What is the best method for fulfilling the Great Commission? There is a tendency on the part of Christians not to understand all components of the Great Commission (cf. Matt 28:18-20). No Christian can claim obedience to the Great Commission until he has “made disciples” through proclaiming the Gospel, “baptized” converts in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and “indoctrinated” converts in the whole counsel of God’s Word. It is not to say that every Christian must accomplish all components of the Great Commission in his own personal ministry. God has given various gifts, ministries, and offices among His people. However, it is certainly the will of God for each Christian to support, actively and prayerfully, that group of Christians wholly dedicated to this task. There is no biblical indication of a “streamlined” Commission that consists in merely preaching a “simple” Gospel and then allowing converts to decide for themselves into “the church of their choice.” Sometimes, of course, circumstances leave one helpless to do this (such as witnessing on an airplane when only a short amount of time is available), but it is no excuse for ignoring the full statement of the Great Commission or forgetting the ultimate goal as given by our Lord.
Teaching them all things
Not only is there a tendency on the part of Christians to be disobedient toward all components of the Great Commission, but also there is a tendency on the part of Christians to ignore the truth that Christ and His apostles gave utmost emphasis upon indoctrination of converts in “the whole counsel of God’s Word.” For instance, in the New Testament one reads that the apostles won converts, baptized them, and organized them into local churches for the purpose of doctrinal and practical edification and observance of all biblical commands. Although evangelism and communicating to a lost person the reality of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone are vitally important components of the total responsibility of the local church, the church must continually remind herself that the New Testament places the utmost emphasis upon the feeding (teaching) of those who are already Christians! Indeed, it may be said that the indoctrination of converts in the whole counsel of God’s Word is the basic New Testament pattern for world evangelization. Apart from this emphasis, Christian evangelism will soon become ineffective and superficial.
It is important to understand that deep, tender, feelings of affection in the Christian life are not more important than doctrine. Indeed, the New Testament never emphasizes such feelings as greater than doctrine and truth. To be very blunt, the greatest impact of biblical love is obedience to all of God’s Word. In the Old Testament, love is inextricably related to covenant and obedience (Exod 20:6; Deut 7:6-8; 10:12; 11:13, 22; 19:9; 30:19-20; Josh 22:5; 1 Sam 18:1-3; etc.). In the New Testament, love is most frequently related to discipleship and obedience (John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:9-10; 1 John 2:4-6; 5:1-3; 2 John 6a; etc.). The standard of biblical love is doctrine. As a Christian virtue, love is more important than faith and hope (1 Cor 13:13), but it is not more important than doctrine and truth. Indeed, true Christian love cannot increase apart from an atmosphere of Christian truth. Of course, liberals have denied the importance of doctrine and truth for years, and if Christians endure this false separation it will constitute one of the greatest victories of Satan against the church in modern times. Therefore, it is essential that the church indoctrinate converts in the whole counsel of God’s Word as the basic New Testament pattern for world evangelization. Not only will Christian evangelism become ineffective and superficial without this emphasis, but a Christian life that is glorifying and pleasing to the Lord will also suffer.
Understanding and applying the Bible is not an option. Doctrine without practice is dead, and practice without doctrine is blind. The problem with the professing church (“churchianity”) is not primarily in its practice, but in its doctrine. Christians do not know, and many do not care to know, the doctrines of Scripture. Doctrine is viewed as intellectual, and many Christians are generally anti-intellectual. Doctrine is regarded as “ivory tower” philosophy, and most Christians view “ivory towers” with contempt. However, it is the “ivory tower” that is the control tower of a civilization. It is a fundamental, theoretical sin of the “practical” Christian to deny that every practice belongs to some doctrine.
The relationship between doctrine and practice is the same as that between cause and effect. If a person believes correct doctrine, his practice will tend to be correct. The healthy practice/lifestyle of many contemporary Christians is immoral because it is the practice of false doctrines. It is a serious doctrinal error of so-called “practical” church members to think they can ignore the “ivory towers” of the philosophers and theologians as irrelevant to their lives. Every action that “practical” church members adopt is governed by the thinking that has occurred in some ivory tower. The first duty of the Christian is to understand sound doctrine—sound theory—and thereby implement sound (biblical) practice. The order of doctrine first, then practice, is both biblical and logical. For example, the Book of Romans first contains eleven chapters expounding doctrine, and only the last five discuss practice. Failure to instruct in sound doctrine is the reason for misconduct and cultural impotence of Christians. Lack of power in the life of the church is the lack of sound doctrinal truth. The success and survival of the church is based upon her increased acceptance of the Bible as the sole authority of Truth and the supreme importance of sound doctrine, and their logical implications as the result of emphasis upon the primacy of the intellect and recognition of the necessity for systematic and logical thinking.
The church will be catapulted into the future only as she is carefully governed and powerfully driven by the Word of God. Quite simply, the Word of God builds the church. It is crucial to teach the church that God’s chosen method to bring new life is to use His Word. God’s method for building the church determines the means of discipleship and evangelism. The Holy Spirit creates and sustains the church by the Word of God (2 Kgs 22—23; Neh 8—9; Isa 55:10-11; Ezek 37:1-14; Matt 4:4; John 1:1, 4, 14; Acts 19:20; 20:32; Rom 1:16; 10:17; 1 Thess 2:13; Heb 4:12; Jas 1:18, 21; 1 Pet 1:23, 25). The church grows quantitatively and qualitatively through the proclaiming of the Gospel and the systematic teaching of God’s Word. If God’s chosen method for building and sustaining His church is replaced with human thoughts and will, it will inevitably ensure the eternal futility of such work. May that not be said of your life and ministry.