What Christ Has Commanded:The Great Commission
November 29th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
WHAT CHRIST HAS COMMANDED:
THE GREAT COMMISSION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-29-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, all of you who listen on the radio, and this is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message, entitled, The Great Mandate, The Great Commandment, The Great Commission.
As you could know from the singing of the choir, from the hymns we have shared, this service is dedicated to the worldwide missionary enterprise. This is the beginning of our annual week of prayer for foreign missions, and our offering, which is a part of our great stewardship program, an offering for the conversion of the nations of the earth, which offering is dedicated to the memory of a wonderful Christian woman who gave her life, all of her life, to China. Her name was Lottie Moon. It is an offering sponsored by the WMU of the Southland and our own WMU, of course, in our church. But it is a season in which all of us have joy and gladness and privilege to share.
This is most appropriate because, at this time of the year, Christmastime, we fill the air with heathen songs and with heathen symbols. It needs, desperately needs, to be brought back to its deep religious significance. It is a time when we celebrate the nativity of our Lord, the incarnation of the Son of God, the gift of heaven without compare. And in keeping with that, we bring gifts to Christ.
How? We bring gifts in support of our endeavor to minister to the poor, our orphan, and especially the lost of the earth. And that, of course, is the heart of this Lottie Moon appeal.
Now, the sermon is from a very famous and oft-quoted part of the Word of God. The first Gospel concludes the resurrection, twenty-eighth chapter concludes with a rendezvous, an appointment that Jesus made with His disciples on a certain designated mountain in Galilee.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
When they saw Him, they worshipped Him.
And Jesus came and spake unto them saying: All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.
"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
Where would one find the commandments of the Lord? He never wrote a book. He never erected any monuments. We find the commandments of the Lord, according to John 15:26, "The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
The Holy Spirit of God took the words of Jesus and through the inspired apostles, the Spirit of God wrote out those words, what they were and what they meant. I have then, in my hands, the God-breathed, the inspired, the infallible record of the words and commandments of Christ with their proper interpretation and meaning. It is found in the Book that I hold in my hand.
Will you notice the tense that our Lord used when He spake of those mandates, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded," past tense, "I have commanded," past tense; not a revelation that I will make in the third century or in the fifth century or in the sixteenth century. Nor does the great mandate of Christ look forward to a new theology or a new doctrine. These things that Christ had to say, these commandments and revelations, are full and complete, "What I have commanded."
There is never to be a time when the words and commandments of our Lord are out of date, antiquated, that belonged to that day, that era and that time and this new thing belongs to our era, our generation and our time. There is never envisaged in the Word of God an era, a period, a time when the simple tenets of the gospel of Christ are not pertinent and are not applicable. His commandments are for all time and for all generations, even unto the end of the age. "What I have commanded."
Nor is there to be a time when there is to be a leader or a voice to interdict the great commandment of Christ. All of us who preach are just echoes. We are just voices. We are, quoting the centurion who stood in the presence of Christ, "we are men under authority." Not my ideas, not what I think, but the great revelation of God in Christ; what He said and what God commands.
Nor is there is to be a time when there is to be delivered another message or another gospel. Our Lord cried on the cross, "It is finished." And Paul wrote in the first chapter of Galatians and the eighth verse, "Though I, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed." [Galatians 1:8] And the great Book of the Revelation closes in the twenty-second chapter with these words:
He that adds to this Book, to him God shall add the plagues that are written therein:
And he that shall take away from this Book, God shall take away his part out of the beautiful city of God.
[Revelation 22:18, 19]
This is a final and complete revelation. It is an ultimate and supreme commandment. Like an angel, it has no posterity. Like our great Eternal High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek, it has no successor. There is no place in the economy of the religion of Jesus Christ for the Book of Mormon. There is no need for the addition of the books of Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy. There is no need for the so-called infallible papal decrees.
