The Great Commission, Part II The Sovereignty of God and the Great CommissionRelated Media
16 So the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20, emphasis mine). 330
I find it interesting that in all of the Gospels and in Acts the Great Commission is preceded by a reference to the fears or doubts of the disciples regarding the Lord’s resurrection.332 This was not an overly confident group at this moment in time. And yet it is only Matthew who chooses to stress the authority of our Lord as an introduction to the Great Commission.
It should not really be surprising to the reader of Matthew’s Gospel to find this emphasis on the authority of Jesus. After all, Matthew presents Jesus as the “King of Israel” or the “King of the Jews.” Kings have authority, and the greater the king, the greater his authority. Therefore we see the authority of Jesus being emphasized or challenged throughout this Gospel.
Matthew has chosen to call attention to the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of his Gospel, just after the account of His resurrection, and just before the giving of the Great Commission. I believe that Matthew’s wording makes the authority of our Lord the basis for the Great Commission. And so the questions for which we should seek the answers are these:
“What is the nature of the authority of Jesus Christ?”
“What is the relationship between the authority of our Lord and the Great Commission?”
“What are the practical implications and applications of this relationship?”
In this lesson, I will begin by identifying those instances in Matthew where the authority of Jesus is emphasized. I will then look at some of the key texts relating to Jesus’ authority in the other Gospels and in the rest of the New Testament. Finally, I will attempt to show how the authority of our Lord should impact our motivation, message, and methods of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let us begin by directing our attention to the way Matthew emphasizes the authority of Jesus in his Gospel.
In chapter 1, Matthew shows that Jesus is the legitimate heir to the throne of His father (ancestor) David (1:1-17). The angel of the Lord further introduces Jesus as the promised Messiah, whose name is Immanuel, which means “God with us” (1:18-23). What greater authority can any king have than being God in the flesh?
In chapter 2, the authority of Jesus is demonstrated in at least two ways. First, magi (Gentile noblemen, it would seem) come from afar to worship Jesus as “the King of the Jews” (2:2). Not only do these Gentile noblemen recognize the authority of Jesus, Herod and the people of Jerusalem also acknowledge the authority of Jesus in a different way. When they hear from the magi that the “King of the Jews” has been born, they are greatly troubled, along with Herod (2:3). I think their distress would be something like that of the political appointees in Washington D. C. learning that the opposing candidate for president just won the election. Herod would hardly set out to kill all boy babies two years old and younger (2:16-18) unless he regarded Jesus as a “clear and present danger.” In other words, Herod had respect for the authority of Jesus. Why try to kill someone whose authority does not pose a threat to you?
In chapter 3, we again find evidence of our Lord’s authority. He, like Saul and David, was designated to be God’s choice for Israel’s king by one of the prophets. In this case, the prophet was John the Baptist. He announces the coming appearance of Jesus with the words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” John identifies his ministry and the coming kingdom by appealing to the words of the prophet Isaiah, cited in verse 3. It is not just Jesus who is coming; it is the kingdom of heaven. This is a kingdom whose origin is heaven – He will reign with authority from heaven. And His kingdom requires repentance. The Messiah will come to judge the wicked and to make things right. What earthly kingdom requires repentance to enter it? And if this is not enough, chapter 3 ends with a divine endorsement from heaven at the time of our Lord’s baptism. Both the Father and the Spirit testify to the authority of Jesus.
In chapter 4, Jesus rejects Satan’s offer of delegated authority over the kingdoms of the world (4:8-10). Satan offers Jesus something less than what will rightfully be His – “all authority, in heaven and on earth” – given to Him by the Father (Matthew 28:18). The miracles described in the closing verses of chapter 4 serve to underscore the authority of Jesus in His teaching. Thus, when we come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount we see the crowds responding in this way:
28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching, 29 because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law (Matthew 7:28-29).
Luke’s Gospel makes a point of linking the authority of Jesus in His teaching to His authority over the unclean spirits:
31 So he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he began to teach the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! Leave us alone, Jesus the Nazarene! Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him: “Silence! Come out of him!” Then, after the demon threw the man down in their midst, he came out of him without hurting him. 36 They were all amazed and began to say to one another, “What’s happening here? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 So the news about him spread into all areas of the region (Luke 4:31-37).
It is amazing to see that a Gentile centurion has a greater grasp of our Lord’s authority than those who are Jewish:
5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help: 6 “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” 7 Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel! 11 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; just as you believed, it will be done for you.” And the servant was healed at that hour (Matthew 8:4-13, emphasis mine).
By faith, the centurion recognized that Jesus had great authority – greater authority than he had. Being a man of authority,333 the centurion was used to having those under him obey his commands, even at a distance. If this was true for him, then surely Jesus would be able to heal his servant without making the journey to his house.334 Jesus commended this man’s faith, indicating that there would be many Gentiles in the kingdom of heaven, while many of the Jews would be cast into outer darkness.
Later on in chapter 8 (verses 23-27), Jesus stills the storm, causing His disciples to marvel at His authority:
And the men were amazed and said, “What sort of person is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matthew 8:27)
But our Lord is not finished causing men to marvel, so that in chapter 9 He claims the authority to forgive sins (9:1-8). This, of course, greatly disturbed some of the scribes, because they realized that only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7). Since they rejected His claim to deity, they reasoned that He must be guilty of blasphemy (Matthew 9:3). By healing the paralytic, Jesus authenticated His claim to be God, and thus to have the authority to forgive sins (9:5-8).
In chapter 10, Jesus sent out His 12 disciples, delegating His authority to them so that they had the power to cast out unclean spirits and cure every kind of disease and sickness (10:1). In addition to this, they were given the authority to raise the dead (10:8). I like the way Luke puts this:
After Jesus called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases (Luke 9:1, emphasis mine; also note Luke 10:19).
In chapter 11, we find a reference to another aspect of our Lord’s authority:
26 “Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him” (Matthew 11:26-27).
Jesus here claims the authority to determine those to whom He will reveal the Father. His authority includes sovereign control over the salvation of men. Jesus also makes this same claim in His high priestly prayer in the Gospel of John:
1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he looked upward to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you— 2 just as you have given him authority over all humanity, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him” (John 17:1-2).
In both texts (Matthew 11:26-27 and John 17:1-2), it is apparent that our Lord’s authority over the salvation of men is granted by the Father. This includes our Lord’s authority to judge and condemn men to hell (see Luke 12:4-5; John 5:27).
In chapter 12, we find the account of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Our Lord’s manner of entering the city, along with His cleansing of the temple and possession of it for teaching, is a bold claim to authority, a claim that is quickly challenged:
38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees answered him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:38-40).
Now after Jesus entered the temple courts, the chief priests and elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)
When we compare Matthew’s account of the temple cleansing to John’s reference to our Lord’s earlier cleansing of the temple, we can see that the request for a sign was a demand for proof of His authority to do what He had done:
14 He found in the temple courts those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers sitting at tables. 15 So he made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple courts, with the sheep and the oxen. He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold the doves he said, “Take these things away from here! Do not make my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will devour me.” 18 So then the Jewish leaders responded, “What sign can you show us, since you are doing these things?” (John 2:14-18)
In Matthew 16, we find Peter’s great confession, followed by a statement from our Lord concerning the church:
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven! 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-19).
This is the first of two references to the church in Matthew’s Gospel; none of the other Gospels contain a reference to the church. Based upon His identity as the Christ, the promised Messiah, Jesus declares that He will build His church, a church that will break through the gates of Hell and set some of Satan’s captives free.335 In addition, our Lord delegates authority to His apostles, the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” (16:19). It is the apostles who will declare the basis on which men’s sins are forgiven. This power to bind and loose is further described in the context of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-20.336
The words of God the Father at our Lord’s transfiguration are but another evidence of His authority:
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)
In Matthew 12 (verses 38-40), Jesus indicated that His resurrection would be the ultimate and final evidence or sign of His authority. I believe that His opponents understood this to some degree (see Matthew 27:62-66). It is no wonder that Jesus’ claim to absolute authority, in heaven and on earth, follows the account of His resurrection (28:1-15).
