Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the Main Event! These two passages (Great Commission and Great Commandments) work together. But unfortunately something seems to have shifted that has caused these two to be somewhat in competition for the primary focus of the Church. So, without further delay, (Bruce Buffer voice) IT’S TIME!!!
Introducing first in the red corner…This passage is the final command of Jesus. It comes from parts known as Matthew 28: 16-20 and others. It stands in as being Jesus’ last instructions on how to deliver His teachings that would in turn make disciples from every ethnic people group . It weighs in and gets its value from being the model distribution system for the life-changing teachings of Jesus. Obedience to this passage is the reason why the teachings of Jesus are known throughout the world. Somewhere around the 1600’s, Evangelicals felt the need to give the Final Command of Christ a new title of greatness. Let’s give it up for the challenger, “The Grrrrreat Commission”!
And now, turning to the blue corner…This ancient standard comes from parts known as both the Old and New Testament. This passage stands as the very theme, motive, focus, and framework on which hangs all the Law and Prophets. The book of James esteems the latter portion of this passage, and recognizes it as being the King of laws by calling it the “Royal Law”. The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans and again in Galatians specifically called it “The fulfillment of the Law”. Therefore, it is THIS passage that completely encompasses everything Jesus taught and did by virtue of the fact that Jesus came to “fulfill the Law”. See the match? If you want to be imitators of Christ, there is no greater passage to follow than this one. Again, the Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians uses the phrase “bear one another’s burdens” which everyone concludes means the same thing as “love one another”. Paul says that when we do this, we “fulfill the law of Christ”. In Luke, Jesus firmly and unwaveringly declared that obedience to the Great commands will bring you into eternal life (Side note: This sounds like working for your salvation; so, how can obeying the Great Commands bring eternal life? Jesus is speaking, and if you do the things that Jesus says will bring eternal life, then you are actually putting your trust in Him and His words for your salvation. You will also have to repent from the ways of hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness in order to truly love. You are demonstrating that you believe Him to be the one who has the words of eternal life. If you believe and follow what He says are the great commands, then you are showing that you have complete faith in Him to be the Great Commander. For by grace are you saved through faith! And real faith always results in obedience.) Because this passage fulfills the O.T. Law, fulfills the N.T. Law of Christ, and brings you into Eternal life, it is the sum focus of the life-changing teachings of Christ that are carried by the vehicle of the Great Commission. This passage is the reflection of the Core nature of God, since “God is Love“. I Cor 13 describes the essence of this passage (Love) as being “the greatest” to the point of causing even faith and hope to be inferior in comparison. I Cor. 13 also describes our preaching and our good works as being in vain without this same commanded love as the center of our focus. This passage which Christ said leads to eternal life weighs in as having the heaviest, greatest value of any commands or laws that have ever been taught, studied, pondered, and obeyed. It is Jesus Christ Himself (and not men) who exalted this passage to the status of “Greatest”. Finally, this passage contains the never-to-be-outdone #1 and #2 ranked Commandments of All Time! Let’s give it up for the undisputed Champion of all Commands to be taught and obeyed, “The Grrrrrrreatest Commandments Of Christ”!
Who’s going to win? Will it be the Jesus-titled Greatest Commands? Or will it be the man-titled Great Commission? Will it be the fulfilled Laws of Christ, or will it be the vehicle that carries the Laws of Christ? Will it be the commands that bring Eternal Life, or its delivery system? Which one receives the most focus? Which one will be the most studied and written about? Which one gets the most attention and emphasis?
I did some Google searches within quotations and here is what I discovered.
“Great Commands” search on 10/4/2011. Results: 40,200
“Great Commandments”search on 10/4/2011. Results: 169,000
Combine those two together and you get 209,200. Now watch this…
“Great Commission” search on 10/4/11. Results: 2,920,000
“Great Commission” beats the combo of “Great Commands” and the “Great Commandments” by over 13 times! It’s a Knockout into unconsciousness. The church is in a comatose state concerning the need for placing its primary focus, importance and priority on the Great Commands of Christ. If we changed that, Missions/Evangelism/Discipleship would be greatly energized! If all sermons were to be preached with a conscious effort to show how the topic or verse relates or is motivated by the Great Commands, there would be little room for error, or improper motives. Take a fresh look and you will see that Jesus never preached outside the motivation of the Great Commands. His sermons drip with the Great Commands. With a true biblical understanding of Agape love (Real Agape Love adores the truth 1Cor 13:6), you can preach on the wrath of God and Hell with the same motivation and Great Command context that Jesus did.
More Google results: “Love the Lord your God” 3,030,000 vs “Go into all the world” 13,300,000. The Fedex Box has beaten the contents it carries!
Some will look at these results and say that the Great Commission should take precedence because it fulfills the Great Commands. It’s really the other way around; practicing the Great Commands will cause you to fulfill the Great Commission. You have to remember which one Jesus said took precedence. You see, you can preach Christ but if Love is not at the forefront of your study, your thinking and the central focus of your life, the Bible says you can you can end up preaching out of a heart that is results-oriented, competitive, and comparing with other ministries. Guard your heart! Don’t risk becoming “the sounding brass” of 1 Cor. 13. Also, Martha loved Jesus, but Mary was still doing the better part. Guard your heart and don’t neglect taking the time to also be a “Mary”. You must make sitting at His feet a precedent over working for Him. Worship must never take a backseat to Works.
The people of the secular world are not the ones who are primarily writing about the Great Commission and the Great Commandments. I believe these results are indicative of what the Church and its Leaders are focused on. The truth is, you didn’t need to see Google results to know this.
When was the last time your Church decided to concentrate, diligently research, and systematically teach ALL the biblical ways to 1) Love God and 2) Love Others? There are hundreds of biblical ways! Shouldn’t we be focusing on that and using that to point to Jesus? Bill Gothard has a good starter list. Since these are the most important things to do, wouldn’t it make sense that they would be the most important commands to teach? Since Christ and Paul pointed out that these commands sum up the entire Bible, shouldn’t every teaching deliberately flow from this context? Bill Gothard said, The theme of all Scripture is to love God with all of our hearts and to love one another. (See Matthew 22:40 and John 13:34.) If you will look again, you will see that all of Christ’s teachings reflect that. Along with all the flags and mission reminders hanging on the walls of the church building do you at least have a list posted on a board somewhere in the Hall to serve as a constant reminder of the Greatest Commands? Commands are things that you do. Since these are the greatest commands, this is what we should be studying and doing the most. But instead, we are focusing 13 times more on the delivery system than the actual contents! Do you really want to make disciples? Then look at John 13:34 and pay close attention to the words “by this” and you will see how a disciple is made and recognized. Send this to your preacher and let him send it to his leaders. You shouldn’t even have to pray about it because the scriptures point out that these are the greatest things you can do.
Let me be clear, I’m not against the Great Commission. Far from it! I’ve served here and on the foreign mission field. I’m not upset with the “Great Commission” results. I think they should be higher! And, I think that the Great Commandments should be even higher than them! I do wonder if 1) we should stop calling it the “Great Commission” and go back before man interfered with it and return to calling it Christ’s Final Command. The term “Great Commission” exalts the passage in the minds of people as being equal with the Christ-called “Greatest Commands”. Christ never changed His mind about the “Greatest Commands” being the most superior. As we saw earlier, Paul and James confirm that it is still that way, and we should have never done anything to challenge or compare with that. 2) We need to go from calling them the Great Commands to calling them what Christ did: The Greatest Commands. This isn’t just semantics, we need to make a clear differentiation if we want to return to what is right. If you change your language, then you change your thinking, and then you change your actions. We need to undo our mistake and get our priorities right.
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.–Jesus speaking to the Church in Ephesus.
“Tithing” beats the “Great Commandments”/”Great Commands” combo 2,550,000 to 209,200. Tithing wins by 12 times over. You knew that was true already, didn’t you? Even with a more restricted search, “Tithes and offerings” comes out with 363,000. Wow! That is so out of whack.
All of this makes me very sad and brings me to my knees wondering how I can change the focus in my own life. I need to continually search, study, focus, and live on a journey to discover all the biblical ways I can to heed the two greatest, most valuable, most important, life-giving commands and ultimately obey and love my Father and others. A command from God becomes my personal responsibility. So, as a disciple, this is my most important personal responsibility above all else. It will be easier for me if others can see that they are called to do the same. My prayer is that others around the world will join in this endeavor, share this with their pastor, the congregation, and take it to their leaders. We can have a beautiful turnaround. Perhaps then we can fulfill Christ’s Final Command in the way He meant for it to be carried out.
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