Tag Archives: Great Commission

Study, Do, Teach

 

In Ezra 7:6-10 we are introduced to the man for whom this book is named, and its likely author, Ezra the scribe and priest (and prophet).  In this passage we read, “6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. 7 And there went up also to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants. 8 And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

Ezra, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the post-exilic time period, introduces himself after the reconstruction of the temple and its dedication.  He was sent by King Artaxerxes to Jerusalem with very specific instructions outlined in the remainder of this chapter, but largely he was to instruct the people in accordance with the law of God; reinstituting, as it were, the statutes and commands of the Lord.  But in order for Ezra to effectively perform the duty that was assigned him, he had to first know the law of the Lord and be obedient to it himself.  This we see explicitly stated in verse 10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”  This is the proper order for all those who desire to teach God’s Word to people, especially preachers and teachers, but inclusively of all believers.

Study

There is a natural resistance to studying.  Perhaps it is caused by a default towards laziness or disinterest, but overwhelmingly society as a whole seems to carry with it an attitude of opposition towards study.  This is particularly true in the Church, where study is perceived to be for theologians and pastors and those who are overachievers.  Studying the things of God is not for everyone else, those deep things are left for the professionals, or so the thought goes; the layman ought to read devotionally and stick to simplicity.  The argument even goes so far as to quote Deuteronomy 29:29 or Isaiah 55:8-9 as an apologetic against effort to discern and otherwise understand what God hath written in His Word.

That is not the attitude portrayed in this passage about Ezra.  His desire to study the things of God was from the heart.  Interestingly, the word disciple means learner.  The Gospels give us an in-depth account of the disciples of Christ, those who were called by Him to come sit at His feet and learn all that He has commanded.  In fact, the very “Great Commission” that Christ gave to the disciples (apostles) and has extended to the Church is a command to make disciples, i.e. learners.  Learning doesn’t come by osmosis, but by diligent study and in this case, of God’s Word.  How are we to know about the character of God unless we study His revelation of Himself?  How are we to embrace the majesty of the Son or realize the depravity of ourselves without study?  It simply isn’t enough to be satisfied with a superficial knowledge or understanding of God’s Word.  We need to plow, not rake.  And when we encounter a large root within the text of Scripture that we cannot easily plow through, then we are in greater need of the Spirit of God to illumine our path, not simply to give up and move on, but to grasp hold of God and wrestle Him as did Jacob for the blessing of understanding until He is delighted to reveal more of Himself to us.  The author of Hebrews offers the following exhortation,

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

By implication, the author here through the Holy Spirit is conveying dissatisfaction towards those who should have progressed in their study of God’s Word to the point of teaching others.  But instead, he compares them to spiritual babes suckling on the bottle of the Word, rather than ingesting the meat of God’s Word.  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV  We are called to Study.

Do   

James 1:22-25 offers the classic warning towards those who would be hearers of the Word only

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

There is a call on the believer’s life to apply those things which he or she has studied.  Those who don’t can wear proudly the badge of hypocrite.  For the disciple of Christ, doing, or better obeying, should be a natural outcome of studying.  This is the great duty of the Christian life.  At some point, we’ve become so paralyzed by the thought of legalism that anything resembling effort on the part of the Spirit-filled believer is neglected.  We need often to be reminded that we are called to do the things of Scripture, to obey the commands of God.  These are action words, not passive.  Paul writes:

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” Romans 6:12

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Romans 6:13

“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice” Romans 12:1

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” Romans 12:2

“Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Romans 12:9

Love, outdo, Do not be slothful, Rejoice, Contribute, Bless, Live in harmony. (Summarizing Romans 12)

“Run the race with endurance” Hebrews 12:1 (1 Cor. 9:24, 26; Phil. 2:16; Gal. 2:2; 5:7)

“Fight” 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7

The two verses below especially highlight the effort of the believer and the power of God to bring about obedience:

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Phil. 2:12

Obedience for the believer is not legalism and it’s also not optional, lest we drown in licentiousness.  Clear consistent thinking on this issue will go a long way to avoid antinomianism, legalism, and other forms of Roman Catholic justification by works.  We are bondservants to Christ, literally slaves.  That requires doing what we are commanded to do.  Any objection or resistance to obeying the commandments of God is at its heart, sin.  “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:19 We are called to Do.

