The Grace-Age Believer’s Mission:
The mission and commission of the members of “the Church, which is His Body,” is to proclaim Paul’s message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:14-21) and endeavor “to make all men see” what is the Dispensation of “the Mystery [God’s formerly hid, but now revealed, secret plan of the Cross]” (Eph. 3:8-9).
14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath Reconciled Us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the Ministry of Reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he [the Father] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; [so] that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (KJV)
8 Unto me [Paul], who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery [for secret grace-age of ‘body of Christ’], which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: Ephesians 3:8-9 (KJV)
In this, we should follow the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; I Tim. 1:11-16). That distinctive message which Paul, as “the Apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13, 15:16) calls ‘my gospel’ (Rom. 2:16; 16:25) It is also titled the ‘gospel of the grace of God’ (Acts 20:24). We, like Paul, must preach the entire Word of God in the light of this Gospel (2 Tim. 4:2; Gal. 1:8, 9) and strive to reach those in the regions beyond where Christ is not yet named (Rom. 15:20; 2 Cor. 10:16).”
Our statement on this point of doctrine may seem strange to many Christians, as it contains no reference to Jesus’ so-called “Great Commission” to His Jewish disciples, which is found at the conclusion of both Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels. We do not believe that these accounts give us the commission for “the Body of Christ.”
We do believe, however, that our commission for “the body of Christ” has this in common with Israel’s so-called ‘Great Commission’: it is worldwide in character, and it is worldwide in a sense that the Matthew and Mark commissions could never be. It is significant, in this respect, that the first united effort in the “Grace Movement” was the organization of a missionary society which was named “Worldwide Grace Testimony,” which fact in itself should be sufficient evidence that the commission which we follow is the same one which spurred the great apostle of the Gentiles to reach out to the regions beyond where Christ had not yet been named.
Israel’s So-called ‘Great Commission’ is Not for Us Grace Believers Today
There are a number of good reasons why we do not believe that the Matthew and Mark commissions are for us today. The first concerns the gospel itself; that is, the message of the good news of “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), which God has given us to proclaim to a lost world. When Christ said to the Eleven Apostles: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” Jesus of Nazareth must have intended them to preach the only gospel that they had knowledge of, namely, “the gospel of the kingdom.” It is evident that they did not know anything about “the gospel of the grace of God,” which Christ in glory revealed to Paul a number of years after the cross. It is very evident from a comparison of Luke 9:6 with Luke 18:31-34 that the Twelve Apostles were preaching what is called “the gospel” during the time when they were completely ignorant of the fact that Christ was going to die and rise again from the dead. There must be a vast difference, therefore, between their message and ours today, as surely no one could preach the gospel for today without preaching Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. At the time the so-called Great Commission was given, however, the Eleven had learned the truth about Christ’s death and resurrection, and Peter proclaimed it at Pentecost. But there was still this great difference between his message and ours: Peter preached only the fact of Christ’s death and resurrection, and this fact was preached, not as the basis of a gospel or good news, but as the basis of guilt and condemnation upon the Nation Israel:
“Him... ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” “The God of Abraham, and of lsaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One [Jesus] and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you: and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” Act 2-3
By contrast, we grace believers preach ‘Christ’s death’ as good news; Peter preached it as sad news, and then went on to say that if Israel would repent of this crime God would forgive them and send Jesus back to fulfill the promises of establishing their glorious earthly kingdom. Peter’s message at Pentecost was not: “Christ died for our sins.” but “Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins.”
The So-called ‘Great Commission’ Concerns “the Gospel of the Kingdom” to Come on Earth.
Peter’s sermon in Acts 3 makes it abundantly clear that he was preaching “the gospel of the kingdom.” Up to this time this is the only gospel that God had made known. It was the good news that God would send His Son back to the earth to bring about the restoration of all things which had been predicted by the prophets of old. While we know that God is going to do this someday, and that is surely good news, we must know that is not the precise gospel which God wants us to proclaim to lost men today. Yet it was the gospel which Christ commanded the Eleven to preach in the so-called Great Commission.
Paul referred to Peter’s message as “the gospel of the circumcision.” He called it this because it was a message based upon the promises which God had made to Abraham in the covenant of circumcision for all Israel. By contrast, Paul called his own message “the gospel of the uncircumcision” (Gal 2:7) because it had nothing to do with the covenant of circumcision. It went back beyond circumcision to Abram, an uncircumcised Gentile, who was justified by faith, apart from circumcision, law-keeping and baptism.
