death, are to be given their liberty. It is a glorious message—one that thrills the hearts of those who know and proclaim it as well as those who hear and respond to its righteous influence.

Jesus was commissioned to proclaim the “acceptable year of the Lord” (Isa. 61:2), and that commission has also come down to us. It will be withdrawn only by circumstances which, in the Lord’s providence, will make it impossible for such a message to be proclaimed. It pertains to the opportunity of this age to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as joint sacrificers with him, with the inspiring hope that if we are faithful unto death we will live and reign with him in the spiritual phase of the kingdom.

This phase of the Lord’s message includes a call to repentance, and the invitation to present one’s self in full consecration to the Lord. It includes also proper emphasis upon all those features of the truth pertaining to our walk in the narrow way. Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, we are to encourage one another to lay hold more firmly upon the exceeding great and precious promises whereby we are made partakers of the Divine nature; and to add to our faith, fortitude; and to fortitude, knowledge; and to knowledge, self control; and to self control, cheerful constancy; and to cheerful constancy, piety; and to piety, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (II Pet. 1:4-7) We are to keep reminding ourselves and our fellow-pilgrims in the narrow way that it is only if we do these things that an abundant entrance will be administered unto us into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.—II Pet. 1:10,11


When Jesus quoted the commission of the Holy Spirit as outlined in Isaiah 61:1-3, he stopped just before the reference to the “day of vengeance of our God.” The reason is obvious, for it was not then God’s due time for the ‘day of vengeance’ to be upon the world. Therefore this phase of the Divine commission of service we might speak of as being dispensational, its application to the Lord’s people being exclusively at this end of the Gospel Age. Now, as the prophecies so clearly indicate, we are actually living in the foretold ‘day of vengeance’, hence, as faithful stewards of the mysteries of God, we cannot refrain from declaring the truth concerning it.

Declaring the ‘day of vengeance’, however, does not imply the pronouncing of vengeance. It calls only for the explanation of the trouble that is now upon the world, and witnessing to the glorious solution to world distress which has been Divinely provided through the kingdom of Christ so soon to be manifested.

A proper witness concerning the ‘day of vengeance’ implies making known to the people that none of the proposed humanly devised remedies for human ills now being offered will solve the problems of a dying world; that only Christ’s kingdom will do this. The position of the true Christian in the world is to proclaim boldly and lovingly the glorious fact that soon the Lord will answer the Christian’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), and that the manifestation of this kingdom will bring “the desire of all nations.”—Hag. 2:7


Guided by the viewpoint of the Lord as expressed by him to Jeremiah, and set forth in our text, we are warranted in concluding that faithfulness in announcing the incoming kingdom may properly be considered a participation in our work for the Lord. Jeremiah prophesied that the Israel of his day had to be taken captive. We today proclaim that the present evil world must come to an end and be replaced by God’s wonderful kingdom. Surely the saints today occupy a highly honored position in the Divine arrangements, “as a season of beauty upon the mountains, as the feet of one preaching glad tidings of peace,” declares the Prophet Isaiah. Then he outlines the message of good tidings which the ‘feet’ members of the ‘body of Christ’ are now commissioned to preach, saying: “As one preaching good news: for I will publish thy salvation, saying, O Sion, thy God shall reign.”—Isa. 52:7, Septuagint Version

We are living in a transition period, and as we review what has occurred since the end of the ‘times of the Gentiles’ in 1914, since the time when “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24), we see a continual trend toward the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. Only those enlightened by present truth know the meaning of these world changes, and happy are we if we are faithful in letting the people know this meaning to the extent that they have hearing ears.

Isaiah declares that in this time when the Lord returns his watchmen would “lift up the voice … together.” (Isa. 52:8) This denotes unity in bearing witness to the truth. It is not possible for imperfect human minds to see every detail of truth exactly alike, but it is possible for all who recognize the significance of the times in which we are living to unitedly proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom to the world. This is essentially what the watchmen are doing. Think of the measure of cooperation represented in the ability of a small group to broadcast the truth worldwide by radio and television every week! This is a brilliant testimony concerning the determination of the Lord’s consecrated people to work together letting their light shine so they might be like a city set on a hill which cannot be hid.

The proclamation of the truth today will not convert the world, nor interest a great many people to the point of making a full consecration. There will be some drawn to the Lord, for it is his method of calling the remaining members of his church.

Besides these, there are thousands who are learning something about the truth. They are discovering through the message of the kingdom that God is love, that he does not intend to torment his enemies; and that his kingdom of blessing is near. To these the message of truth means, “Seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.”—Zeph. 2:3

The message which the Lord has commissioned us to preach is one which, to the extent that it is heeded, leads first to repentance, then to consecration on the part of those who have a hearing ear. It reveals the futility of all human efforts to establish peace, and points to the kingdom of Christ as the world’s only hope. In the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:36-44), the faithful followers of the Master are designated “children of the kingdom.”—vs. 38

Let us be loyal and zealous children, gladly laying down our lives as ambassadors of the kingdom.

We have a great commission! May we prove to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God!

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |