Missing Part of the Great Commission

When we think of the Great Commission, we often immediately mentally go to Matthew 28:18-20. But, the Great Commission from Jesus to his disciples appears in other forms in the other gospels. Just as we need the 4 gospels to get a more fully accurate picture of Jesus, we need all of the gospel perspectives in order to understand what Christ has really charged his church to do.

 

Take a look at the Great Commission in Luke.

 

Luke 24:45-47 – 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

 

Matthew records Jesus telling us to make disciples of all nations in three ways: going, baptizing, and teaching. Luke here focuses on the proclamation we make as we go through this world. What do we proclaim? I fear that what Luke tells us to proclaim is not actually the message proclaimed by many Christians who desire to be evangelistic. Luke shows us Jesus telling the church to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name.

Please, dear Christian, do not exclude repentance from your gospel. Often, the gospel presentations I hear focus on belief. Often the presentations ask you if you are willing to believe in Jesus and ask him to forgive you. Some of the older presentations include the phrase, “ask the Lord Jesus into your heart,” “accept Christ,” or something similar. Those are good things as far as they go, containing an element of truth, but they are not the biblical command.

 

In Scripture, faith and repentance are inseparably connected as we discuss salvation. Even in this version of the Great Commission, we are called to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins. WE proclaim something bigger than simple mental acknowledgement of Jesus. Yes, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. But faith that saves is always connected to repentance for forgiveness.

 

So, as you share the gospel, yes call people to believe. But help them to see that saving belief in Jesus includes a yielding of your life to Jesus. Saving belief includes repentance, a turning from wrong to right. We turn from being our own personal authority to bowing to God’s authority. WE turn from living in sin to desiring to obey God’s commands in righteousness. If such a turning does not take place, if repentance does not take place, then the faith a person had is not a genuine saving faith.

 

The reason we say that people are saved by grace through faith alone is not to exclude the call to repentance. Rather, the reason is to say that no activity, no religious ceremony, no church blessing saves a person. Faith in Jesus is the only way we are saved. But faith in Jesus is always, truly always, connected to repentance if forgiveness of sins is to result.