The Great Assumption

I’m going to share with you something of my heart right up front. This article is most likely going to be severely misunderstood and greatly misinterpreted. It’s definitely not going to make me very popular. And yet I strongly feel that it must be stated in order to break a mindset that has held believers in bondage for the last hundred and fifty years. It’s my opinion and I have a right to share it, though many might disagree.

“But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up 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 the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Matt. 28:16–20.

This passage of scripture, along with Mark 16:14-15 and Acts 1:1-2 is commonly referred to by evangelical Christians as “The Great Commission.” First of all, let me say that I believe that these words were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ to the apostles before he left this earth. Whether you call it a commandment or a commission or whatever, the point is that he spoke these words to eleven men. But I have two questions regarding this:

1. Was he commissioning eleven men or was he commissioning all believers for all places and all times?
2. Was this “commission” a stand alone statement or was it the beginning of a fulfillment of a much larger plan and mission of God?

In an attempt to break free from some of the moorings of the evangelical mindset that we all have, we will “search the scriptures to see if these things are so.”

The Great Sending

To answer the first question I must first of all say that I believe in evangelism. That is, I believe that the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ must be declared in all the world so that people will receive Christ and follow Him.

This “gospel” is not an ‘it’ or a ‘thing’ – but rather, a Person. It is the Lord Jesus Christ himself who must be preached to all the world (see Col. 1:27 – 29; Eph. 3:8; Gal. 1:15, 16; I Cor. 2:2). In the letter to the Colossians Paul describes an awesome, glorious, eternal, all-sufficient Christ in chapter one. Then, at the end of the chapter he tells us the mystery hidden from the ages which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (verse 27). Then, in verse 28, he tells us that this Christ is the one whom he announced. This glorious Christ who is described in verses 12 through 20 is the same Christ who lives in us and is the same Christ who is Paul’s gospel! So I believe in this gospel going out into all the earth.

But in Matthew 28: 16 – 20 was Jesus commissioning or sending eleven men or was he sending all Christians for all time? Christians from the Reformation through the nineteenth century believed that it was the former. It has only been since the end of the nineteenth century that Christians have believed that this “commission” was for all believers.

The evangelical theology that we have today was, for the most part, formulated towards the end of what was called the Second Great Awakening in England and America under the influence of men like Charles Finney, Peter Cartwright, J.R. Mott, and D.L. Moody.

It just makes much more contextual sense that Jesus was sending those eleven men rather than all Christians for all time. These men were apostles. The word apostle (apostolos) means “sent-one” in the original language. These men were being sent into all the world because Christ had called then to this work. But Paul tells us that all are not apostles (sent-ones). Only some are called to be sent-ones (See I Cor. 12:28 – 31). And these eleven men were definitely called to be “sent-ones” and did end up going into all the then known world to preach this glorious Christ.

From my understanding of scripture it seems that we are all called to testify as witnesses but we are not all called to be sent.

Regrettably, this Great commission doctrine has been used as a tool to hammer Christians into “gospel service” by the use of guilt. Many evangelical leaders use this doctrine to make believers feel that they are disobeying God and are second class citizens of the Kingdom of God if they aren’t out there “witnessing” to the lost on a daily basis. What a bunch of garbage! What a tragedy this is!

The Commission as Part of God’s Ageless Purpose

This brings us down to the question of the contest for the “commission” statement Jesus gave to the eleven apostles. Was this a stand alone command that was isolated and disconnected from God’s grand design and eternal mission?

Many use the “great Commission” doctrine to formulate a mandate for God’s mission. They say that the whole purpose of God and the Church is to save souls. Your purpose as a Christian is to lead others to Christ. That’s why you are here. That’s why the Church is here. But here again, the only context for this idea comes from late nineteenth century revivalism and the evangelical movement. It does not come from the scriptures.

The true “Great Commission” is founded upon something that Paul calls the eternal purpose of God (See Ephesians chapters 1 and 3). Notice that this purpose is eternal. It was in the heart of God before creation. This means that the purpose is before the garden and before the fall of man. So it has nothing to do with the saving of souls. In fact, it has nothing to do with human needs at all! But it has everything to do with God’s heart desire and passion. There was something in his heart that motivated him to create. We can see it in the very beginning, before there was sin.

“Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth . . .”

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Gen. 1:26 – 28

From this passage we can see that God wanted three things:

• An image or representation of himself
• This image (or expression) would exercise God’s authority on the earth
• The image would be fruitful and multiply

We could call this the “adamic commission.” And it reveals much of what God had in His heart for man. We also can see this “commission” repeated over and over again throughout the story.

