Christ with Us AlwaysMatthew 28:18-20Theme: All authority.This week’s lessons remind us that Christ’s presence is what gives power to evangelism.
LessonThe Great Commission contains four universals, each marked by the word “all”; all authority, all nations, everything (all) that I have commanded you, and always (all the days). The second of these is “all nations.” It refers, as I indicated in the last section, to the universal authority of Jesus and the worldwide character of Christianity.
It is surprising that Matthew, of all the Gospels, should end on this note. Each of the Gospels has its own unique character, as commentators have long noted. John’s is most universal; it presents Jesus as “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). Luke is a gentile or Greek book; it is usual to think of Luke as presenting Jesus to Greeks as the perfect or ideal man (as well as God incarnate). Mark seems to have been written for a Roman audience; it stresses Jesus as a miracle worker, giving less attention to his discourses than the others. By general consent Matthew is the preeminently Jewish Gospel. It is written to show Jesus as the son of David and the fulfiller of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. No other Gospel is so limited to the immediate historical and ethnic climate into which Jesus was born and in which he ministered. Yet surprisingly, as I said, it is this Gospel which ends on the most universal note. In the Great Commission we learn that those few Jewish disciples who had followed Jesus through the days of his ministry and who were now being commissioned formally to his service were not to limit their operations to Judaism but were rather to go to all the people and nations of the world with his gospel.
One of the most important universals in this version of the Great Commission, particularly in our superficial age, is the command to teach those we have discipled. We are to teach them today, because we see what seems to be the opposite. Instead of striving to teach all Christ commanded, many seem to be trying to eliminate as much of his teaching as possible, concentrating on an easily comprehended, unobjectionable “core” of teaching. It is a core of grace without judgment, love without justice, salvation without obedience, triumph without suffering. I am willing to concede that the motivation of some of these reductionists may be good: to win as many persons to Christ as possible. But the method is the world’s, and the results (as a natural consequence) are the world’s results. Disciples are not made by defective teaching. The world is not subjected to Christ’s rule by demi-gospels.
What should our teaching include? Obviously, any brief listing of doctrines is inadequate. We must teach the entire Bible. Nevertheless, faithfulness to Christ must involve at least the following things. The first thing faithfulness must include is a high view of Scripture. In our day liberal teachers are trying to undercut the church’s traditionally high view of the Bible, saying that it is only a human book, that it contains errors, that it is therefore at best only relatively trustworthy or authoritative. This has produced a weak, vacillating church. It is significant that with only a few exceptions even these liberal detractors of Scripture acknowledge that Jesus himself regarded the Bible (in his case, the Old Testament) as entirely authoritative. Kirsopp Lake was no friend of historic Bible-believing Christianity, but he wrote, “The fundamentalist may be wrong; I think that he is. But it is we who have departed from the tradition, not he; and I am sorry for the fate of anyone who tries to argue with a fundamentalist on the basis of authority. The Bible and the corpus theologicum of the church are on the fundamentalist’s side.”1
If we are to be faithful to all of Christ’s teachings, we must teach his high view of the Bible as a fundamental part of our theology.
1 Kirsopp Lake, The Religion of Yesterday and Tomorrow (Boston: Houghton Press, 1926), p. 61.
List the four universals of the Great Commission.
What is surprising about the end of Matthew’s Gospel?
Some of the teaching that people receive today has been infected by the superficiality of our culture. Describe what is wrong with such teaching.
Further StudyRead through all four Gospels. After obtaining an overall view of each, note the specific passages in each that show the distinctive themes Dr. Boice described in today’s lesson.
Scripture MemoryMemorize 2 Timothy 3:16.