What Christ Has Commanded


What Christ Has Commanded

February 23rd, 1969 @ 8:15 AM

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 28:20

2-23-69    8:15 a.m.


On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled What Christ Has Commanded.  We are preparing this spring for the greatest outreach in soulwinning, in evangelism, in revival appeal that our church has ever attempted.  And a part of that tremendous outreach lies in these days of intensive preparation.  It is often said you can judge a man’s commitment to any enterprise by the amount of time and energy by which he is prepared for it, to get ready for it.

Now we are getting ready for a tremendous evangelistic appeal.  A part of that is this Personal Institute of Evangelism, which is dated—according to your bulletin—those first days in March, and the messages that are prepared and delivered in these services is in keeping with this spirit of evangelism and soulwinning.  Now I shall read several passages.  One is in the last chapter of Matthew.  Matthew 28, beginning at verse 16:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him . . .

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power—

all exousia, all authority—

is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the peoples, 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.

[Matthew 28:16-20]

My text, “whatsoever I have commanded you” [Matthew 28:20], what Jesus has commanded:, “And, lo, I am with you alway,” I am with you to the end of the days, “even unto the end of the world” [Mathew 28:20], the end of the age.

Now, the next passage is in the last chapter of Luke.  Luke 24, beginning at verse 46:

And Jesus said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

And ye are witnesses of these things.

[Luke 24:46-48]

And once again, in the first chapter of the Book of Acts; in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, beginning at verse 8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth” [Acts 1:8].

I return now to the text, “Whatsoever I have commanded you” [Matthew 28:20], what Jesus has commanded.  Where would you find what the Lord has commanded?  He wrote no books, He erected no monuments.  The answer is found in what the Lord Himself said. In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of John and the twenty-sixth verse, when the Lord said He was going away, He added: “But the Comforter—the Paraclete—who is 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” [John 14:26].

So the Lord, leaving no heritage of His own manuscript writing—only time He ever wrote was in the sand, in the dirt of the ground [John 8:3-11]—leaving nothing except what the Holy Spirit would teach the disciples that He had said, “He will come, the Holy Spirit of God, and teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” [John 14:26].

Now, where is that record inspired by the Holy Spirit, as the disciples wrote it down? [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21].  That record I hold in my hand.  This is the infallible, inerrant Word of God.  If I seek for what Christ has said and for what Christ has commanded, then I must find it in this infallible, inerrant Word of God.

Now, what the Lord has said is by inspiration from heaven, written down here in this Book [2 Timothy 3:16-17].  And the meaning of what the Lord said, the infallible interpretation of what Christ meant, is given by inspiration of the apostles in this Book [John 16:13].

Let me give you an illustration of that, though I hate to take time for these things because of the little brief moment we have in these services.  But there are so many things that we need to understand and to know, all of us who would find the will and mind of God for our lives.

What Christ said is infallibly written down in this Book, and what Christ meant, the interpretation of His words, are infallibly, by inspiration, written down in this Book.

Now just a brief illustration: in John 13:14, Jesus says, “If I, your Lord and Master, wash your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”  Why is that not a church ordinance?  Why do we not, as an ordinance, as something ordained in the church, why do we not wash feet?

Well, the reason is the same inspired apostles who wrote down the Word were also inspired to interpret what Jesus meant in what He said.  So, as I follow the apostolic record, here written down in the Bible, I see that they followed the great ordinance, the institution of baptism [Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 8:36-38; Romans 6:3-6].  They followed the great ordinance and institution of the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26], but there is no such a thing in apostolic practice as an ordinance in the church of the washing of feet.

Therefore, I know from what the apostles teach us by word and by practice, that Jesus meant that we were to be humbly preferential toward one another, washing feet.  We are to be in humility and in loving forgiveness, and understanding, and sympathy.  We are to be servants of one another [John 13:12-15].

No one of us is to lord it over God’s heritage.  All of us are to be servants.  “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” [John 13:14]. So by the interpretation of the apostles, I know it is not a church ordinance, but Jesus meant that in humility, in bowing in meekness, we are to serve, to encourage one another.

So I have here in this record what Christ has commanded and the meaning of it.  Now we’re going to look at both of them. “What I have commanded” [Matthew 28:20]; now, first we shall look at the tense of the verb, “what I have commanded.”  It is not “what I shall command,” but “what I have commanded.”  Therefore, I know that Christ’s mandates for us are not something that shall be revealed in the third, or the fifth, or the sixteenth centuries.  Nor am I to expect a new theology as though it were recently revealed to us in some so-called enlightened professor in some so-called divinity school in the twentieth century.  I can know from the tense of the verb itself that what Christ has commanded He has already said [Matthew 28:20], not something yet to be revealed in some other century or some other time.

