Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Mission Impossible 2: The Great Commission Church
Text: Acts 2:42-47
Dr Alex Tang
There were 11 recorded resurrection appearances.
1. at the empty tomb early Sunday morning
2. to Mary Magdalene at the tomb early Sunday morning
3. to two travellers at Emmaus Sunday at midday
4. to Peter in Jerusalem during the day on Sunday
5. to the ten disciples in the upper room Sunday evening
6. to the eleven disciples in the upper room one week later
7. to seven disciples fishing in the sea of Galilee some time later
8. to the eleven disciples on the mountain in Galilee some time later
9. to more than 500 some time later
10. to James some time later
11. at the Ascension on the Mt. of Olives forty days after the resurrection.
It was at one of his resurrection appearance to the eleven disciples at the mountain in Galilee that He gave them the mission which became known as the Great Commission.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "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 of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
This commission is given to all Christians, irrespective of whether they are young or old, rich or poor, ‘full time’ or ‘secular’ and learned or not. As we have seen in my last sermon, this commission is not within our power to carry it out. If we try to fulfill this commission with our own strength and ingenuity, we shall fail. It is mission impossible to us. It is only with God’s power can we succeed. It can be mission I M possible with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The agent that God chooses to fulfill the Great Commission so that He can be glorified by the salvation of many souls is the individual disciple or Christian. The instrument by which God chooses to fulfill the Great Commission is the church – a community of disciples of Christian. That is why after the Great Commission is given, Jesus said something else to the disciples before He is taken up into heaven.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
So the Great Commission Christians are told to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them so that they can become the Great Commission church. They did not have long to wait. On the day of Pentecost which is the 50th day after the Sabbath of the Passover week, the Holy Spirit came upon them and the fellowship of believers (first early church) was formed. As Jesus risked all his plans and glory on the eleven to complete His mission, He now risked all on this church that will be His instrument to fulfill his Great Commission.
I. Characteristics of the Jerusalem church
AC 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The 10 characteristics of a Great Commission Church are:
1. Teaching They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching v.42.
Teaching and learning are important activities. They are disciple which means learner. Paul charged Timothy to preach the Word because he knew how important sound teaching is to the church.
2 Tim 4:2-4
2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2. Fellowship Devoted themselves…..to fellowship, v.42. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts v.46
Fellowship / koinonia is the community or brotherhood of the believers. The New Testament authors especially Paul never used the word koinonia in a secular sense, meaning a society of people, a country club or a social community. Koinonia or fellowship means a community of believers in the presence of the trinitarian God. Hence the sacred in always presence in the fellowship. In the Jerusalem church, they not only have koinonia in worship (v.42) but also meeting together in the temple and eating together in homes (v.46). The Jews sound like the Chinese. They loved to eat and they love to eat together. They know where to find the best beef ball noodles and the best Bak Kut Teh. And when they eat, they talked and shared.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
3. Christ-centeredness., to the breaking of bread v.42 ;
The Lord’s Supper showed Christ centeredness. The church must be Christ centered. The Lord’s Supper must never to allowed to become a ritual, something we do at the beginning of every month. It is a sacred event. The Lord’s Supper should:
Ø be the common ground with which we all approach the foot of the cross – as sinners.
Ø acknowledge the wondrous work of our Lord Jesus on the cross.
Ø unity of believers
Ø self- examination and repentance.
The Lord’s Supper should help in purifying the church and making it Christ centered rather than human centered.
4. Prayer to prayer v.42.
Prayer is an important component of the church. Much has been said about prayer but little is done.
COL 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
5. Worship. Everyone was filled with awe v.43.
Phobos (awe) refers to the fear or holy terror related to the sense of divine presence, an attitude of reverence.
6. Signs and wonders many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. v.43.
Signs and wonders have always been used by God to authenticate and point to his presence. Jesus used signs and wonders to authenticate His ministry. In the same way, the apostles were given signs and wonder to authenticate their ministries. Does this mean signs and wonders have ceased? I do not think so. God will still use signs and wonders to reveal Himself.
7. Unity of purpose All the believers were together and had everything in common. v.44
It does not mean that they have communal living, where like the communist, where everything is owned by the community. The fact that they have houses and lands to sell later means they still own their own properties. What it means is that they have unity of purpose. The Great Commission is to make disciples that will be like Christ (Christ likeness). If we are all like Christ, we will have no problem getting along with each other. A.W.Tozer said that if a hundred pianos were merely tuned to each other, their pitch will not be very accurate. But if they were all tuned to one tuning fork, they will automatically be tuned to each other. Similarly, unity in the church is not running around and adjusting to each other. Rather it is becoming like Christ.
8. Gratitude praising God v.47.
A praising church is a healthy church. A church that praises the God that loves her will never cease to find things to be grateful for.
9. Caring and social concern- enjoying the favor of all the people. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need v.45; and enjoying the favor of all the people v.47.
A healthy relationship with God will always lead to a healthy relationship with other people, whether they are within the household of faith or outside the faith. The early Christians are noted for their care of the poor and sick. Gibbons who wrote the Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote that Christians not only take care of their poor and sick, they also took care of our (non Christian) poor and sick.
10. Evangelism. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved v.47.
The church must be reaching out to the unsaved and bring them to faith. That is the point of the Great Commission, to glorify God by saving the lost.
These are the 10 characteristics of a Great Commission church, a church that seeks to making disciples by teaching Jesus’ teaching and bringing them into a close relationship with Him by baptism and obedience.
II. Power of God with the Jerusalem church
If we study the characteristics of the Jerusalem/ Great Commission church, it is essentially about relationship. The ten characteristics can be divided into 2 groups of 5 each.
Vertical relationship with God : teaching, Christ-centered, prayer, worship, gratitude
Horizontal relationship with other people: fellowship, signs & wonders, unity of purpose, care & social concern, evangelism.
signs & wonders
GC Christians unity of purpose Others
Churches care & social concern
2. Holy Spirit
If we think about it, it is humanly impossible to develop the vertical and horizontal relationship with the help of the Holy Spirit. That is why the Holy Spirit is given to the church. It is only with the help of the Holy Spirit that we can develop these relationships. It is only with the Holy Spirit that all these activities become fruitful in fulfilling the Great Commission. Otherwise it will remain activities. Without the Holy Spirit, the Great Commission church will become the Great Omission church. It will become a country club, an inward looking church whose main purpose is to keep its members comfortable, happy and unchallenged. The Great Commission church can fulfill its role only because its mission is I (a)M possible.
Lessons for us
In August, Holy Light Church (English) will be 50 years old. In these 50 years there has been ups and downs. There are good years and bad years. Through it all, the Lord has been with us. The Lord has been faithful. Now may be a good time to take stock. Are we still a Great Commission church? Are we still determine to glorify God by fulfilling the Great Commission?
Are there deficits in our vertical relationship with God that needed to be rectified? [teaching, Christ-centered, prayer, worship, gratitude ]. Are there deficits in our horizontal relationship with other people that needed to be rectified? [ fellowship, signs & wonders, unity of purpose, care & social concern, evangelism.]
Max Warren, who was General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, UK for 21 years, wrote in I Believe in The Great Commission,
‘Jesus himself is the Great Commission. He is the Man who is sent. He himself is the Message. In his life and through his teachings and actions, in his dying and his death and by his resurrection, he is the proclamation of his Message. He is its herald. This fundamental affirmation is the theme of the New Testament. As Christians we believe that this theme is foreshadowed in the Old Testament’.
Soli Gloria Deo
John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church (Chicago: Moody Press,1991)
Max Warren, I Believe in The Great Commission (Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton, 1976)
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