The Four Missional Mandates!

Posted on 02/20/2007

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Four Missional Mandates  

The gospel-mission of Christ’s people was clearly made known as seen in some of the final words of our Lord.  Before the Lord Jesus ascended to be with the Father, He gave clear and consistent direction to His followers that they were to continue His mission of redemption by proclaiming the gospel to the world.  The ultimate object of every church should be to come to an understanding from the Scriptures of Christ’s instructions concerning its purpose and mission.  The will of our Lord concerning the mission of His people can clearly be seen in the following 4 missional mandates.[1] 

 

MATTHEW 28.18-20. 

            This passage of course, is known as “The Great Commission.”  Christ clearly reveals here that it is His desire and command for His followers to continue His mission in the world.  Coleman points out that, “On a mountain in Galilee He gave His great commission to, not only the eleven disciples (Matthew 28.16), but also to the whole church numbering then about 500 brethren (1 Corinthians 15.6).[2]:

 

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.  (Matthew 28.18-20)

            From this passage we are able to discern an important aspect of what it means to be engaged in Christ’s mission.  At the heart of this “commission” is the imperative commandment to “make disciples.”  This task is the main emphasis of this passage.  The formation of disciples in all nations is the will of Christ.  Mission here is “making disciples.”[3] I will address this task of the mission of the church in greater detail later. 

From examining the book of Acts, it is clear that the early church set out to fulfill the commands that are included in this charge.  In the story of the first church we see people being baptized and subsequently being taught the doctrines of the Christian faith (Acts 2.41-42).  We also see the expansion of the Gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles and from Jerusalem to the outer reaches of the known world.  As the church made disciples who in turn made disciples, the known world was being penetrated with the gospel, (Acts 17.6).  Certainly the early church understood its mission in the world.

 

LUKE 24.46-49

            In this passage we are told that just before the ascension, Jesus gave the disciples further direction concerning what their ministry would be composed of:

Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And you are witnesses of these things.  Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.  (John 24.46-49)

Luke provides for us another aspect of the mission.  In this passage the mission is the proclamation of what is in essence the gospel.  We are given the mission to proclaim or literally “to preach.”[4]  The verb “be preached” is the Greek kerrusso.  It has the meaning of one who proclaims like a herald.  The disciples were to be Christ’s official heralds of the gospel to the ends of the earth.[5] 

 We are also given the content of that message: Christ suffered and rose from the dead so we must respond with repentance for the remission of sin.  It is significant that our proclamation should be done, “in His name.”  This will be a major them in Acts.  “In His name,” in the Old Testament indicated Yahweh’s authority.  Authority has now been transferred to Christ Jesus.[6]  By that authority His church is sent out. 

 It is clear that this command was fulfilled in the ministry of the first disciples, for in the first documented proclamation of the first church we see Peter proclaiming, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 2.38).  Christ certainly gave the church a gospel-mission and the first disciples clearly accepted it.  This is the same mission that should not be a part of a churches ministry but at the heart of its ministry. 

 

JOHN 20.21

            Each of the previous mandates revealed that Christ’s will is for the church to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel to all people.  This gospel was to be a proclamation of repentance, forgiveness, and the remission of sin in the name of Jesus.   In John’s gospel we are able to understand a different but extremely important nuance concerning the nature of the mission of the church.  It is here that Christ is recorded as saying:

“Peace be with you.”  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you!  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20.19-21)

            Jesus reminded them that He came to the world as a “sent” one.  The term the Lord uses is the word commonly translated “apostle” and literally means messenger.  Christ was sent as the official apostle/messenger of God the father.  Now Christ through this commission is drawing his followers into the unity and mission of the Father and of the Son.[7]   Here mission is clearly seen as “being sent out.”

Jesus lived in the world as one who was on a mission.  As a “sent” one, Jesus came to fulfill the Father’s will.  Jesus spoke the Father’s words.  Jesus lived among people so that He could teach and reach them.  Now Christ instructs His disciples that just as He was “sent” by the Father that they also must understand and recognize that they are being “sent.”  The followers of Jesus have clearly received the responsibility of continuing the gospel-mission and ministry of Christ Jesus in this world.