The So-called ‘Great Commission’ Requires Water Baptism
The next objection to applying the Great Commission to us today is that water baptism is definitely stated as a prerequisite to forgiveness of sins in that commission. “He believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...” We have already pointed out the that fact that repentance and water baptism were important factors in the gospel of the kingdom, or the gospel of the circumcision. We do not believe that Paul’s gospel contained these features. This does not mean that Paul did not call men to repentance, for we know that he did (Acts 20:21). We all believe that faith in Jesus Christ involves a changing of the mind, but Israel as a nation was called to repent of the rejection and murder of her Messiah.
The So-called ‘Great Commission’ is Inseparably Includes ‘Miraculous Signs’
A further objection to applying this commission to us is the fact that it contains certain substantiating signs which since Acts 28 do not accompany our preaching of the gospel of grace. Jesus said;
“And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Yet, multitudes of Pentecostal people today are trying to prove that they are preaching the kingdom gospel instead of Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). They claim to exorcise demons, speak with tongues and heal the sick, and occasionally we hear of claims of raising the dead. Anyone who carefully investigates these claims must surely be convinced that the results are but a counterfeit of the signs wrought by those in apostolic times. Doubtless these signs during the early Act period, which accompanied the preaching of the kingdom gospel were a foretaste of the powers of the Millennial age to come (Heb. 6:5).
Their purpose was of these “signs” was to prove that the apostles had a message of authority which was able to usher in the Millennial kingdom, which was able to bring about the radical changes in nature which would overcome disease and even death. But our grace gospel during this present dispensation carries no promise of the deliverance of anyone today from these universal evils. Instead, we are plainly told by Paul that the whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain together until now, and not only the outward creation, “but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:18-25).
The So-called ‘Great Commission’ Based Upon Israel’s Priority
Besides these three basic objections, the fact that the gospel of the Great Commission is the kingdom gospel, that it requires water baptism and special repentance as a requisite in the forgiveness of sins, and that it is accompanied with signs which are to point to the establishment of the Messianic kingdom here on earth. There is this further fact which we alluded to in the second paragraph of this chapter. This Great Commission was worldwide in character, but it must be recognized that it was not worldwide in the sense that all mankind was to be treated without distinction. In the kingdom gospel Israel as a nation is to have the ascendancy over the other nations. That is why the gospel went only to Israel during the time that Christ was on earth. That is why Christ told “the Twelve” to begin at Jerusalem and to evangelize Judea and Samaria before going to the Gentiles. Israel has a priority over the other nations in the Great Commission gospel. But we know Israel never got beyond Israel and they will not until the Millennial Kingdom comes. “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall NOT have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” (Matthew 10:23)
By contrast, under Paul’s grace gospel commission to present reconciliation to “all men” today (2Cor. 5:20) there is no such distinction or restriction of race and location. It is plainly stated in Paul’s message: “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek.” (Rom. 10:12) Paul’s gospel is “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” The commission of the Body of Christ is truly worldwide without distinction in a sense that the kingdom gospel was not.
Missionary Minded Grace-Age Believers Today
It is only natural that one who follows Paul as “the Apostle to the Gentiles” should be missionary minded, for Paul was the greatest missionary that ever lived. Paul was not only the human instrument through whom Christ revealed His “gospel of the grace of God,” but he was the greatest evangelist who ever lived. He must be given to selfless and tireless service, for Paul was our living example of this beyond all others. “Howbeit for this cause I [Paul] obtained mercy, [so] that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Timothy 1:16) We must be one with a great heart of love for our Savior and for our fellowman, For Paul, to live was Christ, and he became all things to all men that by all means he might save some.
The church of this “dispensation of the grace of God” and of this particular time needs to awaken to the
fact that its commission is clearly set forth in the Pauline Scriptures alone.
“God hath committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
We would only frustrate the purposes and the work of God if we would try to carry out Israel’s “Great Commission.”
We lose nothing of evangelistic fervor and missionary vision, or of our love for souls by following Paul and leaving the kingdom commission for the kingdom as God intended it… with Israel. In following Paul, we lose nothing -- except the confusion and counterfeits which are so prevalent today, while we gain everything.
- Adapted from Charles Baker’s “Bible Truth” (with emphasis added) -