Some Thoughtful Questions that Deserve Answers

The following comment came in today from a missionary…she has asked some serious and thoughtful questions regarding the Great Commission….and since I don’t have all the answers I thought I’d give my very capable readers a shot at answering her……



Hey, Phil. Thanks for this post. I’m a missionary (ha!) and have recently been questioning the universality of “The Great Commission.” I assumed that if it were really debatable, others would have already written about it, so I found your blog through a google search 🙂 Thanks.

 Do you happen to know the history of this theology? I know the story of when William Carey “resurrected” (or invented- I’m not sure) the idea at a Keswick convention, and was chastised by the current leaders, but do you know how the Church interpreted Matt 28:18-20, before then?

I’ve often wondered about the two models of “take the light into/ share it with the world” vs. “be the city on a hill which people naturally see and are drawn to IF they are drawn to the light.” Any thoughts?

Why do you say that we are all called to disciple others? Are we actually called to disciple others, generally speaking? Or are we called to love God and others, and is “discipleship” more of a natural response to our recognition of His grace in our lives and our desire to share it with others? You referred to a Timothy passage- but that was specifically addressed to Tim, wasn’t it?

What is the purpose of the Church? Is it’s primary purpose really to grow numerically through evangelism? If so, why isn’t this addressed more in Paul’s letters to the first churches?

 Finally, once “critique” for you- it looks like, from the Mark passage- these signs were to accompany those who believe, i.e. all believers, not specifically those bringing the message, i.e. apostles. Am I missing something?

Thanks so much!


11 thoughts on “Some Thoughtful Questions that Deserve Answers

  1. I only have a quick minute here before work, but the Great Commission is finished. Paul said the Gospel was preached in all the world and I happen to think Paul knew what he was talking about.

    Compare Mark 16:15
    And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

    Here’s what Paul said:

    Col 1:16 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

    See these texts also:

    Paul speaks of their faith being spoken of throughout the whole world “kosmos”.

    Rom 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

    Now made known to ALL nations:

    Rom 16:25-26 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith–

    And there are more, I’ve just run out of time this morning. The Great Commission was to lay the foundation of the Gospel and as a warning to those under the “covenant curse” of Deut 28 that Moses warned them about.

    The NT is laying the groundwork of a covenant lawsuit. Of course, if someone isn’t well versed in covenants, they would miss this point entirely…

    As a final note, the lawsuit was executed perfectly…on time…with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70.

    Now understanding our responsibilities today is aided when we understand “who” has access to “heaven” and who doesn’t.

  2. Funny isn’t it ?
    We preach the Gospel to unbelievers. They read the Bible and say ‘Hey, Do this signs follow you ?’ Then we start making all sorts of excuses. We can’t even admit to ourselves that we don’t have faith to perform these signs which The Lord we speak about so clearly says would follow those who believe. It’s time we realize that we are just hypocrites. If we want to teach or preach the Gospel, Let us first make sure we have TRUE faith in God [i.e what God says is faith not what we call faith]. Otherwise we look like fools when we talk about Jesus to others and yet are unable to do what He says his followers will do. Making clever or lame excuses just make it worse even though we may convince ourselves that that was/is the case. We should realize that we do not convince others. They laugh..!!

    Phil: Signs did follow….those that believed….meaning the Apostles and select others to form the early church……you either have to take ALL the signs or none of them….I have a cyanide shake for you Moongie:)…..the SIGN is the Word of God and is all that’s needed today

    Also when Paul said the Gospel was preached in all the world he didn’t mean it was preached and that was that. In other words he didn’t mean it was preached and the work was finished. He meant it had just started being preached to all the world. Though he used the past tense, it included present and future as well. Its like this : The Gospel is preached to a Mr Tom in a country who becomes a true disciple. We can say the Gospel was preached in all of that country because we know through Mr Tom the Holy Spirit will spread the Gospel to another Tom and so on in that country. Just because it was preached to Mr Tom doesn’t mean it is finished.

    Phil: Paul meant the WHOLE world because that’s what he believed. In those days they had no idea how big the world was. He travelled quite a bit and thought he’d seen the whole world….Paul never said it was finished but that his work [Pauls] was finished

    There are millions who need to hear, be taught what Jesus taught and be baptized as Jesus commanded. Just as Paul continued the Ministry of Jesus, we, as others before us and also others after us are called to do the same.

