"MARCHING ORDERS"

Matthew 28.16-20

 

EXPOSITION:

1. Last week we celebrated the birth of Christ. Come Easter time we will celebrate the resurrection of Christ. But after the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead in a glorified human body, and before He ascended to His Fatherís right hand on high until His enemies be made His footstool, He showed Himself alive with many infallible proofs to hundreds of witnesses.

2. Over a span of several weeks following His resurrection the Lord Jesus Christ seems to have made about a dozen appearances to different combinations of believers and apostles before His miraculous ascension.

3. On one dramatic occasion, which is recorded in Matthewís Gospel as well as in Mark, and is referred to by the apostle Paul in First Corinthians 15, the Lord Jesus actually appeared to some 500 people.

4. Turn to Matthew 28, where we read of that occasion in which the risen Savior spoke to His 11 remaining apostles in the hearing of all those other witnesses who had gathered to see their Master. I read beginning at verse 16. Please stand and read silently while I read aloud:

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.

5. There are three divisions to this passage.

1A. First, THE APPOINTMENT

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.

1B. In Verse 16 We See The Discipleís Obedience

1C. Their risen Savior, Who they had now seen a number of times since the resurrection had occurred in Jerusalem, had apparently directed them to meet Him somewhere up high, some place out of the way and remote.

2C. So they went there. And if comparing different verses provides a clue, they told a number of other people who went along with them, and who are referred to in First Corinthians 15.6.

3C. But the focus of our text is on the surviving eleven apostles (Judas, the betrayer, having killed himself). They obeyed. They followed their Masterís directions. They met Him in the appointed place at the appointed time.

2B. In Verse 17 We See The Discipleís Obeisance

1C. When they saw their risen Savior they "worshiped" Him. The word translated "worshiped" is found in 54 verses in the New Testament, usually referring to a person prostrating himself before God. So, there is little doubt that the disciples recognized the deity of Jesus Christ.

2C. "But some doubted." Who are these "some?" Perhaps there is still lingering doubt in the hearts of the eleven. But it is likely this refers to those few in the crowd of 500 Paul referred to who would not be satisfied by even the most solid proof of the resurrection of Christ.

3C. Donít forget that the Lord Jesus Christís intimates were quite difficult to convince of His resurrection. They were not easily sold on the idea at all. But by the day of Pentecost, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God, they were all so supernaturally convinced that what they had seen with their eyes was true truth, that Jesus really was indeed risen from the dead, that they literally gave their lives to spread the Gospel.

4C. So, we, too, should not be terribly surprised to find some who "worship" Christ still have doubts about His resurrection. Just keep in mind that anyone who is not firmly convinced of the resurrectionís reality is not truly converted, since the resurrection is one of the three legs upon which the saving Gospel message stands.

2A. Next, THE AUTHORITY

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

1B. First, the phrase "and Jesus came and spake unto them" perhaps this is what dispelled the last remaining doubts; Jesus drawing near. They had all worshiped Him from afar, though some doubted. But now, as He drew near, the remaining doubts took flight, never to return. Each one had seen Jesus, closely, intimately, personally, memorably, undeniably, unmistakably ... alive!

2B. What does He then say to them? "all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." But He already had all power, all authority, by right of creation. After all, from John 1.3 we know that "all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." Here, however, the Lord Jesus speaks of a different authority, an authority bestowed upon him by the Father to function as Redeemer, to execute His office of Reconciler and Mediator. And in that office He exercises absolute and undisputed sovereignty.

3A. Third, THE ACTIVITY

Based upon His undiluted authority, His sovereign power, the Lord Jesus Christ then sets His apostles upon a mission they will give their lives working to achieve. I read the words of A. T. Robertson, famed Southern Baptist scholar of days gone by: "It is the sublimist of all spectacles to see the Risen Christ without money or army or state charging this band of five hundred men and women with world conquest and bringing them to believe it possible and to undertake it with serious passion and power."

