The Mission of God and the Commission of the Church (Mike Riccardi)

Selected Scriptures   |   Sunday, September 6, 2015   |   Code: 2015-09-06-MR

It is a blessing to focus on the Great Commission—on our mission, as followers of Jesus Christ—to make disciples of all the nations (Matt 28:19) by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), that forgiveness of sins is available through repentance and faith in the person and work of Christ (Luke 24:47). That commission is recorded for us, in varying degrees of detail, at the end of all four Gospels and in the beginning of the Book of Acts. And that repetition is warranted, because these are our marching orders as the people of God. This is what the church has been left on earth to accomplish. And so it is certainly a topic worthy of our extended study.


And it’s also a bit re-orienting for us to focus on the Great Commission. In a sense, a study like this one takes us back to the foundational principles of the Christian life. It’s a sort of like hitting the reset button, going back to the very beginning of Christ’s establishment of the church and re-orienting and re-grounding our thinking upon the charge that our Lord has given us.


And many people, in considering where they would begin a study on evangelism and the mission of the church, decide to start at the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28. In the church I grew up in, any time our church would have a “Missions Sunday”—where a missionary was on furlough and would preach for us that Sunday morning—it seemed they would always preach from Matthew 28. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think we can be reminded too often of our marching orders as the church.


But it’s important for us to realize that the Bible doesn’t begin in Matthew 28. A lot has happened in the history of God’s dealings with His people in order to get us to that mountain in Galilee where Jesus delivers His Great Commission. And it’s the events that have led up to Matthew 28 that I’d like to speak about this morning. I want to set our Great Commission to make disciples of all nations by preaching the Good News of forgiveness of sins in Christ—I want to set that in its redemptive-historical context.


Do you ever think about why we evangelize? You say, “Jesus told us to!” Well, I know that. But have you ever thought about why He told us to? “Well, so people can be saved! God is working in the world to save people!” Well, right, but why is He working in the world to save people? You say, “So they can be saved from punishment in hell! That kind of punishment is a horrific fate to suffer, and I want as many people as possible to escape that!” Yes, right again. But is there any deeper of a reason than just wanting people not to suffer judgment? You say, “OK, I’ve got it now: Not just so that people can escape judgment, but so that they can go to heaven!” And that’s right, but you know that people can want to go to heaven because it’s a nice place to go. There’s no punishment, no pain, no sorrow or sickness. I’ll get to see my family and friends who have died and gone there before me. And all of those are good things! But they’re not ultimate.


When you keep digging, deeper and deeper, through the layers of good reasons for evangelizing, what’s there when you hit rock bottom? The reason that Christ has called us to preach the Gospel to the unbelieving world around us is for the glory of God. You say, “Right, right. The glory of God. ‘Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, to all to the glory of God.’ I get it. Heard it since I was 6—” No, no.


I know that you’ve heard it a million times before, and that familiarity can breed contempt. But hear me here. The most ultimate and foundational reason that the followers of Jesus are to preach the Gospel to the lost is that God means to bring glory and honor to Himself through the redemption of sinners. God’s purpose in His working in the world, Habakkuk chapter 2 verse 14, is to fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And He has enlisted the church—us!—rebel sinners saved by grace, like you and me—as partners alongside Him in that mission. We are commanded to make disciples of all nations so that the glory of God will be magnified—will be put on display—in His magnificent work of the salvation of sinners. You see, God’s mission informs and directs the church’s mission.


And so my aim this morning is to show you that God’s mission to glorify Himself in the salvation of sinners is the very ground and foundation of the church’s mission to make disciples of all nations through the preaching of the Gospel. And I’m not really going to do an exposition of a single text, as much as I’m going to take us to a number of texts to show us two main things: (1) The goal of God’s mission; (2) how He has set out to accomplish that goal in history.


If we can get a handle on those things, we’ll begin to understand (a) what we’re trying to accomplish in our obedience to the Great Commission, and (b) how we’re to go about accomplishing that task, as obedient followers of Christ. And that, I trust, will be a helpful aid to us in our study of 2 Corinthians, the theme of which is how to press on in joyful, enduring ministry in the midst of affliction. And no ministry is more central and foundational than our ministry to preach the Gospel to the lost.


I. The Goal of God’s Mission


So first, let’s consider the goal of God’s mission. And here I just want to overwhelm you with how Scripture speaks about the radical God-centeredness of God. I want to show you that what I say is the most ultimate and foundational reason for our evangelism—namely, that God would bring glory to Himself through it—is biblical—that it’s taught in Scripture.


A. God’s pursuit of His glory in all that He does


So I want you to turn with me to a number of texts, and hear God’s chief, unwavering commitment to the glory of His name in all that He does.


Isaiah 42:8: I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.


Isaiah 48:9, 11: For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off. … For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.


Psalm 106:7–8. The Psalmist is praising God for the “mighty deeds” (v. 2) that He performed for the nation of Israel. And He starts at the very top, speaking about the deliverance of Israel from Egypt through the Red Sea. Verse 7: “Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, That He might make His power known.” Yes, God had compassion on Israel and wanted to see them freed from slavery. Yes, He wanted to judge Egypt for their cruelty. But ultimately, the Psalmist says, God is God-centered. He saved them for the sake of His name.


One more. Turn to Ezekiel 36. Israel has sinned against God by refusing to worship God in purity, and so He is about to deliver them into the Babylonian exile. But before He does, He promises that He’ll restore them. And listen to the reason He gives. Ezekiel 36, starting in verse 22: “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.’”


And these are just a sample of texts that show that God’s chief aim in all that He does is to glorify His name.


B. God’s pursuit of His glory particularly in saving sinners


And that is specifically the case in the salvation of sinners. We’ve heard about God’s commitment to magnify His own greatness in a general sense—in all He does. But now I want to read some texts that show that this same motivation is His explicitly stated purpose for your salvation as well.


Turn to Isaiah chapter 43. God has already said in verse 7 that He has created His people for His glory. But then He says, Isaiah 43 verse 25: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake.”


1 John 2:12: “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.”


Flip over to Ephesians chapter 1. In this great hymn of praise, Paul says that every aspect of our salvation—our election by the Father in eternity past, our redemption accomplished by the Son in the fullness of time, and our being sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise—all of that is said to be unto the praise of His glory (Eph 1:6, 12, 14).


And then in just the next chapter, in Ephesians 2 verses 4 through 7: “But God…made us alive together with Christ…” verse 7: “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”


Many of you have heard very man-centered versions of the Gospel presented as Christianity. Some of you have heard the Gospel presented as if God is just this lonely old grandfather up in heaven who desperately wants to have a relationship with you—that He can’t live without you, and so He’s done everything He can to be with you. Some of you have heard the Gospel presented as if God’s main goal was to show us how valuable we are. They say things like, “He gave up what was most precious to Him—His Son—so that He could have you.”


And those kinds of things do have a germ of truth in them. God does demonstrate His love for us in sending His Son! God does desire to be in a relationship with us as His creatures! But what these texts teach us is that God’s most ultimate purpose in saving sinners is not to make much of us, but to make much of Himself, and to bring sinners into the freedom of enjoying making much of Him forever. He is the most lovely, beautiful, satisfying, thrilling Person anyone could ever see and know and enjoy. And because He loves us—because He wants to give us what is lovely, and what satisfies our souls—He labors in all He does to put His glory on display.


And do you know what that means? That means that salvation is about making worshipers. Salvation is God turning idolaters into true worshipers of the one true and living God.


II. The Accomplishment of God’s Mission in Redemptive History


So we’ve understood that the goal of God’s mission is that He be glorified in the salvation of sinners. But now the question we need to answer is: How has God ordained that this happen? We understand what the mission is. But now—and here we come to our second point—now we need to understand how that mission is going to be accomplished. To do that, I want to survey the storyline of redemptive history.


1. The Beginning


Well the first step in that mission is for God to create the world and all that is in it. And to mankind, the pinnacle of God’s creation and those uniquely made in His image, He gives a great commission of sorts. He commands them in Genesis 1:28 to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, and to rule over all the creatures of the earth in righteousness. Mankind’s purpose in life is to bring glory to God by manifesting His presence as His vice-regent throughout all creation—by being a good picture of God’s kingship over the earth.


But immediately, Adam and Eve fail in that commission. We remember the story: the serpent deceives Eve by causing her to doubt God’s loving provision for them; Adam disobeys the command of God and eats the fruit of the forbidden tree; and in that moment of mankind’s rebellion against God, the entire human race is catapulted into spiritual death and damnation. In a mysterious but nevertheless real way, all of humanity—including you and me—all of us were united to Adam in his disobedience, in such a way that when he sinned, we sinned. And so from that moment, every member of the human race is born sinful. We come into this world as enemies of God, spurning his commandments and standards for our lives, and desiring that we should be the lord of our own lives. The final two lines of William Ernest Henley’s famous poem is the treasonous cry of every human heart: “I am the master of my fate: / I am the captain of my soul!”


And as a result of our sin, we are both (a) alienated from God—unable to be in relationship with Him in the way that He has created and designed us to be—and we are (b) accountable to God—required to pay the penalty of breaking God’s laws and belittling His glory: which is utter spiritual destruction. So there is relational separation—we have a broken relationship with God because of sin; and there is judicial separation—law has been broken and a penalty must be paid.


2. The Seed of the Woman


But just as immediately as Adam and Eve sin against God and fail in their commission to glorify Him by ruling over creation in righteousness—just as immediately, God responds with grace. It’s almost as if He has a missionary attitude. In Genesis 3:15, He immediately promises redemption. He will send the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent and undo the damage of the curse of sin.


And the story of the rest of the Book of Genesis, and really the story of the whole Old Testament, becomes the story of answering the question: “Who is this seed by which man will be redeemed and restored to God?” Eve thought it may have been her son, Abel, because Genesis 4:4 tells us that “the Lord had regard for Abel.” But you know the story of Cain and Abel, that Abel’s brother Cain killed him right away (Gen 4:8)—a picture-perfect illustration of how far the human race had fallen from their relationship with God in the garden, in just a short time.


Some years later, Eve bore her son Seth, and she believed that he might be the promised seed. When Seth was born, Eve said in Genesis 4:25, “God has appointed me another offspring”—which is the same Hebrew word that is translated seed in Genesis 3:15—“in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” But we quickly learn that Seth wasn’t that promised seed.


Fast forward to the time of Noah in the next chapter, and we learn that Noah’s father, Lamech, thought that Noah might be the seed. In Genesis 5:29 he said, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.” But, of course, saving the world was the one thing that Noah couldn’t do, because, as Genesis 6:5 tells us, every intent of the thought of man’s heart was only evil continually. Far from saving the world, Noah saw God destroy the world by means of the flood. Aside from this, even after the flood, and after God established His covenant with Noah, Noah becomes drunk and has that shameful scene with his sons (Gen 9:20–29). Noah will not be the seed.


The next scene is the Tower of Babel, where mankind is again rebelling against God’s command—this time the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (cf. Gen 9:1). Rather than humbly obeying their Creator, man pridefully conspires to make a name for himself, Genesis 11:4 tells us. This is not the way man as God’s vice-regent is to conduct himself. As a result, God confuses their languages, creating the various languages of the world that we know today. And in so doing, God makes it virtually impossible for man to learn of the seed even when he does come, because even if he did come, no one would be able communicate that to each other! If mankind will benefit from God’s promised seed, it will be entirely by God’s grace.


3. The Seed of Abraham


Immediately after the Tower of Babel, God chooses Abraham out of all the nations. He enters into covenant with him and promises to make a great nation (12:2) from his descendants (12:7). And that word, “descendants,” is again that same Hebrew word for seed. And God promises to give that seed a land (12:7), and then also to bless the entire world by means of that seed (Gen 12:3). And so the seed of the woman is now narrowed down to the seed of Abraham. The seed will come from this particular nation that God would make out of Abraham’s descendants.


And so as the rest of the book of Genesis unfolds, that covenant with Abraham is ratified with his son Isaac and then his son Jacob. That section of Scripture chronicles the making of that great nation of Israel. Finally, through the life and circumstances of Jacob’s son Joseph, the Abraham’s descendants find themselves in slavery in Egypt.


4. The Faithful Israelite


And it’s in that context that the Lord raises up Moses to be the mediator through whom God would accomplish Israel’s redemption from slavery. Through Moses, God takes His people Israel, whom He’s already joined to Himself in covenant with Abraham, and enters into covenant with them as a nation at Mount Sinai. God gives Israel His Law, and with that Law came the command to take possession of the land of Canaan.


And the Law is key in setting up how Israel will be a blessing to the nations. What it does is sets them apart from all the other nations. No other nation cared about eating animals that didn’t chew cud or wearing clothes woven with two different fabrics. No other nation let a perfectly good day of work (and profits) slip through their fingers by resting on Saturday. In all these seemingly-strange restrictions, God’s design was for Israel to be different than all the nations. And He wanted His people to be different from the nations because He was different than the gods of the nations.


And that “different-ness”—we might call it “holiness,” being set apart from the nations—this is God’s method of attracting the world to Israel to be blessed. God will draw the nations to Himself through Israel’s obedience to the Law. As Israel obeyed the Law of God given through Moses—as they cared for the orphan and the widow, as they ministered to the poor and to the sick, as they showed compassion, worked for justice in society, and lived wisely and righteously—God would bless them. And the nations would see it and come to inquire about their God.


Moses gives Israel a version of their great commission, in Deuteronomy 4 verses 5 through 8. He says, “See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”


You see, God will draw the nations to Himself through Israel’s (a) staying in the land that God gave them, and (b) obeying the Law that God gave them. You could call it the “Stay and Obey” commission. The strategy is: Live righteous and different lives as a means of attracting the nations to Israel. Transform the community: eliminate poverty, correct oppression, work justice and righteousness in the civil and social spheres, care for widows and orphans, and so on. And when the nations hear about this amazingly blessed nation that loves and cares for one another, and lives righteously before the true God, they would be attracted to Israel, and would come and hear about the worship of the true God of heaven, as well as hear about this Seed who was going to rescue them from their sin.


But as you know, it didn’t exactly work out this way. Israel was not obedient to God’s Law. The nations didn’t see the wisdom of Israel’s obedience and come to worship Yahweh. Moses couldn’t even get down from Mount Sinai before the people had broken the covenant they had just sworn to uphold by worshiping the golden calf. And that incident sets the stage for the showcasing of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God’s covenant throughout the rest of the Old Testament. As soon as they enter the Promised Land of Canaan, Judges chapter 1 tells us that they disobey God’s commandment to fully drive out the pagan nations there. Rather than maintaining the pure worship of Yahweh, they fall into the syncretism and idolatry of the nations.


5. The Righteous Deliverer


And so the repeating story of the book of Judges is this never-ending cycle of (a) Israel’s falling into sin, (b) experiencing the oppression of the nations, (c) crying out to God for deliverance, and (d) His provision of a deliverer who would give them rest from their enemies. But this happens over and over again. They enjoy peace for a little while, and in that peace they forget God, and so it’s not long before they are immersed in another conflict.


And so the people begin to wonder: “When will Yahweh send a judge—which is the same Hebrew word for deliverer and savior—who will finally deliver us from our enemies?” That’s why there’s that refrain in the book of Judges—you see it in chapter 17 verse 16, chapter 19 verse 1, and again at the final verse of the book in chapter 21 verse 25. That constant refrain is: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” When would a righteous king come, deliver Israel from her enemies, and establish moral purity among the nation?


6. The Son of David


Eventually, God raises up David and enters into covenant with him. In 2 Samuel 7, God says to David, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” And so God promises that one of David’s descendants—again, one of his seed—will reign on the throne of Israel forever and establish an everlasting kingdom.


