Five Things in the Great Commission

Bible Book: Selected Passages 
Subject: Great Commission; Missions; Witnessings; Soul Winning

In the newspaper you get several accounts of the same thing - they're all different. You get an account of an Astros ballgame and they're all different. They're not contradictory - they're complementary. Because what one doesn't judge the other does. One may write about the good or bad manager. One may write about the hitting. One may emphasize the power of the pitching of the opposite team. So long as you put all these reports together you get a full picture of what the game was like. We have that in the gospels. When John finished his book the last thing he said was, "All the books of the world couldn't contain everything Jesus said and did." That was because it was so profound, powerful, and important. But the Holy Spirit had 4 reporters on the trail of Jesus. That's why you have 4 gospels. In most stories, in most incidents, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John say different things. But as you put them together you have a full understanding of all He meant on that subject.

Nowhere, folks, is that truer than in the Great Commission. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and even Acts, all say something different about what they caught about what Jesus Christ said about the Great Commission.

Now, there's not a church in the world that has a better mission philosophy and mentality than you do. So this morning we're going to reinforce who and what you are. I hope to personalize a little bit understanding where you in the kingdom and plan of God fit into missions.

So, let's stand and honor of the reading of this great passage of scripture, Matthew 28:18. We'll begin with Matthew's account. Then, we're going to read what Mark said about the Great Commission and then what Luke said about it, and what John said about it, then, what Luke said a second time in the book of Acts. Altogether, try to get a feel for what he really wanted us to know in personalizing how we fit in the Great Commission. Let's read the traditional, I'm going to read from the New American Standard this morning - kind of halfway between the King James and New International Version.

Verse 19, Matthew 28. Jesus is speaking and He says, I'm sorry let's go back to verse 18, "And Jesus came and spoke to them saying, 'All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I commanded you. And lo, I'm with you always even to the end of the age.'" That word, age, is, more customarily in the King James, written as to end of the world. They're not contradictory but complementary. The end of the world can mean the end of the geographically or as far as you can go on the earth. Also, it can mean till it's all over - the end of the world. And so age and world are used here interchangeably. We'll think about the world.

Thank you and be seated, please. I do hope that you have a pen or pencil and that you'll jot down in your worship guide these 5 things that Jesus Christ is saying. Unless you hear everything Jesus said about anything you don't have the whole thing. You know, famous last words are legendary in history - MacArthur's "I shall return." The last thing Jesus said to the church has been the most important thing to the church throughout the history of the world. And the last thing He said was, "Get out of here, leave your comfort zone and go tell everybody all over the world." I believe the heartbeat of Jesus for us today is to tell everybody time is very short.

We've never had the opportunities that we have now. We have email, Internet, jets and everything you can imagine. So that this is the time for the church to rally and take the gospel to the world. There are something like 3,000 different people groups in the world that speak different languages or different dialects. Now missiologists call a people group any group of 10,000 people or more that speak the same common language different from others. Jesus wanted us to take the gospel to all those groups - to each person in each group. Dear friends, I've got news for you, the Bible tells us in the Book of Revelation that in heaven there are people from every nation and tongue, that is language, in all the world. Think of it. These groups will be evangelized. At the end of time in heaven somebody will be there who was saved out of every island, every nation, every tribe, every language, and every dialect in the whole world. He says that when that has happened the gospel has gotten to all these people then will be the end time.

Note five things we are told in regard to our responsibility to reach all the people of the world...

I. Don't Miss Anybody

Now we've gone to the nations for more than 2,000 major languages of the world. We are almost 2/3 of way through those people groups. So the time is short. The end of time is coming and it's time for the church to rise up. Some of you will say, "That's right church – Ya'll go get 'em, rise up.” Well, you, sitting here today - you are the church. You have to give the money, you to go yourself, and you have to be the missionaries. And so my prayer today is that the Holy Spirit will really help us to personalize this for your heart and mind right here today.

