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  • Writer's pictureMichael Gott

THE GREAT COMMISSION CHRISTIAN

Biblical Christians today, at least a few of them, can look back briefly on the twentieth century to hear again a strong Canadian voice saying, “Why should anyone hear the gospel twice until everyone has heard it once?”  And that question, when thoroughly embraced, turns our lives and any church upside down!


That statement was made about fifty years ago by a no-nonsense Christian spokesman, Oswald J. Smith.  He was called “the greatest missionary statesman of the twentieth century.”  And yet, he was described as a man that went from that serious spoken conviction to a warm and bright countenance in seconds.  Yet, he never could be kept back from returning to that great theme of the Great Commission.  His whole life and ministry was given to obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) which he believed was based on the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31).


It was said, in the presence of Oswald Smith no one dared to think or ask, “What does that have to do with me personally?”  In his presence you would be certain to hear the challenge of the New Testament.  World witness was applied to each and every person.



Understood and believed, that statement would turn every Christian into a Great Commission Christian.  For all of us that is part of contemporary Christianity.  There should be blushing that produces repentance.  The shame centers in two areas:  Christians spend 95% of all money given to the cause of Christ on themselves.  Only 2% of the money given is used to reach the people who have never heard the gospel.  But also, we need to look with the clear eyes of realism at how in Christian history the spreading of God’s kingdom has so often been perverted by combining it with other things that have nothing to do with Christ—for example, culture, colonialism, and politics have commandeered it many times, and then the sickening promise of the economic advantages of becoming a Christian.  Sadly, time and again, we see the mistakes of the past, of a gospel corrupted by add-ons that were never part of the New Testament gospel.


The Bible has a global perspective and a dramatic end in view.  I personally apply from the Old Testament these words to history’s climax, “… the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.” (Isaiah 40:5)  And of course, that is repeated by Jesus when He said, “… this Gospel … shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations …” (Matthew 24:14)  Our prayer should be that somehow the vast majority of God’s people will be stirred to do it effectively with that global vision in mind and done from the heart.


What is it that we need?  It is people who can skillfully combine the flexibility of methods with a Biblical strategy that is single-minded.  We now need a renewed commitment to the neglected parts of the world where the gospel so badly needs to be plainly heralded and personally heard.  We require a fresh understanding of that mandate to spread the gospel, but even more, it would seem, a fresh motivation to what may seem an unmanageable burden, especially in the light of the bewilderments we now face in the twenty-first century.  Yet, we must believe in the irrepressible certainty of a God whose mastery over history will someday be unquestioned and be beyond dispute. But, until then, we have a work to do and a world to win and a witness to share.


There was a short-term mission team that went to Eastern Europe during the summer.  A request was, “Could anyone sing a Christian song for the people?”  An American university student stood up, went to the microphone, and sang, with taped accompaniment, “The Star Spangled Banner.”  He thought it was quite appropriate!  This illustrates how Christian witness needs to be purged and rescued from flawed thinking—America and Christianity are not the same.  Today it demands to be brought back firmly into the spirit of pure New Testament faith.  It needs to have spokesmen who know the Scripture and speak with humble, Biblical authority.  And there is no question as to where that supreme authority is to be found, God has given it to His risen and exalted Son—we are to preach Christ.  The Christ who promises the Word was eternal, the Scriptures themselves are to be the source of our message and motivation.


At a very bleak time in 1933 with the rise of Hitler, Pastor Martin Niemöller stood before a large congregation in Germany.  He said that even then God’s people must seek to be obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus.  He said in his sermon, “… it may be visible to all eyes that we Christians are nothing ourselves; that we Christians have nothing ourselves; that we Christians do nothing ourselves!  We live by a miracle and this miracle is called Christ:  He is everything; He has everything; He does everything.”  Then he paused and said, “That is the testimony which we Christians owe to those who today come to us with their hopes and problems and expectations … our duty is to see that these men and women meet the miracle called Christ!”  And that’s a great example of staying focused and keeping a clear head on what we are about in a hostile setting.



With all that in mind, let’s strip Christian history back to the early church and see them all as “doing the work of the evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5).  They went out and infiltrated the pagan world—the dominant culture of that day.  We admit that a very few of them were wise, fewer were considered noble.  They were called the “offscourings” of the world.  And yet, used for God’s glory, they turned the world upside down.  Even today we can identify with them and so these words apply, “… in the family of God, who share a heavenly calling” (Hebrews 3:1).


All of them did, as we should do, “the work of the evangelist.”  The word “evangelist” is mentioned three times in the New Testament, the word “pastor” only once, and the word “missionary” never!  So, in practice this word runs like a golden thread through the New Testament.  So that, we apply that phrase “do the work of the evangelist” to anyone, anywhere, who is committed to obedience to the Great Commission.  That obedience has different expressions.  It may be confined to one’s “Jerusalem.”  For others it may mean moving into the neighboring “Judea.”  Yet, others will be sent to “Samaria.”  And there will be others who are to go to “the ends of the earth.”  All are knit together by the Great Commission and a common bond with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  “… we are laborers together with God …” (I Corinthians 3:9)


A Great Commission Christian must see the big picture, seeing ourselves as links in a chain and therefore, “some plant, some water, but God gives the increase” (see I Corinthians 3:6-8).  Will we fail to be a part of the team?  No link is more important than the other and each link is strategic.  Ultimately, however, it is God alone who saves redeemed people.  We must allow Him to be in full control.  We are to all contribute with Oswald Chambers’ words in mind, “There will be the works of God manifested through us, people will get blessed, and one or two will show gratitude and the rest will show gross indifference, but nothing must deflect us …”  Wonderful words!


It takes all of us, and we cannot expect the world to believe that Christianity is true unless the world sees us serving the Lord and together on a Great Commission team.  That must be recognized as a reality.

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