"What I have commanded," past tense. It is a full and final and complete revelation. We have, from the Word of God itself, all that we need for the decorum of the church, for the practice of our faith, for the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, all that is needed, now and until our Lord shall come again, is to be found in the words and the mandates and the commissions of Christ our Savior. Will you notice also the great authority by which our Savior speaks? "And they worshipped Him," that is idolatry if He is not God in the flesh, God raised from the dead:
And they worshipped Him,
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All authority is given unto Me in heaven,
[Matthew 28:17, 18]
Then He is the King of the hosts of glory and in earth. Then ultimately, finally, all destiny lies in the hands of Christ our Lord. "All authority is given unto Me." Then the thing ultimately lies in the heart and mind and purpose and plan of God. "It is given unto Me."
Will you then notice the urgency of that mandate? "Go ye therefore. Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations," baptizing them, teaching them. That commandment is final. It is ultimate. It is not to be interdicted or countermanded by government, by law, by coercion, by habit, by indifference, by negligence. It is a mandatory commission, "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations."
In the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, you have the story of the Sanhedrin who sought to interdict the gospel preaching of Peter and John. And when Peter and John stood before the highest court of the nation, to which they belonged and in which they were citizens, and they listened to the countermanding order of the great Sanhedrin, they said, "You choose whether it be right that we obey you or that we obey God." Our ultimate and final allegiance belongs, always, to God. And the commandment of our Lord is this, "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations."
In 1789, there was a shoe cobbler who, as he worked at his last, had an open Bible on one side and a map of the world on the other, in which he had written the populations, the cultural status, the religion of all of the heathen of the earth. And in 1789, that shoe cobbler, humble, unlearned as far as the schools were concerned – that shoe cobbler stood up in the midst of the Baptist Association at North Hamptonshire in England and said, "I propose a question for discussion, whether or not it is mandatory upon us today, the great commission that Jesus gave to His apostles and disciples." The leader, the moderator of the association, said, "Sit down. Sit down. If God wants the heathen converted, He will do it, without your help or mine. Sit down." But the young fellow, with his heart afire and his mind committed to the preaching of the gospel to the heathen, persisted in his question, gathered around him that little band of faithful Baptist people, and precipitated in modern times the greatest missionary movement and agitation and discussion in the history of the world.
The Iron Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo, was a later contemporary of William Carey, and William Carey, I say, precipitated a worldwide discussion of the mandate Jesus gave to His disciples for the conversion of the whole world. And somebody came up to the Iron Duke and said, "Do you believe we ought to preach the gospel to the heathen?" And the Duke of Wellington replied, as a soldier would, "Sir," he said, "what are your marching orders? How does your commission read?"
"Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them,teaching them,unto the end of this age." High mountains, deep rivers, broad seas, burning deserts, fever, and famine, and starvation, and peril, and trial are not excuses for interdicting this plain commission of the Word of God, "Go ye and make disciples of all the nations of the earth."
In my pastorate at Muskogee, the Wycliffe Bible translators, about four or five hundred of those dedicated missionaries, came to spend the summer at Bacone College, our Baptist college for Indians. Being vacant in the summertime, they used the facilities for their Wycliffe Bible translators. Practically all of them attended our church. Can you imagine what happened to our church when four hundred of the godliest missionaries in this earth began to attend it all summer long?
We had many of them in our home, and one evening two of our guests were young women who were studying a language of a tribe in Central America, and when I asked them of that tribe, I found out there were but a few dozen of them. In all this earth, not but a few dozen people speaking that difficult and hard language, and yet those two young women were giving their lives to learn that language, to write God’s Word in that language, and to teach those people the gospel of the Son of God.
And I asked them, "My dear young people, how is it, how is it that you spend all of this time and have given all of your life for the learning of this difficult language when there are only a few in the tribe, and when they die out, the language will perish with them?" One of those girls turned to the Book of the Revelation and read this verse from which you read this morning, "And they sang a new song, Thou art worthy, for Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation." [Revelation 5:9] And those two young missionaries replied, "And when that glorious coronation day comes in heaven, by His grace and in His mercy there shall be some there that day who shall sing that song of praise to God from that tongue and that language in Central South America."
"Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations," including these tribes that are far hidden away in the bush, in the jungles, including those families and peoples that live in the isles of the sea, including all of those vast, teeming populations on the great continents of the globe, our marching orders, to all the peoples of the world.