What is this mission Jesus Christ has given to these men that we call the Great Commission? There is a command that is followed by a commitment.

1B. The Command Is To Make Disciples

1C. Though a bit obscured by our English translation, there is only one verb in the command Jesus issued, the command to "make disciples." The command is not to "get sinners saved." The command is not to "get professions of faith." The command is not to "count baptisms." Requiring something more than a sinnerís prayer or a quick dunk under water, the Lord Jesus Christ commanded those eleven men to engage in the task of making disciples, which can only realistically be expected to occur when someone is really converted.

2C. Accompanying the single verb "to make disciples" are three modifying phrases. These three phrases establish the guidelines along which the eleven were to function in the accomplishing of their task. They were to "make disciples" as they would go, by baptizing them, and by teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded.

3C. Obviously, a great deal of time could be spent elaborating on these three guidelines, but suffice it to say this: The Great Commission is a unified whole that is accomplished by engaging in three discreet kinds of activities. There is the going activity that necessarily involves Gospel preaching and evangelism. This is because subsequent to that is baptism, which only those who are converted are qualified for. Then, once a likely convert is baptized he is to be taught to obey all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, which certainly must mean that such instruction is not to be provided to someone who is not baptized.

4C. Folks, this isnít rocket science. But if there is a breadth and depth of instruction and training that is reserved for baptized Christians, then does it not make sense that what the lost are exposed to is somewhat narrower and shallower? I submit this to you in the hopes that you will see that Bible exposition is not necessarily whatís best for reaching the lost.

5C. Every bit of evidence in the Bible suggests that the apostles resorted to topical preaching and teaching to reach the lost. That is, they dealt with topics and subjects that were especially appropriate to the unsaved, rather than teach them in verse by verse fashion as is so often the case today. So now, with this command, the apostles have their marching orders.

2B. Our Text Closes With A Commitment

20b . . . and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

1C. Understand, folks, that this Commission the Lord Jesus charged the apostles with was a great honor, an awesome responsibility, a profoundly dangerous mission, an unimaginably inconvenient task.

2C. When Simon Peterís kids got sick his wife would have to stay home with them. In order to reach the lost they even had to give up their weekly dinner at the restaurant, their round of golf, and time on the play station. There were occasions when the kids got to sleep a bit late.

3C. Excuse my sarcasm. The fact is, the Great Commission was a dangerous assignment. It would lead to unparalleled dangers. All but one of the apostles would suffer martyrdom, and they would each suffer beatings, persecutions and trials we can only begin to imagine.

4C. But they were unconcerned about those dangers and the obstacles they met along the way. And how were their fears allayed, their concerns put to rest? They had a commitment. Not that they were committed to the task, mind you. Though they certainly were committed. But they had a commitment from the Lord Jesus Christ that erased all concerns, that dispelled all doubts, that allayed all fears.

5C. "and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." To which commitment, to which comfort of the soul, to which communion for their souls, Matthew comments, "Amen." It was enough for him. It was enough for them all. It ought to be enough for you and me.

CONCLUSION:

1. The Great Commission was given to eleven men. But those eleven men were joined by another 500 who assumed the responsibility and shouldered the task of collaborating with the eleven.

2. And as time passed and the apostles were martyred and died the baton was passed on, not to individuals but to congregations. Apostles, prophets, evangelists and then pastors and teachers, Paul told the Ephesians.

3. And now, in our day, the task falls to us. The Commission is ours, but so is Christís commitment.

4. Before this morningís sermon brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song.

INTRODUCTION:

1. The Calvary Road Baptist Church is something more than 26 years old. For the past few years our Church has been in transition, a transition that weíve not yet completed.

2. Itís a transition away from the Charles G. Finney approach to evangelism that has wrecked Baptist and Protestant Churches in the west and which left our own Church with an almost empty shell of a congregation, populated by mostly lost Church members.

