And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)
The verses on the Great Commission would be in the top five of the verses in the Scriptures known by all Bible believing people. Many of us have these verses memorized. We hear frequently preaching and teaching on the Great Commission, either explicitly or indirectly). Christians can recite our obligations to our great King to one another. Each of the gospels repeats this commission. The book of Acts details the early church's one consuming passion and the Lord's approval of that passion. The fact that the epistles were written to local churches confirms that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
Years ago, I did come across a comment that provoked my spiritual thinking. See if it stirs your soul. The context of the quote is the author's comparison of evangelism in our day compared to the days of Wesley, Whitefield, Tennetts, etc.
As I have studied our forefathers - mine as well as those in the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Plymouth Brethren, and Moravian traditions - I cannot escape a disturbing conclusion: we have lost their deep conviction that the gospel, the Word of God, is alive and active, a message so powerful and so thoroughly irresistible when applied by the Holy Spirit, that it could not help but bear fruit in the salvation of souls. Their reverence for the Word and for the doctrines of grace was great, just as ours is today, but the difference between us is this: While our emphasis is on preserving true doctrine and defending the faith, theirs was on taking the gospel and going on the offensive, bringing God's message to men and conquering them in Christ. They wanted not only to preserve the gospel, but to put it to work, to see it change lives and expand God's kingdom. (C. John Miller, Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless, 11)
Certainly we need both, in its preservation and its fruitfulness (Colossians 1:6). Are we good technicians in the defense of the Great Commission while not permitting the labor of the Commission to be seen? Is there not the possibility that the best way to defend the gospel is to unleash the message of the gospel laboriously? The early church labored to put the gospel to work and when the Pharisees brought Peter and John into account for the salvation and healing of the lame man they stated, And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. (Acts 4:14) Do we pride ourselves in knowing the answers but refusing to flesh out the answers in this world by our being a living epistle?
There is no doubt that we must earnestly contend for the faith (Jude). But while we are defending, let us build earnestly and fervently. Evangelism is war - warfare for the cause of our Saviour. Let us pray that the Lord will take our dry bones, sinew them, and breath into us the breath of heaven. After all, it just may be, that the best defense is a victorious glorious offense in the name of Christ.
[Reposted from December 5, 2003]