He gave the same commission to Noah (Gen 9:1 – 11). He repeated the commission again to Abraham (Gen. 17: 1 – 8). And then again to Jacob (Gen. 28: 13 – 15). The themes involved in this covenant/commission are that:

• God wants a people (a corporate entity) or image
• He wants these people to rule in the earth
• He wants these people to multiply and to take the land (inheritance)

Does this sound familiar? But what is this idea of the land (or inheritance) all about? For Israel the inheritance was the Canaan land, a land flowing with many riches. But that is only a picture of the eternal inheritance (Heb. 2:15). There is now a new covenant which has fulfilled the old (Heb. 8). There is also a new “Israel” which has fulfilled the old (Gal. 3:23 – 29). The eternal inheritance is Christ himself! He is our land flowing with milk and honey. He is our portion!

The Purpose Remains

Jesus sent out eleven men to proclaim him to all the world. He told them to make disciples. But before that, he showed them how to make disciples for three years. He showed them by making them disciples! And how did he do this?

• He lived a life that was in, through, by, and for His Father. He lived his life by the life of his Father (John 6:57).
• He lived his life as the definition, explanation, and expression of the Father (John 1:18; Col. 1:15). In other words he lived as the incarnate Word, the very image of God.
• He came with God’s authority and took dominion over the creeping things and the effects of the fall and the world system.
• He was fruitful and multiplied. In John 12:24 we see that the one grain of wheat fell into the ground and produced many grains (the resurrection). The result was a people (nation) for God who could live as the embodiment of his eternal purpose.

In other words, he made disciples by fulfilling God’s eternal purpose to have an image (expression) that represents his authority and is fruitful. Then he sent those eleven men to go and do likewise. They would have to go through the same things that he went through, including dying to themselves, being misunderstood, persecuted, and rejected.

But the end result would be what we see in Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. The end result would be a city (people/nation) who would be filled with the life of God and would be his image in the earth. The city always represents authority or government in the scriptures. The New Jerusalem is a metaphor to show the fulfillment of God’s purpose.

Leading people to the Lord is a means to God’s end. He doesn’t just want living stones lying around the landscape. He wants a house, a city, a dwelling place where he can express himself, rule, and multiply his life.

As the Church, this is our commission. Only some are sent out, but we all live the life of Christ and express who he is as a city set on a hill.

Author: Milt Rodriguez

Milt is an author, speaker, and organic church planter.

43 thoughts on “The Great Assumption”

  1. Milt, your posts just get better and better, brother. As you predicted, this message will be a very difficult one to accept. Not only does this fly in the face of popular interpretation… it simply does not fit the institutional practice of Church. Nevertheless, if a person is willing to open themselves up to Christ and the church according to the New Testament pattern, recognizing the ongoing role of apostle (worker), it makes all the sense in the world.

    Only the Lord can reveal His way of calling us out to be built into a spiritual house. May the Lord help us to see that the church is built upon Christ and God’s eternal purpose. Out of this passion will come everything that is good and pleasing to the Lord.

    In this, I am knowing a fresh reading of the New Testament. God’s “building program” doesn’t include brick and mortar, nor does it involve “converted souls” scattered throughout the earth… but living stones being built together as new communities in every place that man calls his home. We were created for community! The Lord has inaugurated the new age to come in the midst of this present evil age. What a plan!

    Thank you for being obedient to the vision the Lord has given you.

  2. Milt,

    I am not angry with you, I agree, and read these particular scriptures in the same light.

    One step further on the “evangelism” piece of the puzzle. For a long, long time Christians have made “evangelism” a one way street. They project themselves to be God’s brokers to bring Christ to the world. Their role was to bring God to places where there is no God. This approach has put Christians in a posture of superiority. If Christians built relationships with the other (be it a next door neighbor or someone from a far off country) it was ONLY to learn their ways SO AS TO get a chance and a way to present their God.

    Is see it as a communal thing where I feel evangelism should be deined as …

    “We don’t bring Christ to the other, but find Christ in the other.”

    … in other words, love one another by letting Christ work through you, not by trying to act as Christ yourself to give to others.

    Does that make sense? Thoughts?

    Brian

  3. Shalom Milt,

    Well put and worthy of consideration and application in our lives.

    Another interesting facet of this subject is the fact that “disciple” is only used in the Gospels and Acts.