Teach

Christ in His commission to His Church, as given first to the disciples, states clearly that we are to “teach them [those who have been made disciples] to observe [obey] all that I have commanded you.”  Here we see the relationship between Christ the Master Teacher and His disciples, whom He has taught to obey.  Again, their is a connection between study and obedience.  Study and Do.  But there is a shift here among the disciples from being “learners”, i.e. disciples, to being “apostles”, i.e. sent ones.  This is because a fundamental purpose for all disciples of Christ is to teach others all that He has commanded.  In a sense, we are like Christ’s first disciples learning from Him (Hebrews 1:2), obeying His commands (John 14:15), and being sent to teach others (Matthew 28:19).

Just as there is sometimes confusion with study and with obedience, similarly there is confusion with teaching.  Yes, God has ordained an office of preacher/teacher (I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11) and yes God has gifted some to teach (Romans 12:7), but in a generic sense teaching is not restricted to certain people, but as is made clear in the Great Commission it is an expected duty by all who would call themselves disciples of Christ.  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16  We are called to Teach.

Study, Do, and Teach.  The Word of God is central in its function for each of those duties.  It’s not a complicated formula.  It doesn’t require grand programs or budgets.  It’s simple and for good reason, so that we may rely solely on the power of the Holy Spirit and the sufficiency of God’s Word.  This is  the pattern for faithful discipleship, both for making and for being.

The Sinners Conversion: The Gospel Call

In the last post, we briefly examined God’s sovereignty in salvation.  This is quite a difficult subject, one that deserves more attention and space than I was able to devote in that post, but at the end of the day when we’ve searched the Scriptures for ourselves whether it’s something we like or hate, we must ask is it what God’s Word reveals?  As we examined, Scripture is not silent on this, but I want to make two statements regarding that post before we move into todays.  First, God’s plan of redemption is simply that, His plan (Ephesians 1:3-14).  This isn’t something that’s revealed outside of Scripture and it’s not man’s attempt to know the mind of God.  It is what the Bible teaches us about God’s character so that we may know Him, fear Him, and love Him.  Secondly, as men with finite minds we can know neither those who are chosen, nor those who are not.  That knowledge is reserved for God and God alone.  As we read in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  Since it’s not for us to know, we cannot walk through life pretending that we know who the elect of God are nor can we lazily and disobediently say it’s God’s Gospel, let Him take it where He will and do what He wants.  No doubt those who are saved have been saved by God’s gracious and merciful hand and those who are unbelievers, are so until the Holy Spirit draws them.  But as we’ll see today, this is why evangelism and preaching the Gospel is so important, so vital to the lost.  While, yes, this series is a look at how God is working His plan, we must similarly look at man’s involvement.  What role, if any, do we play?  If it is God’s sovereign choice, do we have any responsibility either in working the plan or responding to it?  That will be our focus for today.

Initially at the end of yesterday’s post, I mentioned we would be moving to part 2 of this series, Regeneration, but I mistakenly left out this post on the Gospel Call.  Before we look at the work of the Holy Spirit in our Ezekiel passage, we must ask what the Bible, specifically the New Testament, teaches on how God involves man in His plan of redemption. 

In Romans 10:13-14 we read:

13 For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” 

In this passage from the Apostle Paul we see that 1) It is necessary for the sinner to “call on the name of the Lord” for salvation, which we’ll define later and 2) Preaching is the necessary instrument which God has chosen for man to reveal His Son to other men.  Remember above that I stressed the importance of evangelism and preaching?  This is one reason why.  Paul, who is right in the middle of his doctrinal statement on the sovereignty of God in salvation, as we read in Romans chapter 9, strongly emphasizes here that it is absolutely necessary that everyone hear the Word of God preached in order to be saved.  Think about what that says about missionary work, think of the responsibility that places on each one of us to share the Gospel with not only strangers, but co-workers, friends, and family.  “And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” 