So now, as redemptive history progresses, we learn that the promised Seed will be (a) the seed of the woman, (b) the seed of Abraham, (c) of the nation of Israel, and now (d) the Son of David.


And you might have supposed that David himself was that righteous king. He’s a man after God’s own heart, the greatest king in the history of Israel. But he was also the man who committed adultery with Bathsheba, and arranged to have her husband Uriah killed in order to keep her for himself! No, David was a man of bloodshed (2 Sam 16:7–8), and God had promised that the sword wouldn’t depart from his house (2 Sam 12:10).


And then you might have thought that David’s son Solomon, the man of peace, would have been that righteous king. But Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and Deuteronomy 17:17 says that Israel’s king must not “multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away.” And 1 Kings 11:3 tells us that that is precisely what happened. Solomon was not the promised king. Israel may have looked to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. But at this point the monarchy is divided into the ten northern tribes of Israel and the two southern tribes of Judah. The unity of Israel is devastatingly wounded.


And that brings us to the books of the Kings, where we learn of the history of the wicked kings of Israel and Judah. While there was a smattering of righteous kings in Judah’s history, the constant refrain throughout that historical narrative is that each successive king would do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. No less than 27 times in the books of 1 and 2 Kings we read, “He did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father and in his sin.”


Israel utterly failed in her great commission. They didn’t follow God’s Law. They didn’t live differently from the world. They didn’t transform their culture in righteousness and justice. They ignored widows, abandoned orphans, killed their prophets, and worshiped the idols of the nations. And with every successive king of Judah, the faithful Israelite would have looked and wondered if this was going to be the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the faithful Israelite, and the righteous king to rule God’s people. But none of them were.


7. The Mediator of a New Covenant


And that cycle of wickedness continues literally for centuries, until the people stand upon the precipice of the Babylonian exile. The northern kingdom, Israel, had fallen to Assyria in 721, and in the late 600s BC Judah would be taken captive by Babylon. And during this time, the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesy of a coming New Covenant.


God will restore Israel to their land (Ezek 36:24, 28), and will put His law in the hearts of His people (Jer 31:33), giving them the necessary power to walk in His ways (Ezek 36:27). He will forgive their sins (Jer 31:34; Ezek 36:25) and cause His Spirit to permanently indwell them and ensure their obedience (Ezek 36:27). God will bring salvation to the world through this New Covenant!


But even after Israel returns from exile, they don’t experience any such restoration. Zerubbabel’s temple is nothing like the glory of Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:12; Hag 2:3). The people intermarry with the nations (Ezra 9), and the priests treat the temple sacrifices of Yahweh with disdain (Mal 1:6–14). But God continues to promise that the Messenger of the Covenant will come (Mal 3:1), that, as Malachi 4:2 says, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”


And for 400 years, that was God’s final word.


8. Good News of Great Joy


But after 400 years of silence, an angel visits a virgin in Nazareth and tells her, Luke chapter 1 verse 31: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” And in response to that, Mary praises God for giving “help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendents”—his seed—“forever” (Luke 1:54–55).


This Jesus is the seed of the woman—fully God, but also fully man. He is a descendant of Abraham’s line, and so Galatians 3:16 calls him the Seed of Abraham. Because He is perfectly obedient, He is the perfect embodiment of what an Israelite was to be. As Gabriel told Mary, He is the Son of David, the promised King who would reign on David’s throne forever. And through His substitutionary life, death, and resurrection, He would be that righteous deliverer, the Mediator of that very New Covenant promised by Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Heb 8:6–13). All of redemptive history climaxes in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ!


9. A Light to the Nations


And He will not just rule over the house of Israel. Salvation will not just be limited to one nation. This Jesus will rule over all the nations. And so all throughout His ministry you have this repeated emphasis on the Gentiles. You have the story of the Good Samaritan, you have the faith of the Roman centurion greater than anywhere in Israel. All throughout His ministry you have these statements that Jesus is a light to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. As God promised way back in Genesis 12, in Abraham’s seed, all the families of the earth would be blessed!


