Our Great Commission
A Great Responsibility

By Pastor John Reaves

"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Mat. 28:16-20. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:..."

Introduction

The commission is to go into all the world with the gospel and to reach the lost at any cost. The Great Commission, a term used even by the liberals and New Evangelicals. What does ‘commission’ mean? Webster’s Definition: "Trust, warrant, investing one with an office."

The great debate of today is, which by the way was no debate until about the last 40 years, is, "Who was entrusted with the gospel, the Great Commission, to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ?"

There are two views, one being individuals, of which many well-known preachers believe. Let me quote from the Sept. ‘92 issue of The Sword of the Lord, a message by Dr. Jack Hyles. From his message: "Dr. Hudson was right last night when he said the Great Commission was given to individuals, you are to be a soul winner, and you’re not right with God if you’re not."

So we see Dr. Hyles and the late Dr. Hudson both believe the Great Commission was given to individuals. Well! I have a real problem with that.

First of all, the Great Commission involves a lot more than Dr. Hyles said: "You are to be a soul winner." So-called winning souls is not all of what the Great Commission is all about.

If the Great Commission only involved winning souls, I could see a little of where Dr. Hudson and Dr. Hyles get the idea the Great Commission was given to individuals. Because after all, Pro. 11:30 says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise." True we are all, as God's children, to be busy at reaching the lost with the gospel. But the Great Commission involves much more, and by Dr. Hyles and Dr. Hudson's standards, that the Great Commission was given to individuals, only proves one thing, that they are not real Baptists. Even the Doctrinal Statement of the American Baptist Association in 1905; taken from the book entitled The Origins of the Baptists, by S.H. Ford. "We also hold in common what real Baptists have ever held: That the great commission was given to the churches only." There you have it. Real Baptists have always believed the Great Commission was given to churches. What churches? We will look at that later.

The idea that the Great Commission was given to individuals and not the churches is new evangelical in thought. It completely by-passes the authority of the church and it makes individuals an authority unto themselves. As all new evangelical, charismatics and liberals believe, "If you're saved, then you're already part of 'THE Church', that invisible church." In Acts 2:41, we see that those who were saved and baptized (not Holy Spirit Baptism, the Holy Spirit has never baptized anyone,) were added to the church.

The church that Jesus started, the one the gates of hell should not prevail against, was a local church. The only kind there is. We can tell from our text that the Great Commission was given to the church. Verse 16 says, "Then the eleven disciples [Judas had fallen] went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them." And in verse 18, "And Jesus came and spake unto them,…" (the eleven) and He commissioned them.

Who was them? The eleven but did they represent themselves, individuals, or the church? I Cor. 12:28 says, "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles,…" As far as those that believe the Great Commission was given to individuals I have some real problems.

The Great Commission was given to the church and not individuals.

If the Great Commission was just given to individuals then when those individuals in Mat. 28:18-20 were commissioned the Great Commission died with them.

Of course, if you're like the typical new-evangelical, liberal, charismatic, non-denominationalist, etc. you would believe the church started at Pentecost not with these 11. But that's a strange thing to think being how Jesus said in Mat. 16:18, "…I will build my church…" If it began at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit started it, but there is no such doctrine in the Bible,

Jesus started His church with the calling out of the twelve, (ekklesia, called out assembly,) in Luke 6:12-16. He chose the twelve, called them out from the rest, "…set some in the church, first apostles," I Cor. 12:28, and in Mat. 18:17, Jesus sets down the guidelines for church discipline; before Pentecost, the two ordinances of the church were already instituted, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, a treasurer, (allbeit a bad one) already selected, and in Acts 1:15-26, a business meeting, a vote, and all before Pentecost.

So we see if the Great Commission was given to individuals, then there would be no Great Commission. It would have died with those individuals, because outside of Paul being commissioned to reach the gentiles, no other individuals received the Great Commission. It was given to the eleven in Mat. 28, and reconfirmed in Acts 1:8

The Great Commission does not only involve winning souls.

Another real problem I have with the idea that the Great Commission was given to individuals, is that like I said before, the Great Commission does not only involve winning souls.

Mat. 28:19 says, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them…" Now if the Great Commission was given to individuals, or as Dr. Hyles and Dr. Hudson says, "…was given to individuals…" then any individuals can be a soul winner and baptize them. It does not matter who baptizes you then.