    In the Epistles, believers are called:
    A holy nation 1 Pe 2:9
    Abraham’s seed Gal 3:29
    A peculiar people 1 Pe 2:9
    Brothers and sisters of Jesus Heb 2:11
    Children of God Ro 8:16
    Chosen generation 1 Pe 2:9
    Elect Eph 1:4: Col 3:12
    Fellow citizens Eph 2:19
    Firstborn Heb 12:23
    Heirs according to the hope of eternal life Tit 3:7
    Heirs of God Ro 8:17
    Heirs of salvation Heb 1:14
    Heirs of the kingdom Jas 2:5
    His workmanship Eph 2:10
    Holy priesthood 1 Pe 2:5
    Joint-heirs with Christ Ro 8:17
    Lights in the world Phil 2:15
    Lively Stones 1 Pe 2:5
    Members of Christ 1 Cor 11:26; Eph 5:30
    New creatures 2 Cor 5:7
    Newborn Babes 1 Pe 2:2
    Obedient Children 1 Pe 1:14
    Partakers of Christ’s sufferings 1 Pe 4:13
    Partakers of one bread 1 Cor 10:17
    Partakers of the divine nature 2 Pe 1:4
    Partakers of the heavenly calling Heb 3:1
    Partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light Col 1:12
    Priests Heb 10:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5-9
    Royal priesthood 1 Pe 2:9
    Runners in a race
    Saints Ro 1:7
    Servant of the Lord 2 Tim 2:24
    Servants of righteousness Ro 6:18
    Sons of God Ro 8:14
    Strangers and pilgrims 1 Pe 2:11
    The people of God 1 Pe 2:10
    The righteous Ro 5:19
    They that are after the Spirit Ro 8:5
    Vessel unto honour 2 Tim 2:19
    Vessels of gold and silver 2 Tim 2:20
    Ye are Christ’s 1 Cor 3:23

    On my blog, I have articles representing both persuasions.

  4. Brian,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think I understand what you are saying. And that brings us to the “Christ in you” message. I agree, we are not here to “preach” anything to our neighbors but to let Christ live through us (Gal. 2:20). I believe that is what a “witness” is.

  5. Hi, Milt

    I really like this, and the comments are a treasure trove as well.

    For a long time I’ve wondered whether Jesus didn’t make that statement only to the 11. It’s so easy to take things out of context. And usually the context isn’t just a few verses before and after. Often it’s the situation, the whole letter/book, the people to whom it’s said, etc. Context is a lot bigger than most of us have made it.

    So we take every statement as though spoken directly to us. That’s a little bit arrogant, isn’t it? (I say this with a self-deprecating smirk, since I’m so prone to doing this.) 😉

    I reposted this to our church site so everyone could have a chance to read it. You should hop over there and see Mylie’s comment on it. She’s funny.

    Love, Cindy

  6. Milt, outstanding viewpoint here! After reading through your post again, I was reminded of a verse in Acts 2:47 “…and the Lord added to the church from day to day those who were being saved.” Of note is the fact that the Lord was the one given credit for “adding” to the church. And taken in context of the preceding verses, the reason they were “being added” was a result of the daily, ongoing fellowship in community shared by these newfound believers (and apparently, not from any “witnessing” outreaches).
    – By contrast, when a “sent one” like Peter opened his mouth on Pentecost, a massive catch of fish ensued. A much different result, from one truly commissioned by Jesus as an apostle, with a notedly differing type of “voice” to the lost. (the listeners were instantly “cut to the quick”)
    – I’ve read that passage my whole adult life, but never seen the contrast till you “sparked” some thoughts. An apostle is gifted with faculties and an anointing that must by nature bring about a different type (not better or worse) of result than the ongoing community life of the believers did. Good stuff, brother!

  7. Shalom Milt,

    I was considering all of this and thought of Paul to Titus and his instruction as to how believers were to live. Not one word about making disciples but many urging godly life.

    Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine.

    2 Bid the older men [presbytēs] be temperate, serious, sensible, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

    3 Bid the older women [presbytis] likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good,

    4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited.

    6 Likewise urge the younger men to control themselves.

    7 Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us. 9 Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to be refractory, 10 nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. 11 For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, 12 training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, 13 awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. 15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (RSV)

  8. Milt, this is fantastic. You just confirmed something I have felt for years but never heard anyone else teach on. The great commission was Jesus sending the 12 not every single christian. There is only one context in which the Great Commission has Gods stamp of approval and that’s the eternal purpose. Thanks for strengthening my faith and giving me more courage to believe what I do.