    Phil: I agree with your last statement….thanks for stopping by.

  3. I thought about what to say in addition to this mornings comments that will reinforce my case. So here it is. Take a look at all three sections of scripture recording this conversation Matt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-18, and Luke 24:46-49.

    All these conversations took place with His disciples and not in a crowd. I do believe that disciple means pupil.

    Mark actually lays down more parameters about the “commission” and the signs and wonders that would follow those who believed them. Believed who? The strategic audience was the apostles. These men were eye witnesses.

    As we have discussed many times on this site, the “signs & wonders” that Mark uses as a qualifier are no longer taking place. We can’t be bit by posionious snakes and live, people aren’t being raised from the dead, and laying on of hands seldom results in healing. It doesn’t mean these things can’t happen but their purpose has been fulfilled. There are many who claim the signs and wonders still exist, but they can’t provide any evidence to validate the claims.

    So using some logic here, IF the Great Commission (not a Biblical term) were still in effect, then the signs and wonders would still be taking place with the frequency they were at the time Jesus and the apostles walked the earth.

    imho, it is a misreading of these texts that has given birth to the Christian Scientists, the signs and wonders crowd, etc.

    We are still pupils through scripture. Their testimony has been preserved and we have been thoroughly equiped. Through the pages of scripture we see the validation of all the claims. We don’t need “signs and wonders” today to know what was spoken was a true witness to the events that brought forth the New Covenant and delivered the Church.

    As far as the Church, I like something Alfred Edersheim said something like this in one of his books. In the Old Covenant, everyone went to the temple to worship, but in the New Covenant, the temple went out into the world to worship.

    imho, a Christian who loves God and is born again will labor in the Word, will find their speach salted with God’s Word, and will love others more than themselves. Missions work and love for the saints and others will manifest themselves. The desire to grow to spiritual maturity and help others with that goal will also become a labor of love.

    Last but not least, I’m afraid Bibilical love is not taught much anymore. Tolerance and love are not the same thing. Love isn’t telling people what they want to hear, it’s having the courage and conviction to tell them what they need to hear. I can attest that it won’t be well received.

    I know I haven’t addressed all your questions but I’m confident that others here will take them on.

    You’re asking some good questions. There is a lot of false opinions out there to fill in the blanks. Make sure scripture is the plumbline and not emotions.

    I know I’ll look forward to reading some of the responses.

  4. Phil, every christian knows that the signs did follow the believers. But the question is do they follow you ? The Word of God never says the signs are limited to the apostles. This is what I am trying to point out here. Because these signs don’t follow us we are making excuses by trying to make people believe these signs were limited to the apostles or the early church only. The fact of the matter is these signs don’t follow us because we don’t have faith. We don’t have faith because we don’t obey. Its that simple. Now, one may argue one believes or obeys God. That is a matter of opinion.We may consider ourselves believers or obedient but that may not be the case in God’s sight. There is only one way we can know for sure and that is by the Word of the almighty which clearly tells us these signs will follow those who believe. Just because Jesus was speaking to his disciples doesn’t mean it was limited to them only. That is a lame excuse.
    I say this so we can all examine ourselves what we are lacking so that we may be able to stand before the son of man. Judging others and exposing sin is good if we judge ourselves first and remove the plank from our own eyes.
    God bless you Phil and you too Dorothy.

    Phil: Do signs and wonders follow you Moongie?

  5. Did I ever claim to be a believer Phil ? In fact I said “The fact of the matter is these signs don’t follow us because we don’t have faith. We don’t have faith because we don’t obey. Its that simple.”
    Now that I have answered your question I think it’s only fair you answer mine- Do signs and wonders follow you ?
    Phil: Actually they do….just not in the way they did for the early church. Please remember that signs were mainly for the Jews….

