The Great Commission
According to Luke
Two Great Necessities!
In Luke 24:46-49 we find the Great Commission as it is found in the Gospel of Luke. These were the "commandments" which our Lord gave after His resurrection and before He returned to heaven (see Acts 1:2). In this passage and in the other Great Commission passages (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; John 20:21; Acts 1:1-8) we find the Lord’s "marching orders" for His Church, His beloved body and bride.
Verse 46: And said unto them, Thus it is written
The gospel is always "according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3-4). In Luke 24 the Lord Jesus spent time with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and surveyed the Old Testament with them: "Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). Perhaps he told them of the serpent in the wilderness and how it foreshadowed His death for sinners (Numbers 21; John 3:14-16). Perhaps he told them of Abraham offering His son Isaac and how this foreshadowed His own death and resurrection (Rom. 8:32; Heb. 11:17-19). Most probably He took them to the prophet Isaiah, especially in chapter 53, where the Messiah’s substitutionary death was foretold in such detail. The good news of God’s Son, including His death and resurrection, had been "promised before by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures (the Old Testament Scriptures)"—see Romans 1:1-3.
and thus it behooved Christ
The expression "it behooved" means "it is necessary" or "it was necessary." The word governs not only Christ’s suffering and resurrection mentioned in verse 46 but it also governs the preaching mentioned in verse 47. Literally, "it is necessary to suffer and to rise from the dead and to preach repentance and remission." In other words, these verses present two great necessities: 1) The Gospel Necessity: Christ must suffer and rise from the dead; 2) The Preaching Necessity: The repentance and remission must be preached to all nations. The gospel necessity has already been accomplished, Christ’s work having been finished (John 19:30). The preaching necessity is ongoing and every blood-bought child of God is responsible to have a part in this crucial ministry.
to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day
These are the great facts of the gospel (see 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rom. 4:25–"delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification"). By His death the price was paid; by His resurrection the proof was made (that is, by His resurrection He forever proved that He was everything that He claimed to be). The gospel message does not involve social action or world betterment. See the paper, What the Great Commission Is Not. The gospel message centers in the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ for lost and ruined sinners.
Verse 47: And that repentance
must be preached. Repentance is man’s part. It is the duty of every sinner. When
a person truly believes on the Lord Jesus Christ then repentance is involved. A
person cannot be saved apart from repentance. Repentance is a change of mind. It
means to change your whole way of thinking. You’ve been thinking wrongly about
sin, so you need to change your mind. You’ve been thinking wrongly about the
Saviour, so you need to change your mind. You’ve been thinking wrongly about
yourself, so you need to change your mind. The sinner needs to be confronted
with God’s Word so that he can begin to see things from God’s point of view,
especially concerning his sin and his lost state before a holy God.
Harry Ironside, in his book, Except Ye Repent, explained repentance as follows: "Repentance is the sinner’s recognition of and acknowledgment of his lost estate (p.11)...Literally [repentance] means ‘a change of mind.’ It actually implies a complete reversal of one’s inward attitude (p.15)... Repentance is just the sick man’s acknowledgment of his illness. It is simply the sinner recognizing his guilt and confessing his need of deliverance....(repentance) is judging oneself in the presence of God; turning rightabout-face, turning to God with a sincere, earnest desire to be completely delivered from sin. And when a man takes that attitude toward God and puts his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he finds salvation (pp. 253-254)"
and remission of sins
When a person repents and believes on God’s only Saviour, he receives God’s great gift of the complete forgiveness of all sins: "To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His Name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission (forgiveness) of sins" (Acts 10:43). "Repent...that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). "Repent...for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). That the early disciples preached repentance and remission is clear from the above verses as well as the following: Acts 5:31; 13:38; 17:30; 20:21 [where we see that repentance and faith are like two sides of the same coin]; 26:18; 26:20.
should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Please notice God’s new program. God’s former program involved the nation Israel and the center point or focal point of that program was the city of Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel (the united kingdom) and later Judah (the southern kingdom). But in God’s new program (the church), Jerusalem is not the focal point but merely the starting point: "beginning at Jerusalem." The gospel message was to begin in Jerusalem because God graciously sent the gospel "to the Jews first" (Rom. 1:16) but from there it was to go to all nations (see Acts 17:30 where repentance was to be preached to all men everywhere). God’s new program is also outlined in Acts 1:8 where we also learn that it began in Jerusalem and then extended out to the uttermost parts of the earth.
