Calvary Road Baptist Church

OUR GREAT COMMISSION Part 3

“Go Ye Therefore”

Matthew 28.16-20

 

Turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 28, where we will once more read the 8th account of the Lord Jesus Christ’s appearance to His disciples following His glorious resurrection from the dead. When you have found Matthew 28.16, I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word:

 

16   Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

17   And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

18   And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19   Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20   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.

 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that great London preacher of the 19th century who was so much in love with the Lord Jesus Christ, and who so lifted up the Savior in his preaching, referred to this location on the mountain as “the trysting-place their Lord had fixed.”[1] What is a “trysting-place”? “A place for a meeting, especially a secret meeting of lovers, a rendezvous.”[2] How appropriate of Spurgeon to think of that meeting in this way, the Bridegroom meeting with His Bride before ascending to His Father’s right hand.

And what happened at this meeting? A number of wonderful things. Let me mention but two: First, a large group of our Lord’s disciples obeyed Him. It’s always good to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, and one never goes wrong by obeying the Lord of glory. Amen? In the Christian life, obedience to Christ is paramount. Second, when they saw Him they worshipped Him. Some doubted, but then some always doubt. But what does it mean in this verse, “to worship”? The Greek word here is proskunew. It’s built on the word kunew, which means “to kiss.”[3] The word proskunew was used by Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, as the word for the custom of prostrating oneself before someone and either kissing his feet or his garments as a gesture of complete submission to his authority or to acknowledge your complete dependence upon him.[4] Thus, whenever the Christian worships, whether it is by singing hymns, by the giving of tithes and offerings, in offering up prayer, while sitting under preaching, or when we join together to evangelize our community, our acts of worship should be expressions of a heart that is bowed before Him in submission and dependence.

Before the sermon I want to focus your attention on three words in our text, three words that take on a world of significance to those who emulate Christ’s disciples by first obeying Him and then by worshiping Him. Do you seek to obey Christ in all that you do? Do you then bow your heart before the Savior, your Master, your liege Lord?[5] Is it your heart’s desire to cast yourself down at His feet, as the four and twenty elders do in Revelation 4.10-11? Do you want to hereby love the fairest Lord Jesus? To that rare individual who has such desires as these the short phrase that we now focus our attention on is pregnant with meaning: “Go ye therefore.” What does this mean to the real Christian?

 

First, There Is The Command To GO

 

As has been pointed out to you folks on numerous occasions in the past, there is only one verb proper found in the Greek verse from which this is translated, and that’s the word mathetuoo, which we will deal with more fully next week, the Lord willing. The word in our phrase that is translated “go,” on the other hand, is what is called an aorist passive participle.[6]

Notice what the late Spiros Zodhiates, a well known authority on the Greek language, wrote about the function of the aorist participle: “The Aorist Participle (apt) expresses simple action, as opposed to the continuous action of the Present Participle (39). It does not in itself indicate the time of the action. However, when its relationship to the main verb is temporal, it usually signifies action prior to that of the main verb.”[7] What does this mean? Zodhiates was telling us that the very construction of this word “go” in the Greek language of our Lord’s day shows us that before the action of the verb is accomplished the action of this participle must be accomplished. In other words, the apostles will not succeed in making disciples unless this command to get up and go is addressed.

Why are many churches seeing fewer conversions than we would like to see? Is it because we are sowing “out of season”?[8] We are surely in a dry season. Or is it because church members who are physically able to go participate in their congregation’s outreach are not participating? You won’t know that, will you, until you either get to heaven or you faithfully participate in your church’s outreach?

We certainly do not expect the lost to come to our churches when it is we who are to go to them. And we have no business expecting disciples to be made, sinners to be reached, unless first congregations go get them and compel them to come in, as our Lord Jesus taught.[9] As a method of personal inventory, then, can you think of one individual who has come to your church in response to you somehow or in some way going?

 

Next, Notice That The Phrase Reads “GO YE”

 

The Greek phrase that translates “Go ye therefore” actually consists of only two words, with the first word in the phrase meaning “Go ye.” It is an aorist passive participle, as I mentioned before. But it’s an aorist passive participle that just so happens to be second person plural, poreuqewnteV. Thus, it is correctly translated “Go ye,” and means “Go you all” or “Go you people.”

