So the motive then is to glorify God. And the mission that does that is to win men and women to the Savior. And as they come to know Him and their sins are forgiven and they are transformed from death to life and darkness to light, God is glorified in the miracle of that transformation. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Today, John starts a four-day look at really what should be the primary task of every believer, making disciples. So how does the Lord equip you to do that? Find out as John examines the charge Jesus gave his followers, and to every Christian alive today, otherwise known as the Great Commission. Well, John, Christmas is already behind us, and we're looking ahead to the new year. And a lot of our listeners are probably thinking about improvements they'd like to see in their lives, some practical goals for the next 12 months. And the subject you're about to look into is one that every Christian needs some encouragement in from time to time.
So this is going to be a great series for goal setting. Yeah, this is really where if you're going to start a new year and you're going to start with a new resolution, this would be a great way to start, because we're going to begin a series on the Great Commission from Matthew 28. And of course, if you're a believer, you know you're in the world obligated to fulfill that Great Commission, to preach the gospel across the world, to baptize people in the name of Christ, to disciple them, to teach them everything that the Lord has commanded, and he promises to be with you in doing that all the way to the end.
So we're going to look at that Great Commission. This would be a marvelous thing if we could start a movement at the beginning of this year to get Christians really aggressively preaching the gospel to fulfill that commission. So we're going to look at just five verses in which the Lord pinpoints the purpose for every Christian here on earth, and that is to proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. And by the way, evangelism is not an optional add-on to the Christian life. It is the real purpose of the Christian life. The very fact that you live a godly life is to open the door for you to proclaim the gospel. Most of us first learned about Christ and the gospel through somebody—a mom, a dad, a friend, a teacher, or maybe even a stranger who cared enough to share the truth with us. But all of us are obligated to take up that marvelous opportunity in that Great Commission.
If you're looking for a resolution for 2023, this is a good one. Dig into this brief study to get you started and spend this year doing what you can to fulfill the Great Commission. That's right, and friend, if you want to be more faithful in telling others about Christ, but you find evangelism intimidating, or you aren't sure what to say, this study will be a tremendous help and encouragement.
So let's get to it. Here's John to unpack the Great Commission. I want to encourage you at this time, if you will, to take your Bible and open it to the 28th chapter of Matthew. This is the climax of the gospel of Matthew.
It ends on a very, very dramatic note. Everything, in a sense, has been foundational to this particular encounter with the truth of Christ that we find in verses 16 to 20. I want you to look at your Bible as I read that passage to you. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.
Amen. Now if we were to survey people in the church and ask them what they felt the primary purpose of the church was, we might get some answers like this. Some might suggest to us that the purpose of the church is fellowship, that the church is a place to make friends with good people, honest people, godly people, who strengthen your life.
It's a place to provide activity for the family, enjoyable activity. It's a place where love is cultivated and shared, and all of that is certainly important because Jesus Himself said, If we have love, all men will know that we are His disciples. But one step higher than that attitude would be the attitude of those who suggest that the mission of the church is teaching, that the primary objective of the church is to put out doctrine, to strengthen believers, to articulate theology, to give principles for practical Christian living, to train people for various responsibilities in the church, to instruct children and young people in obedience to the law of God with an objective of bringing them to maturity in Christ. And that certainly is a very important part of the church's ministry because those who are given to the church are given for the perfecting of the saints which occurs through the Word. But even a step higher than that would be those people who suggest to us that the real purpose of the church is praise to God, that the church is really a praising community, a community of people who exalt God for who He is and what He has done. And obviously they suggest to us that this is the central activity of heaven, and that is praise and adoration and honor and reverence and awe and homage being given eternally by all the saints redeemed and all the angels who are holy forever and ever and ever. Therefore, if that's the primary responsibility of those in heaven, it certainly must be the primary responsibility of those on earth.
In Revelation 4 and 5 we find that heaven is occupied with praise. Now the fact is that fellowship is an absolute essential in the church and teaching is equally essential and so is praise. But none of them and not all of them in combination are the mission of the church or the purpose of the church or the goal of the church or the objective of the church. None of them is why we are here.
None of them. You say, well then what is the mission of the church? Well we have to start first of all with what is the motive of the church. What is our motive? The answer to that is very simple. We are what we are and we are to be what we are to be for the glory of God.
Is that not true? We have articulated that through the years that the primary, greatest, single, unified motive of the church is the glory of God. In Ephesians chapter 1 verse 6 all of this is to the praise of the glory of His grace. In verse 12 that we should be to the praise of His glory. In verse 14 unto the praise of His glory. And over in chapter 3 by Him is to be glory in the church. The primary motive of the church is to glorify God.
