The Great Commission, as found in Matthew 28:18-20, is the clearest explanation of our mission. It has three parts: 1. Teach all nations, 2. Baptize them, 3. Teach them to observe all of our Lord’s commandments. As I begin this article I want to look at the first of these.
The word “teach” means to instruct or to inform. The Greek word that underlies this word means ,as a verb, to cause someone to learn. It is unfortunate that Strong’s Greek Dictionary, the source where most get their Greek definitions, chose to use the word “disciple” in its definition of this word. It is not that disciple (as a verb) is incorrect, it is that disciple in our modern usage implies to make one a follower. Had Strong used teach there would be less misunderstanding here. While the goal is to make make those taught disciples, the command is to teach them so they can choose to, or not to, become a disciple.
The reason I have taken the time to define this is because it does not say go and win souls, nor does it say go and preach the Gospel. I don’t mean to take soul-winning or the preaching of the Gospel out of the Commission, I mean to add some things that are also necessary. We are called to do more, not less, than what we are commonly taught.
For the Gospel to be “good news” there must be some foundation. Do you think the Gospel is good news to an atheist? No, because he doesn’t believe there is any coming punishment for his sins so to him it is just a fairytale. Since many who call themselves Christians believe that God is all about love, why did Christ have to die on the cross? According to what they believe God is going to forgive everyone anyway.
The first part of the message we are to take to the world is an introduction to the God of the Bible. Is God a God of love? Of course He is! There would be no Gospel if He wasn’t. On the other hand, if He was not also a God of righteousness, justice, and wrath, there would be no need for the Gospel. Until people understand that the judgment of a righteous God awaits them the Gospel is not good news.
Study the approach Paul took when he confronted the philosophers in Athens (Acts 17:22-34). He started by introducing them to the God of the Bible. Most of those who heard him chose to reject this God who had, heretofore, been unknown to them. They chose, rather, to continue in their pride (philosophy is the love of earthly wisdom) and follow the false gods they had been worshiping. This is pretty much what we find in the modern religious world.
The next thing that must be taught is the law of God. Galatians 3:24 gives us the purpose of the law. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The law of God shows us our sin. It teaches us that we are guilty before a holy God. The law, by itself, cannot bring one to understand the need of salvation. There must also be an understanding of who God is. It is only understanding that one has broken God’s law and will stand before a God of righteousness, judgment, and wrath than makes one ready for the Gospel.
The heart of the message is, of course, the Gospel. No one can be saved apart from it. The Gospel is the seed sown in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18-2) which produces the good fruit (Matthew 13:24-27). It is important that we know what it is.
False gospels abound today as they did in the days of the apostles (II Corinthians 11:3-4; Galatians 1:6-7). It is not going to get better because false teachers will increase throughout the this age (II Timothy 3:13). It is not surprising that most people who think they have heard the Christian message have heard a perverted gospel. If one cant give a clear presentation of the gospel, how can he effectively preach it to “every creature” (Mark 16:15)?
The the gospel, in a nutshell, is found in I Corinthians 15:3-4 which says “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” This brief summary of the Gospel must be understood if we are to effectively present the Gospel to a lost world. It is the only way of salvation (Romans 1:16).
So, What is the Gospel? There are three major parts. The first is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture (I Corinthians 15:3). The name “Christ” means the anointed one. It is the equivalent of “Messiah.” No one else could have died for our sins. Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
It is not sufficient to know that He died for our sins, we must also know why it was necessary. Romans 3:23 tells us that we are all sinners, that is we have all broken God’s law. The whole purpose of the first chapters of the book of Romans is to show that we all stand condemned before God.
Sin has a price. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death…” Although physical death is part of the curse, the death spoken of here is the second death, eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 21:8).
The price of sin can only be paid by someone who is sinless. There is only one person who qualifies, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. The good news of the Gospel is that He came and paid the price for all who will accept His death as the only payment for sin. All who add anything to it, as well as all who refuse to accept it, will suffer the second death.
The second part of the Gospel is that He was buried. This is important because it proves that He really died. Although there are some who teach that He only swooned, and that the coolness of the tomb revived Him, there is much evidence to prove the contrary. For example, His death was confirmed by experts. Another question for those who think He revived in the tomb is how did a man in His weakened state move the stone?
The third part is that He rose from the grave on the third day. His resurrection has more proof than any other event in ancient history. His resurrection proves that His sacrifice was accepted by God. It also proves that He is, Himself, God since He took up His life Himself. It also proves He is able to raise us up in the last day.
Finally, all of these were according to the Scriptures. The Scriptures here are the Old Testament because the New Testament was not yet written. All three of these fulfill Old Testament prophecies.
In my next article I will look at the evidence that the Gospel is true, how the Gospel is received, and what it means to believe in vain.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved