This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.
Some of the following passages further support my argument that Christ gave the command of the “Great Commission” solely to the apostles and, later, to those who were/are given the gift and passion of evangelism. Other passages are used to show the true purpose of the Church and what God requires of His people.
John 13:34-35 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 15:8-14 – This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
These two passages in John reiterate the second most important commandment, “Love each other as I have loved you.” While it is important that we love “our neighbor”, it is more important that believers love one another.
John 17:8-23 contains a portion of Jesus’ prayer for the eleven disciples. In verses 8 and 9 Christ prays, “For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”
Then, starting in verse18, He states:
John 17:18-23 -As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Christ’s physical ministry on earth is ending and He is sending his chosen apostles “into the world”. (verse 18) He prays for “those who will believe in me through their message” that they “may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” He continues in verse 23 with “may they brought to complete unity.” As believers, we are to have unity with one another, and not be factionalized. However, based on the number of so-called Christian denominations that exist today, the Church has failed miserably to obey this command.
John 20:19-21 – On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
There is no evidence that the group gathered together consisted of anyone other than the apostles (minus Thomas) although some of the Marys may also have been in attendance. Thus, there is no reason to contend that when Christ said “I am sending you”, he was referring to all who were to become believers.
1 Cor 16:15-16 – You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.
If evangelism is to be the priority of every Christian, why is Paul praising the household of Stephanas for “devoting
themselves to the service of the saints”? Should he not be rebuking them instead and insisting their efforts be focused on expanding the kingdom instead of serving those who already know Christ?
Eph 2:10 – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
It would seem that if evangelizing is the primary purpose that man is left on earth after being saved, this verse should have been written “…created in Christ Jesus to evangelize …”. Paul should be driving home the point that if the Ephesians are not reaching out to the lost, they are missing the reason for their existence on earth. “Good works” definitely does not preclude sharing the gospel, but I think Paul would have been a bit more specific if evangelizing was that important.
Eph 3:7-9 – I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
Paul is emphasizing the fact that the grace to be an evangelist was given to him, the “least of all God’s people”, by God. If all believers are evangelists, then obviously even the least of all God’s people would also have the grace to be an evangelist. That totally destroys his argument that, out of all God’s people, he specifically was chosen to evangelize the Gentiles. After the dispersion in Jerusalem, there were likely many believers scattered throughout the countries of the Gentiles. Paul does not mention that believers throughout those countries should also be preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.
Eph 4:1-3 – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Eph 4: 25-32 – Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Eph 5:15-21 – Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
There is still a glaring omission in Paul’s exhortations. There is no mention of proclaiming the gospel to the lost. There are only commands to fellowship with one another.
Eph 6:19-20 – Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
In verses 19 and 20 of this chapter, Paul does mention evangelism. However, he is asking the Ephesians to pray that he, not that the Ephesians, will be bold in proclaiming the gospel. Since he is taking the time to address sharing the gospel, would he not certainly exhort them also to “declare it fearlessly” if he believed they should be fearlessly, passionately, and actively sharing the gospel?
Phil 1:9-11 – And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God.
Phil 3:18 – For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
These passages do not contain any exhortations or references to evangelism. If evangelism is the primary duty of all Christians, that is a glaring omission! Paul is in tears because of the unbelievers (those who “live as enemies of the cross of Christ”). Should he not have immediately followed verse 18 with a strong exhortation that the readers get out and evangelize their unbelieving neighbors, friends, and family? Maybe he didn’t believe it was their duty?
Col 1:3-4 – We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.
Why is Paul thanking God? Because of the faith of the Colossians and the love they have for one another. Should he not be admonishing them for being more concerned for one another than for unbelievers?
Col 1:25 – I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness…
Paul is acknowledging that the reason he is proclaiming the gospel to the Colossians is because he was commissioned by God. If everyone is commissioned by God to be an evangelist, his statement makes little sense.