And do you know why that is? In Isaiah chapter 49, we get to eavesdrop on a prophetic conversation between the Father and the Son. Isaiah 49:6, the Father says to the Messiah, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Salvation is going to the nations because it is too small a thing for Jesus to be the God of just one nation. Jesus’ worth is too great, and God’s glory is too precious, to be limited to just one group of people. It’s got to go everywhere! God is on His mission to bring Himself glory from all the nations!


III. A New Mission for a New People


And with the coming of Messiah—this extraordinary development in God’s redemptive plan—comes a seismic shift in God’s strategy for accomplishing His goal of bringing glory to Himself in redemption. The Lord Jesus Christ declares that He will build His Church (Matt 16:18)—that through the work of the Messiah, Ephesians 2 says that Jew and Gentile will become “one new man” and be reconciled into “one body,” the Church. And with the institution of this new people, comes a new means of glorifying God through the blessing of the nations.


And God, through His Word, commissions the Church with her mission at the end of all four Gospels, as well as the Book of Acts:


Mark 16:15–16: And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”


Luke 24:45–48: Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”


John 20:21: So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”


And of course, with that one, we have to ask, “In what way did the Father send Jesus that Jesus now sends us? What was Jesus mission statement?” Mark 10:45: To seek and save the lost. Luke 4:43: To preach the kingdom of God. John 1:29: To bring about forgiveness of sins. John 3:16: To give eternal life to those who believe. 1 Timothy 1:15: To save sinners. 1 Peter 3:18: To reconcile the unrighteous to God. Jesus’ mission was to preach the Gospel, and so that mission informs the church’s mission.


Matthew 28:19–20:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”


And then Luke repeats it in the Book of Acts before Jesus’ ascension, Acts 1:8: “And you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”


The church is commissioned to be witnesses of what God has accomplished in Jesus Christ, preaching the Good news of forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in Him.


You see, God will not bring glory to Himself by having the church stay in a fixed geographical area, seeking to attract the nations to us and our God by keeping His law. The church is not called to “Stay and Obey,” like Israel was. The church is now given a radically new commission to “Go and Proclaim.” We’re not to wait for unbelievers to come to us when they see how different our lives are! We don’t transform society in order to attract unbelievers to us! We are to go to them, and to proclaim this message of forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ alone. Now, in this age, God’s mission to bring glory to Himself is accomplished through evangelism. Because it is evangelism—the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ—that melts hearts of stone, opens blind eyes, overcomes the spiritual deadness of our inherited depravity from Adam, and grants spiritual life—the preaching of that Gospel creates worshipers! Romans 10:17: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”—by the message concerning Christ.




Dear friends, can you grasp the cosmic significance of what you have been called to do? This is not just “sharing your faith!” It’s not just some “cultural Christian” pastime, or a way to ease your conscience! You—GraceLife, Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, California—you have been swept up into the divine drama of redemption that began more than six thousand years ago in Genesis 3:15, and even before that in eternity past in the secret counsels of the Trinity! This millennia-long mission of Almighty God to glorify Himself in the redemption of sinners is consummated in your going into all the world and preaching the Gospel to every creature! You talk about purpose in life! You talk about making a difference in the world! You talk about being involved in something bigger than yourselves! There is nothing more significant that you could ever do than preach the Good News of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to those who need to be rescued from sin!


John Piper writes, “It is our unspeakable privilege to be caught up in the greatest movement in history—the ingathering of the elect ‘from all tribes and languages and peoples and nations’ until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and all Israel is saved, and the Son of Man descends with power and great glory as King of kings and Lord of lords, and the earth is full of the knowledge of his glory as the waters cover the sea forever and ever.”


This is the greatest movement in history. In fact it’s the movement for which history exists, because it is the movement by which rebel sinners, consumed with the glory of sin and self, are recreated into worshipers and treasurers of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.


What a privilege to be commissioned by the God of the universe to be instrumental in bringing glory and honor to Him! May we be found faithful to this commission. May each one of us give ourselves to the discipline of regularly speaking the Gospel to the lost, for the honor and glory of the Triune God.