Jesus even came into the world for that purpose and gave us an example. He came to show us the Father's glory. He came to reveal the glory of the Father, John 1.14 says.
He was the express image, the effulgence, the glory of God manifests, says Hebrews 1.3. So Christ came into the world with one motive basically and that was to glorify God. And that motive has been passed on to the church. We are to give God glory. That is our reason for being. As the French would say that's our raison d'etre.
That's our reason to be. To glorify God in terms of a motive. But what about a mission?
What is the mission that flows out of that motive? Now the answer will become clear to us as we take a look at redemptive history. Listen very carefully because this is as I say the ultimate message in Matthew because it is the climactic one. When man fell in sin in the garden because of man's fall all of the human race was condemned to death and hell. The whole human race died in a sense in the sin of Adam. But immediately God set out to redeem man back to himself out of gracious love. And if you remember the story you will remember that when Adam fell in sin and was very much aware of his sinfulness and his alienation from God, he did not roam around the garden saying, God where are you?
God where are you? It was God in Genesis 3 9 who came into the garden and said, Adam where are you? And the intent of that is to let us know that it is God who initiates out of his own gracious love the saving work. Fallen man frankly does not even seek after God says Paul in Romans chapter 3. It is God who is the seeker. It is God who took the initiative to call man back out of gracious love.
And from the first call in Genesis 3 9, Adam where are you? To the last call in Revelation 22 17, come the spirit and the bride say come let him that is a thirst come and take the water of life freely. From the first invitation to the last invitation of scripture and all in between God is a God who longs to redeem fallen man to himself. God has been and God continues and will continue to seek to redeem people and ultimately to redeem the whole fallen world for the purpose of giving him glory. It glorifies God when sinners are saved.
It glorifies God when the unredeemed and separated from him are brought back by grace into fellowship and transformed and made into members of his family. So important is this on God's heart that it even tells us in scripture that he was in the world. 2 Corinthians 5 19 reconciling the world to himself. God became a man.
God invaded human history. God came into our world to do this which was the desire of his heart. And why was it his desire? Because God's supreme desire is to glorify himself. As the absolutely perfect God he has an absolutely perfect right and an absolutely perfect reason to glorify himself. The way in which he seeks to glorify himself is to redeem sinful men. That is the single greatest act of holy God. That is why in 3 10 of Ephesians it says the angels are in awe of God in his saving work as they look at the church. That is why Peter said this salvation angels desire to look into. Nothing glorifies God to the extent that the redeeming of a hell-bound damned sinner does. And so God desiring glory realized that the greatest glory given to him by angels and men would come through the redemption of men set out to redeem man back.
All men then become objects of God's seeking love. You go all the way back to Genesis 12 and verse 3 and you read there that God's promise came to Abraham and said out of Abraham's loins would come a nation the nation Israel of course and through that nation all the families of the earth will be blessed. From the very beginning God wanted to redeem all the families of the earth.
It was never his intention to select and isolate Israel as if they were the only people that he cared about. Israel was never to be the only redeemed people. They were merely to be the missionary people to reach the world.
In Isaiah 49 6 it says to Israel I will also give thee for a light to the nations that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. God's desire was always to glorify himself by reaching the lost around the world. That's why Paul in second Corinthians says we desire at any price to win you to Christ that it might redound to the glory of God. In other words every time you bring someone to Christ you add another voice to the hallelujah chorus. You have another person who can now be to the praise of his glory. So the motive then is to glorify God and the mission that does that is to win men and women to the savior and as they come to know him and their sins are forgiven and they are transformed from death to life and darkness to light God is glorified in the miracle of that transformation. The glory of God is manifest in his loving desire and in his power to redeem lost men out of the world. So God loves the world and thus seeks to bring the world to himself and to accomplish that he sacrificed himself. He paid the ultimate supreme price to do what he desired to do to fulfill his glory. Now here's the point get it very clearly.
Here's the point. The person who desires to glorify God who wants to honor God's will and God's purpose and God's desire must then love the lost world the way God loves the lost world and give his life for the sake of winning that lost world. That is the pattern. God loved a lost world and sought to win it to himself for his own glory. Christ came into the world, loved a lost world and sought to win it to himself for the father's glory.
We are sent into the world to love the lost world to seek to win the lost world for the glory of God the father. Our mission is the same mission Christ had. It's the same mission God the father had. It's no different.