3. We have talked about Scriptural evangelism for quite a while now. Weíve seen numerous Church members and even those from outside our Church come to Christ in a Biblical way and experience the miracle of the new birth, though a number of you are still unconverted. Weíve not arrived yet, but God has given to us wonderful progress. To Him be the glory.

4. But the effect of us realizing the errors of decisionism* and recognizing how many of us were unconverted was that we turned inward for a long time, working and praying and striving to see our own come to Christ. And God has been good to us in this regard.

5. But the essence of Biblical Christianity is not turning inward, but turning outward to a lost and dying world. It is now time for the Christians in our midst to wake up from the slumber we slipped into while God mercifully worked in the lives of our unconverted family members, and turn our gaze outward. Itís time to stand up and gird your loins for some real work.

6. Itís now time for us to take to heart like we have never taken to heart before the Great Commission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us wipe the sleep from our eyes, splash the cool water of truth in our faces, and look about us. What do we see?

1A. First, WE SEE OUR OBLIGATION

The obligation that rests upon us as Christians and as a Church can be summed up in two words, directive and debt.

1B. The Directive We Are Already Aware Of.

1C. Itís the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."

2C. In Mark 16.15-16 we see, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

3C. In Luke 24.46-47 we read these words: "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

4C. In Acts 1.8 we read the Great Commission yet again: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."

5C. Is it not rather obvious that the Lord Jesus Christ wants this Commission we have been charged with tackled? Is there any doubt that the Gospel which this Great Commission charges us with speaks of the only solution for the need of the hour, the sinnerís need of a living Savior?

2B. But It Is Not Directive Alone That Compels Us To Carry Out The Great Commission, But Duty As Well.

1C. I read from Romans 1.14, where Paul wrote of his own compelling reason for involvement in the Great Commission: "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise."

2C. To be sure, Paul was a chosen vessel, a God-called apostle of Jesus Christ, created and saved specifically to labor in the Lordís vineyard, but so are you.

3C. What moved Paul, however, was not so much Christís directive but his own duty. He who had been so poor had been made so rich by Christ. He who was so profoundly lost in his sins had been recreated so marvelously found in Christ. He who had been so fouled by sins was now so very clean by the blood of Christ that he was weighed down, not by Christís command, but by his own conscience, not by Christís directive, but by his own perception of the debt he owed to the unsaved.

4C. Should it not be the same with you? How is your obligation to serve God and sinners under the sound of the Gospel less than Peterís and Paulís and Johnís? How are you less cleansed by Christís blood than they were? How are you any less a new creature in Christ than they were?

5C. And though they have been given grace and gifts that you and I have not been given, our obligation is no less than was theirs . . . only the fruit that we will produce as we labor for the Master.

6C. So, for reasons related to both Christís directive and your own perception of duty, the debt of obligation you have to reach the unreached, join with others here at Calvary Road Baptist Church as we work to bring the lost to Jesus Christ.

2A. Second, When We Look We See OUR OBJECTIVE

Two things:

1B. First, What Is An Objective?

1C. An objective is a goal, something oneís efforts are designed to accomplish. And implicit in an objective is the requirement that your objective be within your power of determination.

2C. That is, I cannot reasonably establish an objective that is beyond my personal reach of accomplishment. Thus, I cannot set as my own objective something which only God can do.

3C. This doesnít mean I canít pray for it, plead for it. It only means that if only God can do it then it is not a legitimate objective that my efforts are designed to accomplish.

2B. Then, What Is Our Objective?

1C. Turn to First Corinthians 3, where the apostle Paul reestablishes for the Corinthian congregation what their God-ordained objective ought to be, by showing them what his objective and Apollosí objective in their midst had been:

5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

2C. Notice, from this passage, that Paulís job was to plant the seed, while Apollosí job was to water the seed. That is, Paul first preached to them the Gospel and Apollos came along later and preached.

