You will never begin in your own life to fulfill the reason you're not in heaven if you're not available. And by that I mean your time and your talent and your gifts and your finances and your resources are set in availability before the Lord to be used as He would desire for the purpose which He has called you to fulfill. You may not often think of it in these terms, but you and I are living in a spiritually lost world made up of the people you see in your neighborhood, your favorite restaurant, the stores where you shop, and maybe even the church and Bible study you attend.
Which raises the question, how can you reach the people in your circles for Christ? John MacArthur shows you today on Grace to You as he continues a study that can help you understand the life-saving mission God has called you to. It's part of his series, The Great Commission. And now to begin today's lesson, here is John MacArthur.
S.D. Gordon has written a lot of little books years ago called Quiet Talks, Quiet Talks on Service, Quiet Talks on Prayer. I read them as a young man.
One of them is called Quiet Talks on World Winners. And in it he has a marvelous, marvelous illustration. He says a group of people were preparing for an ascent to the top of Mont Blanc in France in the Swiss Alps. On the evening before the climb, a French guide outlined the prerequisite for success. He said this, you will only reach the top by taking just the necessary equipment for climbing and leaving behind all unnecessary accessories. It's a difficult climb.
A young Englishman disagreed and proceeded along the following pattern. In the morning he showed up and he had a rather heavy, brightly cluttered blanket, some large pieces of cheese, a bottle of wine, a couple cameras and several lenses hanging around his neck, and also some bars of chocolate. The guide said you'll never make it with that. You can only take the bare necessities to make the climb.
But strong-willed as he was, he set off on his own in front of the group to prove to them he could do it. The group then followed under the direction of the guide with just the bare necessities. And on the way up toward the summit of Mont Blanc, they began to notice certain things left behind. First, a brightly colored blanket, then some pieces of cheese, a bottle of wine, camera equipment and some chocolate bars. Finally, when they reached the top, they discovered that he was there, having jettisoned everything in the process.
S.D. Gordon then makes this application to the Christian life. So many people, when they find that they can't make it to the top with all their accessories, let the top go and pitch their tent in the plane. And the plane is very full of tents. You understand that?
It is very full of tents. And the question comes to you and to me is, do we understand why we exist? Can we say to the Savior, I know why the Father sent you into the world to glorify him by winning the lost? I know why you sent me into the world to glorify him by winning the lost, but you don't understand.
I can make it with all my accessories. No, it's not so. Too many people, said S.D. Gordon, let the top go and pitch their tent in the plane. Now what is necessary for effective evangelism? If we're going to make disciples of all nations, if we're going to reach the world, what is necessary? First, what I've given you in this introduction must be understood. But now I want you to look at five explicit or implicit elements.
We're only going to examine two of them and the rest next time. These are in the text of Matthew 28, 16 to 20, and they are those things which are essential to effective fulfillment of the purpose for which the church exists. Availability, worship, submission, obedience, and power. First of all, let's look at availability. This is implied in verse 16 in a very, very wonderful way. By the way, someone once said the greatest ability is availability.
I like that. It doesn't matter how talented you are if you aren't available. The greatest ability is availability, and we see that here. There's going to be a great commissioning on this day, and there are going to be people sent out into all the world with the promise of the presence and the power of the living Christ. But if you weren't there, you weren't going to be a part of that. The ones who were available were the ones who received the privilege. Verse 16, then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. Back in chapter 26, verse 32, He said, When I'm raised from the dead, I'll go before you into Galilee. After He was raised from the dead, notice verse 7 of chapter 28, the angel said to the women, He goes before you into Galilee, there you will see Him. When Jesus appeared to those same women later on in verse 10, Jesus said to them, Go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me. In other words, before and after the resurrection, Jesus said He would meet with His disciples in Galilee.
He was calling together a great conclave there for the purpose of commissioning them to reach the world. They were told then before His death and after His resurrection that they were to be there. And no doubt the word spread beyond the disciples to all the others who believed in Jesus Christ, and they were all gathered as we shall see on that mountain on that appointed day. Now we have no specific knowledge as to how Jesus communicated to them the time and the place, what day and what mountain.
