Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Vision (12.4.14): Five Notes from Luke 24:47 on the Great Commission

Note:  Last Sunday morning, we took another look at the “Great Commission” in Luke, dwelling especially on Luke 24:47.  Here are some sermon notes on the exposition of this verse:

And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

Every word or phrase in this verse has been providentially chosen and should be meditated upon and pondered.

Notice first the emphasis on the means for carrying out the Great Commission.  The means is preaching, the man of God standing to proclaim God’s truth about Christ from God’s Word (cf. Rom 10:14-15, 17; 1 Cor 1:21).

Notice second the content of the proclamation:  “repentance [metanoia:  change of heart, change of way, turning from sin] and remission [aphesis:  cancellation, release (as of prisoners)] of sins.”

The joining of these two terms is not accidental.  True preaching must balance these two things.  It must demand repentance and announced forgiveness.  Neglect one for the other and preaching gets out of balance.  Preach repentance without simultaneously announcing forgiveness and you get legalistic preaching which accentuates awareness of sin and piles up guilt, but it never offers relief.  Preach forgiveness without simultaneously demanding repentance and you get licentious preaching, “cheap grace” preaching.  This kind of preaching likes to dwell on “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” but omits “go and sin no more” (John 7:53—8:11).

Notice third the manner of the proclamation:  “in his name.”  Jesus speaks of himself here in the third person as the Messiah, as the Christ.  This has at least two explicit applications.

First, Great Commission preaching is to be done explicitly in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is a place for mercy ministry and compassion ministry to be undertaken by Christians.  Building schools and hospitals, teaching the minds and feeding the bodies of men, may have some place in Christian service as we do good to all men (cf. Gal 6:10).  But these things are not to be done as a replacement for or as a substitute for explicit preaching in the name of the crucified Christ.  The Asian missionary K. P. Yohannan has noted that men can go to hell with better educated minds and healthier bodies.  Indeed, as Jesus taught, What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his soul (Matt 16:26)?

Second, Great Commission preaching is to be done under the authority of Jesus.  Preaching in the name of Jesus means preaching under the authority of Jesus. This means that Great Commission preaching is to be preaching that is consistent with the doctrine which Jesus taught and the methods which Jesus practiced.  Jesus did not preach, for example, a health and wealth gospel.  Someone may go out and preach that gospel and might even gather a large crowd of hearers.  But if his doctrine is inconsistent with the doctrine of Jesus, he is not preaching in the name of Jesus or under the authority of Jesus.  He is, instead, preaching in his own name and under his own authority.

Notice fourth the audience for Great Commission preaching:  “among all nations [the Greek word is ethnos, the root for our English word “ethnic”].”  Here is where the Lukan Great Commission sounds like that recorded by Matthew in Matthew 28:19-20:  “Go and teach all nations….”  This furthers the announcement made by the angel to the shepherds at Christ’s birth:  “Fear not:  for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).  The nation watched this week those scenes of destruction in Ferguson, Missouri as vivid examples of sin which overflows from ethnic division and rivalry.  There is only one solution for ethnic division and that it the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Christian message is not universalism (all men will be saved regardless of their response to Christ) but it is universal (it is directed to all men).

Notice, finally, the last thing Jesus says here in v. 47 is that it is to take place “beginning at Jerusalem.”  This is made even clearer in the instructions which Jesus gives in Luke 24:49.  When we turn over to Acts chapters 1-2 we see the working out of the plan Jesus unveils as the Spirit is poured out on the first disciples at Pentecost.  Leon Morris notes the significance of this command:  “The disciples are not to attempt the task of evangelism with their own meager resources, but are to await the coming of the Spirit” (Luke, p. 343).  We might conclude then that this last phrase addresses the resources upon which the disciples were to rely in pursuing the Great Commission.

Think back on v. 47:  The disciples were to use the right means (preaching), in proclaiming the right content (repentance and remission of sins), in the right manner (in his name), to the right audience (all nations), with the right resources (God’s power given through the Holy Spirit and not our own power).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle    

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