GREETINGS to you in the Name of God our Father whose Name is El Shaddai. He is the Almighty God, the One before whom the mountains tremble and the deep utters its voice and lifts its hands on high (Habakkuk 3:10). Oh, what a mighty God we serve! With great power and with a mighty hand, He brought His people out of the land of bondage and slavery (Exodus 32:11). He has not changed a bit from those days when He revealed Himself as Almighty God to Abraham in Genesis 17. He is seeking people like Abraham even today. People who will decide to walk before Him and be blameless. It is my prayer that God will bestow His grace on us and guide our steps as we walk before Him with the earnest desire that we be found blameless by Him as Job was found blameless in God’s sight (Job 1:8).
In June, Messenger Missions began its evangelistic ministry in Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh is the 5th state where Messenger Missions is doing God’s work through Gospel outreaches by dedicated missionaries. The other states where we are engaged in evangelistic ministry and church planting are Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu.
If you search through the Bible, you will not find the word ‘missions’. The singular, mission, can be found in 1 Samuel 15:18 and 20 where the conversation between Samuel and Saul is recorded. The mission in that context is the ‘act or instance of someone being sent’ to accomplish a task. However, although you don’t find the word missions or the Great Commission in the New Testament, the meaning of the words is ‘sending forth of men with the authority to preach the Gospel.’ The Greek word for messenger – the one with a message – is apostolos. It also means ‘someone who is sent’. Apostello is ‘to send forth or to commission.’
Now, turn with me to Matthew 28:18-20.
‘Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
‘And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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, 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.” Amen.’
I invite you to examine the four dimensions of the mandate to missions from these three verses.
The first dimension of the mandate to missions is the AUTHORITY of Jesus Christ
Matthew 28:18, ‘And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth”.’
It is not simply authority or some portion of it but ‘all authority’, says Jesus Christ. ‘And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’ It is true that Jesus Christ secured this ‘all authority’ by offering Himself on the cross and trouncing satan under His feet at Calvary. However, even when He ministered on the earth He had authority. We will quickly examine four aspects of the authority that Jesus Christ had while He was physically alive on the earth.
- Jesus had authority in His words
The sermons of Jesus Christ were quite unlike those of the Pharisees and the scribes. While the latter were by no means pushovers, Jesus’ words had power in them. He spoke in parables and oftentimes people did not quite get what He was saying. However, people were astonished at his teachings because ‘He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes’ (Matthew 7:28,29).
- Jesus had authority in His actions
One of the things that the people of Israel realized quite early was that Jesus Christ was not just a talker, He was a doer. Even before He bared His mind on what we call as the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), He performed a miracle at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12). In other words, much before He spoke His mind He set off His miracle-working power in motion. Matthew 8 is quite unique in that it almost reads like the diary of a very busy healer in action. He cleansed a leper, healed a Centurion’s servant, healed Peter’s mother-in-law and again in the evening healed quite a lot of people who were brought to Him. Each of the miracles recorded there is unique, but the way He healed the servant of a Centurion beats all others hands down. The Lord spoke a word and the word of the Lord did what the hand of the Lord could not touch.
- Jesus had the authority to forgive sins
In Matthew 9, we see Jesus Christ coming to Capernaum, His own city. When a paralytic was brought to him by his friends, Jesus did not pronounce a word of healing on him. Instead, He pronounced life-restoring words of forgiveness. He demonstrated to those around – the disciples, the scribes, the paralytic and his friends and the onlookers – that He had the authority to forgive sins. And as if to validate His point (‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’ – verse 6), He said ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ And it was exactly as He said.
- Jesus had authority over Satan
All authority is bestowed upon Jesus Christ. Whatever authority we have comes from Him. He has power without limits, all and unhindered authority. Just as Joshua received authority after Moses, and Elisha got the mantle of Elijah the disciples also got (some of) the authority of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 10:1, we read: ‘And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.’ Whatever authority Jesus has over unclean spirits, He has given us – His children – to cast the spirits out, to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.
The ministers of Jesus Christ, the workers in His vineyard have a special authority too. Apostle Paul tells his protégé what it is in Titus 2:14,15, ‘…looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.’ Evangelists, apostles, preachers, teachers and pastors should speak the Word, exhort and rebuke (the wayward, the unbelieving and the mocking) with all authority. Hallelujah! What a glorious privilege it is to be His worker!
