Bible verses about
Commission to Church
(From Forerunner Commentary)
In Matthew 15:24, He says of His own commission, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Christ sent His apostles only to the scattered Israelites, most of whom had migrated into Europe centuries before. Acts 2:39 shows that they were not sent even to every last one of "the lost sheep" of Israel! Peter says, "For the promise [of the gift of the Holy Spirit] is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off [geographically and in time], as many as the Lord our God will call." Thus, the Father limits the preaching of the gospel to those He calls! The apostle urges them to save themselves from this "perverse generation," that is, those who were not offered God's Spirit (verse 40).
As we saw, Christ said that He was not sent to the Gentiles. So why did He send Paul to the Gentiles? (Romans 11:13). Is that not a contradiction? No, Christ does not contradict Himself. It was prophesied. Paul's commission was in addition to the other apostles' work; it did not negate or replace their going to Israel, for even Paul's commission included preaching to Israel (Acts 9:15).
The main thrust of the gospel is the work among the descendants of Israel, not the Gentiles! The world would have us believe that God stopped working with the "Jews," and the Gentiles became His chosen people. Nothing could be further from the truth! He sent only one apostle to the Gentiles but all the others to the people of Israel!
In Romans 9—11, Paul clearly explains why Christ sent him to preach among Gentiles. Because His own nation, the Jews (as well as the other tribes of Israel), rejected Jesus their Savior, He called a new people as the "Israel of God" (Romans 9:1-8; Galatians 6:16). God is very resourceful!
Paul quotes Moses, who prophesied of the Israelites' failure to keep faith with God. "I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will anger you by a foolish nation" (Romans 10:19). Paul concludes: "I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles" (Romans 11:11).
That is why Paul was sent to preach to Gentiles. Romans 11:17-26 shows that God broke Israelite branches off the Abrahamic family tree because they did not believe Him. In their place He grafted in believing Gentiles, making them children of Abraham (see Galatians 3:29). In the future, God will graft back in the broken-off Israelites (Romans 11:23)!
The time of Israel's regrafting begins when God adds the "fullness of the Gentiles" to the church. This "fullness of the Gentiles" must be a very small number in comparison to all those called into the church. God tells Ezekiel, "For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel, NOT TO MANY PEOPLE of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you" (Ezekiel 3:5-6). The church has always been a "little flock" and the Gentiles in it even fewer.
'Go Ye Therefore Into All the World...'
Proselytes were common in the days of the apostles. Acts 2:10 records their presence, with the Jews, in Jerusalem on Pentecost. Nicolas, "a proselyte from Antioch," is numbered in Acts 6:5 as an original deacon. Finally, Acts 13:43, mentions "devout proselytes" who followed Paul in Antioch. In context, these clearly refer to Gentile proselytes to Judaism.
Indeed, Paul's problems with the circumcision party had its roots in the widespread Jewish practice of proselytism in those days. The members of this party - almost certainly (misguided) members of God's church - followed Paul from city to city, telling Gentile converts of their need for physical circumcision. They took their cues from Exodus 12:48 and other scriptures. These Jews were men of their age, and therefore took no exception to the practice of proselytism. Also, they apparently accepted the validity of Paul's commission to carry Christ's "name before Gentiles" (Acts 9:15). Their only issue was physical circumcision. As a result of this controversy, the apostles had to redefine circumcision in its proper New Covenant terms.
In the New Testament, God clearly commissioned some to preach the gospel of God's Kingdom actively. Paul received such a commission, as Acts 9:15 clearly relates. Christ also commissioned His other apostles to "go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . ." (Matthew 28:19). These commissions have their parallel in the commissions received by the Old Testament prophets. Examples include the prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1) and Jonah (Jonah 1).
It is important to recognize, though, that neither the Old Testament commissions to the prophets nor the New Testament commissions to the apostles remove the responsibility on the part of the people to be examples. God has always used this means - the example of His people - as a fundamental method of reaching others. As one excellent New Testament example, notice I Thessalonians 1:7-9, where Paul lauds the converts in Thessalonica, pointing out the breadth of their example to other church congregations and to the world at large:
. . . so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. . . .
So strong was their witness that Paul needed not "to say anything." These people certainly did not hide their light under a basket. Example can speak louder than preaching.
Proselytism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Part One)
Matthew 24:14 is not a commission to anybody in particular—not to the first-century apostles nor to anyone else. It is simply a statement of fact by Jesus Christ, prophesying that the gospel will be preached in all the world as a witness and then will the end come.
Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20 are not synonymous. In the latter verses, though preaching as a witness is included within the scope of the commission, it actually places more emphasis upon the entire process of conversion, feeding, growing, and overcoming than merely witnessing, as in Matthew 24:14. The key word here is "process."
The word "teach" in Matthew 28:19 is the key to this understanding. Many Bibles have a marginal reference beside it: "make disciples." "Go you therefore into all the world and make disciples."
"Teach" is not wrong as long as we understand that it implies a process. All the teaching required to make a disciple cannot occur merely in making a witness. There are major differences between the two. At best, preaching the gospel to the world begins the process of teaching. Disciples are created through steady feeding, a believing response in those who hear combined with overcoming.
The second factor appears in verse 20: "Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." The key here is "all things." That cannot be done merely through a witness. As we are learning, observing all things is a lifelong project requiring the structure of a church. This is the reason why the church exists.
What is being emphasized in verses 19-20, though witnessing is included in it, is the feeding of the flock because it is the called, the elect—God's children—who are His greatest concern. These are the ones who are being prepared for the Kingdom of God. It takes a great deal of feeding and experiences with God for Christ to be formed in us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)
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