The Commission Enacted
In a former article we studied together the authority of Christ. In that study attention was called to the Bible's claim for the absolute authority of Christ; which authority was to be exercised through the apostles; and which authority was never delegated to any group of uninspired men, either then or in time to come. Since Christ's authority is complete, absolute, then it is to Him alone that we must go for every law that is to govern the religious life of men until the end of time.
Although an absolute monarch, He does not rule by brute force and the sword, but by the sceptre of righteousness. In His own invitation to men, He said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt. 11 :28-29). The rest here promised is that of the soul, rest from the burden of sin. This rest is found in His righteousness, as stated by the apostle, "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21 ). In this study we consider the terms of pardon as set forth in Christ's law, as announced to the world by His authority.
First, let it be noted that we are now under law to Christ. Because we are under grace and not under the law of Moses, some object to speaking of the present system as "law" at all. But in becoming all things to all men that he might win them to Christ, Paul said he was "to them that are without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ" (I Cor. 9:21 ). To the Galatians the same writer said, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). justification by faith is by the "law of faith" (Rom. 3:27) ; and the apostle further declared, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death" (Rom. 8:1-2). Since therefore, we are "under law to Christ," and are to fulfill the law of Christ;" and inasmuch as "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ" makes one "free from the law of sin and death," we deem a study of the law of pardon, under the authority of Jesus Christ, to be extremely profitable.
With the apostle in mind, Luke says, "To whom he (Christ) also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). But what things did he speak "concerning the kingdom of God" during those days between the resurrection and the ascension? The only thing quoted from Him concerning the kingdom, recorded by the four evangelists, is the great commission. This definitely links the commission with the kingdom. of God. But since the great commission contains Christ's, law of pardon to aliens, it also became His law of induction into the kingdom. Let us consider briefly its contents just here:
"And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore; and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:18-20). The order is: teach, baptize, teach, and that by Christ's authority. Mark says, "And he said unto them, Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16). Here the order is: preaching the gospel, all nations believing and being baptized, and salvation. Luke adds, "Then opened he their minds, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send for the promise of my Father unto you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:47-49). Here it is: preaching repentance and remission of sins in Christ's name, beginning from Jerusalem, to all nations, after they had received power from on high. And finally, John's account reads, "Jesus therefore said to them again, Peace be unto you: as the Father hath sent me, even so send 1 you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose soever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:21-23). Here is given to the apostles, as it pertains to the pardon of sins, the power to remit and to, retain; whereby they become the ambassadors of Christ to declare to the world Christ's law of pardon. These men had no successor wielding such power.
Before we leave this phase of our study, let us summarize the things said in the four accounts of the great commission: the apostles were to teach or preach to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem, when they should receive power from on high. They were to preach the gospel, repentance and remission of sins in His name. The people were to believe the gospel, i.e., in the Christ preached, repent of their sins at Christ's command, and be baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The result: those believing, repenting, and being baptized should be saved, receive remission of sins. In preaching these things the apostles were binding and loosing; those obeying were to have their sins remitted, those refusing shou!d have their sins, retained. All of this is easy to understand, isn't it ?
None of these things were to be done tilt the apostles should be empowered from on high, which power came on the Pentecost following Christ's ascension, the record of which is found in Acts 2. Upon the reception of the Holy Spirit the apostles began to preach. The sermon of the apostle Peter, as recorded in Acts 2, is divided into three parts: First an explanation of the miracle, i.e., of the cloven tongues as of fire upon the apostles and their ability to speak with other tongues. Second, the death, burial, resurrection. and exaltation of Christ with proofs of his resurrection. Third, the conclusion drawn.
We consider only the body of the sermon now, and that briefly. Beginning with verse 22, we read, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know;" -in saying this, Peter is preaching the life and works of Christ among them- "him being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay:" -here he declares His death- "who God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it"-now he affirms His resurrection. The death none denied; but the resurrection must be proved. Peter seeks to prove the resurrection by introducing three witnesses: David, from the scriptures, applying these to Christ, not David vs. 25-28). In this David becomes a witness to the resurrection. Next, he introduces as witnesses the twelve apostles upon whom the spirit had just been poured, "This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses" (v. 32). The third witness introduced to prove the resurrection is the Holy Spirit, which they saw and heard, "Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear" (v. 33). The apostle next declares, the exaltation of Christ, basing it on the promise of the resurrection, by saying,, "For David ascended not into the heavens; but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet. Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified."
In this first sermon after Christ's ascension, we see carried out in detail the great commission. Beginning in Jerusalem, with power from on high, they began to preach Jesus as Christ, to an audience of representatives from all nations, both Jews and proselytes. The result of the sermon was exactly that desired. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts. and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?" (v. 37). They were convinced of their sins when convinced of the resurrection of Christ; but that conviction of sin was the result of evidence of the resurrection, which proved they had been in rebellion against God when they crucified His Son.
In answer to the question, "Brethren, what shall we do?" "Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto, him" (Acts 2:38-39). Here are the Lord's terms of pardon-the same to us as to them.
In this we see the complete fulfillment of the great commission: the apostles were in Jerusalem; they had received the afore-promised power; they preached the death, burial, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus Christ. The Jews and proselytes of all nations gathered to hear them; they believed the things preached, thereby being convicted of their sins. They were told to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, which was by the authority of Christ. Luke continues the history, saying, "They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls" (v. 41). These constituted the beginning of the church of the Lord Jesus. From that time the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved (v.47).
The Lord had been exalted to the throne of His father David, with all authority in heaven and on earth; His first act as King was to forgive three thousand aliens, and make them subjects of His kingdom. This law of pardon was ratified in heaven and has continued from then until now. Every alien whom the King makes a citizen of His kingdom must comply with the same law of pardon.
It is interesting to read through the book of Acts and note that each case of conversion is in perfect accord with this on Pentecost. In every instance, without exception, the aliens heard the message of the gospel preached to them by men, changed their mind toward God and Christ, and were baptized. Every true case of conversion from that time on has been in accord with the same law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. But some would deceive others today by disregarding the law of the king, telling men, "Only believe and you shall be saved." If this had been the law of the king, the apostles would have preached it that way, and we should be preaching it today. justification is by the law of faith; but the law of faith demands faithful obedience to Christ as the expression of faith. In all ages the principle has been the same: faith in God through the word of God; obedience of faith, blessing of faith.
It is difficult for one to see how men could have so little regard for Christ's law and the souls of men as to seek any change from the law of pardon so clearly set forth in the great commission and Acts 2. Honest men would not do it; uninformed men should not be trying to tell others the way of salvation until they themselves have found it. Do not be deceived, friends, if you have been misled in this matter do not delay another day, find a faithful disciple of the Lord and have him baptize you into Christ for the remission of your sins, upon a proper confession of faith. When you shall have done this God will add you to His church.
(Note: The above article comes from a former tract by Bro. Hailey.)
Truth Magazine, V:2, pp. 19-22