Hello and welcome to season 3 episode 3 of The Berean Manifesto; 10 minutes or so a week of faith, hope, and love for the modern Christian.  I’m Pastor Bill of The Ekklesian House and in this installment we are going to take a look at the great commission.

In Matthew 28:18b-20 CSB Jesus lays out what’s called the great commission.  He gives instructions to the disciples (minus Judas of course) before he ascends into heaven, “[18b] All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  [19] Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  And this is what Christianity has done since, for the most part.  Recently we’ve seen more converting than discipling, but awareness of this departure is growing.

As far as baptizing, Luke addresses this in the first chapter of Acts when he recalls Jesus words to the eleven disciples at their dinner before the ascension.  Acts 1:4-8 CSB, “[4] While (Jesus) was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise.  ‘Which,’ he said, ‘you have heard me speak about; [5] for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.’ [6] So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?’ [7] He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. [8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”  Before they could go out and baptize others in the baptism of Jesus they would first have to wait to be baptized into it themselves.

Then in Acts 26:17b-18 CSB Jesus comes upon Saul suddenly on the road to Damascus and says, “[17b] I am sending you to (the Gentiles) [18] to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”  However, Saul doesn’t jump straight into ministry.  He spends the next eighteen years serving in the church being discipled, helping lead the church, and rebranding himself as Paul.  (A name he already had, but wasn’t well known by.)

We’ve taken a fair amount of time over the years to emphasize and re-emphasize what we consider the right and wrong ways to approach ministry.  In 2 Timothy 2:22-26 CSB Paul writes, “[22] Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. [23] But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, because you know that they breed quarrels. [24] The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, [25] instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. [26] Then they may come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

This passage is a good scriptural indicator of how we should be doing ministry.  In verse 22 Paul turns Timothy’s gaze on himself, “Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”  It is instinct to try and do something before you’re prepared.  That’s how babies learn, and it’s not until we’re older that we value preparation over jumping straight into failure over and over until we learn.  There is something to be said though about not fearing failure and allowing it to sharpen us for the future.  Paul tells Timothy that you have to get yourself in order and in line before you step into ministry to others.  For Paul, this time of introspection and preparation was eighteen years.  Timothy had little to no time at all before he stepped into ministry.  For you it may be longer than Paul or more like Timothy, but you must deal with yourself first.

Paul then warns Timothy to avoid arguing with other believers and those you’re trying to minister to.  He writes, “But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, because you know that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.”  This is why we encourage friendship evangelism and discipleship over standing on street corners with a bull horn.  Approaching ministry from a stance of confrontation leads to ignorant disputes and quarreling.  A minister of the Gospel, which is what Christians are, must walk in love; be gentle and patient.  You may make a few converts along the way with your bull horn, but we aren’t called to make converts.  We are called to make disciples.

Paul then goes on to tell us why we deal with others in patience and gentleness instead of confrontation.   He says, “Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. Then they may come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”  We aren’t called to wage war against enemies who need to be convinced to defect to our side.  We’re called to rescue victims who have been taken captive by the devil.

To put this calling another way we can turn to Luke 4:17-19 CSB, “[17] The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to (Jesus), and unrolling the scroll he found the place where it was written: [18] The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, [19] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  This was a prophecy about Jesus from the book of Isaiah and laid out what Jesus’ ministry would be.  We Christians, as ambassadors of Christ, carry this same calling.

The great commission is for us to go into all the world preaching the good news to the poor, proclaiming release to those taken captive by the devil.  To remove the blinders off those bent to the devils will and set them free from their oppression.  To disciple them with patience and gentleness leading them to faith in Christ and baptizing them in the Holy Spirit.

This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”

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