If you are discerning you will detect here a scripturally sanctioned method imbedded in the Great Commission itself. Pastors who are pragmatists not bound to scriptural methods, and who are concerned with nothing but sociological manipulation as a means of increasing attendance in their churches, will oftentimes say, “We change our methods but we never change our message.” That sounds nice enough, but it ignores the fact that our message in great measure dictates our methods.

Folks, the Great Commission is actually our marching orders, the directive of the Captain of our salvation for us to get the gospel to a lost and dying world of sinners who are alienated from God. If we change to the approach of attracting people so that they just stream in because they like us so much, then we can be sure that we are doing something terribly wrong. You see, the whole point of the gospel is that men are sinners, at enmity with God, in rebellion toward Him. So, in order for sinners to like us so much that they just stream in to hear our message we will have to become so much like them that we no longer reflect or project any likeness to God.

Consider this as well: Let’s say some person in your church never participates in our outreach, which is an integral part of the Great Commission. Do you realize that such negligence creates serious problems evangelizing any sinner who is invited to church by that person? That’s right. It’s decisionism that separates obedience from conversion. But real conversion is not only a conversion to sins forgiven by Christ, but also a conversion to obedience to Christ. Do you doubt what I say? Then what do you think Ephesians 2.8-10 means?

 

8       For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9       Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10     For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

 

You end up creating problems for that person you want to see converted when you succeed in inviting him/her to church, and then when he/her gets under conviction and comes to talk to me about being truly converted. If you do not participate in our church outreach that lost friend will eventually put two and two together and will ask me if he/she should go out in order to be converted, because he/she has noticed that you don’t go out. But what the Spirit of God deals with him about as a sinner he has to deal with if he wants to be converted. Can a sinner be converted to Christ while grieving the Holy Spirit about the sin of not seeking the salvation of the lost? No. Thus, if you do not go out evangelizing then one of us will be discredited to the friend you invite to church, either you or me, either decisionism and its disconnect from a changed life or the real gospel and its evidence of a changed life. How do you want me to deal with that conflict when the conversation arises in my office, by discrediting you or by hum-hawing around and hoping the Spirit of God will not bring your unsaved friend under conviction about aggressively seeking to reach her friends? Help me now.

If you are discredited to your friend there is a great risk that he/she will no longer respond to your invitations to come to church. After all, why come to church with a church member who is at odds with the pastor? If I am discredited to your friend there is a great risk he/she will no longer respond to your invitations to come to church. After all, why come to church with a church member whose pastor is at odds with him/her?

Therefore you see, the Lord Jesus Christ has left those of us who are His disciples no wiggle room. You and I have to be agreed on this issue of as a church seeking the salvation of sinners by getting them under the preaching of the gospel. If your desire is to serve Christ you must realize that you simply cannot serve Christ without participating in some way your church’s effort to get sinners into church. There is no spirituality apart from throwing yourself into the struggle to bring the lost to Christ. And there is precious little Christianity apart from throwing yourself into the struggle to bring the lost to Christ.

 

Finally, The Phrase Reads “GO YE THEREFORE”

 

The little word that is translated “therefore” is pronounced oun. Here is how the word is defined in the Greek lexicon: “inferential, denoting that what it introduces is the result of or an inference from what precedes.”[10]

Again, we ask what this means. It means that the natural and direct result of Christ’s authority over all things in heaven and in earth is His right to wield that authority by commanding you to devote yourself to the Great Commission.

 

“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore.”

 

Let me paraphrase our Lord:

 

“Because I have been given all authority in heaven and in earth I will, therefore, use that authority to command you to go.”

 

Let us understand something, Christian, before I bring the sermon. The Spirit of God is not only the Agent of the new birth, He is also the Agent of the heart’s preparation for the new birth. When the sinner is being prepared by the Spirit of God for conversion that sinner will not be converted who stubbornly refuses to yield to the Spirit’s persuasions and demands about sin. In other words, there will be no conversion when the sinner is consciously and stubbornly refusing to give up a sin the Spirit of God has chosen to deal with him about.

