Evangelism is not Optional
The words of Jesus are very clear on the issue of sharing our faith. Witnessing is not a suggestion. It is mandatory. It is an order from the King Jesus to us, His subjects. Telling others about Him is an essential part of who we are as His disciples. Ever hear anyone say that our faith is personal and we should keep it ourselves? Those people may be well-meaning, but they are directly contradicting Jesus. He paid for the right to tell us what to do with His life. He loves the whole world too much to let the spreading of the Gospel be a gray area.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 Matthew 28:18-20
What does Jesus Tell Us to Do?
The words of our Savior, Jesus, in Matthew 28 are very clear. He is God, the maker of heaven and earth…and us. He tells us to “Go, make disciples, baptize and teach”. Pretty clear, right? We know what go means and we understand what make disciples mean. It is obvious what teach means and the Scripture makes clear this was Jesus speaking. This is common knowledge in the Christian community. It is referred to as the Great Commission. But do we also know that this is not a suggestion from Jesus? That the One who has authority over us issued these words as a direct command?
The Great Commission is actually a direct order to us. Jesus spoke with the clear expectation that the listener will do what He says. Jesus is our commander and we are His servant. It is right for us to follow His orders. Those who have been in the military understand this very clearly from experience. When a commanding officer gives an order, what does the subordinate do? They hopped to it and did exactly as told. If a general gives an order, the entire command follows along. They do so because has authority over them and hopefully he is acting for the good of the unit.
The same type of authority was present in the days of Jesus. The Roman Army did not fool around when it came to orders. A soldier either followed directions or they faced immediate and severe discipline. Failure to follow orders could result in the Legionnaire beaten almost to death or actual execution type of bad day. Harsh, iron-fisted discipline is what allowed them to conquer much of the known world. The commanders expected the soldiers to follow their orders to the letter or there would be serious consequences.
This is the background of Jesus interaction with a Centurion in Matthew 8. A Centurion is a commander of a hundred soldiers. In the passage, he comes to Jesus with the request that Jesus heal his servant. When Jesus offers to come to his house to do the healing, the Centurion clearly understands with whom he is speaking. He demonstrates an understanding of Jesus’ authority that is astounding. Recall the Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant and Jesus says He will go with him to his home. The Centurion objects in response saying:
The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
The Centurion understands that he has great unquestioned authority to order Roman soldiers around. They listen to him because of his position as Centurion. The great might of the Roman Army backs him up and inflicts great damage if the Centurion is ignored. Jesus’ authority, though, is monumentally greater. He has absolute command over disease and death itself. The Centurion, a foreign soldier despised by the Jews comprehends the amazing truth of Jesus’ identity. He is THE LORD of all Lords, not just a simple human commander. Jesus just needs to speak a word, any command and it will be done. The King of all kings is obeyed without question.
All Authority Belongs to Jesus
This unquestioned authority is also present in the Great Commission. Commission itself can mean order or authorization. We tend to take it as the latter, but look at the context. The word “Go” used by the Centurion in Matthew 8 is the same word in the same form Jesus chooses to use in the Great Commission, Matthew 28. It is clearly understood as a command from a superior officer to one under authority when used by the Centurion. The whole example is stated by the officer to show an order given by him will be obeyed. He is saying, “because I have such unquestioned authority, I understand your unbelievable command over life and death.” Do we grasp the significance of Jesus’ use of the same form of command?
Jesus Commands Us to Witness
We are commanded by Jesus to go. Are we following orders and going? Are we getting out of our homes and seeking to work on behalf of Jesus? This doesn’t mean we have to go on overseas missions, sometimes our neighbors and co-workers are where we have been called to go. They can be harder fields to plow than the furthest lands. It does mean we should be going to work on behalf Jesus. We should be going to neighborhood events on His behalf. We should be going on the internet in order to serve the King. Are we going?
Are We Obeying Our Commander Jesus?
We are commanded by Jesus our Lord to make disciples of all nations. Are we doing as commanded and making disciples? We make disciples initially by preaching the Gospel to them. I don’t believe that our job stops there, though. Being a disciple of Jesus is a lifelong process of following Jesus while learning from those around us who are more mature in their walk. Making disciples is a lifetime commitment to teaching what Jesus taught us to anyone around us who will listen. Are we making disciples?
We are commanded by Jesus to baptize. He gives no limitations about only professional ministers baptizing. Are we baptizing?
We are commanded by Jesus to teach others to obey all that Jesus commanded. This ties together with the command to make disciples to encompass the discipleship that Jesus modeled with His followers. Paul put it as telling others to follow him as he followed Jesus. We each need Jesus’ sheep around us at all times in our walk with Jesus. It is necessary to disciple and be taught by others if we are to thrive in the Body of Christ. Are we teaching others what Jesus and His disciples have taught us?
We as fallen, human imperfect beings are given the great privilege of playing a part in the greatest miracle of all of human history. We get to participate in people raised to life in Jesus Christ through the power of the Gospel, brought out of the darkness and taught to walk in His light by the Holy Spirit. It is a wonderful blessing that should never seem like a requirement. But because of our own sinful natures, the importance of the task and the love that brought the offer of salvation to the world, Jesus made it one. “Go” and that is an order, Jesus says.
Are we following the order of our Commander-in-Chief, the King of Kings?
Or are we defying Jesus’ Great Commission?