Who is the Great Commission for?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by webdog, Nov 13, 2006.

  1. webdog

    webdog
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    Our church seems to be going in a different direction as the Great Commission (GC) goes. While our last pastor was actively involved in reaching out to the community as a church body, our new pastor's style is to disciple the church as individuals to go out and reach the community. There seems to be an "either / or" mentality as to what the Church's role is in the GC.

    My thoughts:

    What is the role of the Church? Who is the Great Commission for?
    Mat 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
    Mat 28:17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
    Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
    Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
    Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

    There are 4 views who this could be for, if it's believed it's for the apostles only:
    1. Given to the apostles, as apostles (therefore only for the apostolic times).
    2. Given to the apostles, as preachers (therefore for all preachers throughout the ages).
    3. Given to the apostles, as representatives of the church (therefore for the church throughout the ages, both local and universal).
    4. Given to the apostles, as individual Christians (therefore for Christian individuals throughout the ages).

    First, notice verse 17... "And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted." Those who doubted couldn't have been the disciples, as they already had that issue put behind them...they were all convinced at this point. This shows the GC going out not only to the 11, but to the rest of the followers as well. This makes the GC for all believers...and the Church is composed of all believers. Matthew 16:18...the first time Church is found...it is singular, not plural.
    Verse 19 shows what this group of believers (the Church) was supposed to do..."make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,". What the text does not say is "make believers", as this is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict and draw, but to make "learners". The greek phrase 'matheteuo pas ethnos' (pronounced math-ate-you-o pos eth-nose) means to instruct / teach / enrol as a scholar all races, tribes, foreigners and by implication, all pagans, who were the gentiles, heathens, nations....this is everyone!
    Church is composed of believers.
    Church's responsibility is to teach the Gospel, reach the lost, and disciple other believers. It's not an "either / or"...it's "both" in my view.

    What are your thoughts pertaining to who the GC is intended for? It has been said that non calvinists are more for evangelism than calvinists, something I don't necessarily agree with in all circumstances (although my new pastor is a calvinist).
     
    #1 webdog, Nov 13, 2006
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  2. Tom Butler

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    Hellow webdog, here's my take on it:

    If I had to pick one it would be #3, the apostles as representatives of the church, but I want to put a different spin on it. They weren't just representatives of the church, they were the church.

    When his Jesus came to his disciples to give them the comission, he gave it to them as the church which he founded during his earthly ministry. This was the assembly, the first of many over the centuries. So I hold that the commission was not given to the big universal church, which has no reason for existence, but given to each congregation.

    As a practical matter, the only entity capable of going, preaching, baptizing and teaching is a local congregation.

    The commission was given to an assembled group of believers; the ordinances were committed to the local assemblies; the first missionaries went out from a local church at Antioch. Even Stephen went from the local assembly at Jerusalem on his evangelistic endeavors.

    Paul told the elders of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20 to protect it from wolves who would sneak in--that same congregation that Jesus purchased with his own blood.

    The so-called "universal church" couldn't carry out the commission, anyway. It couldn't organize a two-car funeral. But local congregations can. And sometimes, these churches organize to pool their resources. In fact, why not call it the Southern Baptist Convention. Or on a regionalizd basis, we could call it West Union Baptist Association, as they do in my home area. Or the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

    Jesus didn't create some nebulous, useless entity. He established his assembly, and his disciples were the material of the first church. It was that church and its successors to whom Jesus gave the Great Commission.
     
    #2 Tom Butler, Nov 13, 2006
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  3. webdog

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    Why couldn't it be all 4?
     
  4. Jerome

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    Mark's Gospel suggests otherwise. See my recent post.
     
  5. webdog

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    I don't see where that contradicts nor suggests othewise.
     
  6. Tom Butler

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    Quote: Tom Butler
    If I had to pick one it would be #3, the apostles as representatives of the church, but I want to put a different spin on it.



    I suppose it could, but the apostles all died and there were no sucessors. That's the flaw in what you suggest. It may not be a fatal flaw, but it is something to think about.
     
  7. webdog

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    I'm not suggesting that the GC died with the Apostles (Paul was an apostle who didn't directly receive this), but that it was, indeed, for the apostles as well as all believers.
     
  8. StraightAndNarrow

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    I vote for number 4. The Great Commission applies to all Christians. No. 3 makes it too easy for laymen to duck and say it's only for the pastor or the deaons.
     
  9. John of Japan

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    Good topic, webdog. Either/or? I much prefer both/and!

