Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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The Spirit, the Church, and the Great Commission

June 6th, 2010 · No Comments

In this message we deal with the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19. The Greek text reads: “Therefore, going, make disciples in all nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you”. In the syntax of this commission, there are three participles, and one imperative. The imperative is “make disciples in all nations”, which defines our chief objective. The participles “going, baptizing, teaching” define the means by which we achieve that objective.

Going implies “sending”, which is absolutely fundamental to our labor in the gospel (Matthew 9:35-38; Romans 10:14-17; Acts 13:1-4). When God sends He provides an “open door” to do the work (1 Corinthians:8-9; Colossians 4:2-4; Revelation 3:7-8).

Baptizing points to an initiation-conversion process in which we lead people into a true conversion that involves both repentance and faith, with baptism functioning as the public witness that this initiation-conversion process has come to definitive culmination, so that one is now incorporated into Christ and (not insignificantly) the Body of Christ, to live in the redemptive reality of the New Covenant.

Teaching is the means by which we bring converts into mature discipleship. This is not just about rote catechism. This involves rather learning “the Way” that pleases God, to walk worthy of the calling with which we are called.

Why is this teaching dimension so necessary? First because it is the pattern followed by the early church (Acts 2:42) and causes us to become “rooted” in Christ, so that having received Him as Lord we may also be built up in and walk in Him (Colossians 2:6-7). On another level it is necessary because we must “guard the gates’ from wolves and false teachers who will not spare the flock. This has much to do with them being not only false teachers, but lovers of self, and lovers of money. Several texts are cited to show how much this danger lurks all about us (Acts 20:28-32; 1 Timothy 4:1-6; 6:5-10; 2 Timothy 3:1-4:5; Jude 3-4).

With respect to the work of the Spirit, we look at several passages throughout the Gospel of John. Jesus made clear that with His glorification the Spirit would be given to those who believe in Him (in the Gospel of John this is never nominal faith, but always signifies true followers of Jesus), with the result being that “out of their innermost being would flow rivers of living waters” (John 7:37-39). The Spirit comes to be “with us” and “in us”, a promise of personal and collective indwelling of the Spirit (14:17).  Jesus tells the disciples that it is actually to their advantage that He goes back to the Father, because He then would give the Spirit, Who comes to do a mighty work: 1) of conviction in the world (16:7-12), 2) of revelation in the Church (16:13-15), and 3) of bearing witness to Jesus through the disciples (15:26-27).

This study challenges those who are sincere believers: 1) to examine themselves by the measure of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 16:24-27; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26); 2) to commit themselves to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in accordance with the gifts bestowed upon them by God (Romans 12:1-8; 1 Peter 4:7-11); 3) to seek for a fresh endowment of the Spirit in accordance with Jesus’ promise in John 7:37-39).

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