Bible Book: Matthew  28 : 18-20
Subject: The Great Commission; Evangelism; Witnessing; Soul Winning

I am almost hesitant to announce my topic as “The Great Commission”, because I run the risk of some of you tuning me out before I ever start.

That topic is one of those subjects with which we are all too familiar. We know all about the Great Commission. Why we need to listen to another message about it

I have fallen snare to that erroneous thought myself. Perhaps all the evidence we need to listen afresh and anew is found in our baptism records for this previous year.

So lest we forget the significance of evangelism and lest we convince ourselves we know all we need to know about the commission, please indulge me a few moments this evening to remind you that the church is sitting quietly on the sidelines while the majority of the world is going to hell.

And I want to invite you to again look with me at what our Lord says to us in the commission.

Now I would suggest to you that there is not only one account of this commission, in fact not even 2 or 3 or 4, but at least 5 versions of the Great Commission to be found in the New Testament.

I would further suggest to you that the reason there are multiple presentations is two-fold:

First, for emphasis.. When God says something one time, it is important, but if God brings to our attention His expectations for the church five times, then that carries extreme significance.

But I think also, we have these various versions of the Great Commission because there is no way that one man could capture the fullness of what God had to say through Christ about reaching the world.

So the Holy Spirit sent four reporters on the trail of Jesus to report on what Jesus had to say, and they recorded five accounts to provide a complete teaching of what Jesus had to say to us about evangelizing the world.

Now these accounts provide for us five aspects of the commission that help us to evaluate our lives and the work of the church and our obedience to the commission.

Keep in mind, they are written by four different men who come from different backgrounds and walks of life. They each bring the same message, and yet they are unique and individual, and I want ot suggest to you that only when you put them all together do you really fully appreciate what Jesus wants to say to us about winning the world.

The first one is the most familiar. It is found in Matthew 28:18-20.

Read that text again and again and you begin to sense that Matthew is really hearing Jesus say

I. Go Everywhere

This version of the Great Commission emphasizes world evangelism. And Jesus is saying, step by step, region by region, nation by nation and continent by continent, everybody, without exception must be reached with the message of the gospel.

Notice that emphasis:

v. 18 – in earth

v. 19 – all nations

v. 20 – ends of the earth

Is there any question that the thing that gripped Matthew’s heart was “Go Everywhere!”

Now why did Matthew zero in on that particular aspect? Well, who was Matthew? He was a tax collector, a bean-counter, a detail man.

And the converted tax collector hears Jesus say, “Don’t miss anybody!”

Someone says, well what right do you have as a Christian to go to every culture and tongue and nation and tell them without Christ, they will die and go to hell?

Only one right: The authority of the Word of God. The only reason I have to do that is God told me to!

I believe with all my heart the only right I have to disturb a man and his religion and confront all men everywhere with the claims of Christ is the unchanging, indisputable word of God!

And if I believe this Book, then I am under divine orders from Jesus to go everywhere and tell everyone the truth about Him.

So Jesus says through Matthew: Go Everywhere.

Mark says

II. Go in Confidence

Look at Mark 16:15-16

Now that is an assumption, not a qualification. It is assumed it I get saved, I’m going to be baptized.

If I get on the train to Ft. Worth, it is assumed I will sit down. He that getteth on a train and sitteth down shall go to Ft. Worth.

But I got news for you: It is the getting on, not the sitting down that gets me to my destination!

That was for free; didn’t have much to do with the commission.

Verses 16-18

Why is he saying this? Hey didn’t Mark write about going to the ends of the earth and all nations, etc?

Why is Mark consumed with going in confidence?

Well think about who Mark was and what he brings along with him.

Mark was a young man; some say a teen-ager. Suppose you are a 19 or 20 year-old, kind of a momma’s boy, (momma chewed my fish for me till I was 12) and God calls you to go to the ends of the earth. What are your concerns? What are your fears? What are your worries?

I would suggest there might be a fear about invading Satan’s domain and taking the gospel of Jesus into spiritual darkness.