Now I know from this Word of the Lord that there is never to be a time when the words, and the mandates, and the commandments of Christ are not pertinent.  We never outgrow the theology of the Book, and we never reach a time or an elevation in human life, or civilization, or culture, or social order when the words of Christ are inapplicable.  They are pertinent to every day, to every generation, from the beginning of the ministry of our Lord to the end of the age.

This Book is never outdated. The words of Christ are never antiquated.  Nor is it right for any minister to say these words applied to them then, but we have outgrown them now, and they don’t apply to us today.  What Christ commanded is eternally pertinent.  It is God’s Word for His people forever: what Christ has commanded [Matthew 28:20].

I know another thing:  not only that the mandates of our Lord, the theology of this Book, the truth of the revelation of God is applicable to all ages and to all time, we never outgrow it; I know a second thing: there is never to be another Messiah, another Christ, another voice, another leader, never.  He has come one time, manifest in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16].  Died for our sins one time [1 Corinthians 15:3], raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7], and is seated at the right hand of the throne of authority in heaven [Hebrews 12:2], until the earth be made His footstool [Hebrews 10:12-13], until His enemies all are vanquished, and until the Lord is King over the earth and heaven and the hosts of glory.  There is but one Leader.  There is but one voice.  There is but one Savior.  There is but one Messiah, and that is the God-Man, Christ Jesus [Acts 4:12].  Therefore, I am not to be drawn off into following some other leader, or some other theologian, or some other voice, or some other so-called individual who has had a later revelation from heaven.  I am but an echo of my Lord.  I am to be a man under authority to say the things that Christ has said, and that is my whole assignment.

I know a third thing: not only that the words of our Lord are applicable to all time, and not only that there is never to be another Lord, another voice, another leader, I know another thing.  There is never to be another gospel, never, never.  When the Lord bowed His head and said, “It is finished” [John 19:30], He sealed forever God’s atonement for our sins and finished the gospel of the grace of God wherein we are saved.  It is as Paul said in the first chapter of Galatians, Galatians 1:8, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be anathema.”  There is to be no other gospel.  As the Book of the Revelation closes:

If any man shall add unto these words, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

And if any man shall take away from the words of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city.

[Revelation 22:18-19]

This is a finished revelation, and we know what Christ has said.  And His words are pertinent to all time and to all generations, “what Christ has commanded” [Matthew 28:20].  Now, as I read my text, I see that what our Lord has mandated to us—commanded us—is on the authority, upon the authority of Him who rules heaven and earth.  “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 28:18].  Now, if it is given unto Him, if it is given unto Him, then it was volitionally, volitionally purposed in the heart of God.  And in other passages of the Bible, I learn that it was so from the beginning of creation, from before the foundations of this earth were laid [Matthew 25:34].  These things that Christ has commanded us are on the basis of the supreme authority God hath purposed in Christ Jesus [Matthew 28:18-20].  It’s not an afterthought, it’s not adventitiously suggested.  This thing is a part of Him who created the whole universe and set in the heart of it a tremendous redemptive purpose.  “All authority is given unto Me.  Go ye therefore” on the basis of this tremendous lodgement of the rulership, the kingship of heaven and earth in Jesus our Lord. If we had time we’d just speak of some of those things.

He, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped to be equal with God:

But made Himself of no reputation…was made in the likeness of men:

Being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . .

And every tongue should confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

[Philippians 2:6-11]

On the basis of that exaltation, that authority bestowed upon Christ in all creation, in all time, we are mandated, we are commanded to do certain things [Matthew 28:18-20].

Now, these things that the Lord hath mandated to us, how did the disciples carry them out?  We have an opportunity but to speak of one, and we shall choose the main one, the heart of His great commandment.  We are to be witnesses, He said [Acts 1:8]; we are to be testifiers. So, when I follow the interpretation here in these holy pages, why, I see those disciples talking about the Lord, witnessing to the Lord, preaching the Lord, teaching Christ Jesus.  Now we are going to take one instance, and that has to suffice.  And they said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].

And when that Sanhedrin and the leaders of the nation, and “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were” agrammatoi kai idiotai, you have it translated, “And when they perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” [Acts 4:13].