We don't know. It just says here that they went away into Galilee, into the mountain, the Greek text says, the specific mountain which Jesus had Himself appointed. The verb form indicating there that it was by His own discretion and His own will that He appointed a certain mountain to meet them. We don't know how that message was conveyed to them, but it was. Now when did this happen? Obviously it was after His resurrection. Obviously the day of His resurrection He met the women, He went on the road to Emmaus, saw a couple of other disciples, saw the disciples that night in the upper room, saw them eight days later again in the upper room, so it would be at least after that eighth day. Then after that eighth day when the disciples had seen Him, they would need a certain amount of time to journey north into Galilee, maybe a week. When they come into Galilee in John 21, we see them fishing, and it seems that they had actually gone back to their old profession. They were in a boat that may well have been Peter's own boat, as if he were taking up his old trade, not really knowing what to expect in the future from the Lord, even though he had been told to go to Galilee and wait for the Lord to come. So the disciples had time to go back, to sort of reestablish their fishing enterprise. They were down there in the boat. You remember Jesus came.
They couldn't catch anything. Jesus showed them that He had control over the fish, called them to the shore, asked Peter if he loved Him three times, then commissioned them to serve and feed His sheep. So the Lord has had all of these several meetings. The first eight days in Jerusalem, maybe a week to go north. That would put it maybe at 15 days, maybe three or four days to sort of settle into the fishing. Maybe it's 20 days later by the time this happens. Now we know in Acts 1-3 it says that Jesus showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs over a period of 40 days. So it's somewhere between 20 days maybe and 40 days that this occurs. It wouldn't be at the end of the 40 because the last appearance was at the Mount of Olives where He ascended.
The Mount of Olives is outside Jerusalem. They would have had to have another few days to get back there. So maybe somewhere between 20 and 35 days after His resurrection, but still with time to return to Galilee and to see Him ascend, Jesus then calls together this group of people for this very special commissioning. Now you say, what group of people is this specifically? I believe it is the group of people indicated in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 verses 6 and 7 where it says, 500 plus brethren saw Him at one time. Here is the gathering in Galilee with the 500 plus.
That has been the consistent view of biblical teachers throughout the years and I see that as being very accurate. Now it only tells us in verse 16 that the 11 disciples were there because of course they were central to the issue. They used to be called the 12 but with the defection, apostasy and death of Judas who went to his own place as Acts 1 25 says, they were now reduced to 11 and they become known as the 11. But this sighting of Jesus here was not limited to them because in chapter 28 verse 7 the angel said to the women, He goes before you into Galilee, there shall you see Him, lo I have told you. So it was for the 11, it was for the women and presumably it was for all the other believers and disciples in Galilee who were to be commissioned for this responsibility of reaching the world. The 500 at one time who saw Him as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15, 6 and 7. There's no reason for Jesus to go all the way to Galilee to have a meeting with just the 11 disciples. He had met them twice in Jerusalem.
If He wanted another meeting with them, He could have done it. The command here given to go and make disciples of all nations doesn't know any hierarchy. That's a command given to everybody whether you're an apostle or not. It fits all those who love and follow Jesus Christ. And certainly our Lord would have wanted to give this commission to the largest group possible and the largest group possible would be the 500 gathered in Galilee because there were so many more believers in Galilee than in Jerusalem.
See how do you know that? Because in Acts chapter 1 verse 15 when the believers in Jerusalem met to wait for the Holy Spirit, there were only 120 of them in the upper room. The number of disciples in Jerusalem was much smaller, the hostility was much greater and the dominance of Christ's ministry had occurred in Galilee where the hearts were more open. He came in Matthew 4 as a light to the Gentiles, to the Galilean area known as Galilee of the Gentiles. He came to that region first of all to present His message and so the bulk of believers were there. Also Galilee would be a fitting place not only because of the number of believers but because of the seclusion of it away from the hostility of Jerusalem. And because there could be so easily found a place where they could have privacy on the many hillsides around the sea. So it provided the largest group of disciples, the greatest seclusion, the greatest safety in the right setting because it was a place where many nations lived surrounding it, the right setting to tell people to go to reach all those nations with the gospel.