The second dimension of the mandate to missions is the UNIVERSALITY of Jesus’ message
Matthew 28:19, ‘…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…’
Believers are called to make disciples of ALL the nations. The redemptive work of Jesus Christ is not just limited to the Jews. Sure enough it began with them but has since been carried over to other shores. We should not remain content making believers out of heathens in our streets and communities but aspire to join His work in other communities, tribes, languages and nations. We are called to make disciples of ALL nations.
Why is God particular that we reach out to all nations? Genesis 18:18 gives us a clue. One of the reasons God chose to disclose to Abraham what He was about to do in Sodom was that a great promise was given to him. And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?”
That promise to Abraham that ALL the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him became possible because the Messiah was born in the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. However, if the promise has to be fully realized then we have to do our part the Lord has commanded us in Matthew 28:19 (make disciples of all the nations).
There are promises and prophecies in the Bible that vouch all nations shall be blessed in Christ Jesus. Psalm 86:9 says, ‘All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.’. Isaiah 66:18 points to the glorious day when all nations shall come to His holy mountain in Jerusalem. Before that could happen, His glory should be declared among the Gentiles.
The world around us should be told that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). There is no God besides Jesus who can save us from our sins. Acts 4:12, ‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’
The third dimension of the mandate to missions is the TOTALITY of Jesus’ teachings
Matthew 28:19, ‘…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…’
Jesus did not ask His disciples to go and make believers of all the nations. The call to them was to make disciples. Believing is not everything. Our belief should make us grow in our faith. The Bible never teaches us that believing is the only criterion to make it heaven. James 2:19 says, ‘You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!’
How can we make disciples out of believers? By making them walk in the precepts of the Lord. The third and the most important mandate of believers and God’s workers is to teach people to observe ALL things that Jesus has commanded us. In a Christian’s life, there can be no selective obedience. We cannot handpick the verses that we like and make them our favourite commands to obey and promises to claim. We have to take the Bible lock, stock and barrel. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is full of instructions, statutes and commands along with the promises that are assured to those who obey and follow them.
Today, Jesus is asking us His children and His servants to teach them ‘to observe all things that I have commanded you…’ What about Jesus? Did He do that Himself while He was on the earth? We will see that He did and how!
1. Jesus explained ALL THINGS to His disciples
Jesus Christ used parables to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. Without a parable, He did not speak to them (Mark 4:33). However, when they were away from the crowd Jesus Christ explained ALL THINGS to His disciples, says the next verse. Isn’t that how God is ministering to us through His Holy Spirit? The verse that you did not quite understand, the passage that was difficult for you to comprehend, the truths that were once weighty to you, weren’t those the ones that God explained to you when you were alone with Him in your prayer chamber?
2. Jesus did ALL THINGS well
Jesus, I told you earlier, is not just a speaker. He is a doer! He is a creative God who wants to do things for His children.
When He cast the demon out of the daughter of the Syro-Phonecian and healed a deaf and mute man, the people who were witness to the miracles were astonished so much so that they said, ““He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37). What will people say about us? What will be their testimony about our life and ministry? Will there be occasion for people to say, ‘He/she has done all things well’?
3. Jesus prophesied ALL THINGS
Jesus not only explained all things to His disciples and did all things well, He also took time to tell His disciples about the end of the world, the great tribulation, the antichrists and the coming of the Son of Man. Mark 13:23 says, ‘… take heed, see, I have told you all things beforehand.’ Why did He warn His disciples about what is to happen in the last days? Because, ‘For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.’ How do we fare on that index? Do we stop our work with people who have come to the Lord after they are baptized and find a church where they fit in? Or do we press on with them teaching them all things – even those that are to happen in the last days? If we truly love and cherish them, we will take care to tell them ALL things so they don’t fall by the wayside.
The fourth dimension of the mandate to missions is the ENDURING presence of Jesus Christ
Matthew 28: 20, ‘…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’
Who is this who is assuring us of His ever-abiding presence? It is I AM. He is the I AM WHO I AM. When Moses wanted to know the Name of the One who is sending him before the Pharaoh with a mandate to missions, God simply told him, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And Moses was to tell the people of Israel that ‘I AM has sent me to you.’
When Moses was weighed down with the weight of the mandate to missions (‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’), God did not give him a long list of things that He would do in his life. Moses was given no preview of the parting of the Red Sea or the plagues that were to come upon the Egyptians. There was no beta launch of the product called Manna with which Israelites will be fed in the wilderness. God simply told Moses, ““I will certainly be with you.”