  9. Milt —

    Loved this article and plan to share it with as many as I can. I do have one question though.

    The “Great Commission” ends with the following statement: “…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    If Jesus commanded the apostles to go into all the world, and they were to, in turn, teach others to obey all that Jesus had commanded them, why would the command to go into all the world not also be included?

    Thanks in advance, and thanks for the article.

  10. Hi Shane,

    Actually I have heard that question before and the question itself reveals a gross misunderstanding of what Jesus Christ came to accomplish.

    Jesus did not come to institute a new law. He is not the “new Moses” who came to give us a new set of commands that we should obey like it was in the old covenant. No! He came to institute a completely new and different covenant. A much better covenant (see Hebrews). He is never referred to as the second Moses. But he IS called the second Adam! He came to bring us a whole new life that was embodied in a whole new race. This race is called the new creation by Paul.

    Actually, Jesus only gave us one commandment. Love one another. But the problem is that we just couldn’t do it! So he died and was resurrected so that he could become the life giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) and place his life inside of us.

    This is the mystery which Paul preached: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) The new covenant is the fact that now the living God actual resides inside of our rib cages! And he is wanting to live out his life in and through us, individually and corporately.

    This is not a matter of reading commandments from a stone tablet (or a book) and then doing them. It is instead a matter of learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ (See Gal. 2:20). This is the New Covenant and it is all internal and eternal. It is living out this life by learning to live by another life that dwells within us. Just as Jesus lived out his life on earth by his indwelling Father (see John 6:57).

  11. Milt —

    Thank you so much for responding so quickly! Thank you as well for your answer. I come from a pretty legalistic background (church of Christ) and have a long way to go to letting go of the legalism that I was taught. I don’t suppose I have to tell you how hard it is to move from a mindset like that to one that is free and grace-filled. By God’s grace I’ve made strides but have a long way to go.

    I know what you are saying about Jesus not coming to establish a new law and couldn’t agree more. One thing that this truth stretches me in is my beliefs on baptism in particular. Because of my background, baptism has been hammered into my head as something that is an essential for entrance into Heaven, fellowship with other Christians, etc. (yet another “new law” that we were taught).

    I realize that your article was not pointed toward an explanation of baptism (it’s purpose, etc), but would love your thoughts on it. Or if you have written something about it before, would you please point me toward it or to someone else’s thoughts? I am finding that the things I believed to be true in the past were not all they were made out to be. It’s a very wonderful / very frustrating place to be. Hopefully that makes sense.

    Sorry about the length of the comment! Thanks for the help.

  12. Shane,

    I have not written a piece on baptism specifically but I have a few thoughts on it to share with you quickly.

    Baptism is a picture of the cross of Christ. This is very clear in Romans chaper six. I believe that baptism is much more than the physical act. In other words, getting dunked in water is just the sign of the true baptism that happened when you were crucified with Christ. Paul said “I am crucified with Christ…” (Gal. 2:20). We have already died in Christ (See Col. 3:3) and our new life IS Christ! So let us reckon ourselves to be dead with Him (Rom. 6:11). This all has to do with the accomplished work of Christ on the cross. That work is complete and totally fulfilled. It is finished.

    The outward act of baptism is a sign and reminder to us of this spiritual reality. The old man is crucified with Christ! Let’s believe this truth and learn to walk in the victory of it.

    I suggest you read this book by Watchman Nee:

    “The Normal Christian Life”

    bless you!

  13. Milt,
    I agree with you. The wonderful thing about God authoring what we have in the Bible, and in particular, Matthew, is that He can make it work on more than one level at the same time.

    Let me explain…it’s obvious that Jesus was sending the disciples out with directions after years of training, but its also possible that the words are meant for others too.

    What makes me think that is the last line, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    If Jesus was only sending out the disciples then why didn’t he say something like “..I am with you always.” Period. End of sentence. The last bit of that sentence “…to the end of the age.” is one that makes me think again. I suppose one could argue that Jesus tacked it on for emphasis; that would be valid. It would tantamount to saying something like, “Milt, I’m going to be with you always, no matter what comes or when it comes.” That last part is added for effect to emphasize the point.

    May the Lord keep you close to Him.
    Mike

  14. In love bro, I have to say I disagree. Notice Gen. 1:2… the Spirit of God “hovering”. God’s nature is to always be gently moving. He calls and designs humanity to always be gently moving. We are all “sent”. Some are sent to their neighbors in the city that they grew up in and will never move out of and some are sent to do the same to new neighbors thousands of miles away. God is moving and has commanded us to do the same. Be careful in equating “sent” with “distance”.

