Over the past few weeks my church has been going through a series on Wednesday evenings entitled “A Christian’s top ten list.” To my dismay I have missed a few of these discussions due to previous obligations. Last night we discussed the relationship between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Pastor Eric Puschman reminded us that we must not bypass the Great Commandment in order to do the Great Commission. In this post I hope to share with you what I was able to take away from Bible study last night.
Most of you are likely already aware of the terms Great Commission and Great Commandment. The Great Commission refers to the last words Jesus gave to his disciples. Those words are found in Matthew 28:18-20.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples of all nations. This means that we are called to spread the Good News to all people everywhere. These last words of Jesus have not always been called the Great Commission no one really seems to know how this phraseology began to be used. Regardless how the term came about it is clear that these words have great implications for the church and the individual Christian.
Now to define what is meant by the term Great Commandment. Any good Israelite would have been familiar with this commandment. It’s origins arise with Moses’ sermon in Deuteronomy 6:4-6.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (ESV)
This Scripture became one of the most pivotal in the Jewish faith because Yahweh’s oneness is what distinguishes Him from false gods. All good Jews would memorize this passage, known to them as the Shema. Moses called the people to worship only the one true God. Jesus shows that that if we truly worship Him then we will love others. Jesus reminds us that the entire law system depends on our love for God and others.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)
So the Great Commandment is that we should love God above all else. He alone has earned the right to rule on the throne of our heart. Because we have been loved by God we are called to love those he has created. This is the Great Commandment. If we began taking Jesus’ words seriously we would live in a much better culture. Many times we think of commandments as burdensome. The Great Commandment is not a burden at all. We are called to come to God just as we are and give ourselves to Him. In God’s economy all things are moved and motivated by love.
The integration of Commission and Commandment
Pastor Puschman asked us to define the relationship between commandment and commission. Through prayer and observation of the Bible I see that commandment and commission are inseparable. It is absolutely impossible to have one without the other. They are intertwined in a way similar to a flower and its root system. The root system of Christian faith is the Great Commandment to love God and others. The beautiful flower established by God is the Great Commission. This flower represents people from every nation, tribe, and tongue who have faithfully responded to and proclaimed His Good News.
Some churches are guilty of emphasizing the Great Commission over the Great Commandment. For some, the ends justify the means. In other words, our method of reaching people doesn’t matter as long as “decisions” are made. God has called us to love those who are outside the faith. To be clear, we must stand with the Bible and not compromise our morals. I just think that sometimes our approach to reaching people is done in judgment. We look down at those who have not yet received God’s grace. May we never forget that at one time we also were far away from God. Notice Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:11.
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)
This is where commission and commandment meet. Jesus has called us to share his soul-satisfying truth with everyone, regardless what they may look like or how they may smell. We must remember that God is relentlessly pursuing rebels who deserve nothing from Him as we seek to obey the Great Commission. We cannot reach people from every nation if we do not first love God and worship Him above all else.
The next time you are tempted to talk bad about an unbeliever, don’t. You may have people in your life who act like heathen all the time. That’s because they probably are. We are all heathen until we meet Christ and accept his imputed righteousness. Both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment directly affect the life of the individual Christian and the church. Let’s work to maintain a missional mindset motivated by love.