Take your pen. Write down these things. In Matthew, Jesus says, don't miss anybody. That's the emphasis of the gospel of the Great Commission according to Matthew. Don't miss anybody. I want you to look at this, if you will please. Verse 18, "He says in the whole earth;" verse19, "all the nations"; verse 20, "all the world." And so He's saying I don't want you to miss a soul. You have got to find a way to get the gospel to every single person.

Now I want to start with the broadest and come down to the narrowest. Can I tell you that as a Southern Baptist when you give money through a mission offering, a part of what you give goes to the our special international board, the mission board, and part of the budget goes to the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, and part of it goes to the Cooperative Program.

When you give money to a Southern Baptist church for a mission cause, let me give you some good news. Sometimes you watch Christian television and somebody says, "For $5 a month you can buy a brick to build a seminary in Brazil and another will say for just $15 a month you can feed an orphan in Ethiopia and all of these various things." Listen closely, I can back this statement up. There's nothing anybody in the world is doing in missions but that somewhere Southern Baptists are doing it. So when you give money through a Southern Baptist church it's going everywhere just like Jesus said. I want to give you a statistic that will thrill you and will make you proud that you are a Southern Baptist. You know that every day at Ground Zero in New York City there has been work to assist the workers. “Ninety-one percent of the meals that have been served in New York City at Ground Zero since September 11 were paid for, prepared, and served by Southern Baptists." We have a disaster relief program that equals and surpasses the Red Cross in many ways.

What an opportunity to go everywhere but not only in your denomination but it is important that you as a church go everywhere. Can I tell this? There is another church in this city, the church that I pastored for many years, that is very much a mirror of this church in your mission philosophy. Here is what we did. The first thing we did was to draw a circle 5 miles outside of our church and tried to identify every ethnic group, every economic group, transient, River Oaks, whether they're people who live under bridges or speak Etrian or any other language, whether they're truck drivers, harlots or businessmen and we tried to develop a ministry to each one of them. Now sometimes people will come and say, "I've got a burden for that apartment complex down on 4th street." Good, go down there and start a ministry and we'll help you. What God impresses you and burdens you to do He wants you to do. And so as we go everywhere Jesus says don't miss anybody. We do it as a denomination. We do it together as church. We have to do it individually.

Now, most us have our comfort zone. We give some kind of a witness or an invitation to an event that will be a witness or something to somebody we're comfortable with. I want to challenge you this week to find one person with whom you are very uncomfortable in your lifestyle and tell them about Jesus Christ. Jesus meant it when he said don't miss anybody. Let's keep that ever before the church and before our hearts as Great Commission Christians and witnesses.

Now, turn to the book of Mark. Mark has a very strange, if you want to tell the truth, a very strange account of the Great Commission in Mark, chapter 16. Now write these words down. Here's what Mark says, here's Jesus saying about the Great Commission: Matthew heard Jesus say go everywhere. Mark hears Jesus say don't be afraid. That is the emphasis of Mark's account of the Great Commission. Now listen to this - it sounds kind of strange. Verse 15, "He said unto them go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who believes and has been baptized shall be saved but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." By the way, look up a second, he that believes and has been baptized shall be saved is not a condition, it's an assumption. It's not a condition to being saved but an assumption but one who is saved. He who gets on a train and sits down goes to Dallas. But it's the getting on not the sitting down that gets you to Dallas. It's an assumption that if you get on you have sense enough to sit down and go to Dallas. It 's not a qualification; it's just an assumption.

II. Don't Be Afraid

Then, he says in verse 17, now get this, "As you go on this Great Commission, these signs will accompany those who have believed. In my name they will cast out demons, you'll speak in new languages," literally, new dialects, new languages, "they will pick up serpents, if they drink anything deadly poisons it will not hurt them, they will lay hands on the sick and they'll recover." Okay. Why in the world did Mark write down something like that?

Mark, by every account, was probably an older teenager or a young 20, 21, 22, 23. And I want you to see a young man with a wife maybe a little baby in arms. Jesus says go to the jungles of Borneo, go to India, go to Afghanistan, scared to death, absolutely petrified. Now, what are the four main concerns of a young missionary? I've spoken three times at the commissioning services of our Southern Baptist missionaries. Twenty, thirty, forty, a hundred lined up across here. You know that 70% of them are young married couples in their mid and early 20s, a little toddler, a baby in arms.