3C. But who gave the increase? Who was responsible for people getting saved? In verse 6 and again in verse 7 specific mention is made that "God gave the increase."

4C. My friends, getting people saved is not a valid objective for a preacher or a Church member. Paulís objective was to preach the Gospel. Apollosí objective was to preach the Gospel. And God rewards a man, as we read here, for accomplishing his objectives.

5C. Our objective as a Church, if we are to learn from Paul, is not to give the increase. Thatís Godís prerogative that decisionists* wickedly attempt to usurp. But we recognize that our objective is to be a Gospel preaching Church and to work to get men under the sound of the Gospel . . . so seed can be planted and watered.

6C. If you are working to achieve such an objective then God will bless and reward you. But if you do not participate in the achieving of this objective then you are in sin and God will not reward you.

3A. Finally, OUR OPPORTUNITY

1B. We Live During A Critical Time In History

1C. Do we not live in the last days? Do we not see end time scenarios unfolding? Is not the world a rapidly changing place?

2C. Is there not an acceleration in the rate that knowledge is being acquired, in the rate that technology is being advanced, in the rate that wickedness is assaulting?

3C. Let me ask you some things, my friend, concerning your service to Christ and our involvement as a Church in His cause: If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?

2B. A Critical Time In History And Also A Critical Place In The World

1C. The most important country in the world is the United States of America. No country has the cultural or the economic or the military clout this country has.

2C. But the most important state in the most important country in the world is California. Whether it be fads or finances, innovation or investment schemes, amusement or entertainment, California so obviously leads this country that no honest observer of the culture denies it.

3C. And yet, in this most important state in the most important country in the world there is a single city which dominates and overshadows all the others . . . Los Angeles, where we live.

4C. If there is anywhere in the world where something needs to be done for God, if there is anywhere in the world where the Gospel needs to be firmly planted and watered, itís here.

5C. Paul went to Rome, though there were Christians already there, because he knew the importance to the spread of the Gospel that city was. We see that reflected in his letter to the Romans. And there is a parallel with this monstrous city called LA.

6C. You and I and this Church are in a special place, with a special message.

3B. Which Makes Us A Crucial Ministry In Godís Plan

1C. There is no Gospel preaching Church which does not occupy a special place in Godís unfolding drama of redemption, but some ministries show promise of becoming more crucial in the realization of Godís plan than do other ministries.

2C. The Church in Ephesus was more significant than the Church in Hippo. The Church in Jerusalem was more significant than the Church in Wheeler, Texas.

3C. Our Church might be more significant than we realize. We are in a significant time. We are in a significant place. We do have a significant message. Will God choose to use us in a significant way? Thatís His business. Our business is to meet our objective, to execute as best we can the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have our marching orders.

CONCLUSION:

1. Little did he know when he got on the plane that day that Todd Beamer would make a mark on American history as a result of the choice he made about how he would die. Rather than sit back in his seat on that place that crashed in Pennsylvania, he decided to act, he decided to do something. Somehow people found out what he did.

2. He didnít have a choice about dying or not dying. He did, however, have a choice about how he was going to die. And he died well. I suppose that as long as there are Americans there will be a cultural memory of a man on a plane who said to others who along with him refused to die passively at the hands of terrorists, "Letís roll."

3. The entire course of his life was summed up for others in his choice of how he would die. Let me tell you something, folks. You are dying. Right now, at a rate that is greater or less than those sitting next to you, you are dying. You may be young or you may be old, but you are dying. You have no control over whether or not you will die. You will die. Make no mistake about that.

4. But how will you die? How you live the remainder of your life is how you will die. The eleven died right, preaching Christ, knowing that their Savior had made a commitment to them that He kept through all.

5. My friend, Jesus has made that same commitment to you and me. So, letís die right. Letís live out the rest of our lives, heading toward eternityís door, seeking to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.


* 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 sinnerís 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.

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