Missiological Thoughts for January 6th

Posted in discipleship, missiology, theology by Nathan Creitz on January 6, 2009

I am currently attending a two week course at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary on the subject of World Missions. This winter session is the start of my final year of seminary and this particular class ensures that it will be a good year. Yesterday I simply shared some of my notes from Day One and thought I would share, not necessarily the outline, but maybe some insights from Day Two. Hopefully, I will keep doing this for the next two weeks (with a few unrelated posts besides). As always, I invite conversation in the comments section because this is helpful to you and me as we think through these issues together.

The Great Commission

Today, Dr. Tennent spent the entire 3 hours discussing the Great Commission. There were a few things that were familiar and a few things that were brand new to me. The outline was quite simple. He went through each of the gospels and ennumerated all of the references to Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles. This culminated into the Great Commission passages from Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 (and Acts 1:8), and John 20.

The Usual (but still good) Insights

1. The Matthean Commission

The command in Matthew 28:19 is not “Go” as most people seem to think, it is “make disciples”. I’ve personally been saying this for quite some time and wish more people got it. My professor talked about the imperatival use of the verb “make disciples” whereas, the other verbs are participles that modify the main verb: “as you are going”, “as you are baptizing”, “as you are teaching”. This is a church that is already on the go, and their task is to make disciples.

The full phrase is to “make disciples of all the nations”. The nations here are not meant to be geo-political entities. They are specifically meant to refer to people groups.

2. The Markan Commission

Mark 16:9ff are not included in the earliest Greek manuscripts. As a result, we cannot place the same authority on this text as we do on the rest of Scripture. Mark’s ending could’ve been lost, or he intentionally meant to end His gospel abruptly in the middle of a theological point. The new ending is anonymous but has been accepted by the church and it is not inconsistent with the thought of Mark and can still be preached.

3. The Lukan Commission

Luke emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the fact that we don’t “do” missions, we join God in HIS mission. He opened the eyes of the men in Luke 24 so that they would recognize Him. He opened the minds of His disciples so that they would do His will. Apart from God’s work in people’s hearts, there is nothing that we can say or do to make someone trust in Christ.

The New Insights (that I hadn’t thought of before)

1. The Matthean Commission

Most people in the Church associate the phrase “Great Commission” with Mt 28:18-20. We should delete that file and talk about the Great Commission (singular) that is found in all four Gospels. The Great Commission refers to the overall mandate that the One who was sent is now sending the Church.

2. The Markan Commission

Mark’s account seems to focus on individuals rather than people groups. Jesus says to “Go into all the world” World is less specific than Matthew’s “nation”. The imperative here is to “proclaim the message to all creation”. Since the world population of Jesus’ day was only 250 million and now is around 6.2 million, world population has changed the scope of Jesus’ commission to His first disciples. We have to go where the people are. Right now, around 60% of the world’s population are in China and India. If they are not receptive to the Gospel that will have huge implications on the future of the Church.

3. The Lukan Commission

There are no imperatives in the Lukan Commission. In fact, Luke is the first one to record actual content OF the Gospel that is to be proclaimed in the commission. The content of the commission starts with the prophecies that the Messiah would come and be killed but would rise on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached to the nations. The next verse simply calls attention to the fact that the disciples are witnesses that this has taken place and He tells them that He is sending them the Spirit to help them. No command, just observation, but it’s an observation with implicit action involved.

Final Thoughts

Though Matthew, Mark, and Luke share some material, the Great Commission passages found in the Synoptics and also in John and in Acts 1:8 appear to be 5 separate sayings. For one thing, they take place in at least three different settings: Bethany, Jerusalem, and a mountain in Galilee. For another thing, they have completely different wordings and emphases.

Tomorrow I will be learning about the Johannine Commission. I’m looking forward to it. Meanwhile, what thoughts do you have in follow up to these other points. I should point out that these insights are not the entire content of the lecture. I just wanted to give you a couple of things that Dr. Tennent pointed out that were of interest to me.


One Response

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  1. Aaron L. said, on January 15, 2009 at 9.01 pm

    Hey bro, I like the new site. What made you decide to make the switch? Easier to network with others?

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