What Jesus Wants You to Know as You Go
Marvin J. Newell
ChurchSmart Resources, 2010, 182 pp. ISBN 978-1-889638-89-8
Marv Newell is Executive director of CrossGlobal Link (formerly IFMA) and adjunct professor of Intercultural Studies at Moody Theological Seminary. This is a fresh look at the five Great Commission passages, exploring their pattern, instructions and implications. The last half of the book deals with core issues, common questions, leadership principles and the remaining task. Someone has said that we have taken the basics for granted for so long that we don’t remember the basics anymore. We are ripe for a good dose of Great Commission basics.
Definition of the Great Commission: “The task given by Jesus to the Church through the disciples that authorizes it to carry the gospel everywhere so that all peoples might have opportunity to believe on Christ as their Savior and become life-long followers of him.” (16) All five of the Great Commission passages have this intent at their core.
These passages function as the hinge between the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. They are the “go” command to the church. (17)
Chapter 1. Parting Words – Pressing Matters
“Final words of a departing loved one are always taken seriously.” “But his final days with them were bookended with instruction about the upcoming worldwide mission they were to inaugurate. He first told them about it on the evening of Resurrection Day. He last instructed them in it 40 days later, just moments before victoriously ascending into heaven.” (21)
The final chapter of each Gospel and the first chapter of Acts record Jesus’ final discourses to the disciples. The following passages have come to be known as the “Great Commission” mission statements: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21; and Acts 1:8. “Jesus gave these mission statements to his disciples on five different occasions, in five different addresses, at five different geographical settings, with five different emphases.” (23) In chronological order they would be John 20:21 (immediately after the resurrection); Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20: Luke 24:44-49; and Acts 1:8 (40 days after the resurrection, immediately before his ascension).
These passages contain all the essential ingredients for successful mission. “Without question these five mission statements of Jesus make up the missional Magna Carta of the Church, from its inception, for today, and into the future.” (28)
Chapter 2. The Model for Mission
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” John 20:21
Whenever God had an important task to accomplish, he sent someone to do it. “As part of that process to transmit the good news of redemption throughout the world, Jesus sent out the disciples by way of his Great Commission statements. His people have been on mission ever since. The living God is indeed a missionary God!” (29)
“The term mission presupposes four necessary components. Every mission entails 1) a sender, 2) the one sent, 3) those to whom one is sent, and 4) an assignment.” (29-30) His first meeting with them after the resurrection was a teachable moment for the bewildered disciples. Here he mentioned the bare essence of their new assignment: they were being sent. (John 20:21). In the Old Testament Israel “functioned primarily as a magnet, drawing the nations to the light of God through their life experience with him.” (32) Now the process changes. The disciples are to fan out across the world in an outward mission. Jesus is propelling them forth. They are to manifest his life and character as they bear witness and minister.
Chapter 3. The Magnitude of the Mission
“Go ye into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mk 16:15)
Eight days later Jesus became more specific about the magnitude of the task and the goal of their mission. “All” is a vast inclusiveness, the entire earth, every part of the globe, every person. This is both geographically global and individually specific.
Further, not only mankind but all creation was affected by the fall and it too is in need of redemption. Creation is positively affected as men are redeemed and their worldview changes. They become responsible stewards and so creation gets included in redemption as the positive effects of human redemption spill over into the created order. (41)
The redemption of mankind, not creation renewal, is the core teaching. “Evangelization was the goal, not beautification. … However, although eco-justice is not a part of the church’s mission by command, it is a natural by-product of the church’s mission by application.” (42)
The command is strongly evangelistic. “The world will never be won through the silent presence of believers…. Along with a winsome presence must be a vocalization of the message.” (43) “Unquestionably the overall goal and highest stated priority of Jesus is World Evangelization…. Whatever plans, programs, or activities missions engage, all are to be measured against this priority.” (43) “Evangelism should always be considered the lifeblood of the missionary movement. The mission of the church has evangelism as its highest priority. Every other activity falls beneath this ultimate goal.” (44)
Chapter 4. The Methodology for Mission
“18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
“His absolute all-inclusive authority was the underpinning for their engagement in world evangelization. The right for them to go on mission anywhere, enter any country, encounter any culture or witness in any community to persuade any person to believe on him was a God-given right based on his authority.” (53) “No church anywhere can claim exemption from it…. [It] is irrevocable and unstoppable.” (54)
Make disciples is the centerpiece of Jesus’ command. “Producing authentic, lifelong followers of Jesus is the goal of making disciples.” (56) [I wonder if it makes any difference that in the Greek, disciple is the verb and nations is the object, disciple all the nations? Dlm]
“The first step in making disciples is to go to where there are people who are not Christ followers. … This is the third time the disciples heard they were to go somewhere. It shows the duty of believers to take the gospel from where it is known and believed to where it is not known or believed.” (57-8) “Teaching has a final goal – obedience. … It takes growth experiences in community with other believers for this to be most effective. This is why believers are congregated into churches (and why some have labeled this passage the ‘church planting’ commission).” (59)
All nations or “all the nations” (panta ta ethne) includes all ethnic groups or people groups. Joshua Project estimates 16,000 people groups. Of these 9,653 are considered “unreached,” having “no viable indigenous church planting movement with sufficient strength, resources, and commitment to sustain and ensure the continuous multiplication of churches.” (61)
Chapter 5. The Message of the Mission
44Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
In Luke, Jesus clarified the message they were to proclaim to the nations. He gives the essence of the gospel in four vital statements [Jesus is the promised Messiah. He suffered death and was raised to life. One must respond by repentance. Forgiveness of sin is the benefit.] which explain three vital truths [Sin is man’s predicament. The redemptive work of Jesus is the only cure. Repentance is necessary to be forgiven.].