Therefore, it should not be thought either unusual or outrageous for the Spirit of God to deal with sinners today as the Israelites were dealt with in days gone by when they refused to turn loose of their sins:

 

“Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone,” Hosea 4.7.

 

Do you think, then, that you will bring a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, or a relative to church and see that person converted so long as you refuse to put into practice in your life what is integral to the life of every Christian? Unlikely. Try as I may to deal with that sinner, so long as he/she thinks he/she can refuse to give up a practice that you are holding on to he/she is grieving the Spirit of God and will likely not become a Christian.

In other words, I think you may be wasting your time when you bring someone to church while, at the same time, you refuse to cooperate with the rest of us to reach out to the lost. When that lost person becomes aware that the entire church is engaged in corporate evangelism, but you are not so involved, someone’s credibility will suffer . . . either yours or mine. Either way, it is bad for that lost person we would both like to see come to Christ. Amen? This is why it is so important for us to be like-minded, to be of one accord.

 

SERMON:

 

To us has been given the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the authority by which He has commissioned us is the authority which He was Himself given by God the Father, authority that extends from heaven to earth and all parts in between. So, how are you and I to discharge this commission which we have been given? By what means are we to make disciples for Jesus Christ? We have learned during the exposition moments ago that we are to go.

There are two ways the Christian is to obey the Lord Jesus Christ and go:

 

First, There Is The Way Of Going That I Have Labeled UNSUPERVISED EVANGELISM

 

This is the approach to evangelism that I taught every Sunday morning during our Sunday School hour, from the Spring of 1998 to the Fall of 2001. For 3½ years I educated and encouraged you in matters related to what some call personal evangelism. And during that period of time I dealt more thoroughly with showing you how to reach your friends, neighbors, relatives and coworkers than you would have been dealt with had you attended a theological seminary.

But I don’t like to call this approach to evangelism personal evangelism because all real evangelism is after all intensely personal. Instead, I would rather call it unsupervised evangelism or unorganized evangelism, because it’s an evangelistic effort that you do on your own, apart from a regular activity of your church and typically not in conjunction with other members of your church.

If you live your life the way God wants you to live your life, you will initiate contact and make new friends of other people. There will be members of your family, associates with whom you work, neighbors you live near, friends with whom you come into contact during recreation and exercise and hobbies, and those folks you cross paths with as you go shopping or yard sale hopping. These are the lost people who are the targets of unsupervised evangelism. These are the lost people who are the targets of your evangelistic efforts when not collaborating with your church.

As well, these are the people who are most directly affected by your personal testimony and reputation. These are the ones who will judge such things as your personality, your meekness of spirit, your willingness as a wife to deflect praise to your husband rather than taking it all to yourself, your cheerfulness, and your hospitality.

These are the people our church will likely never have an opportunity to reach corporately. Yet they are just as lost, with spiritual needs that are just as great, as any sinner we strive to bring to Christ as a church. And your personal responsibility to do your best to reach them is just as pressing as is your personal responsibility to participate in our church-wide effort at bringing the lost to Christ.

This personal responsibility was recognized by the Apostle Paul, and it should be recognized by each of you. He wrote in Romans 1.14,

 

“I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.”

 

He had a moral obligation, as one who knew Christ, to do what he could to bring others to Christ. And you and I have that same moral obligation.

If you do not seek to bring this type of person to Christ by bringing this type of person to church, where he will encounter the means of grace, then you commit sins of omission by not doing what your Master obviously wants you to do. So, go to reach the lost in this way.

 

As Well, There Is The Way Of Going That I Have Termed TOTAL CHURCH OUTREACH

 

The Great Commission was given to the congregation, not primarily to Christians as individuals. The body of instruction on the church that we find in the gospels and the epistles, especially those written by the Apostle Paul, show us that Christ’s plan is for us to live our Christian lives corporately and in conjunction with other Christians. Not only are we not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, Hebrews 10.25 (with the thrust of that verse meaning that those who do not assemble with the church are not real Christians), but our great evangelistic enterprise of seeking to fulfill the Great Commission is also, in the main, a corporate effort.