    Billy

  15. It’s great to see these perspectives becoming more widespread. I pray that the Body will continue to grow in grace and that love for the God who freed us will replace duty and obligation as our primary motivator. Is not that the organic response – a response not borne of law but of God’s kindness (Rom 2:4)? A bond-servant is one who is free to leave (they will not incur a punishment) but chooses to stay and serve. The motivation has to be love – it has to be a free choice. The bond-servant agrees because he sees the truth of the Master’s ways, not because of a threat of punishment if he does not obey.

  16. Milt,

    You may be right in your assessment that the “commission” was but for the apostles, those specifically sent by Jesus. I’m not sold yet.

    It’s curious that you appear to strengthen your case by saying that, “Christians from the Reformation through the nineteenth century believed that it [the interpretation of who the commission applied to] was the former [the apostles only].” I’m pretty uncomfortable using ANY expression of Christian theology in some particular group of Christians as normative. Besides, it’s pretty clear that few groups (for example, Christians in the Reformation) are monolithic in their beliefs. I’m sure there was pretty widely divergent thought among believers in the long period between the Reformation and the 19th century.

    There are several things in the Scriptures that lead me to think the commission applies to a wider audience. First, Jesus seems (to me) to make clear that what He did with the 11, he wanted reproduced. He told the disciples (it doesn’t say, “apostles”) to make disciples. Second, Jesus’ prayer in John 17 has applicability to a much wider audience than the 11 since He specifically prays, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word…” Third, Jesus’ many parables clearly point to a distinction between those who hear only and those who hear and act on His word. Those who hear and act are like good soil (yielding 30, 60 or 100-fold) or like the replacement tenant farmers in the vineyard (who will produce the fruit of the kingdom, for which purpose God planted it to begin with).

    I submit these comments in humility. I’m not declaring that I’m right. These simply reflect my current thinking, developed over some 40 years. I hold them loosely and they are subject to modification or even scrapping if the evidence of the Scripture leads elsewhere.

    Steve

  17. Disciple is a term not found in the Epistles. Thus Milt’s understanding of the Great Commission is strengthened.

    I found a good explaination of why believers were not called disciples in the Epistles from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia under Christian. http://www.internationalstandardbible.com

    “7. Christian Self-Designations:

    The Christians originally called themselves “Disciples,” a term afterward restricted to personal hearers of the Lord, and regarded as a title of high distinction. The ordinary self-designations of the apostolic age are “believers” (Acts 5:14; 1 Timothy 4:12), “saints” (Acts 9:13,12,41; Romans 1:7), “brethren” (Acts 6:3; 10:23, etc.), “the elect” (Colossians 3:12; 2 Timothy 2:10), “the church of God” (Acts 20:28 margin), “servants (slaves) to God” (Romans 6:22; 1 Peter 2:16). The apostolic authors refer to themselves as “servants (slaves) of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:1). Other expressions are occasionally met with, of which perhaps the most significant is: Those “that call upon the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:14; Romans 10:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:2). Compare Pliny’s report to Trajan (Epistles, X, 97): “They affirmed that …. they had been wont to assemble and address a hymn to Christ as to a god.”

  18. It’s funny. All my life I’ve felt condemned for not witnessing more–yet when I did witness, I felt uncomfortable about it–as though I was hurting more than helping. Where did I miss the bit about how God gave some to be evangelists. I never felt guilty about not being a pastor or an apostle.

    We’re told to be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within us. I’m ready. And I’m ready to talk to anyone Jesus tells me to–just not any random person who pauses long enough on the sidewalk because someone told me I have to or I’m not a good Christian.

  19. I think the life of the first century Christians is also didactic. While Jesus did give the command to the apostles to go into the all the world and preach the gospel we don’t see in any of the epistles the Apostles giving that command to any of the churches they wrote to. It can be argued that the communal nature of the first century church is evidence that the commission was in fact for the apostles and not for everyone.

    It can also be argued that the great commission is for all believers but the way that is expressed in apostolic ministry is different than the way it is expressed by those who are not “sent ones”. We see this when the Church in Jerusalem scattered and they preached Christ wherever they went.

    The greater issue to me is this:

    The greater context of the great commission is the accurate representation of Christ. What good is the great commission if we really don’t know him, the gospel is not a message but a person. There is an idea today where the great commission is simply getting people saved and then “plugged into” ministry thinking that activity for the Lord will produce Life.