The Jews of Jesus’ time asked Him a question (although differently worded) similar to the one that Moses asked God the Father at the burning bush. You can read the question in John 8:25. ‘Then they said to Him, ‘Who are You?’” Jesus evaded a direct reply and told them, ‘“Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.’” Here was Jesus hoping they’d get His Name that was told them from the beginning (‘In the beginning, God…’ says Genesis 1:1).
However, they did not get it. Flustered, they asked Jesus, “…who do you make yourself to be?” In other words, they were asking Him, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ What was Jesus’ answer? He said in verse 58, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
When God calls people to missions, He doesn’t give them a summary of the rewards that await them, or the obstacles they would have to cross, the trials and temptations that they will have to surmount. No servant of God is ever given a guarantee of assured income or added dividends. There is no fixed income plan for a missionary. Jesus does not promise a pension scheme for a pastor/bishop or retirement benefits for an evangelist. In fact, there is no retirement for a servant of God. What they are promised of is His presence. The ever-abiding presence of Jesus Christ. ‘…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20).
He will be true to His promise because His assured presence for us is also His Name. His Name is Immanuel. It means God with us (Matthew 1:23). The Word of the Lord is good enough for us because the God of the Word will honour His own Word! He cannot deny His own Name. Never ever.
What does His ever-abiding presence mean to His children? It means the world to them because of the promise mentioned in Isaiah 43:2, ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God…’ And in verse 5 God says, ‘Fear not for I am with you.’
The Great I AM, the I AM WHO I AM is giving us the assurance of His presence. That’s the greatest guarantee for a believer on this side of the Eternity.
The promise of the presence of His Name with us has huge implications. Mark 16:17 says, ‘In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
What will your response be?
- Don’t doubt God, Don’t turn back
God will give us all authority and always be with us if we take care to make disciples of all nations and teach them all things. However, we should be clear about our approach to missions. Matthew 28:16, 17 say, ‘Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.’
Who were the ones who doubted? The ones who were with Him in His public ministry. The ones who saw Him break the bread and feed 5,000. The ones who saw Him calm the sea and the storm. The ones who saw Him heal the sick, cleanse the lepers and bring back the dead. The ones who saw Him bleeding and dying on the cross. The ones who saw the body being placed in the tomb. They were also the ones to whom He appeared after resurrection. They were also the ones to whom He explained the Scriptures and their hearts burned within. Yet, they doubted. Some doubted. The verse says, they worshiped Him, but some doubted. Where will you be found? Among the worshipers or among the doubters?
Servants of God who have cast their lot with Jesus Christ in the mandate to missions are called to walk the walk of faith. They cannot and should not look back. Looking back is an indication of the doubts within. Doubts about what lies ahead. Jesus says in Luke 9:62, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” While talking about the hazards of turning back in the life of faith, Jesus said ‘Remember Lot’s wife’ (Luke 17:32). She could have been in the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) but chose not to be by her unbelief. Instead, she became a pillar of salt.
- The end is near. Get ready! Start working overtime!
Matthew 28:20, ‘…even to the end of the age.’ Amen’
There is also a fifth dimension to the mandate to the missions. That is inferred from the phrase of the verse above. ‘The end of the age’ implies that the earth that we live in has an expiry date. The end is fast catching up with us. The whole of mankind is hurtling towards the ‘end of the age.’ So, what must we do?
For the believer the ‘end of the age’ can mean only two things. Firstly, we need to get ready to meet our Saviour. Since we do not know when that day would be, we ought to be ready always. We need to be ready every day. We need to live every day as if it were our last day on the earth. The blessed hope for the believer is after the ‘end of the age’ there is a ‘hereafter.’ Proverbs 23:18 says, For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.’ In Revelation 22:12 our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” One verse above He says, ‘He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”
Secondly, the end of the age puts an immediacy to our mandate to missions. In John 9:4, Jesus said, ‘I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.’ Jesus Christ knew the time for crucifixion was nearing. Each day, he was nearer to the cross than before. Likewise, we are also nearer to death today than yesterday. And we do not know when the Lord is coming. These two facts alone should push us to work the works of Him who sent us. There will come a time when no one can work. It will either be the night of our lives (our death) or the night of the earth (the cessation of the period of grace). Either way, we have very little time left. The clock is ticking. What will you do?