Theme: Going out with the good news.
This week’s lessons teach that proclaiming the gospel is a requirement for Christians.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The third universal of the Great Commission is the command to teach those we have evangelized. We must teach them “to obey everything” (or all things) Christ commanded, which means that for all Christians a lifetime of learning must follow conversion and membership in Christ’s church. This is particularly important in our extremely superficial age.
What we observe seems to be the opposite. Instead of striving to teach all Christ commanded, many are trying to eliminate as much of his teaching as possible, concentrating instead on things that are easily comprehended and unobjectionable. But a “core” like this is distorted. It is usually grace without judgment, love without justice, salvation without obedience, and triumph without suffering. The motivation of some of these reductionists may be good: they want to win as many people to Christ as possible. But the method is the world’s, and the results will be the world’s results. Robust disciples are not made by watered-down teaching.
Today’s church needs to recapture the entire counsels of God. To many this seems the most foolish of pursuits. If we were to ask many so-called Christians what should be done in our day to win the world for Christ, it is likely that they would talk about literature campaigns, the use of radio and television, the founding of seeker-sensitive churches, recruitment of workers, and how to raise funds. In other words, most of the discussion would center on methods rather than on content. By contrast, Jesus spoke about teaching his commandments. What should our teaching include? Clearly any short list of doctrines is inadequate. We must teach the entire Bible. Nevertheless, faithfulness to the Great Commission must involve at least the following:
1. 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, or that, while it may be true, it is not sufficient for dealing with today’s challenges. This has produced a weak church. It is significant that with only a few exceptions even these liberal detractors of Scripture acknowledge that Jesus regarded the Bible (in his case, the Old Testament) as 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 side.”1
If we are to be faithful to all Christ’s teachings, we must teach his high view of the Bible as a fundamental part of our theology.
2. The sovereignty of God, especially in salvation. The English Bible translator J. B. Phillips wrote a book entitled Your God Is Too Small. That title, which is also a statement, might well be spoken of many of today’s professing Christians who, in their ignorance of Scripture, inevitably scale God down to their own limited and fallible perspectives. We need to capture a new, elevated sense of who God is, particularly in regard to his grace in saving sinners. Sovereignty refers to rightful rule. So to say that God is sovereign, as the Bible does, is to say that God rules in all matters and all places. Nothing is an accident. No one catches God off guard. Moreover, he does what seems best to him. Paul wrote, ” …God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18).
3. The depravity of man. Church people are willing to speak of sin in the sense that we are “less perfect than God” and need help to live a godly life. That is not offensive to anyone. But it is not the Bible’s teaching. The Bible teaches that men and women are in rebellion against God (Psalm 2:1-3). It says, not that they are marred by sin but that they are dead in it (Ephesians 2:1-3). It says they have been so debased by sin that even their thoughts are corrupted and that in all ways: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). So great is this depravity that a person cannot even come to Christ unless God first renews his soul, and so draws him (John 6:44). If we are going to be saved, it must be by the grace of God and by the grace of God alone.
4. Salvation by grace alone. While it is true that in ourselves we cannot come to Christ and so live under God’s judgment, God has nevertheless acted in grace to save some who were perishing. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. That is the full meaning of justification, the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls, according to Martin Luther. Any teaching about salvation that is less than that teaching is not authentic Christianity.
1 Kirsopp Lake, The Religion of Yesterday and Tomorrow (Boston: Houghton Press, 1926), p. 61.
What is the third aspect of the Great Commission?
What three teachings of Christ’s are lacking in many contemporary methods of evangelism?
From today’s lesson, what four things must be upheld in teaching Christianity?
Robust disciples are not made by watered down teaching.
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.