    This is Contrary to the NEW COVENANT reality where Jesus told his disciples NOT to minister until they had received Power. The New Covenant is the opposite of the old. In the New covenant Life (Zoe) produces works, not the other way around !

    Identity is everything !!! People often find themselves trying to fulfill the great commission without ever coming into an EXPERIENTIAL reality of their new identity in Christ.

    Jesus knew he was a Son long before he ever did anything in “ministry”. Before we ever attempt to do anything for our Lord, we like him need to hear the heart affirming words from our Father in heaven ” This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased “ If we don’t start there we can go to the ends of the earth but we will be out of the gate crooked.

    . Anywhere Christ is seen in us ministry is happening. Whether it is in Haiti or my back yard.

    . Anywhere Christ is Not seen Ministry is Not taking place. Whether it is in Haiti or my back yard.

    . The manifestation of the life if Christ in us is a obvious truth in Christianity so…However and wherever that life takes us, whether it’s to our neighbor or to the north pole that’s his decision.

    Anyway…my 2 pennies

  20. Milt,

    You referenced Galatians 3 and a “new” Israel. Are you suggesting what is known as “replacement theology”?

    Also, you refer to a New Jerusalem as being a Metaphor. Are you suggesting that there will not be a New Jerusalem established on earth – millenial reign – return of Christ?

    I am new to these concepts though I have been in the church all my life. Just trying to work through some of the old foundational things.

  21. Barry,

    I don’t really know anything about “replacement theology”. In fact, I have never even heard the term before your post! I don’t really know what God has planned in the future for the physical Israel, though many act as if they DO know! I believe that they have a special place in God’s heart and he will deal with them accordingly.

    I also believe that Jesus Christ came to institute a New Covenant (see Hebrews). This covenant is all about a New Man and a New Creation. Paul tells us in Galatians that those who are “in Christ” are now part of the Seed of Abraham and that in this one new man there are no distinctions such as Jew, Gentile, bond or free, male or female. Galatians 3:26-29

    Many of the Jews in the first century had a problem receiving this message (obviously) and that is why Paul was so emphatic about it. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ began a whole New Race that now lives in a whole New Creation and live by a whole New Covenant – Christ in you, the hope of glory!

  22. Amazing reading, thanks for sharing!

    Me and husband have been translating and publishing a bunch of Frank Viola’s articles, on our soon-to-be publishing house, Levande Stenar. (To swedish) :

    http://levandestenar.wordpress.com/english/

    Would it be alright if we did the same with this one? We recently translated Frank’s “Rethinking evangelism” and believe this is a wonderful complement.

    God bless you!

  23. I am just responding to your article thinking that we are not all called to be apostles…one whom “is sent”.
    What about Romans 1:5-7?
    Through Him ‘WE’ have received grace and apostleship for obedience “to the faith” among ALL NATIONS” for His name, among whom YOU ALSO ARE THE CALLED OF JESUS CHRIST To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    God would be a respecter of persons and HE is NOT, and it also creates “positions”s so I have to respectfully disagree with this part of your article.

  24. Lynn,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Actually, you cannot prove the idea that all Christians are apostles and should be evangelizing the world using this text in Romans 1:5-7 for several reasons.

    First, the verses you quote have been taken out of context. If you start reading from verse one of the chapter you will see that Paul is definitely making a distinction between the “we” and the “you”. The “we” being the apostles and the “you” being the saints in Rome. He says in verses six and seven that the saints in Rome are called. Yes, of course, all believers are called. But not are called in the same way or to the same task. In verse one, he is establishing the fact that he (Paul) is a slave of Jesus Christ and is called as an apostle, separated to the gospel of God. The “we” he is referring to in verse 5 is referring to himself and his co-workers. He wrote this letter while he was in Corinth collecting the offering for the saints in Jerusalem. He had several workers with him at the time.

    Second, Paul obviously did not believe that all saints were called to be apostles. Please see his writings about this in I Cor. 12:28-31. Are all apostles? The obvious answer in the context of the passage is no.

