Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Matthew 28: 18-20 (NLT)
This is the first devotional in a series examining the top ten Bible verses as compiled at Biblegateway.com by examining the behavior of over 8 million visitors each month to the site. I may, as you see above, provide the context with the popular verse. Matthew 28: 19 is a great passage about the Great Commission but it is enhanced by the surrounding two verses.
As we look at the tenth most searched Bible verse I must admit I was surprised. Most on the list are obvious but if you asked me to guess the top ten I probably would not have come up with this verse. Yet it is not surprising to me that for the glory of God it makes the list! As indicated, this is the Great Commission. We spend so much time in modern Christianity running around trying to rewrite what our responsibilities are. Social Gospel Christians ignore the eternal too easily. Academic Christians ignore the heart issues in Christianity. Barbed wire Christians have a Jesus devoid of love. Sugar coated Christians present a Christianity that costs you nothing. These are all important facets of Christianity. God is love and wrath. We are supposed to be academic like the Bereans yet have the faith of a little child. A Gospel devoid of helping the neediest in society is not the whole Gospel. All of these things are important and Scriptural but there is only one thing Jesus mandated that we do. It is funny to hear some suspect elements in Christianity now claiming God has given them a mandate to do this or that. What is worse is when that alleged mandate is then unbiblical. God will not give a mandate that contradicts His Word, period. It seems sometimes that people claim other mandates because they view the Great Commission as being too difficult.
You see beloved, Christianity is not a three sentence prayer followed by a lifelong service to the security ministry at your local church. Amidst all the false gospels and arguments over doctrine and minutia it always must come back to heaven and hell. Saved and unsaved. We need to watch it because we are losing these clear distinctions as we delve deeper into the end times. Far too many Christian leaders follow the Warren model of referring to people as unchurched instead of unsaved. The distinction between those two words is quite stark. They do not need a church - they need a Savior. Far too many churches operate under a watered down Gospel that doesn't really address heaven and hell, sin and repentance, saved and unsaved. In our efforts to appear inoffensive we have a generation now of unoffended goats who think they are sheep. We have politically corrected them right into hell.
Turning to the key verses we see that the first thing Jesus wants us to know is that all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth, therefore...the Great Commission. When God truly gives a mandate it is given under all authority. This is not some haphazard venture with unknown outcomes. This is the chosen vehicle God uses to bring His Gospel message to the lost. That's right - the lost. They are not the unchurched - they are hopelessly lost without God. All we need to do is remember our life before coming to Christ. We may have convinced ourselves that we had it all together but it was all hanging precariously by a thin thread and oh how the devil loved flicking that thread. The promises the world made to us were all hollow and empty. We were wandering through life trying one thing or another to fill the void of not knowing our Creator. We were lost.
"His father said to him, "Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!'" - Luke 15: 31-32 (NLT)
This is the ending of the story of the Prodigal Son and look how the father refers to his son who has come home - he was lost but now is found! This is how we need to view the people on the outside of salvation looking in and realize that Jesus Christ has been given all authority on heaven and earth and under that authority He has commissioned us to bring His Gospel to the lost. This does not mean that everyone will agree or fall down and repent but rather that we do not approach this under our own power but under direct mandate from Almighty God!
I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, "Go,' and they go, or "Come,' and they come. And if I say to my slaves, "Do this,' they do it." When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, "I tell you, I haven't seen faith like this in all Israel!" And when the officer's friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed. - Luke 7: 7-10 (NLT)