            It is important for the modern church to understand that they are to dwell in their communities as “sent” ones.  Often the established church begins to view itself as being a sending body.  When this happens there is a danger that the church becomes disconnected from its own mission in its own community.  If the church is going to effectively reach their communities for Christ, it is important that they maintain as their corporate identity that they are missionaries to their community.  Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit is still sending them to reach their neighbors for Jesus. 

 

ACTS 1.8

            The fourth missional mandate for the church is found in the opening verses of the book of Acts.  It is the key verse in understanding the expansion, growth, and power of the church as chronicled in the rest of the book of Acts.  Here Jesus declares:

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.   (Acts 1.8)

            We see here the same reference to the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Luke and John.  In this passage, the Lord makes it clear that the Holy Spirit was going to give His disciples power to be witnesses and missionaries even to “the end of the earth.”  The Lord specifically called the disciples “my witnesses.”  The word is martures of which we get our word martyrs.[8]  In a literal usage it means to simply be an eyewitness.   For each of these men and countless disciples to follow, the name took on a new meaning as so many of Christ’s followers would maintain their “witness” even unto death.

 The theological truth found in this passage is that not only is the triune God sending the church into the world to be on a gospel-mission, but that this same God would by the presence of the Holy Spirit,  be with them and empower them in carrying out this great task.  “The disciples were to be the true, ‘restored’ Israel, fulfilling its mission to be a ‘light for the Gentiles’ so that God’s salvation might reach ‘to the ends of the earth’” (Isaiah 49.6).[9]  Mission in Acts is being a witness of the gospel. 

            So we see a clear and consistent record of Christ giving missional mandates to His followers.  From these verses at least 4 aspects of what it means to be on mission can be discerned:

1.      Mission is making disciples of all nations (Matthew).

2.      Mission is proclaiming—making known the gospel (Luke).

3.      Mission is being sent out (John).

4.      Mission is being a physical witness of the Lord Jesus (Acts). [10]

Christ left His followers with the task of continuing the mission that was given to Him by our Heavenly Father.  Christ’s mission was to make possible, by His substitutionary death for sin, and His glorious resurrection, the redemption of a people for the glory of God.  The preeminent mission of the church is to embrace Christ’s mission and work to see, as the first Moravian missionaries would say, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”[11]  Every church has as its primary mission the task of taking the gospel to their world; to understand that they have been sent on a gospel mission!                                                                                                                            

When I played football in high school I understood that the purpose of our team was to play and win games each Friday night.  Every member of the team knew that the team existed to play and win games.  As a member of the team, there was no question or doubt in my mind that everything that we did as a team revolved around playing and winning games.  Without games the hours of learning, memorizing, and practicing plays would have been senseless activity.  Without the game the countless hours of off-season, physical conditioning and weight lifting would have been good for nothing more than personal edification.  The games that were played each Friday, on those fall nights, gave purpose and meaning to all our activities as a team.

Every church needs to have a clear understanding and a full acceptance of what is their “game.” The “game” for the church is the fulfillment of these missional mandates that have been given by Christ Jesus our Lord.  Furthermore each disciple must be led to understand and accept that because they are a member of the church that they too are to live as “sent ones;” on mission to reach people with the gospel. 


[1] Stetzer &Putman, Breaking the Missional Code, 30

.

[2] Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1987) 91. 

[3] Johannes Nissen, New Testament and
Mission: Historical and Hermeneutical Perspectives,
(Frankfort: Peter Lang, 1996), 22.

[4] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, 1939.   [5] Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 58.   [6] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, 1939.[7] Andreas J. Kostenberger, John: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, (
Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 573. 

[8] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Nashville: Sunday School Board of the SBC, 1930), 10.  

[9] John B. Polhill, The New American Commentary: Acts, (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 85.  

[10] Johannes Nissen, New Testament and
Mission,
18.

[11] John Piper, http://www.soundofgrace.com/piper89/05-07-89.htm

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