    I have to go with #2, since it specifically says "the eleven disciples," not just "the disciples" like it says in other passages. (See below.) If we interpret the Matthew Great Commission to be to individual Christians through the ages (#4), then we have to say that all Christians are empowered to baptize, and I don't think any of us want to go there--do we? :1_grouphug:

    Not to worry, though. There are five separate statements of the Great Commission, each with a specific target audience in the context. So in Mark's is directed to "the eleven" (16:14), so I take it as being the same target audience as Matthew's, the 11 preachers. However, Luke's is to "the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them" (24:33), so I take it as being to the church. John's, however, is to "the disciples" (20:19), so I take it as being to each believer. Finally, the one in Acts is specifically to "the apostles" (1:2), so I take it as being a strategy statement for world missions.


    The Greek for "doubted" here is a rare word occuring only here and in Matt. 14:31, when Peter wavered while trying to walk on water. I think that is how it should be interpreted here, not that they doubted Christ's deity or their salvation. They were simply wavering about the future.
    I'll have to disagree with you here. The usual usage of the word "disciple" in the Bible is the same as believer or Christian, as witness it's use in Acts 11:26, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." So, we are to witness in the power of the Spirit until God saves.
    I completely agree with your "both" view, and I think we can prove it by the other statements of the GC, as mentioned above.
     
  10. John of Japan

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    Actually there were quite a few more apostles mentioned in the NT and early Christian literature, but I'll agree that there were no successors to the original 12, who were special.
     
  11. Tom Butler

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    John, you're exactly right. I think I counted around 16 who were called apostles.
     
  12. standingfirminChrist

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    I believe there was one successor. Matthias replaced the Apostle Judas Iscariot.
     
  13. John of Japan

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    Very true. I stand (or sit :type: ) corrected.
     
  14. Brother Bob

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    Boy, you put a wrinkle in the Catholic!!!! :)
     
  15. John of Japan

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    I'm not sure what you mean, Brother Bob. :eek: Teach me, please! :wavey:
     
  16. Tom Butler

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    Okay, we know about Matthias, who replaced Judas. We know about Paul.

    Now, how about these:
    Acts 14:14: "Now when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard this...."

    Romans 16:7: "Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was."

    Galatians 1:19: (Paul writes): "I saw none of the other apostles--only James, the Lord's brother."

    I Thess 1:1: "Paul, Silas and Timothy. To the church of the Thessalonians...."
    Then, in 2:6: "As apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you..."

    I was wrong--there are scripture references to 21, not 16 apostles.

    A parsing of the sentence structure in both English and Greek might weaken the case for all these men as apostles, but it certainly seems possible that these passages mean exactly what they appear to mean.

    And SFIC is right--Matthias is the only successor to the original apostle Judas
     
  17. Tom Butler

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    Oh, there may be one more, but it's a bit of a stretch.

    Paul, I Cor 4:6--"These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes..."
    Later, in v.9 "..For I think that God has set for us apostles last...."

    The context is, Paul contends that only God can judge motives. Even if his conscience is clear, in the final analysis God will judge. Paul seems to be saying he's applying that principle to himself and Apollos. In v.9, Paul's reference to "us apostles" could mean all of the apostles, not just him and Apollos.

    That would make 22 apostles.

    Sorry, couldn't resist. Now back to the thread's OP. Uh, does anybody remember what it is?
     
    #17 Tom Butler, Nov 15, 2006
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  18. Tom Butler

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    Oh, I remember now.

    One can hold my position--the the GC was given to the assembled church and its successors--without giving up the idea that it was given to individuals.

    That because when Jesus gave the GC to the local church, he by definition included every member.

    But the authority to administer the ordinances still belongs to the congregation, who designates individual for that task. That usually are the pastor and deacons, but I see nothing in the Scripture to limit the responsilbility to those two offices. The congregation can designate any member to baptize and preside over the Lord' Supper.
     
    #18 Tom Butler, Nov 15, 2006
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  19. Calvibaptist

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    OK, here's my take. The Great Commission was given directly to those to whom Jesus was speaking. The antecedent of the plural you in the context is the 11 disciples that Jesus was speaking to. That would seem to indicate that I agree with point number 1.

    But there is a twist. The GC is to make disciples. The way it is accomplished is by going, baptizing them, and teaching them to do everything that Jesus had commanded them. That last one is the important point for the GC succession. Since Jesus had just commanded them to make disciples, one of the things that they were to teach their disciples was to go and make disciples. Thus, the GC continues on to the followers of the disciples and, eventually, to us.
     
  20. Tom Butler

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    Calvibaptist, welcome.
    I pretty much agree with your post. I just don't want to see the local church get short shrift in this discussion, even if I'm the only one carrying the flag for it.

    I find that the local congregation is uniquely equipped to carry out the GC, virtually to the exclusion of any other organization. It is organized, designed and equipped to make disciples, baptize, and teach the disciples to observe all things. In addition, it is perfectly suited to another priority, corporate worship.

    Since the apostles were the material of the church Jesus established, one can easily conclude that the GC was given to them as an assembly. And thus to each assembly which followed after that up until today.
     

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