    If not It’s time you repent and start judging yourself and not others.
    In order to judge others you must first become a believer like Paul, Peter and the rest. These men judged others because they were believers and the Lord confirmed this by signs and wonders.
    I have read many blogs where people have tried to justify their judgments of others by quoting Bible verses where Paul or Peter or the Lord Himself judged. What they do not or are not willing to admit or realize is that these were Men of true Faith who raised the dead. Comparing themselves to these men is a laugh. “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders Acts 14:3”.
    The Bible is VERY clear that this is not limited to the apostles only.
    Mark 16:17, 11:22, John 14:12, James 4:15, 1John 5:14-15.
    Phil: Yes there were a select few as well which I’ve already stated

    Moreover the Bible says “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God;”
    This ‘teaching of Christ’ includes Mark 16:17. Saying these are not needed anymore is dangerous.And Phil, The SIGN is NOT the Word of God. The Word of God says signs will follow believers. And if you say Signs did follow….those that believed….meaning the Apostles and select others to form the early church.. Do you mean only these people believed ? Signs did follow believers then, It should now.

    Phil: The Word of God DID follow these believers….and the Bible is a direct result of their beliefs….the majority in those days required a sign (seeing is believing) and we read the Bible and believe which is a far more powerful sign IMHO…

    If I see someone being raised from the dead I may not believe that God did this but I certainly believe that God is the author of the Bible…….look at all the fake healings from the Florida Outpouring….that wasn’t of God and I knew this because it didn’t measure up to God’s plumbline..His Holy Word…

  6. You are right about the Florida Outpouring and the other televangelists. But the danger is, IF you set your heart to believe that signs and wonders have ceased, like you said if you see someone being raised from the dead or some other miracle, you may not believe that God did this, you might say it was of the devil which will mean you’re in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It could be that it was really of God, maybe the two witnesses have come. Like the pharasees missed their Messiah one could be in danger. You know how hardened the human heart can be.

  7. Here are my contributions:

    The “Great Commission” was given to a specific set of people – the apostles of Christ, and they carried it out with the help of their assistants and helpers.

    The believer is not commanded to leave his home, job, etc and travel around the world to preach. From 1 Cor. 12:29-30 and other passages, we see that we are not all preachers and teachers, we do not all heal the sick, and we do not all work miracles. We are not all apostles, and we are not all evangelists.

    It is wrong to push an assignment given to a specific and select group of individuals onto millions of others outside of that group. Of course, our lives today are a product and an extension of the “Great Commission”.

    The “City on the hill” and “light of the world” statements were all made in the context of character and exemplary living. This is what the believer is to be given to. By our holy living, we draw attention to our faith, and can then share what we have in our different associations.

    The book of Acts used the word “disciple” to refer to believers more than any other word. It means a follower, not just someone who confesses with the mouth like most “christians” today are. It was because of their holy lifestyle (their light and salt) that they were called ‘disciples’. Biblically, to be a believer is to be a disciple.

    As such, our goal is to raise disciples (believers/christians), not just people who profess with their mouths.

    The Church’s purpose is God’s sole purpose – to bring men to the fulness of the Son of God (Rom 8:29; Eph 4:11-16). Numerical increase is not a yardstick for measuring how well this purpose is being fulfilled. The purity of the Gospel being preached is the sound yardstick.

    As you rightly pointed out, neither Jesus nor His apostles ever made a point about numbers or “church growth” as preached today.

  8. Hi Yomi,

    Excellant points…and I couldn’t agree more.

    When we place Biblical events in their proper perspective, we go a long way to avoiding false doctrines and teachings don’t we? 🙂

  9. Thank you so much, Yomi and Dorthy! I really appreciate your thoughtful and biblical explanations/ consideration of these questions. Moongie- you weren’t exactly responding to the questions asked, but your comments were interesting, none the less. Thanks!

  10. Alyssa,

    It was a pleasure to answer your great questions.

    I must say it leads me to believe you are probably questioning other areas. If you keep scripture as your plumbline, you’ll be just fine.

    Just beware! There is what appears as a huge effort today to separate Christians from Holy Scripture by placing doubt on translations, or appeals to your emotions – like “A loving God certainly wouldn’t send your sweet little unbelieving grandmother to hell, would he?” so there must be more than one way to God. Some are as subtle as what the serpent uttered to Eve in the garden.

    The emergent Church is out recruiting with their “inclusive” message. There are pastors who have watered down the gospel to the point it has no ability to convict and turn a person from their sin. I have never witnessed so many lies made in God’s name. I fear for those who get caught in the webs of deceipt. Many of us here have become entangled in one and have been brought out of it. That’s one reason we do the work we do.

    Guard your doctrine, Holy scripture and your light will shine.

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