Thursday, May 25, 2006

Where Our Hearts Are

Jesus speaking to his disciples in Matthew 28:
"18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
This is the Great Commission. Evangelicals the world over view this as their marching orders. I have a number of problems with that. It is not necessarily a command to Christians worldwide for all time. We all are aware that it was a command to the disciples. Why would it or would it not be a command to the rest of us? One device used to make it expansive is that within the command it suggests that the disciples "teach all that was commanded" and this command was one of those things. Slam dunk some would think. St. James, the Lord's brother, introduces a speed bump. If we all have to teach all that is commanded how can he say "Let not many of you become teachers."? St. Paul also "I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent." Half the Christian population is forbidden to teach the other half and if James is to be believed, very few of the other half should be teaching anyway. St. Paul asks in I Corinthians 12, "Are all teachers?" as a rhetorical question defending the varied gifts of the body of Christ.
Admittedly, the Great Commission is primarily used for evangelical motivation. This "teaching to observe" sophistry is just a defense to bring the command aspect back to our witnessing. The narrow application is not just present in my narrower application. The evangelicals do the same. They only want a witnessing command. They don't really want, nor do they apply, the "everyone teaching everyone else the whole council of God". They don't even obey the "baptize" portion of the command. Everyone should witness, they claim, because of the Great Commission. No, everyone should not baptize or teach. The command proves powerless to get various parachurch groups or individuals to take up the task as much present in the command as the "make disciples". Why is it that the evangelicals so inconsistently want a command to witness?
The "why" is present in the arena suggested in the title to this post. When ever I have said that the Great Commission was to the Apostles alone the singular response has been, "Why would anyone witness?" Even if I was wrong about my interpretation, this response is unnerving. Why indeed? Perhaps love? Perhaps the overwhelming wonder of the Gospel? Perhaps thanksgiving? The absence of a good reason to witness in the hearts of the Christians minus a command, suggests to me that the Judaizers have taken over the church. The church lives by Law not Grace. So much so that the saving message of Jesus Christ cannot find a way to our tongues without a rule of which we must constantly be reminded. And it must be defended as a command. In another example of becoming slaves again to the external demands of the law, how many pastors would be willing to wait, regarding their church's giving, until the hearts of the congregation became loving and generous? The shortest distance between getting paid and not, is the Law. So the tithe law is preached even in the most antinomian churches.
So who is really saved, changed by the power of the Living God? Who is living by Faith and bearing fruit given by the Spirit? Remove the Law and see. Would you witness if you didn't "have to"? What would you give if you were convinced that the Gentile church was not under the tithe law?
How willing are you to see your actual spiritual state or that of your church? Law hides the state of the heart. Would you or your company of Christians still want the lost to come to know Jesus Christ if the Great Commission had never been recorded?

1 comment:

Lincoln Davis said...

I am convinced by this remarkable example of exegesis, and your ability to parse text finely and yet arrive at a just result, that you would have made an excellent judge. But there is still time; you could go to law school and be one of those non-traditional students. Quite non-traditional indeed.