Identical. When Jesus came into the world, he wanted to glorify the father. In John 17, this is outlined for us so beautifully.
Turn to it for just a moment. In John 17 in verse 3 it says, and this is life eternal that they might know the the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. And then Jesus said, I have glorified thee on the earth. And then Jesus said, I have glorified thee on the earth. That was his mission. I came to glorify you and how to reconcile man back for that is the single greatest way that God is glorified. That's what Christ came for. That's why he came.
I have glorified you. How did you do that? For the son of man has come to seek and to what? Save that which was lost. Yes, Christ came to glorify God.
How did he do that? By seeking and saving that which was lost and that is precisely beloved. That is precisely what the mission of the church is. It's no different because we are an extension of God the father. We are an extension of the ministry of God the father. His desire to be glorified by the salvation of lost sinners. Christ's desire to glorify the father through the salvation of lost sinners. Our desire to glorify the father through the salvation of lost sinners.
That is our purpose. And in John 17 it comes through so very, very clearly. He says in verse 6, I have manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world. I told them about you, he said. I conveyed to them your desire, your motive, your mission. Thine they were and thou gavest them to me and they have kept thy word. They have known that all things whatever thou hast given me are from thee. In other words, they know that I'm doing what you desire to be done.
You see the flow? He says to the father, father, I've glorified you. I've told them exactly what your intention is, what your mission is. They've gotten it. They understand it. They've kept your word. Verse 8, I have given unto them the words which you gave me.
They have received them. They have known surely that I came out from thee and they have believed that thou did send me. In other words, the savior is saying they understand the mission.
They understand why you sent me into the world. In verse 9, I pray for them. I pray not for the world but for them whom thou hast given me for they're thine. We belong to God.
We're in a link with the same mission that the father had. I drop down to verse 14. I have given them thy word and the world has hated them because they're not of the world even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one.
They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth. Thy word is truth.
He says, look father, I know what your motive is to be glorified. I know what your mission is to reach the lost. I came into the world with the same motive and the same mission and I've passed it on to these disciples. They understand your word. They understand I was sent from you. They understand the mission. They know why I'm here. They know what they're to do. And I ask, oh God, three things, that they may follow your word, that they may be kept from the evil one, and that they may be pure.
That's what I pray for them. And then verse 18 is the climax. As thou hast sent me into the world. Underline the word as. That is the dominant idea here that conveys the intent.
What do you mean by that? As you sent me. Well why did he send you? To glorify himself through winning lost men and women to salvation. As you have sent me into the world, the unredeemed world, to win men and women, even so have I also sent them into the world.
It's the same thing. Beloved, we have no different mission in the world than the incarnate Jesus Christ had to fulfill the heart of God in winning the lost. That is our mission. To glorify God by bringing salvation to lost men and women. What then is the church to be doing?
What then is the church's mission, objective, goal, and priority? Is it fellowship? Listen, if God wanted us just to exist for fellowship, we ought to be saved and taken instantly to heaven. Where fellowship is perfect. Where there is nothing to violate fellowship, and nothing to break fellowship, and everything to stimulate fellowship, and perfect harmony, and perfect order, and perfect love, and perfect communion, and perfect communication. No, if fellowship was our purpose, God would have taken us to heaven. Teaching, if our purpose is that we may know doctrine and know knowledge, the best thing God could do is take us immediately to heaven where we would know as we are known instantaneously, and all teaching ceases because everybody knows everything they need to know.
No, if the purpose of the church was teaching, we'd be gone. But what about praise? If God wanted perfect praise out of his church, he'd take them to heaven too because that's where perfect praise occurs.
Our praise here is muddled up, just like our teaching is. If all God wanted was fellowship, then let's get to heaven and have perfect fellowship. If all God wants is that we have understanding and knowledge of his word, then let's get to heaven and get perfect knowledge, and not have to listen to a whole lot of teachers and try to figure out who's right. If all God wants out of us is praise, then let's get up there with the angelic chorus, and the redeemed of the ages, and let's get on with our eternal praise.
The point is this, and I want you to get it. There is only one reason we are here, and one reason alone, and that is that we may seek and save those who are lost. It is as the Father sent the Son that the Son sends us. If the Father wanted fellowship with the Son, he'd have kept him in heaven. If the Father wanted perfect knowledge with the Son, he'd have kept him in heaven. If the Father wanted the perfect praise that was his, he would have kept him in heaven.