So what does Jesus say? Don’t worry about that, because in my name you can cast out devils.

I might be concerned about my ability to communicate effectively.

So in verse 17 Jesus says, Don’t worry about that, because when necessary you’ll be able to speak, and people will hear and understand you even when language is a barrier.

I might be concerned about a hostile environment. What about physical concerns, not so much the spiritual challenges, but the physical needs?

In verse 18, Jesus says, Don’t worry about that. I’ll be with you, even if it takes a miracle, I can take care of you.

What is Mark recording for us? When you go, invading spiritual darkness, whether it is a physical problem, an environmental problem, a demonic problem, whatever the problem, just remember, It ain’t no problem when God is with you!

You can go in confidence.

Then we turn to Luke 24, and hear Luke saying

III. Go Together

Listen for the plural references in these verses


Eight times in Luke’s version of the Great Commission, he records plural references to the believers. So what? Well again, who was Luke? Remember he is coming from somewhere. Now we know by trade and training, Luke was a physician. He was a people person. He is concerned about live, warm bodies. And I hear Luke saying, If we are going to do Great Commission work, we’ve got to do it together or it will never get done.

What does that mean to us today? Great Commission work is the work of the whole church. It calls for all believers to get on board from the youngest child to the oldest adult. That’s why I like being a Southern Baptist! I like the Cooperative Program! I like being involved in the denomination and the association.

The early church knew what it was to cooperate. In fact, they survived and flourished against great odds. Why? Because they believed what happened to any of them happened to all of them. They committed themselves to winning the world. That’s Luke’s emphasis:

Go Together! Eight times! You, all of you must do it together.

None of this: It’s not my gift, or I’m too old, or I’m to young or too tired, or I work late, etc.

Luke says, This is OUR work! And the same is true today. Our world, it it will be won, it will be won by churches banded together with other like-minded churches, carrying the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

Let me tell you why I believe in the way we do missions:

1. Penetration

Southern Baptists have more weapons in the arsenal than we can imaging. Virtually any ministry that anyone in the world is doing in a specialty way, Southern Baptists are doing it collectively.

We are penetrating the darkness

2. Participation

Because we are in it together, we can cover for each other. Your church has a down year; someone else is having a good year. We pick up the pieces for one another.

The economy is bad in one area; it’s better in another.

And the good news is our missionaries don’t have to worry about their upkeep. They can concentrate on their work, knowing they are going to be taken care of.

That has a residual effect”

3. Presence

Our missionaries can stay on the field. We are virtually the only mission force in the world, because of the beauty of the Cooperative Program, who can say to our missionaries: Go do the work. Don’t worry about raising money and covering expenses.

I like the way we do missions! We do it together!

Then we have John’s record. Now John was a thinker. And as John evaluates this commission and the extent of what that meant, I think he’s thinking: How’s is this going to happen?

So in John account of the Great Commission, found in John 20:21-23, John hears Jesus saying:

IV. Go In My Power

Now here, Jesus says, I am giving you, as My people, the power to preach the gospel and the responsibility to preach the gospel. I am charging you with giving to men the means by which sins may be remitted and if you are faithful to do that, you will be the vehicle through which the remittance occurs.

On the other hand, if you fail to share and go and tell, then you will be the vehicle through men are retained in their sins. I believe there is a desperate need for us to get hold of this truth. For those of you who never go and never share and never visit, please listen very closely:

Jesus is saying that you are responsible for retaining men in their sins. It is the gospel that holds the power of salvation. It is Jesus who died for them. It is the Holy Spirit who makes that personal, but it is the church that God has chosen to deliver that message to the world.

And we are accountable for what we do with the gospel. So with the weight of that on his mind, here is John listening to Jesus. John the Thinker, the theologian, and he says, How will we pull this off? How is this going to happen?

And then he hears Jesus say: John, here’s how: through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Listen: the reason we don’t share is not because we don’t know what to say or we don’t understand the consequences or how serious it is, or even that it is our responsibility. The reason we don’t is because we lack the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

Let it be our prayer, Oh, God, fill us with your spirit that we might share the good news with the lost!