Let me introduce to you a term I have used several times in this message, a term used more by Christians in the UK than here in the United States. The term is decisionism. Decisionism may be a new term to some of you, so let me describe it for you:

 

Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

 

Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinner’s standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.

 

Decisionism is an approach to evangelism that is not scriptural, but has been gradually insinuated into many churches over the last hundred years. Allow me to contrast decisionism with the scriptural approach to evangelism:

 

First, there is the decisionist method of evangelism.

 

This is the method that was popularized by the well-known fundamental Baptist pastors and evangelists who were so prominent from the 1950s through the end of the 20th century when the largest churches in the world were mostly Baptist churches. And though this method of evangelism is still used by many very conservative churches, it is being generally abandoned or de-emphasized in an ever-increasing number of churches because of one undeniable fact: Those who actually come into the church are not those who were supposedly won to Christ via this method.

And what is this decisionist method? It began as door to door evangelism, whereby a soul winning team that had been taught various skills and techniques would go to someone’s home unannounced, and deal with them for a very few minutes using a gospel tract or a preselected series of verses. At the conclusion of the presentation the sinner would then be persuaded to pray and receive Christ and the soul winning team would go on their way to win someone else to Christ.

The problem, of course, is that almost no one is ever converted that way. People pray that way. People ask Jesus to come into their hearts that way. But people are not actually converted that way. And here is why that approach to bringing people to Christ doesn’t work: First, it is an approach to evangelism that simply does not recognize the depths of human depravity, wrongly assuming that sinners typically tell the truth, when the Bible clearly shows that sinners typically do not tell the truth, Jeremiah 17.9:

 

“The heart is deceitful above all things.”

 

Second, it is an approach to evangelism that excludes the Holy Spirit’s ministry. No one would deny that Jesus Christ taught that the Spirit of God’s ministry in a sinner’s life is to reprove of sin, righteousness and judgment, John 16.8. However, decisionism presumes that as soon as the gospel presentation has been completed the sinner will always be ready to come to Christ. But where is the Spirit of God in this presumption? And by what right does anyone assume the Spirit of God will operate according to any human time table? Does not John 3.8 speak to this?

 

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

 

Therefore, how dare a so-called soul winner presume that the Spirit of God has finished His convincing work in a lost person’s life just because the “soul winner” has finished reading his gospel tract? Third, decisionism is an approach to evangelism that denigrates preaching. In First Corinthians 1.21 the Apostle Paul declared preaching to be the preeminent means of imparting grace to sinners:

 

“It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

 

Yet most decisionists assume that most conversions to Christ come from door to door soul winning and not gospel preaching. This is the reason why one of the most prominent “soul winning” pastors of the 20th century actually bragged that he did not preach the gospel in his church, even though he criticized his childhood pastor for not preaching the gospel the one time his own father attended church![11] Yes, preaching has fallen into disrepute these days, and is therefore for the most part abandoned as God’s primary means for converting the lost. But did the Apostle Paul not anticipate this attitude toward preaching by the unconverted? First Corinthians 1.18:

 

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

 

Finally, decisionism minimizes the importance of the church. What happens to the sinner who isn’t converted the first time he hears the gospel (which is the vast majority of the time)? What do you do with him? Decisionism doesn’t recognize the need to get sinners into church, under the sound of the gospel, thereby minimizing the importance of church attendance as a means of grace. But did not Jesus Christ teach,

 

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled,”

 

Luke 14.23? Will a sinner be converted who refuses to come to the Lord’s house? Not very likely. As I said before, door to door soul winning was popularized by big name preachers of days gone by. But these days big churches no longer emphasize such an approach to evangelism because, being pragmatists before they are anything else, they recognize that it simply doesn’t work effectively. More effective, by their way of thinking, is the marketing strategy of church growth, whereby a church is sold as a commodity to the unsaved of the community in an attempt to persuade them to attend and then to commit themselves to the church. But even this new development is at its root still decisionism, with no preaching on man’s depravity, no preaching the gospel at all in most cases, and no place for the ministry of the Spirit of God (though He is frequently talked about).