He wouldn't need to send him to earth, but if the Father wanted to redeem fallen men, he had to send him to this earth. That's the only reason we're here. There's no other reason, and I hope that simplifies it for you.
That's it. So when you evaluate your Christian commitment, and you evaluate how you're using your life, ask yourself one question. Am I involved in winning lost men and women to Jesus Christ? Is that where my time and energy and effort and talent and money is going?
To do that? So unless you're committed to the fact that we are here for the responsibility of winning a lost world of Jesus Christ, then you better re-examine why you are existing. Fellowship, teaching, praise are not the mission of the church. They're part of the preparation and the training for the mission. I mean a great athlete does a lot of things in training, but the training is not to be confused with the competing and the winning. It is not to be confused with running the race.
All the exercise and preparation you go through in your education is not to be confused with succeeding in your profession. And when the church meets for fellowship, fellowship, teaching and praise, all that is only preparation for the running of the race and the winning of lost people to Christ. That's why we're here.
That is it. Now to understand that is to be able to come to the passage in Matthew chapter 28, and I call your attention back to it, with understanding. Here is the purpose of the church. So simply stated, everything Christ did when He was here on earth was for this. Everything we're to do is for this.
And what is it? Verse 19, and the verb should read, go ye therefore and make disciples. That's all I want you to grasp for a moment. That's the main verb in the last two verses. Make disciples, make disciples. That's our calling. That's our calling. That's why we're here.
And the only reason why we're here. We are left here to make disciples, to bring people to Christ, to cause people to become followers of the Savior, to seek and to save those that are lost. The verb make disciples, mathetusate, is an imperative command. From the verb mathetuo, the noun form is mathetes, we get the word disciple or learner from that. It means one who is a learner, one who follows, to make a disciple of, to make a learner of, to make a follower of. We are to make followers of Christ, disciples of Christ, learners of Christ out of men. We are to bring them to Christ.
It is a common term. It is a term used even in the Jewish culture in Matthew 13 52 to describe the training process of a scribe. It speaks about a person coming to one and being trained by that one, learning from that one. Jesus did it. In Matthew 27 57 it says that Joseph was discipled by Jesus. He was one who followed Jesus, who knew Jesus Christ by faith and walked after His precepts. In John 4, a very important passage, verse 1 gives us insight into the preoccupation of Jesus' ministry. When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John. Jesus made and baptized disciples. That's His ministry.
Even though mathetusate is not used in John 4, 1, the expression there with the noun mathetes and the verb form poieo, to do or to make, makes the same point. Jesus makes disciples. Jesus is involved in bringing to Himself men and women to follow Him. Its reference is to initially salvation and then to all that follows that. This also became the work of the early church.
In Acts 14 21 it says that the apostles went out into the church and basically made disciples, brought people to follow Jesus. That's why we're here. That's why we're here. Our motive, our motive isn't to get a reward for what we've done. Our motive isn't to be the number one soul winner in our church. Our motive isn't to be able to rack up certain names that we've led to Christ and announce them to other people. Our motive is to glorify God, but our mission is to win the loss to Jesus Christ. This purpose and this mission is so absolutely clear, and I want you to listen carefully to this, that it isn't even repeated in the book of Acts.
It isn't even repeated. There is no command after Matthew, and of course the Great Commission is repeated in all the four gospels, but after this there is no repetition of this command. We are to make disciples.
That's John MacArthur on Grace to You with the first installment of his study titled The Great Commission. Now friend, we're just days away from the start of the new year, and so as 2022 draws to a close, keep in mind that Grace to You is supported entirely by friends like you. About a quarter of our budget is met by gifts we receive at the end of the year. To help bring biblical truth to God's people in 2023, get in touch today. You can mail your tax-deductible donation to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. You can also donate online at gty.org. Your support helps keep verse-by-verse Bible teaching available to men and women on stations like this throughout the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking world. Again, you can send a check to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412.
And make sure the letter is postmarked by December 31st, or you can make a gift by credit card at our website, gty.org. At gty.org, you'll also find thousands of free Bible study resources that will help you understand God's Word like never before. In particular, more than 3,500 sermons by John MacArthur available in MP3 and transcript format. And if you're not sure where to start, check out GraceStream. It's a unique way to listen to John's teaching through the New Testament. We start in Matthew and go straight through to the book of Revelation and then start it all over again. It's a great way to immerse yourself in God's Word. The sermon archive, GraceStream, and much more are all available at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Come back tomorrow when John shows you three keys for effective evangelism. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
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