And so the 11 are there and I believe the women were there and I believe all the rest of the disciples of Jesus who believed in Him in the Galilee region were there also. And they were in the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. We don't know what mountain it was. It may have been the Mount of Transfiguration. It may have been that the Mount of Glory became the Mount of Resurrection and the Mount of Commissioning. It may have been the mount where He taught the sermon on the mount. It may have been the mountain where He fed the crowd or the mountain that He went to so often to pray. It could have been any mountain.
We really don't know. But it becomes a sacred mountain because of what happens here as over 500 of them with all their weaknesses and confusion and doubts and misgivings and fears and questions and bewilderments are gathered together. They're not the greatest people in the world. They're not the most capable or the most brilliant. They're not the most experienced, but they are there and that is to be commended.
They are available. And that's what I love about this verse. That means ready for service. Everything at this point focuses on the fact that they were there. Jesus said be there and they were there.
They're reminiscent of the availability of Isaiah who after the vision of God in chapter 6 verses 1 to 7 says, Here am I Lord, send me. I may not be the best. I'm a man with a dirty mouth, but I don't see anybody else volunteering. I think your choices are limited.
Here am I, send me. They were not the great and the noble of the world, but they were the available and that's all God ever wants. And beloved, may I say to you this, that you will never begin in your own life to fulfill the reason you're not in heaven if you're not, to begin with, available.
And by that I mean your time and your talent and your gifts and your finances and your resources are set in availability before the Lord to be used as He would desire for the purpose which He has called you to fulfill. Because they were there, they were commissioned. Because they were there, they met Christ. Because they were there, they received a promise of presence and power. You see, just being there was critical. You know, little people with puny plans never show up at great events.
They're too busy with trivia. Church for them is a whimsical thing. The place of the Word, the place of prayer, the assembly of the people of God is negotiable to them. You have to ask yourself that question to begin with. I mean, are you even in the place where you're getting the orders?
Are you available? Are you willing to say no to whatever you possess and whatever time you think is yours? The Lord says it's His. I've really been searching my own heart on this.
And I trust you will as well. There's a second principle that I just want to mention. It doesn't need to be elucidated at great length. And that is the attitude of worship that we see in verse 17. The first prerequisite or element in fulfilling this commission to make disciples is to be available. The second is to worship. And this is a question of focus.
It's a question of focus. It says in verse 17, and this is absolutely marvelous, the way this verse appears. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted. I love that.
I think that's so honest. And when they saw Him, He appeared all of a sudden in the supernatural way in which He could transfer Himself from one place to another. He appeared and in an instant everyone saw Him in that supernatural appearance and it created an instantly overwhelming effect and they worshiped Him.
Proskuneo, to prostrate oneself in adoring worship. The risen Christ commanded their worship. They weren't worshiping Him as some human dignitary. They weren't worshiping Him as some earthly king. They were worshiping Him as God. For it had been affirmed that He was indeed God, the Son of God. Even in His death did not the centurion say, Truly this was the Son of God.
Did not Thomas say, My Lord and my God, as recorded in the 20th chapter of John. This is more than homage to an earthly king. This is honor for God Himself in human flesh. They fall in adoring worship. They had worshiped once earlier. It's referred to one other time that the disciples actually worshiped Him and that was in Matthew 14 33 when He had walked on the water and they knew He had to be the supernatural God Himself who controls the elements. But now their awe is even greater because He has risen from the dead. Not only is He a miracle worker but He is the one who has conquered death and they have seen Him and touched Him. Chapter 28 verse 9, the women held His feet and the disciples touched His body and He was with them. He went out of the grave right through the stone. He came in the room right through the wall and yet He was able to be touched and they knew they were dealing with a divine, glorious, supernatural person. And so when He appeared they worshiped Him.
And then I love this note, but some doubted. You say, Matthew, you shouldn't put that in there. We're trying to make a case for the validity of the resurrection.