Boy, that fits with the liberals, new evangelicals, charismatics, ecumenicals, etc. "We don't care who baptizes you, we believe in believer's baptism." In other words as long as you are immersed. Well the Roman Catholic church immersed for hundreds of years before they started sprinkling. They even immersed babies. Mr. New Evangelical would you accept a baby's baptism if he were immersed? The Eastern Orthodox still immerses babies.

What have real Baptists always believed? Another quote from The Origin of the Baptists, 1905, "We believe that baptism to be valid, must be administered by a scriptural Baptist Church."

Simply even if a so-called Baptist church baptized you, if it was unscriptural, you're not baptized at all. Of course, if you believe the Great Commission was given to individuals then it wouldn't matter who baptized you or maybe Pat Boone at a Holiday Inn in a swimming pool.

You see, believing that the Great Commission was given to individuals takes away from the authority of the local church. My friend, the only one who has authority to baptize is the church that Jesus started, and it sure wasn't a Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Bible church, Reformed, Seventh Day Adventist, etc.

What did Jesus start His church with? When the church in Acts 1:22 were getting someone to take Judas' place, what were his qualifications to be? "Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." Simply, the one to take Judas' place was to be a Baptist and he must be ordained.

Why ordain? Because that's the passing of authority, when Jesus chose twelve of John the Baptist's disciples, what did He do with them? John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:…" (Jesus gave them authority to baptize.)And God sent John to baptize, John 1:33, " And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." He gave him authority to baptize. Jesus took those who were scripturally baptized to be His, ordained them, and gave them authority to baptize.

In Acts 6:6, we see the church in Jerusalem ordaining seven, (apostles laying on of hands,) and one of them, Philip, leading the Ethiopian to Christ, and in Acts 8:38, Philip baptized him.

I will tell you what you won't find in the New Testament, you won't find someone being baptized by someone who has not been ordained by the church. John the Baptist was sent by God, his authority came directly from Heaven. The twelve were ordained by Christ's authority given to them directly by Jesus Christ. But all others were given authority or ordained by the church.

Who ordained Paul and gave him authority to baptize, start churches, and ordain elders (pastors)? Acts 13:1-4, "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus." The church (they) laid hands on them (ordained) and sent them, and what did Paul and Barnabas do on their missionary journey? Acts 14:21-23, "And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."

No, my friend, the Great Commission was not given to individuals, but to the churches. The church that Jesus started is the one who has authority to baptize, only the church not all individuals. Only those who are called and the church ordains have authority to baptize. We also hold a cannon that real Baptist have ever held: that the Great Commission was given to churches only."

Jesus gave the Great Commission to His church because He knew it would not perish, "the gates of hell would not prevail against it." Another quote from The Origin of the Baptists, "We believe the Great Commission teaches that there has been a continuous succession of Baptist Churches from the day of Jesus Christ down to this day." End of quote. After all, did He say, "…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Mat. 28:20.

Simply, His church was going to go from then to the end; there would always be a scriptural church.

Of course, those who believe the Great Commission was given to individuals are the same ones who believe that soul winning is the only thing involved in the Great Commission. They are the ones I have read of in The Sword of the Lord. They advertise 10,000 souls saved last year, 800 baptized and 200 join the church. I would like to know how 800 were baptized and only 200 join the church? According to Acts 2:41, baptism places you in the church. I would also like to know what happened to the other 9,000 or so. Of course since Dr. Hyles doesn't believe in another Baptist doctrine, repentance, I can imagine where they ended up. (They weren't saved to start with.)

Conclusion

I have another question for those who think the Great Commission was given to individuals. How can an individual do as verse 19 says, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…" It is impossible for one individual to carry out such a task. But it's not through His local Independent Baptist Churches.

Through missions, local churches can reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the church's commission. The church has been commissioned to carry out the Great Commission.

The local Church has been given that commission by Jesus Christ, who said, "…All power [authority] is given unto to me in heaven and earth, Go ye therefore…"

There is no way this church or any church can be scriptural without carrying out the Great Commission. You say, "but I am just an individual. Not if you're a baptized member. You're part of the church, the Great Commission is also your commission, and the only way you can be right with the Lord is to be involved in missions. If not and you're really saved, one day you will give account for not getting involved with the Great Commission.

If you have been part of your church for some years and are not involved with giving to missions through faith promise, why not? You're the loser.

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