Some might be asking, if God has already “chosen” then why this silliness of preaching?  Why not just save or damn everyone and get it over with?  The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:21 NKJV, “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”  It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.  Why?  Because it gives God great pleasure and glorifies Him when He sees His creation preaching and teaching His Gospel message.  For God’s good pleasure and for His glory is why there have been martyrs for the Gospel throughout history.  It’s why prophets like Jeremiah were thrown in a pit and others like John the Baptist were beheaded.  It’s why, as we learned in Justin’s post Ashamed of the Gospel, that of the apostles only John was not martyred, yet he was boiled alive and exiled to the island of Patmos.  It was for the preaching of the Gospel that the Apostle Paul himself, who as we’ve read embraced and taught the sovereignty of God in salvation, faced “imprisonments…countless beatings…often near death…five times [he] received…forty lashes less one…three times beaten with rods…once stoned…three times shipwrecked.”  Facing dangers from “rivers, robbers, [his] own people, Gentiles” danger in the “city, wilderness, sea, from false brothers, in toil and hardship, through many sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”  2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Why did he go through all of this?  In his own words, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” 2 Timothy 2:10 Paul realized it was God’s plan.  He neither knew who the elect were nor cared, but preached the Gospel indiscriminately to all and we should do the same.

Do you think any of these men doubted God’s sovereignty?  Do you think that any of them thought, ‘hey this is your plan God, why don’t you just save them all?’  No dear friends, they willingly suffered and died (and many still do today!) for the Gospel so that their Lord might be pleased and glorified to see His creation take His plan to the ends of the earth.  The folly of preaching you say?  For the glory of God I answer.   

When faithful men stand up and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is known as the general Gospel call.  We can see the delineation between this Gospel call and the chosen of God at the conclusion of the Wedding Feast parable in Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  Through God’s common grace and love for His creation, that Gospel call has gone out to the entire world.  Similarly, in Matthew 13:47-50 we read of this same call in Jesus’ Parable of the Net.

47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The net here is the Gospel.  It’s cast out into the sea which is the world.  So we have the Gospel, by way of the preacher (some would argue its implied in this passage), being spread like a net into the whole world.  In verse 48 Jesus says, “when it was full” meaning at the close of this age (vs. 49) at a time when the Gospel is no longer going out, it’s net is drawn back in and all that’s been caught in the net will be sorted, the good from bad, the righteous from the evil.  Dear friends, this is the Gospel.  It goes out, yet not everyone who has been exposed to it, who is caught in its net, is saved.  Those who aren’t saved are thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The call goes out to all, but few are saved.  How is it that one person hears and believes and the person next to them hears and doesn’t believe?  Is it because one is better or smarter or more theologically adept than the other?

In Romans 10:17 we read, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  So we can conclude from our earlier passages and here that faith is necessary for the sinner to believe in Christ and faith is something that comes through hearing the Word of God preached, also known as the ‘external call’ or ‘general gospel call’.  If, as we concluded, faith comes by hearing the Word preached, then obviously it comes from an external source and is somehow applied internally to the heart.  Yet two people hear the same message, the net is cast to both, still one believes and one doesn’t.  There must be some additional action taking place that resolves this issue. 

Our focus so far has been on man’s responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and we’ll continue to focus on man’s response in this series, but we must pause to look at how God’s sovereign plan is connected to man, via the Gospel.  In John 1:12-13, we get a look at both the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God.   “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  Again, faith, or believing, is required, which as we just read comes from hearing the Word.  But notice in verse 13 that those who believe are not those born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but are born of God.  Remember in John 3, a passage familiar to us from the post The Sinner’s Prayer, Jesus is speaking to Nicodemas in the context of being born again by the Holy Spirit.  He likens this rebirth of the Spirit to the wind, it “blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” John 3:8  Faith is necessary and being born of the Spirit is necessary, but which comes first?  Does faith trigger rebirth or does being born again instill faith?  This is where we will pick this series up next, if the Lord so wills, with The Sinner’s Conversion: Regeneration.

Video – The Great Commission: Social Work, Political Action, or Evangelism?

Last week in a book review of Radical, I made a statement that author David Platt perhaps had an “overemphasis” on the ‘Great Commission’ and because of that he should have developed his idea further, giving readers direction and guidance on how to proceed in this biblical mandate.  A point of clarification: in stating this as an example of ‘Great Commission’ overemphasis what I meant was that it seems a common practice these days among evangelicals to latch on to a verse in order to form support for a movement, mission, agenda, etc.  This is often done to the neglect of the remainder of the Bible and as such tilts the scales in living a biblically balanced life.  The ‘Great Commission’ is such an example because it is often used as a platform to promote missional agendas, social work, or political action, as we looked at yesterday in “Is Social Justice Biblical?”, and doing so can actually cause us to miss the passages meaning entirely.

In this brief video, Pastor John MacArthur provides a clear answer as to what the ‘Great Commission’ (Matthew 28:16-20) is about and how we as Christians are to implement it.