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What the Bible says about Great Commission
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 28:16-20

By stating this as He did, He was admonishing the apostles not to become fixated on the fulfillment of prophecies but to remain focused on preaching the gospel. For that end, He will give them power. He wanted them to concentrate on the job at hand. The Great Commission, though, is now not only global geographically, but in terms of time, it is also totally open-ended. Moreover, no God-given, intermediate goals are in sight. The church today must take its cue from the way Jesus Christ handled the situation with the first-century church.

What began at this critical time in history was that God's global re-educational institution—the church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)—was taking its first steps in teaching everyone worldwide how they should live. The church Jesus founded was beginning to preach the gospel from this starting point in both place and time, an activity that will eventually reach every person who has ever lived. In other words, beginning then, the church became the focal point of God's reeducation program.

Jesus was transitioning His work from what was merely an Old Covenant, Israelite, religious organization—of interest to relatively few outside Israel—to an educational organization that in terms of time will span thousands of years and become of intense interest to everybody. In directing the apostles in this way, Christ wanted His church to inaugurate this work yet keep it contained within the parameters He and the Father set as the church progressively developed at the speed it could handle effectively.

It may be helpful to remember that the earliest brethren in the church had to face their public responsibilities to Jesus without the help of what is now roughly one-third of the Bible—the New Testament. Scholars posit that the gospel of Mark was written first, followed by Matthew, Luke, and John. The earliest possible date even for Mark appears to be around AD 40, but some place it as late as AD 65.

In addition, it appears that I Thessalonians was the first of the epistles circulated within the church, but the apostle Paul did not write it until approximately AD 50. How many new converts even possessed their own copy of an Old Testament in their homes? Very few. There were no printing presses, no radio and television broadcasting, and no computers. To purchase a copy of the Old Testament would have cost a working man an entire year of wages! Was there a reference work similar to a Strong's Concordance of the Bible for somewhat more serious researching? Of course not.

Looking back in this way confirms that the early preaching of the gospel was a work of faith, highly dependent on the apostles' spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. What likely sustained the members' spirituality was the spoken word delivered to people who listened carefully and concentrated with great intensity. These “pioneers” were remarkable, spiritually-minded people.

The Jewish religious leadership perceived that the apostles lacked preparation for such a huge responsibility (Acts 4:13). This terminology does not mean that the apostles had received no education at all. The wording expresses that the Jews considered the apostles to be common men who lacked the educational advantages they would have received had they been prepared for such public evangelism in rabbinical schools. However, recall that Mark 3:13-14 establishes that Jesus chose and appointed those He specifically wanted as apostles so that they might be with Him (that is, to witness His teaching and activities), and He sent them out to preach. Undoubtedly, He was searching for budding characteristics that He could build upon. He prepared them well to carry out their responsibilities.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Four)

John 21:4-12

Verse 4 reveals that none of the disciples initially recognizes the Lord. In fact, all the disciples consistently failed to recognize the post-resurrection Christ (Luke 24:1-11, 13-16, 36-45; John 20:14). Physical and emotional circumstances notwithstanding, their failure was the result of weak faith or spiritual immaturity and the corresponding confusion and unbelief—spiritual blindness.

Following His resurrection, Christ changes (I Corinthians 15:44-45; Hebrews 6:20; Ephesians 4:9-10), but His disciples, still lacking understanding, have not. Verse 12 provides insight: “Jesus said to them, 'Come and eat breakfast.' Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, 'Who are You?'—knowing that it was the Lord.” While they eventually figure out that their Master, Jesus Christ, is with them on the shore, there is something different about Him that they are unable to comprehend fully without His assistance (Romans 8:5; John 15:5; I Corinthians 13:12).

After John manages, however, to identify the stranger on the shore as “the Lord,” Peter immediately dresses and dives into the water to swim about 200 cubits (100 yards), eager to join Him on the shore. Contrast this passage with the first large catch miracle where all the disciples were “astonished” at the catch, while Peter, overwhelmed by the miraculous power of Jesus, begs Him to “depart from me” (Luke 5:8).

John's narrative indicates no hesitation on Peter's part to follow Christ's direction to cast the fishing net, this time on the right side of the vessel. This contrasts with the first large catch miracle (Luke 5:1-11) where a newly-recruited Peter resists His direction before submitting.

Subsequently, the fishing net is brimming with a massive catch, yet it does not tear, nor are any of the men anxious or overwhelmed. In fact, Peter jumps back into the water to finish dragging the miracle catch back to shore by himself. Conversely, during the first large catch incident, the net tears and the two fishing boats involved begin to sink (Luke 5:6-7).

Taken together, we see how the first large-catch miracle marks the beginning, while the second miracle signals the completion of the disciples' three-and-a-half-year education under God's direct tutelage. We also witness the disciples' efforts to overcome several challenges common to most Christians: learning to recognize or see God; following His commandments in faith, and learning how to remain steadfast in the midst of overwhelming circumstances (John 21:8-12).

The narrative of the second large catch begins with an anxious and bewildered—perhaps even backsliding—group of disciples that struggles initially to identify their Lord and Master. Nonetheless, even with their initial lapse of faith, by the end of this incident, we witness good fruit from the disciples' unique and uncommon apprenticeship: their weak faith buttressed, their unbelief dissolved, and their capacity to serve wholly enriched by the presence of God.

Because each disciple's flaws are compounded in his Lord's absence, each will soon receive the indwelling of His Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Christ's commission, then, recognizes and rewards their growth and points to the beginning of their new vocation (John 21:15-17). No longer will they be only “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17), but soon they will work as pioneering ministers in the nascent church of God, tending and feeding all who are called into “the Way.”

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: A Second Large Catch of Fish (Part Two)


 




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