Why would you do that? And that again is a reminder to us of the transparent honesty of the biblical writer who is not trying to contrive a believable story by reporting it in a selective way. He's not collecting evidence that's only going to make His case. The integrity of this is a great proof of the truthfulness of it. If men were trying to falsify and contrive a message about a resurrection they wouldn't throw in the very climactic point, but some doubted. Unless it was true, and it was true.
So it's included. And that's the integrity of Scripture. And we ask ourselves, first of all, what kind of doubt was this? Well, some suggest that the doubters were the eleven because it says some doubted and the some must go back to verse 16, the eleven disciples who were there. Well, it possibly could be that some doubted. It doesn't say that some doubted that Jesus was alive or that they doubted that He was raised from the dead. The indication is when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted that it was Him. It wasn't so much necessarily a question of the resurrection issue, but the doubt was that this was really Him.
That could have happened among the disciples. Some of them may not have been able to clearly see His face. Some of Him, because He was appearing now in resurrection glory and maybe revealing Himself in a way different than they had seen Him in the upper room, were really unable to be certain. And some of them were a little bit more hesitant to affirm this until they had surer evidence. But on the other hand, if the women were there, including a group of, say, 489 plus the eleven, it could have been any of them. And keep this in mind, apart from the women and the disciples, none of those other people had ever seen Him after His resurrection. So this is the first time for them.
So we're not surprised that now they're going to have an experience they've never had. There's a group that's so large, 500 people, that not everybody's going to be in the front of the group. Christ appears to them. They're not sure that it's Him. Maybe some of the disciples are not quite sure yet. You say, well, how could they not be sure if He was there in their presence?
The answer comes in a very wonderful way at the beginning of verse 18. And it says, And Jesus, Aristotle's participle, came nearer, or approaching, which indicates to us the probable cause for their doubt, that Jesus in His appearance appeared at a distance. And it wasn't until He came near them and began to speak that those who doubted would have their doubt erased. So the doubts possibly could have come from those who were disciples, but as yet could not be sure that this was Jesus because He was far off, or it could have come from those who had never, ever seen Him in resurrection glory, and it wasn't for them either until He was near that they could identify Him as the one they knew to be Jesus Christ.
But it's so lovely and so beautiful that the writer includes this because it's so natural and it's so true and it's so uncontrived, and it's such a convincing indicator of the validity of the scene itself. So at first they doubted, but as He came near, all doubt was dispelled. Doubting the Son of God and worshiping the Son of God is mentioned in the same breath on one other incident that I mentioned earlier. In Matthew 14, when Jesus walked on the water and seen at a distance, they doubted. When He came near, they believed and they worshiped. And those people who at this particular point initially doubted, no doubt had their doubt erased as Jesus drew near, their doubt was turned to confident faith and erased, and they no doubt felt ashamed, as every doubter does, when the vapor of doubt has been driven away by the shining Son of the living God.
But I want you to see this. They worshiped. Eventually, I believe all of them did.
They worshiped. Now friends, that is essential. We're talking about reaching a lost world. We're not talking about just everybody running out the door and going on down the street and doing everything you can.
What we're saying is that there are some things that are foundational. There is an attitude that says, I am available. Lord, whatever you want me to do, I will do that. I can remember on a highway as a kid about 17 or 18 years old, lying on the highway, just thrown out of a car, going 75 miles an hour and sliding 110 or 15 yards on my back, and still being alive and lying on the side of a road, and out of my heart came this cry to God, Oh God, I know that you control my life. Thank you for saving my life, and whatever you want me to be, that's what I'll be.
I'm available. Pray, God, that it doesn't have to come to that point for many of you. For me, it did. But God is after an available heart, where you're there at the appointed place at the appointed time to hear the orders from the one who's going to give them. And the second thing is a worshiping heart, and what that means is focus.