What are they afraid of? What are they thinking about? Well, first of all, they're invading demonic territory, Satan's bailiwick. He says don't be afraid; I give you power over demons. Then, there is the problem of rampant disease. He said, you'll lay hands on the sick and they'll recover. There's the language problem. He said, I will be with your tongue even miraculously. Then, there's the hostile environment, disease, snakes. He said these things won't harm you. What is He saying? Young couple, young missionary, don't' be afraid. Now do you know that 2/3 of our missionaries all over the world in the jungles, the Philippines everywhere, are young married couples with little ones? And every one of them one day were sitting in your pew in your seat right where - Oh, not us, that can't mean me. I've got a good job. My folks live here. Isn't it amazing - I can't tell you how many preachers I know who want to recommend me to a church. Well there's a great church in Boston. Let me tell you about this wonderful new opportunity in Utah. Well no, we couldn't leave Texas - our folks are here. “Wherever He leads I'll Go,” means as long as it isn't across the Red River. Well, that's not what wherever He leads I'll go means. I've just said this, not be facetious or not to be humorous but to say, precious young couples, many of you since you were kids at summer camp have had a burning in your heart to go into missions. But there are reasons why you don't go. Jesus, in essence, what he's teaching in Mark is don't be afraid. Go and trust the Lord. I hope some of you will go home and talk it over. You may find your spouse God has been dealing with him a long time as well.

III. Don't Go Alone

Okay, let's turn to the book of Luke. Matthew heard Jesus say don't miss anybody; Mark, don't be afraid; Luke hears Jesus say, don't go alone. Don't go alone. Now turn to the book of Luke and let's look at the very last part of Luke, please. In Luke, turn to Chapter 24:45, Luke's account of the Great Commission. And they're all a little bit different. As you're turning to Luke 24:45, look up a second. Let's concentrate here. Let me tell you what we'll find here 11 times Luke is going to emphasize the plural of the group: You, ye means all of you, they, their, them. Eleven times he will refer to the collective body to whom he is speaking. Count them. I'll emphasize them with my voice. All right, verse 45, "Then opened He their minds to understand the scriptures; and he said to them, thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise again on the third day and that repentance for forgiveness of sin should be proclaimed in His name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. You all of you are witnesses of these things; and, behold, I am sending forth a promise of my Father upon you but you are to stay in this city until you are clothed with power from on high. And He led them out as far as Bethany and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came about that while he was blessing them he departed from them and they returned to Jerusalem with great joy continually in the temple praising God." Eleven times he emphasizes togetherness. Don't go alone. May I tell you that if God calls you, young teenagers, young couples, and, by the way, retired couples, there is a marvelous ministry where you can for 2 years or 4 years by International Mission Board. You can be dorm parents; you can take care of the kids while the missionaries go out in the jungle for days, and weeks at a time. As you go no matter who you are, he says, you've got a marvelous support system. There are 16 million Southern Baptists and trillions of dollars behind you.

Bum Phillips said we are going to go down into the well and we expect you to hold the rope. God's people are going to hold the rope. You've got a great support system. I've been overseas 37 different times preaching crusades. I have to tell you it's sugar and salt, good news and bad news. I just love it! But being there alone many of you stay in a nice hotel, missionaries in the jungle or whatever away from your family, away from your support group, away from familiar things, is a little discombobulating. Well the last 15 or 20 times I've gone I've taken 30 or 40 friends from our church and we were all there together. Everything changes. People to talk with, fellowship with, workers who understand you and you them, folks to pray with you, folks to eat with after the evening when you come back to wherever you're staying. And, boy, that makes all the difference in the world - that you're in this together. You can go out and be a missionary all by your lonesome and sometimes that's okay.

