There’s an important and interesting question that arises as we unbox what the Great Commission is all about, especially as we focus on the implications that this Commission has on us today. The question is regarding the impact this Commission has made on the world, specifically, “What is the result of obeying this Great Commission?”
What is the result of obeying the Great Commission?
What happened when the disciples went and obeyed the imperative to make disciples? How did it go for them? And more importantly, what can we expect when we do so ourselves?
In short, the Great Commission resulted in the founding of the Church and increasing growth and maturity within the Church.
Establishing the Church
50 days after Christ’s ascension, as promised, He sent the Holy Spirit. Immediately the disciples preaching was anointed with power and several thousand were converted, establishing the first church at Jerusalem. Within a matter of months, the ranks of believers had grown to many thousands. And these were not casual followers; these were people who were willing to suffer persecution and even death for their new Lord.
This Gospel growth was not limited to Jerusalem. Churches were being established as genuine converts were being won in places like Judea, Samaria, Antioch, and the far reaches of the Roman Empire.
Maturing the Church
These new converts quickly grew in grace and knowledge. They attached themselves to the disciples and continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42). They joined themselves as partners in the mission and labor of the apostles (Philippians 1:27-30). They celebrated loving fellowship as members of the same local body by breaking bread together. They learned to lift up their voice to God in prayer for all things.
Following the New Testament pattern, it seems apparent that mature disciples were sometimes made over a short period of time. They were tested by persecution and stood! Perhaps the secret was the absolute insistence on personal obedience to the demands and expectations of Scripture, which is a forgotten side of the Great Commission in many churches today.
Expanding the Church
The early church began making disciples in Jerusalem, but within one generation the disciples could be found throughout the Roman Empire. Acts 11:19-26 illustrates the exiting expansion of early believers who took the Great Commission seriously and were willing to devote their lives to fulfilling its mandate. Acts reports that the disciples in Jerusalem were scattered by persecution and took the Gospel as far as Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch. They went “preaching the Lord Jesus Christ” (11:20). The text further reports that, just as Jesus had promised, the Lord was with them and many turned and believed on Him (11:21, 24). Subsequently, these new converts were instructed in obedience to Christ (11:26).
From generation to generation, as believers embraced the Great Commission, Christianity flourished and grew. What does this mean we should anticipate in our generation? And how should we similarly embrace this Great Commission as our own?
Personally and Corporately
In large part, contemporary Christianity has turned the Commission into an almost exclusively corporate mandate. Many church members do not engage in the Great Commission at a personal level. They are content with contributing resources so that the corporate body can send out a “Great Commission Expert” (missionary) to do it for them. However, this is a far cry from what the Lord intended when He issued the Commission.
We all have an individual responsibility within the church to participate in making disciples.
It is certainly true that the corporate body of Christ and its local expressions must engage in taking the Gospel to the nations. Missionary support is also a worthy and essential component of this strategy. But unless the individual members of each local body are actively engaged in personally participating in Great Commission work, the missions program of such churches will languish.
A church who takes the Great Commission seriously will not be content, no matter how many missionaries they support globally, when very few of its own members are actively and aggressively living out the Great Commission locally.
The obligation of the Great Commission is both personal and corporate. Everyone is engaged, and no one is excused.
Locally and Globally
Not only must the Commission mandate be shouldered personally by each believer, it must take place locally as well as globally. Many churches will mobilize energy, resources, and people to reach far-away people with the Gospel – and that should not be minimized. But it is not unusual for people to give wonderful news of the power of the Gospel during a short-term mission trip and yet rarely, if ever, take time to share the Gospel with people in their hometown.
Far greater (and difficult) is winning converts at home because those converts require ongoing investment and discipleship. It is a lot easier to shout “amen” when hearing of the salvation of sinners overseas than it is to spend time with sinners locally in order to see them won to Christ.
In past generations, the church needed to be reminded of its obligations to carry out the Great Commission to the far corners of the earth. In our day, the church needs to be reminded that this Commission must also reach those at home.
Continuing the Commission
Had Tiberius Caesar been able to see and hear from his palace in Rome the event which transpired in the hills of Galilee, he would probably have roared in derision. The followers of the One speaking on that mountain founded a movement that in a few short decades won devoted converts in Caesar’s own house! Moreover, the movement they founded stands undaunted thousands of years after Tiberius’ kingdom lay in ruins.
To continue this Commission we need to be gripped by its vision, energized by its power, and transformed by its message. Only then will we see the church grow and display a glory that is more valuable than anything this world has to offer – a glory that is worth devoting your whole life for.