And again, we're back to this whole idea of where's your focus. Worship simply means to be intent on grasping Christ. The women fell down and held His feet. These people fell down, prostrate before Him, and believe me, when they saw the risen Jesus Christ on that mountain that day, nothing else in their world made any difference to them. It ceased to matter to them where they lived and what they drove and how they looked and so forth and so on. What mattered to them was they had seen the living Christ. And this group of people, along with 120 more of them down in Jerusalem, literally turned the world upside down and out of that small group of witnesses of Christ's resurrection and Christ's Spirit coming, there is a worldwide faith in Jesus Christ to this day of which you and I are inheritors.
And it didn't happen because of a half-committed people. It happened because people worshiped Christ in the sense that they had undivided allegiance and devotion to Him in which everything else paled into insignificance. When we worship the Lord Jesus Christ, we put ourselves in the place where we are available and we are able. The whole heart set on Christ. The whole affection set on Christ. The whole mind set on Christ. All the goals are set on Christ.
He is all in all. He fills our thought and our intention. And we spend our days and our nights thinking not how can we make it better for ourselves, but how can we exalt His blessed name. Not how can we be more comfortable as Christians, but how can we win the loss no matter how discomforting it is to us. So where's your focus?
Are you available? Are you a worshiper? And by that I don't mean stained glass windows and organ music and show up on Sunday. What I mean is that you focus your whole intent and purpose in life on Christ. That's Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for tuning in today. John is a pastor, author, and chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. He's titled his current study, The Great Commission. John, as I listened to you teach today, I realized you preached this sermon several years ago. And it strikes me that your preaching is timeless partly because you're willing to go against the grain of what is popular today.
Your teaching is not full of cultural references. It's just pure biblical content. Maybe you could take a minute to explain why you are committed to that style of verse-by-verse Bible teaching.
Yeah, well, it comes down to a very basic reality. The Bible is God's revelation, so we want to preach the Bible. But God also revealed it in the biblical context. So I'm convinced, because God would never make a mistake, that you should teach the Bible in the biblical context.
Now, that might sound obvious to some people, but think about it. It's really popular to take a Bible concept, a Bible truth, and a Bible story and bring it into modern culture, maybe change the illustrations because you're not going to use an ancient illustration or an agricultural illustration, so you kind of update it. And you have now moved the truth of Scripture away from its context. And I think the purest understanding of Scripture is studying Bible truth in the Bible context. And that means you don't bring the Bible into the modern day. You bring the modern reader into the Bible day. You take the listener back and you recreate the biblical context because context is so critical in shaping an accurate interpretation. So as we do this kind of Bible teaching, we are going to introduce you to the Bible and to the Bible's context, which means history, language, customs, all of those things that are germane to the time and place and thinking of the people when the Lord inspired His Word. So we're on the radio here to teach you God's Word and teach you God's Word in God's way from the Word of God in the framework of biblical contexts.
We know that it doesn't happen by accident. We're here in the midst of ongoing financial, cultural challenges, some of them pretty threatening. But we're here because people like you are still seeing grace to you as vital and important and worth supporting. And that's why we have the opportunity and the ministry that we do, teaching the Bible all across the globe in English and in Spanish and in multiple other languages as well, almost ten different languages. So as we anticipate another year of teaching the Bible, just make sure you stand with us as you're able and the Lord will make you a full participating partner in what He does to advance His glorious truth.
That's right, friend. When you support our ministry, you want to know that your gift is reaching people, and we get that, and we affirm that. And so know that when you give, you're helping reach people, young and old, in countless life situations in communities near and far with biblical truth. To express your support, contact us today. You can mail your tax-deductible donation to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412.
And in order to be tax-deductible for 2022, your gift by check needs to be postmarked by December 31st. Our mailing address again, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. You can also make a year-end donation with your credit card at our website, GTY.org. Just go there, GTY.org, and submit your donation by 11.59 p.m. on December 31st. Our web address one more time, GTY.org. And thank you again for helping us start 2023 on a strong financial footing, allowing us to reach people in your community and beyond with verse-by-verse Bible teaching that changes lives. And friend, let me encourage you to follow us on social media. There you can learn about John's newest books, and you can hear the latest news about what's happening here at Grace to You, and you'll find us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Thanks for tuning in today, and be here tomorrow when John shows you how to fit into God's plan to save the lost. Don't miss our next 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace to You.
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