    Third, the panoramic story of the first century church will not support the evangelical idea of all believers being sent out into all the world to preach the gospel and make disciples. I suggest that you read a book called “The Untold Story of the New Testament Church” by Frank Viola.

    blessings

  25. I had problems posting this…it didn’t come through! Trying again!

    I truly know “I” can’t prove anything, and have no desire to prove or convince because I recognize unless His revelation is in it, it is dead words. I have have no problems sharing where “I” am “at” at this point in time along with you sharing where you are “at” in this point in time, for He could change our understanding tomorrow! May we continually grow in Him. 🙂

    To continue the conversation, where “I” am at – When one is “dead” to the self life, which is a work of God, JESUS is very much alive to produce, say, do, within coming forth. I agree all are not called in the same way to do the same task, which is why HE gives “gifts” to people, that which is produced BY HIS SPIRIT being One in SPIRIT, and that can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere as one hears, HE comes producing in power and in love!

    I have come to recognize we are all called, all sent to share the good news whether it is to my neighbour next door, at work, at school or within family as HE PRODUCES LIFE WITHIN by walking IN the SPIRIT and BY HIS SPIRIT….and that can include anyplace, anywhere, anytime in any of the nations, where ever God takes one to be, being inclusive to the whole world, and not to a “certain place”. I am not in anyway suggesting that all have to go to another country to share….which is inline with the first century church meeting people where one lives or is at… To be led by the SPIRIT is His work within, coming out, not mine. I believe anyone who is truly called/invited of God is taken to that place of being a “bondservant, a slave to JESUS, is separated to the gospel, to share the glad tidings of God, of coming to that place of “Not my will, but Yours be done”.

    1 Cor 12:28-31 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way……“hath set” NT5087 placed in a passive horizontal position – When one is placed in a passive horizontal position, one is unseen, and when man is unseen, Christ comes in power! Death and Resurrection at work!

    I believe this to be a horizontal sequence and not a heirachy! When one is “invited, or called”, and one receives (the gift of His life) the call, each are “sent” to share the good news as HE PRODUCES WITHIN and then comes forth out…..It is His work! And out of being sent, any of His gifts are produced within as one hears….a teacher, miracles, healing, helps, gov’t, diversities of tongues….To those that have not “received” the call, they are not sent, do all teach etc….no they are gifts given by God….and yet the love of God is a more excellent way….We are HIS workmanship and one cannot take any credit for what HE does…for it is He that holds one breath!

    I have come to understand the “we” are those invited or called to share the good tidings as one hears Him, “my sheep hear my voice” being obedient to the faith….and the “you” to be inclusive to the saints in Rome that are called “among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ. The “ALL”( pas NT3936) that be in Rome” includes all the forms of declension, called/invited saints. Romans 1:15-17 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome “also”. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

    I do also believe His revelation is always needed in all understanding to bring life within and not what I might “think”or what man might share! Only then will we have true unity being ONE in SPIRIT! In the end may His Truth, whom is JESUS come forth in the power of His love!

    Blessings to you!

  26. Brother Milt – I responded to this in a link on Facebook and thought I’d copy that response here. I disagree, but would love to continue to dialogue as you would wish to on this topic. Part of what I don’t understand is the motivation to retreat from the idea that individuals indwelt by Christ’s presence are the means God has chosen to make disciples. How does that idea of disciple making prevent people from experiencing everything you uplift as important in the spiritual life?

    It also reminds me of some of the elements that fueled monasticism … the essence of the IC for centuries until the reformation.

    Here’s the post on Facebook:

    The article suggests going back to the bondage that lasted from Constantine till 150 years ago – which is that disciple making is the responsibility of “someone else” – to go from the priesthood of all believers to the idea that the institutional church or the clergy is to perform this task, or (worse) that it is God who should do this while we do little or nothing.

    It’s very clear that the call to follow Jesus is in order that they might be taught to fish for people. It is very clear in Matthew 28:20 that these eleven men are to teach all the disciples made to observe “all that I have commanded you” – which by definition must include the command which is BOTH verse 19 and 20 – the entire Great Commission, not just the proclaiming of the gospel as said in Mark and Luke.

    Certainly, the IC over the last 150 years has messed this up. And this needs to be corrected to be more biblical. Noteably, to me, the IC messed it up by reducing it to “announcing the doctrine to the fish from the shore and asking them to come forward.” But I believe that the OC is the best way to fulfill these verses, not by retereating from them into symbolism but embracing them. I believe the OC is our best chance to understand these verses and practice them in an OC way.

    So I really, truly do not understand. It seems like what is suggested is spiritualizing what Jesus did as “fulfilling God’s eternal purpose to have an image (expression) that represents his authority and is fruitful” or other symbols such as The Bride or “city (people/nation) who would be filled with the life of God and would be his image in the earth. The city always represents authority or government in the scriptures. The New Jerusalem is a metaphor to show the fulfillment of God’s purpose.”

