Why are we here? Why did God have Jesus to purchase the church with his blood? Did God seek our salvation just so we could enjoy being saved, forgiven and in a relationship with him? It is certain that our salvation is important. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
But the saving of people and adding them to the church is not the end of it all. Neither is the ultimate goal of going to heaven all that is involved in our being saved. For every person who is invited to come to Jesus, there is a mission for them to go and make disciples of others. In Matthew’s account of the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus said, “All authority is given to me in heaven and earth. As you go therefore make disciples in every ethnic group baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and I will be with you always even to the end of the earth.”
Just as the invitation of Christ is for all to come to him, the commission of Christ is for all who do come to him. Too often we have acted as though the great commission is for a select few who happened to be gifted in sharing their faith with others and leading them to Christ. To act in such a way is to distort God’s plan for the church.
Look at the Book of Acts as the disciples of Christ started the efforts to live out what Jesus had taught them while on the earth. His last meeting with them before the ascension was to tell them it wasn’t for them to know the times or seasons in God’s plan but to wait in Jerusalem to receive power from on high. “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
While the 120 disciples waited in an upper room prayed and waited they were preparing for the mission. Immediately after receiving the Holy Spirit they went out among the people proclaiming the gospel of Christ. They were all speaking at the beginning since the people said, “Aren’t all those who speak Galileans? And we hear them speak in our own language of our birth.”
The Book of Acts lays out how the fulfillment of the great commission was carried out in the first century. They seemed intent on staying in Jerusalem to help one another understand better God’s plan for them. But when persecution arose in the church the disciples were scattered abroad and went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4) It was then that Phillip went down to Samaria to preach Christ unto them. In Acts 10 God called Peter to take the gospel to a gentile family headed by Cornelius. When the door was opened to the gentiles in Acts 11 disciples began to go into other cities preaching the good news of Christ and starting other churches. One of those churches was the church in Antioch which would send out Barnabas and Saul to go on their first missionary journey to spread the gospel message to other parts of the world.
What is amazing is that churches were started in many areas that didn’t have missionaries like Saul and Barnabas to come to them. Later Paul would write to the church in Colossia and mention a letter to the church in Laodicea saying that he had never seen them face to face.
While there were people who were called to be preachers and teachers in some special ways, it was never understood that only those who were called to preach would carry the good news of Christ to others.
All of us are challenged by Peter to set apart Christ as Lord and be ready always to give an answer to anyone that ask a reason for the hope that is in us. (I Peter 3:15-16)
Part of what is implied by God’s telling us that we are all priest of God is that we have an obligation to share the message of Christ with others. Think back for a moment about the great commission given by Matthew. The translation I offered earlier is not one that you find in many translations. But it is true that the words “Go and make disciples” are a declarative sentence instead of an imperative sentence. It is best translated, “As you go”. It wasn’t just that God commanded people to make special trips to other parts of the world to carry the good news. He was saying that wherever we go we are to carry the gospel there in the process. Think of all the places Christians travel and even move to for periods of time. If every Christian fulfilled the commission to make disciples wherever they went we would long sense have preached the gospel in every part of the world. Also notice that the phrase “in all nations” is literally “in every ethnic group”. He wasn’t talking about countries so much as all people groups. We must reach across cultural lines and racial lines to share the greatest message ever given.
Today, it is time for every disciple of Christ to be praying for God to open doors for them to talk with someone else about his will. It is time for us to make a concentrated effort to teach others whom we know or work with or whom we have some friendship with. If we wait for those who feel a special call to carry the gospel to reach all people, the world as a whole will be lost forever. God’s love is great for all people. Jesus died for every person. He gave his mission to all who come to him. What are you doing to carry out his mission in your life?