These dear girls that were arrested in Afghanistan were there alone, just two of them as missionaries. But let me tell you this, no two people ever had more passion and love and prayer and empathy and support and intercession behind them and with them 24 hours a day by millions of American Christians as they did. Jesus said don't go alone. Don't go by yourself. And when you go, others will go. There will be a mission support group there whether you go as drilling water wells in Africa or across the street to a local mission here, you have the support and the fellowship of the people. Try to find a mission organization, a support group, and as Southern Baptist I think we have the best. So he heard Jesus say, don't go alone.

IV. Don't Step Over Anybody

Now instead of going to John we're going to go to Acts and then come back to John because I want to finish with what is in John. Turn over to the book of Acts. Luke gives two accounts of the Great Commission; one that we just read and then there is this one in Acts. This is the same Luke at an older age.

It's in Acts, Chapter 1, verse 8. Let's hear what he writes now what he heard Jesus say a little different version of the Great Commission. In Acts 1 verse 8, "But, Jesus said, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and even to the remote parts of the earth." Now Jerusalem was home base. Jerusalem was right where they were standing. Judea was the next geographical entity over.

Samaria was the next ethnic group away, half Jew half Gentile. Then, He said the whole world but He began with the beginning in Jerusalem. Now what you want to do is don't miss anybody, don't be afraid, don't go alone and, write this down from the book of Acts, don't step over anybody. He said Jerusalem first.

Jerusalem is where you live. Jerusalem is next door, your street, your apartment complex, and your family. You know, folks, there's something about missions that I think the devil uses to make missions look glamorous and winning the lost wonderful as long as it's 10,000 miles away. And so many times we step over people who are lost people, people who are prospects right at our own front door in order to go to the more glamorous mission field somewhere else. He said don't do that.

I want to tell you that no church in the world does a better job of touching those right where they are than you do. So many of your mission ministries are right here in Houston - that's the way it ought to be. If you're not doing that locally then you are a fraud when you try to do it internationally. I got to tell you I've taken probably been on mission trips with a couple thousand different people. Very few of them have ever witnessed to lost people in Houston. But, boy, when they get out to India or Africa or the Philippines, man, we're preaching on the street corners, we're handing out tracks to everybody you can imagine. May I suggest to you that that is hypocritical? Jesus has said don't go anywhere and get enamored with lost people all over the world if you're stepping over those at your very own front door. Start right where you are.

The hardest people to witness to are those at our own front door, our own street, our own Lion's Club, or our own family. It's much harder to witness to a lost husband than it is to witness to somebody else's lost husband in China. He said don't do that. Start right here in the city.

There's something going on in America that we all see every day called transitional communities. People may move in of a different ethnic group, different racial background, and from different countries, and the community changes, so the people move out. Now the same group of us go to church and we give millions dollars to reach black people, or Hispanic people, or Asian people or African people all over the world; but, yet, we slip away when we have the opportunity here.

Now imagine a scenario like this when the mission field moves in but the missionaries move out. Now that's a shame. That's not how it is supposed to be. I led our church to do five different citywide crusades in Mexico. One day God said, "Hello, there is a 35% population in Houston right here that is Hispanic. How about starting right here?" So we started to do that. First thing we did was to put on a citywide Hispanic youth revival and started 10 to 15 Hispanic missions. The Lord said don't step over people right here to go to people anywhere else - Jerusalem first; then Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.

V. Don't Think I'm Not Deadly Serious

Now there is a fifth, and final don't. I want you to turn to the book of John. John was the most mature of these believers and in all likelihood said something very serious. Matthew said don't miss anybody. Mark said don't be afraid; Luke said don't go alone; Acts states that we are not to step over anybody. But, note what John says. In John's 20:21 we see the emphasis of Jesus' commission on his life. He heard Jesus say something entirely different. He heard Jesus say, “Don't think I'm not deadly serious. Don't think I'm not dead serious. Don't think that this isn't a deadly serious issue.” Now, let's see what He says in verse 21: "Jesus, therefore, said to them, Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me I also send you." Jesus said this in the Upper Room and not on the mountain but it is still part of the Great Commission. So, let's deal with it. Jesus said, “My Father sent me, so send I you.”