One final account:

Here is old Dr. Luke again, now later in life, recording what Jesus said just before His ascension: Acts 1:8

Luke has now become a mission strategist, and Luke, understanding we are to go confidently and cooperatively go everywhere, empowered by the Holy Spirit says:

V. Go From Right Here

Start right where you are and don’t stop until you’ve reached the world with the gospel! Did you ever think about what an assignment that was to the early church? You talk about Mission: Impossible! Geographically, physically, numerically, financially, socially impossible! Well, God said, stay home and pray for 10 days. What they didn’t realize is what they could never do in going to the whole world, and God would do by bringing the world to them. They prayed, received the Holy Spirit, preached, and after only a few days, 3,000 missionaries were going all over the world.

How did that happen? They were faithful to do what they could, when they could, with what they had right where they were, starting in Jerusalem.

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden family fortune, he was already a millionaire. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world's hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his "desire to be a missionary." One friend expressed surprise that he was "throwing himself away as a missionary." In response, Bill wrote two words in the back of his Bible: "No reserves."

Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman. Very quickly, however, Borden's classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn't his money. One of them wrote: "He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. We who were his classmates learned to lean on him and find in him a strength that was solid as a rock, just because of this settled purpose and consecration."

During his college years, Bill Borden made one entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: "Say 'no' to self and 'yes' to Jesus every time."

Borden's first disappointment at Yale came when the university president spoke on the students' need of "having a fixed purpose." After hearing that speech, Borden wrote: "He neglected to say what our purpose should be, and where we should get the ability to persevere and the strength to resist temptations."

Surveying the Yale faculty and much of the student body, Borden lamented what he saw as the end result of this empty philosophy: moral weakness and sin-ruined lives. During his first semester at Yale, Borden started something that would transform campus life. One of his friends described how it happened: "It was well on in the first term when Bill and I began to pray together in the morning before breakfast. I cannot say positively whose suggestion it was, but I feel sure it must have originated with Bill. We had been meeting only a short time when a third student joined us and soon after a fourth. The time was spent in prayer after a brief reading of Scripture. Bill's handling of Scripture was helpful. . . . He would read to us from the Bible, show us something that God had promised and then proceed to claim the promise with assurance."

Borden's small morning prayer group gave birth to a movement that spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshman were meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale's 1,300 students were meeting in such groups.

Borden made it his habit to seek out the most "incorrigible" students and try to bring them to salvation. "In his sophomore year we organized Bible study groups and divided up the class of 300 or more, each man interested taking a certain number, so that all might, if possible, be reached. The names were gone over one by one, and the question asked, 'Who will take this person?' When it came to someone thought to be a hard proposition, there would be an ominous pause. Nobody wanted the responsibility. Then Bill's voice would be heard, 'Put him down to me.'"

Borden's outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He cared about widows and orphans and cripples. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission.

One of his friends wrote that he "might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ."

Borden's missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. Once that goal was in sight, Borden never wavered. He also inspired his classmates to consider missionary service. One of them said: "He certainly was one of the strongest characters I have ever known, and he put backbone into the rest of us at college. There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of, and heroic missionaries of more modern times."

Although he was a millionaire, Bill seemed to "realize always that he must be about his Father's business, and not wasting time in the pursuit of amusement."

Although Borden refused to join a fraternity, "he did more with his classmates in his senior year than ever before." He presided over the huge student missionary conference held at Yale and served as president of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa. Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high paying job offers. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: "No retreats."

William Borden went on to graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead. When news William Whiting Borden's death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. "

A wave of sorrow went around the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice" wrote Mary Taylor in her introduction to his biography.

Was Borden's untimely death a waste? Not in God's plan. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words "No reserves" and "No retreats," he had written: "No regrets."

What made the difference in William Borden’s life? He was willing to Go! Go from right where you are. Pray that God will allow you to see the world beginning at your own doorstep and

Go Everywhere

Go In Confidence

Go Together

Go In His Power

Go From Where You Are

But for the sake of the Gospel: Go!