 

In contrast to such an approach there is the Biblical method of evangelism.

 

It must be recognized that during times of revival startling conversions will take place. But we do not live during a time when many revivals occur. There is no great moving of God in our midst as He is doing in other parts of the world. Therefore, we must be careful to make use of those Biblical methods of evangelism that are suited for our time and for the condition of those we seek to reach. A Biblical method of evangelism seeks to recognize the depths of human depravity. The heart is deceitful above all things. The heart is desperately wicked. Sinners will lie, even when it’s in their best interests to tell the truth. What method takes into account the sinner’s depravity? The method that makes sure the sinner is dealt with by someone who is profoundly convinced of the sinner’s depravity. And that method is the method that we seek to employ here at Calvary Road Baptist Church, with sinners dealt with carefully and cautiously, with hopeful convert’s testimonies scrutinized carefully, and with great care taken with each precious soul. A Biblical method of evangelism seeks to recognize the necessity of means. God makes use of means. He doesn’t ordinarily hit someone with a lightning strike to bring about his conversion. What means does God use? Several to quickly mention: Prayer on behalf of the sinner, gospel preaching to the sinner (I’ve already quoted two relevant verses), and church attendance.[12] I cannot overemphasize the importance of these three means of grace. If you do not pray for the sinner, and if I do not preach the gospel to the sinner, and if the sinner will not faithfully attend church, it is unlikely that he will be converted. Decisionism simply does not recognize the necessity of the means of grace, as is evident from the fact that the means of grace is never referred to by decisionists. In all my years as a decisionist I never once heard or read of a decisionist even making mention of the various means by which God communicates grace to a sinner. Thus, it is a part of evangelism that is completely ignored by decisionists. Finally, a Biblical method of evangelism seeks to recognize the irreplaceable role of the Holy Spirit of God. When the Spirit of God begins to convict a sinner of his sins there are frequently produced a number of indicators of that conviction. Why does decisionism pay no attention to such indications of the Spirit’s work in a sinner? And why, in all my own years as a decisionist, was the human inability to predict the direction of the Spirit of God’s work among sinners never pointed out to me? I think it’s because decisionism presumes that the Spirit of God must regenerate whoever the decisionist persuades to pray a sinner’s prayer. Thus, the Spirit of God is effectively removed from decisionism’s model of evangelism. What a terrible crime that is.

 

“Go ye therefore.” There are two ways for the obedient child of God to go. You go in an unsupervised manner, as you go through the normal routine of life, and you go in a supervised manner, as a part of our church’s organized outreach. To state it another way, you go in an individual manner or you go in a corporate manner. If you do one and not the other you are not going. Assuming you are physically able, if you show up on Saturday night and participate in our organized effort to bring visitors in, but do not seek to bring in your family, friends, neighbors, relatives and coworkers, then you are not obeying Christ. As well, if you do a wonderful job of bringing coworkers and family members and friends to church, but do not participate in our organized church outreach whereby your life and example encourages others who go with you, then you also are not obeying Christ.

When Christ told us to go He had in mind, and He still has in mind, a life given over to going. And since there are some people who can be reached in one way who will never be reached another way, it is imperative unless providentially hindered that we go both ways. You may enjoy more success one way than the other way. But there are benefits that accrue to you and your church via both approaches, so don’t deny to yourself or your church blessings that God has in store by opting out of one or the other, unsupervised evangelism or your church’s outreach.

May God bless you as you purpose to bring a friend, neighbor, relative or coworker to church with you Sunday, and as you so arrange your schedule that you can participate your congregation’s outreach, age and ability permitting.

__________

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Commentary on Matthew, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[2] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 2032.

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 882-883.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1110.

[6] Spiros Zodhiates, The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1991), page 1228.

[7] Ibid., page 1585.

[8] Second Timothy 4.2

[9] Luke 14.23

[10] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 736.

[11] R. L. Hymers, Jr. and Christopher Cagan, Preaching To A Dying Nation, (Los Angeles, CA: Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles, 1999), pages 81-84.

[12] First Corinthians 14.24-25

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org