This message is rooted in the Old Testament. Forgiveness of sins is the very heart of the Christian message. No other religion can offer this promise of full pardon. It extends to all nations. And the disciples were to wait for the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 6. The Means of Mission
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
This is the final instruction, immediately prior to his ascension, which includes the means of empowerment, the strategic plan, and human instrumentality. The Holy Spirit is the divine Empowerer of missions. “Christian missions are no human undertaking, but a supernatural and divine enterprise for which God has provided supernatural power and leadership.” (78, quoting Robert Glover) “We easily mislead ourselves into thinking that human achievement can bring about spiritual results. …[But] spiritual work takes spiritual power to achieve spiritual ends. … The mission endeavor…becomes purely human achievement and humanistic when based on self-sufficiency. … Technologies do assist in the task, but they can never replace the place and power of the Holy Spirit in world evangelization.” (78-9) The empowerment of the Holy Spirit is a dominant theme in the book of Acts.
Acts 1:8 serves as a table of contents for the activities of the book. The gospel was preached to the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea, the mixed-Jews of Samaria and to the Gentiles everywhere else. (81) The text of Acts 1:8 uses ‘and,’ ‘and,’ ‘and,’ showing that there is to be simultaneous witness in all areas as opposed to finishing one area before proceeding to the next. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth include ethnicity, geography, language, and culture.
Chapter 7. The Great Commission Diamond
Four essential elements make up the core of the Great Commission:
Chapter 8. Common Questions About the Great Commission
Q. Where do holistic ministries fit?
The Cultural Mandate (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15; 9:1-3) calls for the improvement of culture and the care of creation to provide a wholesome society. It was given to all mankind as members of the human race.
The Evangelistic Mandate (5 Great Commission passages) calls for “the spiritual liberation and restoration of man back into fellowship with God through repentance and forgiveness of sin. This mandate was given to believers as members of the body of Christ.” (113)
Are these co-equal or is one paramount? The Great Commission passages reveal that “holistic ministries are implicit, not explicit … whereas evangelistic endeavors are clearly explicit. We evangelize because we are commanded to do so by Christ – this the unequivocal mandate to believers. As such it is the primary missional task of the Church. On the other hand, we engage in education, compassion ministries, creation care and a host of other holistic works because our new life in Christ compels us. Since we have become new creatures (2 Cor. 5:18-20), we desire that everything else in creation experience newness as well. Therefore engagement in morally right efforts like human justice and eco-justice, etc., while not a part of the church’s core mission per se, become a natural by-product of or ancillary to that mission.” (115)
Q. Is the “Nazareth Manifesto” really at the heart of God’s mission?
“The one passage that most often stands out as the substitute for the Great Commission is what Jesus said about himself in Luke 4:18-19. … The Luke passage … is declared to be Jesus’ personal mission statement. Therefore, the reasoning is, if it is his mission statement then it should be ours as well.” If it was his agenda, it should be ours. (119)
This quotation of Isaiah 61 describes the fulfilling of a Messianic prophecy which can only be applied to Jesus. It includes miraculous elements that only God can perform. It is a statement of fact, not a command. It includes no instructions to obey. “To downgrade the obvious and clear-cut five Great Commission passages, and substitute them with one non-related, limited application passage is a classical hermeneutical mistake. The danger is that it leads one off track.” (120)
Chapter 9. The Why of the Great Commission
John 3:16 encapsulates the heart of it. “The message of John 3:16 is the reason for the Great commission.” (126) Although all believers have a sentimental belief in John 3:16, many are confused or uncertain about what it teaches. “Rather than affirming the exclusive message of the Cross for man’s salvation, most Christians today would prefer to believe that somehow, in some way, some people, somewhere, by some other means can be saved and make it to heaven following an alternate route outside of conscious belief in the finished world of Christ.” (127) But Peter had heard Jesus say, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6) and he reiterates, ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).
Chapter 10. Leadership Principles from the Great Commission
Chapter 11. The Remaining Task
“Although remarkable progress has been made on some fronts, the vast majority of the world’s peoples remain unevangelized.” (151) This chapter provides statistics and presents categories of those still needing the gospel.
Chapter 12. The Great Commission and You
“Today, the Church has all the resources at its disposal to finish the task. … However, the one thing most lacking, the thing in which believers today seem most deficient, is the will to act. We cannot do it if we will not!” (162)
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Your comments and book recommendations are welcome.