It is the privilege of every Christ-follower to share the message of God’s redemptive grace with the world. Matthew 28:16-20 provides a clear picture of God’s intention for those who have accepted His gift of Salvation and have entered into His family (Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:7-9; 1 John 3:1-2). By His authority as the Son in the Trinity, Jesus instructs His followers to evangelize to the entire world. It is this model by which the church should be structured, placing the priority on evangelism and discipleship. It is out of our love for God and our love for one another that we bring the Good News to the world and help those that choose Him to grow and mature in their faith (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31).
Having accomplished the mission of His time on earth, Jesus gives the disciples their marching orders to continue His ministry. His place is at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20), and now the time has come to commission the disciples to bring the Gospel message to the world. These chosen men had walked with Jesus and learned from Him during the course of His ministry. Now they are called to teach the Truth of God’s love and Salvation through Christ to the world. Later, just before His ascension, He reiterates the command in Matthew 28:19, this time specifically mentioning the very places that would take them into the Gentile world (Acts 1:8). Jesus is reminding them that He intends for them to bring the Gospel to everyone.
Jesus is instructing them to go beyond simply telling people the story of His life. He is commanding the disciples to instruct people about Him. This is very different than the conversational, “have you heard?” type of information sharing. This requires humility, grace, commitment and love for all people (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31).
Jesus gave this command to His disciples after He had risen from the dead. If they had any doubt about His identity during His earthly ministry, surely it would have quickly disappeared upon hearing of the empty tomb and witnessing Him in resurrected form. To the disciples, the words of their rabbi now had greater authority than ever before. It is through this paradigm that they receive the command to bring the Gospel to all people.
Given in the present tense, this command is timeless. It was spoken to the disciples but is as applicable to the church today. The work of evangelism and discipleship are to continue until Christ returns.
According to Kevin Harney in his book, Organic Outreach for Ordinary People, “The vast majority of Christians don’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism. But we are all called to let our lights shine (Matt. 5:16). … Just because we don’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism does not exempt us from reaching out and sharing God’s love.”
Growth in the church is not merely to fill seats and increase coffers, but to enlarge and strengthen the body of Christ. The more people accept Christ’s give of salvation and grow in their relationship with Him, the more we will see Jesus’ example of loving one another. When we love and care for one another, we learn to be selfless and expand our concerns for others while reducing our focus on ourselves. In this way, the body is strengthened and the world will see the light of Christ. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
And that is our Why.
Learn how to share your faith naturally in Kevin G. Harney’s book, Organic Outreach for Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally (Zondervan).