    I truly do not understand these metaphors as an explanation of what Jesus concretely did – they seem more about his time on the mount of transfiguration rather than the grit of what He did down in the valley with the people. I get the desire to spend more time in relationship with the indwelling presence of Christ – I’m also a mystic – but if feels a bit like pulling away what that relationship asks us to do as a result of that love for Jesus. Perhaps it can be explained to me!

  27. Hi David,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Your first question was the following:

    “Part of what I don’t understand is the motivation to retreat from the idea that individuals indwelt by Christ’s presence are the means God has chosen to make disciples. How does that idea of disciple making prevent people from experiencing everything you uplift as important in the spiritual life?”

    To understand this you must go back to the Fall of man. God’s intention (purpose) was that Man be created in His image, have dominion over the earth, and multiply. We see that in Genesis 1:26-28. Notice that God speaks in plural pronouns; “let Us create Man in Our image.” Here we see a corporate God, (the word God there in Hebrew is ‘elohim’ which is a plural word) creating a corporate image. This corporate image would have dominion over and multiply throughout the earth. The term ‘image’ strongly implies a representative or an expression. The word ‘man’ here means mankind; a whole race.

    Later on in the epistles, Paul refers to this original intention of God as the eternal purpose (see Ephesians chapters 1 & 3) and also as the Mystery (see Colossians 1 & 3). It becomes very clear in those two letters that Paul is speaking about the true image of God being Christ Himself. And that this Christ is now made up of a Head and a Body – the One New Man. Everything God does is through and in and by this New Man – Christ. This revelation has all but been lost to Christianity. Oh yes, we have the individual thing down real well. Individualism is a result of the Fall.

    So because of this ‘blind spot’ or ‘filter’, we need a renewal to happen within our thinking. We need the renewing of our minds. Notice that whenever Paul mentions the renewing of the mind he is doing so within the context of the Body or the New Man. We have a desperate need to develop what Watchman Nee called “body consciousness”. Because the Fall and our culture is extremely individualistic.

    That ‘body life’ is the environment in which everything that God does with us takes place. My point in this article (and in the book) is that we have tried to take discipleship (and just about everything else!) out of that environment. That environment is simple Christ Himself! The Head and the Body, the Vine and the Branches, the Bridegroom and the Bride, the Shepherd and the Sheep, the Cornerstone and the Temple. Nothing will grow or develop naturally if you remove it from its natural habitat.

    My point is that we need to have the habitat before we try and do discipleship, otherwise it won’t work very effective because it just isn’t based upon the life of God. The life and fullness of God is found in the Body! (see Ephesians 1:22,23)

    Again, it would help if you read the book: The Community Life of God

    link is: http://www.therebuilders.org/community-preorder.html

  28. Milt,

    What a great post! So many are lead to believe that their sole purpose of being saved is to evangelize. But it’s simply not, it’s to know Jesus Christ! And to be house unto Him!

  29. Great post Milt! Completely agree 🙂 Christ didn’t save us to evangelize the world but to make us (His body) His full expression. Evangelize, teach, disciple, encourage and correct are some of the natural fruits of a coordinated & healthy body. For those worried about evangelizing the world let me add (I believe I heard you say this before): There is nothing more powerful or glorious in this planet than the body of Christ functioning, expressing and displaying His life!

    Love you brother!

  30. I agree with everything you said Milt. For years I have believed this, as well as the fact that the Commission had a timeline, and eschatologically it was a timeline of telling all the people of the Old Covenant, which is why Paul went to the Jew first and then the Gentile, that Jesus the Promised One had come, and the the New Age had come in His life, ministry, death and resurrection, and that the Old Covenant had been fulfilled in Christ and had passed away. The timeline was 40 years from the Ascension fo Jesus until the destruction of the Old Covenant system with the destruction of Jerusalem. The Commission was then fulfilled. Now we evangelize and proclaim Jesus and extend the Kingdom one person and at time. It is all about Jesus and giving Him away and being disciples who make disciples.

  31. Many use the “great Commission” doctrine to formulate a mandate for God’s mission. They say that the whole purpose of God and the Church is to save souls. Your purpose as a Christian is to lead others to Christ. That’s why you are here.

    Sheep saving more Sheep so that they can Save More Sheep.
    That’s not a Great Commission, that’s a pyramid scheme.
    Amway without the soap.
    What are they being Saved(TM) to?
    What are they being Saved(TM) for?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.