The Church Fulfilling the Great Commission
Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8.
Written by Dr. Frank A. Nuckolls
Associational Mission Strategist, Flint River Baptist Association, Griffin, Georgia.
Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 provide the last recorded words of Jesus before He ascended to the Father. In these verses of Scripture, Jesus in called His followers, disciples, and the church to action by fulfilling the Great Commission. This call to action was one of service or ministry and the fulfillment of the mission to which He was commissioning the church.
Southern Baptists have long prided themselves as being mission-minded by supporting missions through the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and other mission causes. Southern Baptists have considered themselves to be mission-minded but what does it mean to be a missional church?
I believe a missional church is one that seeks to become a church filled with disciples who seek to live as people on mission—a mission to go into all the world and make disciples. In his book, “Your Church Experiencing God Together,” Henry Blackaby calls the local church a “World Mission Strategy Center.” What does this really mean? It means that the church seeks ways to support missions by giving, praying, and going as well as seeing itself as a group of missionaries for the Lord Jesus locally and globally.
The church was and is built on the foundation laid by Jesus. He tells the disciples and Peter in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock, I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” If there is to be gospel advance in this present age and in the future, the church must honestly and intentionally look into God’s Word, seek the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit and become a disciple-making movement that will “turn the world upside down for Jesus.”
If the church is to turn the world upside down for Jesus, it must become focused on the command of Jesus in the Great Commission—to make disciples of every nation, beginning in Jerusalem and going to the uttermost parts of the world. Today, I want us to focus on five aspects of the Great Commission as it pertains to the church fulfilling the Great Commission.
First, I want the church to understand the great authority for fulfilling the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18)
Eleven disciples arrived in Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had instructed them to come. Some of the disciples arrived at the mountain in Galilee and worshipped Him while others doubted.
On this mountain, Jesus proclaimed that all authority had been given to Him. The resurrected Jesus proclaimed that all authority belonged to Him. Why did He proclaim that all authority belonged to Him? He proclaimed this fact because He had just conquered sin, death, hell, and the grave through His crucifixion and resurrection.
So, what is this authority? This authority is not only a spiritual authority, it is authority over everything in heaven and earth. There is nothing outside His authority. He is Lord! The authority of Jesus demands the allegiance of the church, believers in Christ, disciples of Jesus.
Jesus has given the church, His disciples, the authority to take the Gospel to the entire world—to every people group, tribe, nation, and tongue. Jesus has given the church the authority and the power to fulfill the Great Commission by starting locally and going globally to proclaim the Good News of the gospel.
Never forget as a church that Jesus has given you His authority to fulfill the Great Commission!
Second, I want the church to understand the great admonition of the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19)
The great admonition of the Great Commission is found in a simple, single word, GO! In 1792, William Carey wrote an essay, “An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.” This essay lit a fire for missions that led to hundreds of people to go and proclaim the Gospel to the nations.
William Carey went to India with his family to proclaim the Gospel to the people there. He spent seven years proclaiming the Gospel before the first person was converted to Christianity.
The great admonition of the Great Commission is for all of God’s people—disciples of Jesus—to accept responsibility for going to people who have not responded to the Gospel and to places where the Gospel has yet to be proclaimed.
The accurate translation of “Go” in the Great Commission is “as you are going.” If the church is going to fulfill the great admonition of the Great Commission, it must seek to continually go into the world and make disciples.
In the book, “The Trellis and the Vine,” the writers Marshall and Payne state: “The commission (to go as you go) is not fundamentally about mission out there somewhere else in another country. It’s a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and Christian disciple.” (pages 11-13)
The church that fulfills the Great Commission is one that obeys the great admonition and seeks go throughout life and ministry on mission for Christ by making disciples.
Third, I want the church to understand the great activity of the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20).
The great activity of the Great Commission is that of making disciples. The Great Commission given by Jesus is that of the instruction for believers to make disciples as they are going throughout the world and living for Jesus.
So, how is the church to fulfill the activity of the Great Commission assigned by Jesus? The activity of making disciples is the primary command of the Great Commission. Going, baptizing, and teaching are the means by which the church can and must fulfill the Great Commission.
Making disciples. Who is a disciple? A disciple is a person who receives instruction from someone else. A Christian disciple is a baptized follower of Jesus who believes the teaching of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus is a person who imitates the example of Jesus, believes in His resurrection, possesses the Holy Spirit, and lives to do the work of Jesus.
The church that fulfills the Great Commission is one that is filled with disciples who seek to share the Gospel, teach and train people to follow and obey the commands and teaching of Jesus. Luke 6:40 reminds us: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
Ken Adams, Pastor of Crossroads Church and founder of Impact Discipleship Ministry, has written: “A disciple is someone who has the character and conduct of Christ. If Jesus had a plan to make fully trained disciples, then there is no need to reinvent the wheel.”
