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Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Great Commission and Things Unwritten

Alice C. Linsley

The "Great Commission" of Christians is the instruction of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples that they should spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. The term is not found in the Bible. It was first used by James Hudson Taylor, a British missionary to China. The idea of commissioning is familiar to people in the military and the term is appropriately applied to the Church Militant.

Jesus' teachings reflect His righteous rule. His teachings are true. They are given by the One is is Truth. That is why the Great Commission is attached to the authority of Jesus Christ. Note the wording of Matthew 28:18-20:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus has "all authority" and in that authority we are to make disciples, baptizing them according to the Trinitarian Formula. teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded. It is a big job! However, we are not alone in this labor. The Lord Jesus promises to be with us always.

Did Jesus Disciples take this commissioning seriously? Yes, they did. Within less than a century, they had "turned the world upside down" (Act 17:6). The Disciples did tell others what Jesus said and did because John 30:30-31 notes that "Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which art not recorded in this book [agrapha - Greek for "unwritten things"]. John's Gospel was written between 80 and 90 AD, and includes material found in Mark's Gospel (c. 64 AD) and Luke's Gospel (c. 75 AD), but also has material that is not found in the other Gospels. By John's time, other saying of Jesus had circulated rather widely. 

Examples of agrapha are found in the writings of the early Church Fathers.  Here are some examples:

Justin Martyr (AD 100-165): "Wherefore also our Lord Jesus Christ said, 'In whatsoever things I apprehend you, in those I shall judge you." (Dialogue 47)

Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215): "For ask, he says for the great things, and the small shall be added to you." (Stom. I, 24, 158)

Origen of Alexandria (A 185-254): "But the Savior himself saith; 'He who is near me tis near the fire; he who is far from me, is far from the kingdom." (Homil. in Jer., XX.3)

That these sayings of Jesus and many others spread far and wide by 200 AD tells us that his followers were doing what he asked them to do. Jesus Christ's followers were and are still spreading the Gospel in obedience to His Divine Directive.

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