There it is. "When He said this He breathed on them and said to them, receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any their sins would have be forgiven of them. If you retain the sins of any they've been retained." Strange? Well let's back up. He's given them the gospel. Now He gives them the power of the gospel, the Holy Spirit. Now let's camp right there for a moment. Jesus said here's the gospel. In Romans we see the power of the gospel spoken of with the Greek word, “dunamos,” from which we get our English word, “dynamite.” The Gospel is dynamite. And dynamite changes things. But dynamite just lays there and accomplishes nothing unless you strike it with fire. So, Jesus says, you've got the gospel dynamite, I'm now giving you the fire, the power of the Holy Spirit. Get out there and witness. But He says I want to warn you of one thing. If you don't go, whosever sins you retain they're retained. Whosoever sins you remit or forgive, they're remitted, taken away, forgiven. Now on the surface that seems to say that you have the power to forgive sins. Let me tell you what the Greek really means. It means you have the power and the responsibility not to forgive their sins but to announce the terms of the gospel in the power of the Spirit under which sin may be remitted ... not that you're forgiving sins but you have the privilege and responsibility of announcing the terms of the gospel under which sin may be remitted. And if you do that, you are, in essence, the entity responsible for freeing men from their sin. But if you don't take it seriously, then you are responsible for retaining men in their sins.

So, how is that? Well, let me make a supposition. Let's just suppose that I happen to know that each of you are compassionate, caring people. I'm a scientist who has discovered the cure for AIDS and I call a thousand of us together and I say, “Folks, out here in the city of Houston I have identified 1,000 people that are dying from AIDS, but I have great news! I've discovered the cure. I want to give each of you something today. I want to give each of you a hypodermic syringe, a hypodermic needle, and a vial of serum to put in there. Now this serum will cure people from AIDS. Get out there and each of you find at least one and give that person a shot of this serum. I want to warn you if you don't go, if you think that's not important, you don't take me seriously, you're going to be responsible for these people dying in with AIDS. If you do go, you are the one who has been responsible for giving them what they need to be healed of the disease. The hypodermic syringe for salvation is YOU! The needle is your tongue with which you witness and inject the serum. The serum is the gospel.

Some of you will say, “Well, I'd rather play golf or go fishing. I'm too busy. I don't really care.” Okay, if you don't share the serum of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you're responsible for retaining them in the disease of sin. If you go and share, and they accept the message of salvation through Christ, you are the entity responsible for having remitted and taken away their sin.

There is a concept like this in the Old Testament. God said to "Ezekiel, son of man, I've set you a watchman on the wall, a witness to Israel. If you warn them to repent of their sins I will free you of their blood. If you don't, their blood I will   require at your hand." He says here's the gospel, go witness, go take it to the ends of the earth. The hypodermic needle doesn't cure anybody, the syringe doesn't heal anybody, you don't heal anybody - the serum does the healing, but you are the one who determines who gets the serum (the gospel) and who doesn't. He said I'm dead serious for I've given you the gospel and the power to witness the gospel that you do something about it.


I want to challenge you to make a fresh commitment in your heart to spreading the gospel in your own witness, in your prayer for missions, in the special offerings you give in the next several weeks, and your response to God's call to you, only on your life to go into missions. Okay let's pray.

Father, you've taught us a lot this morning about what you feel about the Great Commission, your last words to the last church. And Lord, you've finished by saying this a deadly serious issue. You're going to be responsible for whether or not people get the gospel serum that saves souls and changes lives. If we don't give it, we don't provide it, we don't pay for it, we don't go administer it, we don't pray for its impact, we don't do anything, then, we are responsible for retaining men in their sins. Lord, what a pleasure and privilege that we can be responsible for having freed them from their sins. I thank you that the course of missions has long since - way before I ever came - been set and the commitment of this church is that way. Reinforce them, Lord. May they be better witnesses! May they give more money than ever before, and may more during his month and next surrender their lives to Christ and to go and tell than ever before. In Jesus' name, Amen.