A church that fulfills the Great Commission exemplifies the conduct and character of Jesus by making fully trained disciples.
Fourth, I want the church to understand the great areas for fulfilling the Great Commission. (Acts 1:8)
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come to the disciples and provide them power after He went to the Father. The disciples would be empowered to take the Gospel to a lost and dying world. The Greek for power is “dunamin” which implies miraculous power, might, and strength.
Jesus was telling His disciples that when the Holy Spirit would come, they would be empowered with miraculous power, might, and strength to take the Gospel to four areas found in Acts 1:8. Without the Holy Spirit’s leading, guidance, and direction, the church is not able to take the Gospel to any or every area of Acts 1:8.
The church is empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Great Commission by carrying the Gospel to areas where He is leading. The great areas of the Great Commission, according to Acts 1:8, include:
Jerusalem: This is the immediate area. The disciples were in Jerusalem waiting for the Holy Spirit to empower them to fulfill the task of reaching Jerusalem with the Gospel. As a church, where is your Jerusalem? The Great Commission is one of a challenge to the church to do everything that can be done in the power of the Holy Spirit to get the Gospel to the immediate area in which God has called it to serve and minister. This could include helping to plant new churches or to assist in replanting a church or to assist a church in revitalization so that the Gospel can be advanced throughout the community.
Judea: This is the surrounding area. The state of Georgia is our surrounding area. In your Judea (surrounding areas), your church could partner with other churches to plant churches, prayer walk communities, and assist churches with revitalization efforts. Could it be that your church become a part of a movement of God that impacts your surrounding area with the Gospel of Christ?
Samaria: This is North America or the country where you serve. It could also be that the church must fulfill the Great Commission by taking the Gospel to those who are not like us, that are despised. For example, in North America, there are people from different ethnicities, cultures, and countries who live here. These people need the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel. In Harrisburg, PA, where Flint River Baptist Association is engaging in a mission partnership, there are at least 10,000 Nepali families living who need to hear that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The church that seeks to fulfill the Great Commission is committed to take the Gospel to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people in its community, state, nation, and world. (Revelation 14:6) The church in your country needs to consider ways in which to engage the cultures with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Uttermost: The church that fulfills the Great Commission seeks to take the Gospel to the entire world. Every church, every believer is responsible for getting the Gospel to the entire world.
Southern Baptist missionaries through the International Mission Board are engaging 11,947 people groups with the Gospel yet there are still 3,100 unengaged people groups to hear the Gospel. Within the past year, there were 144,322 new believers reached for Christ through the IMB missionaries.
God is still calling believers to serve in the mission field. Perhaps God is calling you to serve Him on the mission field locally, in our state or your country, or on the international mission field. As
God calls you to serve Him on mission, our response should be like that of Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 6:8: “Here am I send me?”
The church is called to fulfill the Great Commission by seeking to reach the mission field with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Flint River Baptist Association is seeking to engage its churches in the mission field of the Dominican Republic. In this country, there are not any missionaries assigned by the IMB. In this country, there are still over 9 million people to hear and respond to
Will your church be a part of taking the Gospel to these areas of Acts 1:8? Your testimony could be the difference spiritually for someone somewhere.
A church that fulfills the Great Commission is one that seeks to take the Gospel down the street and around the world. As one of our Flint River Baptist Association Pastors, Gerod Duff from Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, has said, “the church must take the Gospel out of the church and into the streets.”
Fifth, I want the church to understand the great assurance of the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:20)
In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “I am with you always.” The powerful presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is what enables the believer to do everything that he is called to do by Christ Himself. The presence of Christ provides the believer of the assurance of divine favor, joy, and wisdom that goes beyond any of our frail human abilities.
Jesus has assured believers that He would be with them always even to the end of the age. In John 16:7, Jesus reminded the disciples that “My Spirit is with you, the comforter shall abide in you.”
In John 14:26,27, Jesus reminded the disciples that My presence will go with you and I will give you peace.” As believers, we have the assurance that indeed God will never leave us nor forsake us. He will be with us to the very end.
As a church fulfills the Great Commission, it has the understanding and assurance that Jesus is with them through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to go with them into the world making disciples and turning the world upside down for Jesus.
A church that fulfills the Great Commission must be willing not just to take the Gospel to its community but be willing to go to a lost and dying world.
A church that fulfills the Great Commission must be willing to get the Gospel to those people who have never heard.
The Great Commission is not a suggestion but a command. It is not optional—it is mandatory!
May we as a church obey the Great Commission of Jesus, fulfill the commands of Christ, and get the gospel to the world in our generation!