Will you notice, finally, how the disciples faithfully sought to obey this mandate, this great commission? How poor they were, how unlettered, they never unfurled a flag; they never drew a sword, yet they set themselves to subverting the entire civilized world, to win the whole vast Roman empire to the name and glory and salvation and forgiveness in Jesus. They had no printing press. They had no board. They had no money. They had no support. They had no anything except poverty and persecution and hardship and trial and peril. One of them wrote, and I quote from one of their number:
Five times have I received forty stripes save one.
Thrice have I been beaten with Roman rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep, floating helplessly in the cold, cold water.
In journeyings often, in perils of water, perils of robbers, perils of mine countrymen, perils by the heathen, perils in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and in nakedness.
[2 Corinthians 11:25-27]
The great commandment was, "go." And in humble, simple obedience, those agrammatoi kai idiotai, as the Sanhedrin referred to them, those poor, unlettered, unlearned men subverted a whole empire. Vast systems of error decayed before them, and idolatry became a thing unknown and in the past wherever the gospel message of the Son of God was proclaimed. In the days of William Carey, one of those devoted devotees of this great worldwide passion for the conquest of men for Christ wrote this hymn:
The Son of God goes forth to war,
A Kingly Crown to gain;
His blood-red banners stream afar,
Who follows in His train?
The martyrs first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave,
Who saw his Master in the sky,
And called on Him to save.
Like Him, with pardon on His tongue
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them who did the wrong:
Who follows in His train?
A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Savior’s Throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven,
Through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given,
To follow in their train!
["The Son of God Goes Forth to War," Reginald Heber]
When William Carey said, "I will go," Andrew Fuller, the pastor of the church, said, "And I will hold the ropes," and when William Carey went away to India, Andrew Fuller took it upon himself to support his missionary. In the City of London, the preacher went from house to house and place to place, begging for the missionary enterprise.
He went to the office of a British nobleman and laid before him his appeal for missions. And disinterested, bored, the nobleman took a gold coin, a British guinea, took a gold coin out of his pocket and pushed it across the desk to Andrew Fuller. And Fuller took the gold coin and pushed it back across the desk to the British nobleman and said, "No, I cannot take it. My Lord asks for the heart."
The nobleman looked at the preacher in amazement, picked up the coin, looked at it and said, "So you do not want it?"
"No," said the preacher, "for my Lord asks for the heart."
The nobleman took out of his desk a checkbook, and on the Bank of England wrote out a generous check for the missionary, handed it across the desk to the preacher, and said, "This comes from the heart."
That is our church. That is the leadership of this church. That is the membership of this church. This week of prayer, this offering we dedicate to God, this comes from the heart. Not as big as we ought to make it, but dear Lord, in Thy grace, help us to make it more worthy. Not as dedicated as the offerer ought to be, but dear Lord, help us to be more dedicated. Not as given to the message of Christ as we ought to be, but dear Lord, in Thy goodness and grace, help us to give more of ourselves unto Thee. This comes from the heart.
God bless the people who pray and give. God bless the missionary who is sent away to a strange people, proclaiming the Good News of the gospel of the Son of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you have listened on the radio, in this invitation and appeal, if you have never given your heart to Jesus, would you this morning? Maybe as you drive along in an automobile, pull to the side of the road, bow your head, and give your heart to Jesus. I have had people write me saying, "I listened to the sermon as I drove in the automobile. I stopped on the side of the road. I bowed my head. I gave my heart to Jesus." I have baptized people into the fellowship of this precious church who have knelt by the radio and have given in a living room or in a bedroom their hearts to Jesus.
In this great throng this morning, in this balcony round, somebody you, give your heart to Jesus. In the throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, would you stand by the pastor today, "I give my heart to Jesus." Is there a family you, to come this morning? By baptism or by letter, as God shall say the word, and open the door, and lead the way, would you come? Would you make it now, on the first note of the first stanza? "Here we are, pastor, here I come." While we stand and while we sing.