Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why the Great Commission?

In a sermon on 1 Tim 2:1-7, I mentioned that Paul defines the gospel as centered in the Person and Work of Christ. That led to some brief comments related to the exclusivity of salvation in Christ alone. I thought it might be good to expand on that thought here.

There has been an effort in certain quarters of Christianity that (seemingly) wants to make the gospel more inclusive. Before I go further, let me define what I mean by a few terms. When I say “exclusive” I mean that conscious faith in Christ alone is necessary for salvation. When I say that some wish to make the gospel more “inclusive” I mean the effort to make salvation possible in some way other than conscious faith in Christ alone. Whether we think about the Catholic Church’s move to a nearly universalist position, or Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” book, or the notion that there are many paths to the same summit, the zeitgeist clearly is far more inclusive than (I would argue) the Bible is.

There are some who argue that Jesus’ death is sufficient for all and that all will eventually be saved by his love (i.e. Rob Bell). There are others who might argue that ideas of hell are antiquated and that God’s love precludes such a punishment. Still others find the entire notion that there is “one truth” to be reductionist and wrong-headed. And, finally, there are those who might say that while those who have heard the gospel are responsible to respond to it, those who have never heard are covered by the grace of God.

All of these kinds of approaches end up in the same place: conscious faith in Christ is not absolutely necessary for salvation. If that is true, I have a question: why did Jesus give his disciples the Great Commission? There are only a few possibilities:

1. Jesus did not know conscious faith was unnecessary for salvation.
This, of course, presents several problems, not the least of which is that Jesus the Son and God the Father are not on the same page when it comes to their plan. It also have ramifications for Jesus’ divinity.

2. Jesus did know conscious faith was unnecessary for salvation but didn’t tell the disciples. 
 In this case, Jesus sends his disciples on a wild goose chase of sorts. He sends them out to share the gospel with people who do not need to hear it. At least, they do not need to hear it for eternal salvation. Of course, for those who argue that those who have never heard are “safe,” this is the cruelest act of all. Why? Because as soon as the previously unreached hear the gospel, they are now accountable for it. If they were “safe” without the gospel, taking the gospel to them puts them in a worse position, not a better one.

Of course, there is an alternative.

3. Jesus did know conscious faith was necessary for salvation and that is why he gave us the Great Commission. 
The fact is, conscious faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. That is the truth that makes the best sense of all the information.

Because conscious faith in Christ is necessary for salvation, Jesus commands us to go to all the nations (all people groups) and make disciples among them. He commands us to identify those who become disciples through public baptism and then to train them as Christ followers.

This is why we must go to the ends of the earth with the gospel. This is why we send missionaries to far flung places around the world. This is why we must share out faith with our neighbors. This is why the Great Commission…..because apart from conscious faith in Christ, there is no hope for people to be right with God.

So, share your faith with someone today!