And ye are witnesses of these things.
|See also Acts 1:8–"Ye shall be My witnesses" (literal rendering) and compare also Isaiah 43:10. The early disciples were witnesses of the death and resurrection of Christ and they were able, willing and eager to proclaim this good news near and far, even though it often involved persecution.|
|Verse 49: And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.||The promise
of the Father is the promise of the Holy Spirit. This promise was fulfilled on
the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 (see Acts 1:4-5 and Acts 2:33).
"Tarry" means to "sit still, wait." But didn’t the Lord tell them to preach
repentance? Yes, but they were to sit still and wait. Didn’t the Lord tell them
to go to all nations beginning at Jerusalem? Yes, but they were to sit still and
wait. It’s impossible to obey this commission until you have received the power
necessary to fulfill it.
"Endued" means "clothed." They were to sit still and wait until they were clothed with power from on high. To go forth without the personal presence and power of God the Holy Spirit would be like trying to go deep sea diving without oxygen tanks or like trying to drive your car without gas. It’s impossible! But once the Holy Spirit had come, the waiting period is over. God never tells believers today to "tarry" for the Holy Spirit. You wait for someone at an airport, but once the person arrives you don’t wait for him anymore! The Comforter has come! He’s here! We just need to enjoy His personal presence and power (Eph. 5:18). All evangelism must be carried out in the power of God the Holy Spirit or else our work will be in vain.
"Ye Shall Be Witnesses Unto Me"
"Ye shall be MY WITNESSES"
The Great Commission according to Luke is found in Luke 24:46-49 (see above) and also in Acts 1:1-8 (the book of Acts was also written by Luke, the human penman). You will notice that the great emphasis is not upon witnessing but upon BEING A WITNESS (see our booklet, What is a Witness? ). A witness is someone who causes other people to think about God. By LIFE and by LIP a witness points to the living God and to the truth of His Word. Pastor Carlton Helgerson said it this way, "A WITNESS is a person who lives in such a way that those about him are forced TO THINK ABOUT GOD."
Pastor Parsons has carefully defined the word "witness" as it is found in Isaiah 43:10, "The Hebrew word for WITNESS comes from the verb which means ‘to say again and again.’ In Isaiah 43:10 the noun means ‘a testimony, proof, witness, one who strengthens or confirms the saying of another.’" God’s witnesses must be constantly strengthening and confirming the glorious truth that the Lord is the only God and the only Saviour (Isa. 43:11; Acts 4:12).
|Acts 1:1-2: The
former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to
do and teach,
(2) Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.
|The "former treatise" is the
Gospel of Luke, the other book that Luke penned. The Gospel of Luke records
what Jesus was "doing and teaching" up until the time of His ascension into
heaven (Luke 24:51). It would be reasonable to think that Christ’s "doing
and teaching" on earth came to an end at the ascension, the ascension
marking the termination of His ministry on earth. But Acts 1:1 makes the
remarkable statement that Jesus’ public ministry as recorded in the Gospel
of Luke up to the time of the ascension was merely the BEGINNING of
His ministry on earth ("of all that Jesus began both to do and
teach, until the day He was taken up"). This leads us to the inescapable
conclusion that our Lord’s ministry on earth did not conclude at the time of
the ascension, but it continues on! In fact, the Book of Acts relates the
outworking of all that Jesus continued to do and teach!
The Lord Jesus, for the past 2000 years, has been working and teaching through His church, through His witnesses on earth. Even though He is in heaven, He continues His working and His teaching, the Lord "working with" His believers (see Mark 16:19-20).
In light of Acts 1:2-3 we can define the Great Commission as those commandments which the Lord gave to His disciples (apostles) after His resurrection and prior to His ascension.
|Acts 1:3: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.||During the 40 days following
the resurrection, the Lord appeared to His disciples at various times. Not
only did He prove the reality of His resurrection, but he was also teaching
them an important truth. When a parent plays "peekaboo" with an infant, they
are teaching the child that even though he cannot see Mommy and Daddy, they
are still there. If we may reverently say it, for 40 days the Lord was
playing a type of "peekaboo" with His disciples. He would appear and then
disappear. They would see Him, but then He would be gone. By His
intermittent resurrection appearances, the Lord was teaching them of His
abiding presence, "Lo, I am with you always (even when you do not see Me),
even unto the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).
