Skip to main content

What the Great Commission is NOT

"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)

The Lord Jesus gave this commission to His disciples after His resurrection and prior to His ascension to the third heaven. The command is to "Preach the gospel." The verb "preach" means to herald the message. It is the same word found in 2 Timothy 4:2--"Preach the Word." In ancient times momentous messages were communicated by a herald. This was the King's personal messenger who would cry out the king's message as the people in the town would assemble together eager to hear the latest news. The herald would not give his own message and he would certainly not give his own views and opinions. He would simply give the King’s message word for word. He would not interpret the message. It made no difference whether the herald liked the message or did not like the message, he had to faithfully deliver it. He did not debate with people. He did not argue with people. He just presented the King's message. Paul once said, "necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel." Woe unto me if I fail to faithfully announce the King's message of good news!

Today it seems as if the church is doing everything except the very thing that our Lord told us to do. We substitute our program and programs for God's program. We present our gospel instead of His gospel. Let us briefly consider what God's great commission does not say:

Go ye into all the world and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, build homes for the poor and care for the sick

While we certainly should not be oblivious to the pain and poverty and suffering in the world, yet the social gospel is not what our Lord commanded. The solution is not for each believer to become like Mother Teresa. We may feed their stomachs but what have we done for their souls? We may cure them of a bodily illness, but what has been done about the deadly and incurable disease of sin (Jer. 17:9)? What good does it do if they become rich for a second (in this life) but poor forever (in eternity)? If we clothe their bodies with the finest of garments, how shall it help them if they die without being covered by the robes of Christ's righteousness? What shall it profit them if we build them a wonderful house, but no provision is made for their eternal home in heaven? What ultimate good have we done if we only help them this side of the grave?

The Salvation Army is today almost exclusively devoted to a social gospel, with little emphasis upon the salvation of souls. It is very interesting to hear what William Booth had to say years ago: I recall hearing William Booth, the first general of the Salvation Army, say, when explaining his "Darkest England" scheme, that its real objective was, not just the amelioration of social conditions, but first and foremost the bringing of men to repentance that their souls might be saved. I can recall the flash in his eye, and the noble bearing of his commanding figure as he exclaimed, "Take a man from the filth and squalor of the slums, exchange his rags for decent clothing, move him from the stifling stench of the city tenement to a neat little cottage in the pure air of the country, put him on his feet economically where he can make a decent living for himself and his family, and then let him die in his sins, unsaved, and be lost forever at last—really it is not worth while, and I, for one, would not attempt it." (Cited by Harry Ironside, Except Ye Repent, pages 181-182).

"If every person in the world had adequate food, housing, income; If all men were equal; If every possible social evil and injustice were done away with, Men would still need one thing—CHRIST! --J.W. Hyde