These men, they had no swords that flashed, they had no flags they unfurled.  They had no armies, and no navies, and no military power.  They had no political standing.  They had no wealth, they had no printing presses, they had nothing except they had plenty of being outcasts, and they had plenty of being poor, and they had plenty of being despised.  They were literally peasants—and that’s what that word meant, agrammatoi—they were not men of the schools, kai idiotai, translated “ignorant men” [Acts 4:13].  They were private men, they were not professional men.  They were farmers, and they were fishermen.  But, but they had an indomitable zeal for witnessing, testifying, telling about the Lord.

So, I continue to read.  When the commandment of Christ was countermanded, interdicted, and they said, “We are going to let you go, but you are not to teach, or to testify, or to witness to these things of the Lord Jesus, and Peter and John answered and said, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” [Acts 4:18-20].

I can’t conceive of what happened here.  I tell you, I’ve read it for forty some odd years, I’ve been preaching it for forty-two years, but I still can’t understand how they were able to do it.  As I mentioned, without professional standing, and without political power and social acceptance, they unhinged that empire!  They changed the course of civilization.  Before their very eyes, the great Grecian-Roman system of idolatry crumbled and failed, and fell into disuse and deterioration and neglect.  They changed the world, and they did it! “We are just speaking the things which we have seen and heard” [Acts 4:20], personal witnessing and testifying; these agrammatoi kai idiotai men, these unlearned and ignorant men [Acts 4:13].

There was somebody standing in this pulpit one time who said—talking about witnessing and testifying—“I had rather hear a man who says, ‘I seen,’ if he’s seen something than to hear a man who says, ‘I have seen’ if he ain’t seen anything”; agrammatoi kai idiotai, unlearned and ignorant men testifying of the things which they had seen and heard [Acts 4:13, 20].

Now for us, that’s all Christ has mandated.  That’s all the Lord has commanded [Matthew 28:19-20].  This is the heart of the Christian faith, just our witnessing and our testimony of what we have seen and heard, what God has done for us, what Jesus means to us [Acts 4:20].  I’m not called upon to be a theologian; I was a Christian—I was baptized, I worked for Jesus and loved the Lord— years and years and years before I was a trained theologian, a graduate, a product of the theological schools.  And the great mass of our people would be astonished at the unreasonableness of God, if the Lord God required of us that we be theologians, reading those heavy tomes of endless tedia.  But what the Lord has commanded, we are to testify of the things we have seen and heard.

Does Jesus mean anything to me?  Does He?  Has the Lord any meaning for me?  Then I am to witness, and I am to testify of these things that I have seen and heard.  Why, when I think of those things, if I were made out of brass, I could speak, I could witness, I could testify.

Oh!  Bless God’s name, and our dear Savior.  Why, I take my troubles to Him, I ask His advice, I lay these alternatives before the Lord.  And in sorrow, He is a joy and a comfort, and in illness, He is somebody to ask for the gift of healing.  And in death, when that inevitable day comes, I am praying the Lord shall stand by my side.

 What Jesus means to me; I ask Him for the forgiveness of sins.  And I ask Him for help to do good and to be a better man.  And I love the fellowship of God’s people.  I don’t need to be driven here; I love to come.  I’d rather be here than any other place in the world.  And the invitation, and the testimony, and the witness is not to be something that is erudite or abstruse or difficult, but is to be that simple thing of what I have seen and heard, “What Jesus means to me.”

I came back one time from an Encounter Crusade with a plain little simple song that just meant so much to me as I thought of what God asks of us in a witness, in a testimony for Jesus.  The word of love and appreciation, of gratitude and thanksgiving to God, which is all the Lord asks of us.  That little simple song was this:

God is so good,

God is so good.

God is so good,

He’s so good to me.

He saves and keeps,

He saves and keeps,

He saves and keeps,

He’s so good to me.

He answers prayer,

He answers prayer,

He answers prayer,

He’s so good to me.

Coming again,

Coming again,

Coming again,

He’s so good to me.

Why, bless you, that simple testimony.  I want you to sing that with me:

God is so good,

God is so good.

God is so good,

He’s so good to me.

He saves and keeps,

He saves and keeps,

He saves and keeps,

He’s so good to me.

He answers prayer,

He answers prayer,

He answers prayer,

He’s so good to me.

Coming again,

Coming again,

Coming again,

He’s so good to me.

[Traditional worship song, 1958; author unknown]

That’s all that is required, to be witnesses, to testify of things we have seen and heard [Acts 4:20], not what somebody else has experienced, or what somebody else has seen, but what God has done for me.

Now, may I conclude?  This is the heart of the Christian message; this is what we call the Great Commission, “All authority unto Me in heaven and in earth.  Go and make disciples of all the people, teaching them these things I have commanded” [Matthew 28:18-20].  And again, “And ye are witnesses of these things” [Luke 24:48].  This is the heart of the Christian religion.