During these 40 days the Lord also instructed His disciples regarding the kingdom of God. Israel’s promised kingdom was foremost on the minds of the disciples, as indicated by their question is Acts 1:6. They were very familiar with the numerous prophecies which spoke of God’s reign on earth and they were looking forward to the fulfillment of all of these promises. What they did not understand very well at this point was that God was about to inaugurate a new program which would involve both Jews and Gentiles united together in a unique organism. In time they would understand that God’s new program would involve 1) building His assembly (Matthew 16:18); 2) visiting the nations to call out of them a people for His Name (Acts 15:14); 3) adding to this body of believers daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47); 4) gradually bringing the full number of Gentiles into this new organism (Romans 11:25); 5) provoking unsaved Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:11-14), as they see the spiritual benefits that saved Gentiles have in contrast to the spiritual benefits that the Jews could and should have if they would but believe.
|Acts 1:4-5: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. (5) For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.||The promise of the Father (Lk.
24:49) is the oft repeated promise that Christ gave to the disciples that
the Father would send the Holy Spirit (John 14:17-18; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7).
Just as it’s impossible to drive a car without gas, so it is impossible to
do the work of God apart from the Spirit of God (Luke 24:49). Without Him we
can do nothing. Apart from Him all our efforts are in vain. The disciples
were instructed to wait for the Holy Spirit and they were told that the
coming of the Holy Spirit would not be many days after the ascension (in
fact, it would only be a ten day wait).
Jesus Christ would baptize them or immerse them with the Holy Spirit and this was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). It was then that these believers were placed into the body of Christ, God’s unique living organism. It was then that they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit (compare John 14:17) and given the dynamic power (Acts 1:8) to properly represent Christ in the world and continue His "doings and teachings."
When they therefore were come together, they asked of
him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to
Israel? (7): And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or
the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
|Again we see
that the disciples were anticipating the glorious Messianic kingdom spoken
of by all the prophets and eagerly longed for by every God-fearing Jew. To
the disciples it seemed like the time for this to happen might be now. The
Lord had paid sin’s penalty in full and had rose in victory from the dead.
What would hinder Him from now sitting on the throne of David and becoming
the earth’s King?
The Lord Jesus did not deny the reality of that coming kingdom (as amillennialists do), but He merely indicated it would not yet be revealed to the disciples when the time of that kingdom would be. He would indeed restore the kingdom to Israel, but not yet (contrary to the teachings of Progressive Dispensationalists and others who insist that Christ did establish the Messianic/Davidic kingdom in Acts 2). In the meantime, Christ is going to send forth His witnesses into the world.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost
is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and
in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
would be Spirit-empowered man and women. May we never forget that it is "Not
by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts"
(Zech. 4:6). Jesus described them as "witnesses unto Me" or "My
witnesses." Our job is to point to Jesus Christ, to preach Him, to
reflect Him, to honor Him, to magnify Him, to exalt Him, to glorify Him. He
is our message; He is our motive; His is our ministry; and He is our
mission. We represent Him in this world (2 Cor. 5:20) as He represents us in
heaven (Rom. 8:34). We don’t carry our own message, but His message (Matthew
28:20—"teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you").
We don’t bring our good news, but His good news (Mark 16:15). We are not to
herald our own message, but the message of the King! We don’t preach
ourselves but Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Cor. 4:5). "I am just a nobody
telling everybody about Somebody who can save anybody."
Under the Old Testament economy Jerusalem was the center-point; under the new economy Jerusalem is merely the starting point (compare Luke 24:47–"beginning in Jerusalem"). Here at our local assembly in Connecticut, we can think of it in this way: "Jerusalem" (our home base—Middletown); "Judaea" (our local area—Connecticut); "Samaria" (surrounding country—New England and The United States); "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (world-wide).
|The Middletown Bible Church
349 East Street
Middletown, CT 06457