It is not just Matthew who emphasizes the authority of our Lord Jesus, particularly with reference to His resurrection. Consider these other texts, which follow, but without much comment:
Our Lord’s authority to lay down His life, and to take it up again:
18 No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This commandment I received from my Father” (John 10:18).
Our Lord’s authority over Pilate (implied):
10 So Pilate said, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you know I have the authority to release you, and to crucify you?” 11 Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all, unless it was given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of greater sin” (John 19:10-11).
Our Lord’s authority to bestow the Holy Spirit and to forgive sins:
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained” (John 20:21-23).337
God will grant Jesus absolute authority over everything, but after His absolute authority is established, Jesus gives this authority back to the Father:
32 This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand 2:35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32-36).
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. 22 For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power (1 Corinthians 15:20-24).
What a contrast there is between our Lord and Satan. Satan seems to be placed “second in command,” under God the Father, but he is not content with this. He wants to be “like God;” he wants the authority of the Father, and he rebels against God in a futile effort to attain this position (see Isaiah 14:13-15). Jesus, on the other hand, is subordinate to His Father. God exalts Jesus to the place of ultimate power and preeminence, but Jesus hands this back to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:20-24).
Paul’s epistles highlight the authority of Christ as a result of His resurrection:
20 This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms 21 far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:20-21, emphasis mine).
8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! 9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth— 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:8-11, emphasis mine).
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, 16 for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him (Colossians 1:15-17, emphasis mine).
8 Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 In him you also were circumcised—not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. 12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. 13 And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. 14 He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:8-15, emphasis mine).
14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), 15 and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15, emphasis mine).
21 And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you—not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who went into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels and authorities and powers subject to him (1 Peter 3:21-22, emphasis mine).
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the ruling authority of his Christ, have now come, because the accuser of our brothers, the one who accuses them day and night before our God, has been thrown down. 11 But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die (Revelation 12:10-11, emphasis mine).
The absolute authority of our Lord Jesus Christ should come as no surprise. By the way, absolute authority has a name: sovereignty. Our Lord claims sovereignty. His sovereignty vastly overshadows the authority of mere men, even great kings. This is something that King Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way:
34 But at the end of the appointed time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven, and my sanity returned to me. I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever. For his authority is an everlasting authority, and his kingdom extends from one generation to the next. 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he wishes with the army of heaven and with those who inhabit the earth. No one slaps his hand and says to him, ‘What have you done?’ 36 At that time my sanity returned to me. I was restored to the honor of my kingdom, and my splendor returned to me. My ministers and my nobles were seeking me out, and I was reinstated over my kingdom. I became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, for all his deeds are right and his ways are just. He is able to bring down those who live in pride (Daniel 4:34-37).
In our text, Matthew chooses to end his Gospel with Christ’s claim to absolute authority, as the basis of the Great Commission. We must now seek to explore how the sovereignty of our Savior is the basis for the Great Commission. How does the authority of our Lord impact His command to make disciples of all nations? This is a particularly important question because there are those who would assert that the sovereignty of God is contrary to man’s responsibility to make disciples. Let us therefore conclude this lesson by exploring some of the implications of the sovereignty of our Savior for missions and evangelism.
Let us begin by considering the implications of our Lord’s authority in light of the comments of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13:
5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help: 6 “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” 7 Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel! 11 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; just as you believed, it will be done for you.” And the servant was healed at that hour (Matthew 8:5-13).
From the centurion’s faith-based statement, we can see that our Lord’s sovereignty empowers Him to give commands, with the assumption that those under His authority should promptly obey. He merely needs to speak the word (as He does in the Great Commission), and those under His authority should do as He has commanded. The Great Commission is a command, a command issued by the One who has all authority.