Now may I point out there are many overtones, there are many repercussions, there are many by-products of the Christian faith.  They are many.  There are political overtones, there are social meanings, there are cultural and educational concomitance that go along with the Christian faith.  But the heart of it is this, testifying, witnessing, soulwinning, inviting to the Lord Jesus.

A man here in this church, who’s a very discerning man, said to me recently, “It seems to me that the modern church is trying to do everything.  They are trying to be the organization, the office of economic opportunity, the OEA.  They are trying to be all those alphabetical agencies of the government.  And they are trying to do the work of the Community Chest and the United Fund.  The modern church is trying to do all of the things that we look for in the political and educational world, but,” he said, “while they are doing that, who is winning men to Christ, and who is preaching the gospel?”

And I thought, well, who is, if we give ourselves to all of these social ameliorations?  Better housing, and better education, and better jobs, and better working conditions, and better race relations, and better communities; if this is the great central effort of the church, then who preaches the gospel?  Well, you say, “The labor unions will preach it.”  Will they?  Well, you say, “The parent teacher’s organization will preach it.”  Will they?  Well, you say, “The congress will preach it.”  Will they?  Or the bar association, the lawyers of the world, will preach it.  Will they?  Who preaches the gospel if the church does not?  The gospel is defined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “…how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; He was buried, and the third day He was raised for our justification” [Hebrews 4:25].  Who calls men to that faith, to that repentance if the minister does not?  Who does?

No one does.  It is the great main assignment of the church, and its people and its pastor, to preach the gospel of the grace of the Son of God.  The world can do without the preacher marching in a civil rights demonstration.  The world can do without the preacher inciting student riots on a modern university campus.  The world can do without the preacher joining communist-front organizations.  The world can do without the preacher lobbying for left-wing legislation.  But the world cannot do without the preacher in the pulpit proclaiming the gospel of the grace of the Son of God [Romans 10:13-17].  He is the needed and the indispensable man.

And the same thing is for our people in the pew.  The church can ultimately do without the man who makes money, for these were poor and poverty-stricken men.  “Silver and gold have I none” [Acts 3:6]. The church could do without the man who is able to give it image and prestige, for these men had no standing before government or professional community.  And the church could do without these who are able to bestow upon it political power.  They had none, military, political, naval, any other.  But the church cannot do without that man testifying, witnessing to what Jesus means to him [Acts 4:20].  This is the great central assignment of the church of Christ and of the people of the Lord [Matthew 28:18-20].

Humbly, prayerfully, earnestly, in the sweetest and most appealing way we know how, as we walk in and out before men, as we see people, as we have opportunity to invite to the Lord, to testify of the saving grace in Jesus; He saved me, and if I were to die tonight, I’d die trusting the blessed Jesus—to say it, to witness, to invite, then we’ll leave the rest to God.  The regeneration, the response is in His hands, but my part is to say it, to testify, and God never fails to honor His Word.  Always it carries heavenly benedictions.

We must sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, coming into the fellowship of the church, giving your heart to Jesus, on the first note of the first stanza, come.  Make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming.  In the balcony round, down one of those stairways, on the lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.  I make it now, this morning.”  Do it, do it, while we stand and while we sing.



Dr. W.
A. Criswell

28:16-20, Luke 24:46-48, Acts 1:8


I.          Introduction

A.  Where do we find
what the Lord has commanded?(John 14:26)

B.  The inerrant Word of
God – an infallible record and infallible interpretation

C.  Holy
Spirit inspired apostles to write it and to understand the meaning

1.  Follow
through example and teaching of apostles regarding ordinances(John 13:14, Matthew 23:11)

II.         Notice the past tense – “What I have

A.  There will never be
a time when commandments of Christ are inapplicable

B.  There is never to be
another voice to replace authority of Christ

There will never be the need for another gospel(Galatians
1:8-9, Revelation 22:18-19)

III.        The authority that lies back of the commandment(Matthew 28:18)

A.  He
is unique and alone the appointed Heir of all creation(Philippians 2:6-11)

B.  Never
to be changed or challenged

IV.       Notice the faithfulness of the disciples
who obeyed

A.  Commanded to be
soul-winners, to make disciples

B.  Peter and John
before the leaders of the nation (Acts 4:12)

1.  They
were unlearned(Acts 4:13, Amos 3:8)

2.  But
they delivered the message (Acts 4:19-20)

C.  We are to testify
and witness (Revelation 12:11)

      1.  Modern church
does everything but win men to Christ

      2.  Who will preach
the gospel if we don’t?