By Ramon A. Madrigal
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:18b-20 NIV).
These words of Jesus, commonly referred to as the “Great Commission,” have throughout the ages been a source of motivation to disciplined (i.e. disciple) Christians everywhere to zealously perform the task of evangelism. Yet while many brethren fully realize the implications of this passage to those who would carry their cross daily, others often point to the preacher to do their Divine decree. These apathetic (or should I say “pathetic”?) Christians try to defend their continual. neglect by claiming that they are not equipped (as is the preacher) to teach anybody, much less than “all nations.” While it is true that some have been blessed with teaching talents, personal charm, and the “gift of gab,” we often overlook something of striking importance in this passage. Jesus not only commands, but promises! He says, “I will be with you always.”
While many obstacles confront the Christian in his quest for souls, Christ provides constant companionship in our efforts to seek and save the lost. Yes, we are sometimes less than perfect teachers of the Word; sometimes we are sloppy in our “cottage” presentations, often weak in our social prowess, fumbling through our feeble vocabulary for the right words; but we are not alone. Jesus promises to be with us. Perhaps it would be helpful to look at some heroes of the Old Testament era and notice how God accomplished His great purposes through weak and sometimes reluctant men.
God Used Men
In Genesis 12, the Lord Yahweh calls Abram and commands him to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household and to go to the land that God would show him. We might imagine ourselves hesitating at such prospects, but Abram quickly did as he was told. Whatever Abram might have thought about the matter, he demonstrated his loyalty and faithfulness to Yahweh by his actions (see James 2). What we need to notice, however, is that along with the command came a promise: “I will make you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you will I curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you” (vv. 2-1).
The story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 beautifully demonstrates the providence of God. Sold into slavery at the tender age of seventeen, Joseph rose to a prominent position in his master’s house, only to be cast into prison at the hands of a scheming woman. When most people would have given up all hope to despair, the faithful Joseph patiently waited for God to act. He soon became ruler over all Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. This history should comfort all Christians today in their efforts to serve Him even in times of trouble (see Rom. 8:28). God has promised the “crown of life” to all those who are “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2: 10).
While Abram and Joseph readily accepted their assigned duties, the great Lawgiver himself, Moses, was rather reluctant at his responsibility. Upon being commissioned by God to “bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:11), Moses replied, “Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh . . . ?” He later complained (as many do today) of being uneloquent in speech, with a slow tongue. Yet Moses was forgetting the Lord’s promise of strength and support. In verse 12, Yahweh assured His servant that “I certainly will be with you. . . . ” This is a continual covenant God makes with His messengers. His steadfast promise gives us strength, comfort, and courage as we shine our lights in a darkened and dismal world. We need to remember, as did Moses, that although the task before us is awesome in scope and eternal in consequence, God has not left us alone. He continued with Joshua as He did with Moses, and that promise was reissued to Israel’s new leader (cf. Deut. 31:23 and Josh. 1:59). This is a profound principle. God does not leave us to our own devices to struggle without His presence, but He blesses us with Himself.
When God sent Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites, Gideon was perplexed at his unlikely qualifications as a savior. The least in position in his father’s poor household, Gideon exclaimed: “How can I save Israel?” Notice God’s promise: “Surely I will be with you, and you shall smite the Midianites as one man” (Judg. 6:15-16). This blessing seems contagious once we look at it from a biblical perspective. Upon a thorough examination of the Scriptures, one quickly recognizes the fact that God’s promises are steadfast and sure, and that our feeble excuses (from evangelism) do not free us from responsibility but exhibit weakened faith. While it is true that it is often difficult to preach Christ to ungodly colleagues and profane neighbors, it is equally true that Christ gives us the necessary strength and energy to accomplish all things (Phil. 4:13). Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 need not haunt us for neglected duty but excite us to spiritual opportunity. Inherent in the Great Commission is a Great Promise! That no matter what may happen in our evangelistic efforts, we are not alone – for God is with us! Indeed, He is with us always!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 15, p. 468
August 2, 1984