Secondly, when your authority is great, distance is not an issue. The centurion knew that Jesus had great authority, and thus He merely needed to speak the word that the servant be healed, and it would be done. Jesus may command His disciples to go to the most remote part of the world (Acts 1:8), and we should go. We should go knowing that His authority is as great there as it is anywhere.
In his early life, Abram had trouble grasping this truth (that God’s authority and control is over every part of the earth). When a famine came to the land of Canaan, Abram fled to Egypt. There he passed off his wife, Sarai, as his sister (Genesis 12:10-20). Later, Abraham (no longer called Abram) repeated the sin of passing off Sarah as his sister, this time to Abimelech (Genesis 20). When the Abimelech rebuked Abraham for his deceit, Abraham responded with this weak excuse:
10 Then Abimelech asked Abraham, “What prompted you to do this thing?” 11 Abraham replied, “Because I thought, ‘Surely no one fears God in this place. They will kill me because of my wife’” (Genesis 20:10-11).
Abraham’s God was “too small” (to borrow the expression from J. B. Phillips). Abraham thought that since he was far from home, God was no longer in control, and thus his need for deceit. God’s control is absolute, and thus there is nowhere we can go that He will not be sovereignly in control.
Thirdly, let us learn from the story of the centurion that believing in God’s absolute control and authority is a matter of faith. You and I know that is true. When we are afraid, it is a failure of faith, a failure to trust that God is in complete control of the events of our lives.
Now, let us consider the implications of our Lord’s sovereignty in relation to our ability to carry out the Great Commission. Having authority means having the power to carry out what we purpose to do. When Jesus claimed all authority, He was implying what He states clearly elsewhere – that He will give His disciples the power to carry out the Great Commission:
After Jesus called the twelve together, He gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases (Luke 9:1).
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Messiah would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:45-49, emphasis mine).
4 While he was with them, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me” (Acts 1:4).
8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned (John 16:8-11).
Without the power of the Holy Spirit, our efforts are useless:
They will maintain the outward appearance of religion but will have repudiated its power. So avoid people like these (2 Timothy 3:5).
Consider the implications of the sovereignty of our Lord as it relates to our motivation to carry out the Great Commission. Knowing that the One who commanded us to go and make disciples of every nation is in absolute control, we have great confidence and boldness, even when we meet opposition. Note the boldness of the apostles in proclaiming Christ:
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, replied, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man—by what means this man was healed— 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” 13 When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:8-13, emphasis mine).
23 When they were released, Peter and John went to their fellow believers and reported everything the high priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices to God with one mind and said, “Master of all, you who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, 25 who said by the Holy Spirit through your servant David our forefather, ‘Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot foolish things? 26 The kings of the earth stood together, and the rulers assembled together, against the Lord and against his Christ.’ 27 “For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen. 29 And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, 30 while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously (Acts 4:23-31).
10 For indeed, what had been glorious now has no glory because of the tremendously greater glory of what replaced it. 11 For if what was made ineffective came with glory, how much more has what remains come in glory! 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we behave with great boldness, 13 and not like Moses who used to put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from staring at the result of the glory that was made ineffective (2 Corinthians 3:10-13, emphasis mine).
The sovereignty of God has great implications for the message we preach. If Christ is sovereign over all – has full authority, in heaven and on earth – then to whom would we point men, other than to Him? Our message should be Christ, crucified, buried, raised, and elevated to a position of unchallenged, unlimited power and authority.
But we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23).
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know— 23 this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. 24 But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says about him, ‘I saw the Lord always in front of me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken. 2:26 Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; my body also will live in hope, 2:27 because you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor permit your Holy One to experience decay. 2:28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of joy with your presence.’ 29 “Brothers, I can speak confidently to you about our forefather David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 So then, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 31 David by foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did his body experience decay. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand 2:35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:22-36).
