The Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is familiar turf for most Christians. Its primary teaching is quite straightforward and commonly understood. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”
All authority in heaven is His, of course. The heights and the depths, the angels and the principalities are all under His sovereign rule. But all authority on earth is His as well. Man and creature, as well as every invention and institution, are under His sovereign rule. There are no neutral areas in all of the cosmos that escape the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:17).
Therefore, on this basis, the Commission states that believers are to extend Christ's Kingdom, making disciples in all nations by going, baptizing, and teaching. This mandate is the essence of the New Covenant, which is but an extension of the Old Covenant: go and reclaim everything in heaven and on earth for the Kingdom, working out the full implications of beauty, goodness, and truth for His Name's sake (Genesis 1:28). We are called to be a part of that which will, in the fullness of time, “bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one Head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). Our call is to win all things for Jesus. The emphasis is inescapable: we are not to stop with simply telling the nations that Jesus is Lord; we are to demonstrate His Lordship by exercising Gospel faithfulness in our culture. We are to make disciples who will obey everything that He has commanded, not just in a hazy zone of piety, but in the totality of life.
This is the primary thrust of the Great Commission. It is the spiritual, emotional, and cultural mandate to win all the world for Jesus, by grace through faith.
The tendency of modern Christians to sidestep all the implications of the Great Commission except soul-saving has, in stark contrast, paved the way for inhuman humanism's program to crush our liberties and steal away our freedoms. When the Christian's task is limited to merely snatching brands from the flickering flames of perdition, then virtually all Christian influence is removed from the world. There is little or nothing to restrain the ambitions of evil men and movements. There are no checks, no balances, no standards, and no limitations. God's counsel goes unheard and unheeded.
Commenting on this tragic tendency, the great Victorian pastor and reformer, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said, “There are certain pious moderns who will not allow the preacher to speak upon anything but those doctrinal statements concerning the way of salvation which are known as ‘the Gospel.’ We do not stand in awe of such criticism, for we clearly perceive that our Lord Jesus Christ himself would very frequently have come under it. Read the Sermon on the Mount and judge whether certain among the pious would be content to hear the like of it preached to them. Indeed, they would condemn it as containing very little Gospel and too much good works. They would condemn it as containing all too much of the legal. But we must never let be forgotten Christ's emphasis: the law must be preached, for what the law demands of us, the Gospel produces in us, else ours is no Gospel at all.”
Biblical Christianity, authentic cutting-edge Christianity, as Spurgeon asserts, embraces the comprehensive implications of the Great Commission. It applies Scripture to every area of life and godliness. The fact is, the salvation of souls is an immediate and important aim of the Great Commission. But the penultimate aim does not end there--it is the promotion of the glory of the Triune God (Romans 16:25-27). We most assuredly must have a passion for souls (2 Corinthians 5:11). We must take every opportunity (Colossians 4:5), expend every energy (2 Corinthians 6:4-10), and risk every expense (Acts 5:20) for every single man, woman, and child. But personal redemption is not the do-all and end-all of the Great Commission. The message of God, like the redemptive work of God, is covenantal. Thus, our evangelism must include sociology as well as salvation. It must include reform and redemption, culture and conversion, a new social order as well as a new birth, a revolution as well as a regeneration. Any other kind of evangelism is shortsighted and woefully inadequate. Any other kind of evangelism fails to live up to the high call of the Great Commission.
Our monolithic humanistic culture attests all too well that all our bumper-sticker, revival-meeting, door-to-door, and televangeism strategies are simply not sufficient in and of themselves for the task of satisfying the demands of authentic Christianity of fulfilling the Great Commission.
It is vital that we release our evangelism from the restraints of passive Christianity in order to mount a full-scale assault on evil and privation. It is vital that we set our evangelistic visions by the Scriptural pattern. It is vital that evangelism becomes the invasion of lifestyle and society it was intended from the start to be.