Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 12, 1963
NUMBER 32, PAGE 8-9a

The Two Commissions --- (No. 2)

Homer Hailey

One of the many challenging statements of Jesus is that found in His last public discourse, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. But this he said, signifying by what manner of death he should die" (John 12:32, 33). A few hours later His body was being nailed to the cross; but death could not hold its prey. On the third day after His crucifixion He came forth from the grave, triumphant over death. Some time between the resurrection and the ascension fifty days later, He gave to the apostles the commission, commonly called "the great commission."

Having considered in our last study the commission as recorded by Matthew and Mark, we invite your attention at this time to a consideration of Luke's account of it: "And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their minds, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:44-49).

In the death and resurrection of Christ the words that He had spoken to the disciples while He was yet with them, were fulfilled. At Caesarea Philippi, Peter speaking for himself and his associates, had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. That great truth Jesus had sought to reveal to them during the early part of His ministry. No sooner had they grasped it than He began to teach them another, suggested by the record of Matthew: "From that time began Jesus to show unto his disciples, that he must go into Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up" (Matt.16:21). Several times after this conversation Jesus announced to the disciples this same thing; while on the Mount of transfiguration, He, Moses and Elijah talked of His decease soon to be accomplished at Jerusalem. Now, after His resurrection, as Luke reports it, He told the apostles that His death and resurrection were in fulfillment of the things He had told them.

Law And Prophets Fulfilled In Christ

Not only so, but in the death and resurrection of Christ all things which were written concerning Him in the law of Moses, and in the prophets and the psalms, were fulfilled. Christ the incarnate Son of God, crucified, risen, and glorified, is the essence of all Scripture. Every animal offered in sacrifice was a mute prophecy of the one offering by which He should perfect forever them that are sanctified. Every goat on whose head the sins of the people were laid before being led out into the wilderness was a type of Him upon whom our sins were laid and who suffered without the camp. The entire sacrificial system of the temple derived its significance from the Christ who should come and by the sacrifice of Himself become the author of eternal redemption to as many as should believe on His name. He is the fulfillment of the prophecies from Eden to Calvary of a Redeemer who should come. He is the fulfillment of God's eternal purpose for human redemption.

And now, "Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name." This is something new; something not done prior to the resurrection of Jesus; for before that event nothing had been preached in His name. Now "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name." If repentance is associated with the preaching of Christ's name, then repentance becomes an absolute necessity to remission of sins. Men must repent. Repentance was the theme of the prophets of old, sent by Jehovah to sinful and wayward Israel; it was the message of John the Baptist, of Jesus and of the twelve under the first or limited commission. It is now a part of the message of the gospel; it is associated with His name, the highest in heaven or on earth. Jesus had taught, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Lk. 13:3). Repentance is a change of mind, a change wrought by godly sorrow, effected by the preaching of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. It is still "repent or perish." Repentance is definitely associated with remission of sins.

Another thing we note in Luke's account of the commission is that this message of salvation in the name of Christ should begin to be preached from Jerusalem. John had begun his ministry in the regions of the Jordon; Jesus had begun His in Galilee; but the beginning of the gospel of salvation in Christ's name, under the great commission, should be in Jerusalem. This also was in keeping with prophecy, for, long before this Isaiah had said, "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem." (Isa. 2:3)

A further point from Luke's account of the commission is that before beginning their work, these men should tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they had received power from on high. This power, Jesus adds, should be received when the Holy Spirit should come upon them. (Acts 1:8) Their message should be an inspired message, inspired from on high by the Spirit of God.

Let us now summarize the three accounts of the commission given by Jesus after His resurrection, as recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke:

(1) It involved preaching and teaching, i.e., the disciplining of all men. (2) It included all nations, the whole creation. (3) The message should be the "gospel," i.e., the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, "for our sins." (4) It should be preached, beginning from Jerusalem. (5) They should not begin preaching this message till endowed with power from on high, in the person of the Holy Spirit. (6) Men must believe the message; they must believe that Christ had been raised from the dead, and like Peter at Caesarea, confess that faith before men.

(7) At the preaching of this message, they should repent of their sins. (8) Those believing and repenting should be baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (9) Such as should believe the message, repent of their sins, and be baptized should be saved, should receive remission of their sins. (10) These having been baptized, should be taught to observe all things commanded by Christ.

Gospel Gives New Commission And Its Application

Friends, this is the new commission, the great commission of Christ Jesus, in its entirety. No man can quote any one account of the commission and have it all; and certainly no man can quote only a part of any one account and have the commission of Christ. What part could we leave out and not do violence to the authority of Jesus as the Christ? None of it. Yet there are those today, teachers of religion, who would accept all that has been said with one exception: They would say that one must hear the gospel, believe it, and repent of his sins in order to be saved; but they would reject what the commission says about baptism and its place in the commission.

For a few moments let us consider this position as it is sometimes taken. Surely the man who would reject that part of the great commission, or change it to read, "He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized," must have some ground on which to rest his contention; it could not be just malicious intent to reject the word of Christ, could it? Probably the most commonly advanced argument for the position that faith and repentance are necessary to salvation, but the baptism is not, is the case of the thief on the cross.

The argument generally made is this: The thief, while on the cross with no opportunity at all to be baptized, appealed to Jesus saying, "Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom. And he (Jesus) said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42, 43). Now surely, if the thief could go with Jesus into Paradise without being baptized, so may I, reasons the individual. But neighbor, that assumes the very thing to be proved, that is, that the thief had never been baptized. I do not say he had; I simply say the case cited assumes that which no man can prove; it assumes the very point at issue. But be that as it may, suppose we grant he had not been baptized, does that sustain the claim of one today who makes such an appeal? Let us see. When was this request of the thief made, during the ministry of Jesus or after His resurrection? Why, before His death certainly. Had the great commission been announced at that time? No, that was three days before the resurrection of Jesus, and forty-three days before His ascension; the great commission was given by Jesus just before His ascension. The thief, therefore, no more came under the law of the great commission than did Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. He had been dead between three and forty-three days before the commission was given. The thief lived and died under the first covenant; we are living under the second. Now hear an inspired writer as he declares, "For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For (now hear it) a testament is of force where there oath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth" (Heb. 9:16, 17) Now, according to this, the testament of Christ was not of force while He lived, and certainly He had not yet died when the conversation between Him and the thief took place. Consequently, it is just as clear as day that the thief was not under the commission of the new covenant, nor was it binding upon him. You and I are under it, it is binding upon us.

The Great Commission, God's Final Authority

Friend, the commission and the gospel associated with it have been given to cover the needs of men for all time to come. It cannot be changed to meet the whims of men in this or any other age. The apostle to the Gentiles declared, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema." (Gal. 1:8,9) Recall also that Jesus said, "And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). In their preaching the apostles bound these very things.

The gospel of the great commission meets the need of sinful men; it is by the authority of Jesus Christ and that should be sufficient. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away" (Matt. 24: 35). Peter affirmed, "The word of the Lord abideth for ever, which word of the gospel we preached unto you." (1 Peter 1:24, 25). While Jude declares concerning the faith, that it has been "once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Why should we not be content with the terms of the commission as given by Jesus, knowing that it is backed by all authority in heaven and on earth; and back of that is the eternal purpose of God; and back of the eternal purpose of God is the infinite love of God for every soul that bears His image. We earnestly beseech you to give heed to it, obey it from your heart and stand upon its promises.

— Temple Terrace, Fla.