27 For the people who live in Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize him, and they fulfilled the sayings of the prophets that are read every Sabbath by condemning him. 28 Though they found no basis for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had accomplished everything that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we proclaim to you the good news about the promise to our ancestors, 33 that this promise God has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have fathered you.’ 34 But regarding the fact that he has raised Jesus from the dead, never again to be in a state of decay, God has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and trustworthy promises made to David.’ 35 Therefore he also says in another psalm, ‘You will not permit your Holy One to experience decay.’ 36 For David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died, was buried with his ancestors, and experienced decay, 37 but the one whom God raised up did not experience decay. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you. 40 Watch out, then, that what is spoken about by the prophets does not happen to you: 41 ‘Look, you scoffers; be amazed and perish! For I am doing a work in your days, a work you would never believe, even if someone tells you’” (Acts 13:27-41).
The sovereignty of our Savior prohibits “Pollyanna preaching.” We dare not preach only the “happy texts” of the Bible. We must preach the whole gospel. And the whole gospel is that because Jesus Christ has all authority, in heaven and on earth, when He returns to the earth He will both deliver His saints into His kingdom, and He will doom His enemies to an eternity in hell. We dare not leave out the warning to condemned sinners that Jesus is coming again to judge His enemies. The warning of judgment is found throughout the Old Testament and the New. In the New, John the Baptist warned men that Christ’s coming would not be “good news” for many (see Matthew 3:1-12). Peter and Paul preached the same kind of gospel (see Acts 2 and 13 above). The absolute authority of Christ is a comfort to believers, and a terrifying reality to the lost:
5 This is evidence of God’s righteous judgment, to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which in fact you are suffering. 6 For it is right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to you who are being afflicted to give rest together with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. 8 With flaming fire he will mete out punishment on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, 10 when he comes to be glorified among his saints and admired on that day among all who have believed—and you did in fact believe our testimony (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
If the Lord who sent us to proclaim the gospel has absolute authority, then surely the message we preach should be an authoritative message. The gospel message is, then, a command that men are to obey. I am not denying the element of appeal, but our appeal should never conceal the authority of the One for whom and of whom we are speaking. Paul speaks of us as ambassadors, and that we are:
Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
We have no need of watering down the gospel or of adding to it. We need to be very careful about “marketing” the gospel in a way that diminishes it, and the glory of the One of whom and for whom we are speaking.
And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like so many others, hucksters who peddle the word of God for profit, but we are speaking in Christ before God as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God (2 Corinthians 2:16b-17).
1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, just as God has shown us mercy, we do not become discouraged. 2 But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of God, but by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).
The sovereignty of our Lord Jesus Christ means He is both our salvation and our security. Those whom He saves, He sanctifies. Those whom He saves are secure, in Him.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you” (John 15:16).
For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
Praise God that the One who chose us to follow Him, and who commanded us to make disciples of all nations, is Sovereign. The sovereignty of God is the basis for the Great Commission.
330 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.
331 Copyright © 2005 by Community Bible Chapel, 418 E. Main Street, Richardson, TX 75081. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 87 in the Studies in the Gospel of Matthew series prepared by Robert L. Deffinbaugh on August 14, 2005. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with or without credit. The Chapel believes the material presented herein to be true to the teaching of Scripture, and desires to further, not restrict, its potential use as an aid in the study of God’s Word. The publication of this material is a grace ministry of Community Bible Chapel.
332 In every Gospel (Matthew 28:17; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-21a), a reference to the disciples’ fears or doubts is found.
333 Literally, a man under authority.
334 And, it would seem, thereby defiling Himself (a Jew in a Gentile’s home – compare Acts 10).
335 It is not the gates of hell that threaten to break into Christ’s kingdom; it is Christ’s kingdom that will break down the gates of hell (as implied by the rendering of the ESV and the NKJV).
336 My sense is that we have a chain of authority depicted in the Scriptures, not only here, but elsewhere. The Father’s authority is granted to the Son (Matthew 11:25-27). The Son’s authority is granted to Christ’s disciples/apostles (Matthew 16:19). And a measure of the apostles’ authority is delegated to the church (Matthew 18:15-20). I believe that this pattern may be demonstrated elsewhere, although I have not attempted to pursue this thoroughly.
337 From Acts 8:19, we see that our Lord’s authority to bestow the Spirit is granted to at least some of His apostles.