The instructions the Lord gave to his twelve apostles before his ascension have been called the great commission. Ecumenical groups blindly accept that we can all agree on the duty of the church to perform the great commissions as found in Matthew-John.
However, there are doctrines in these so-called great commissions that have caused great consternation because of a desire to appropriate them into this dispensation of grace. The commissions in Matthew-John were instructions to the twelve tribes of Israel and are not to be commandeered by the church today.
Below are some reasons why we ought not to follow the so called great commissions.
- It is a kingdom commission. Though Christ has risen above all power, he is not exercising this power in this dispensation described as evil days (Eph 5:16). The “power” and instructions of this commission indicate it is to be performed in the coming kingdom when the Lord returns.
- It is to be performed unto Gentiles. In the Bible, “the nations” refers to the Gentiles. This commission therefore was to be performed by Israel unto the Gentiles. Contrariwise, Gentiles have salvation in this dispensation and can be seen ministering it to Israel (Rom 11:11).
- Water baptism is included. Water baptism was a ceremonial washing that was for the cleansing of animals, people, and priests. Baptism was taught for the remission of sins, unlike the one dry baptism we receive into Christ (Acts 22:16 vs. Eph 4:5).
- It teaches the law. Jesus did not come to destroy the law (Mat 5:17). The twelve were to follow Moses’ law according to Jesus’ instructions (Mat 23:1-3). Israel was to minister the law from Jerusalem to the nations according to prophecy (Isa 2:2-3).
- The gospel was not the gospel of grace. The twelve had been ministering the gospel of the kingdom with Jesus for three years. They were ignorant of the preaching of the cross during that time. Their gospel did not change after Christ’s resurrection. The gospel for God’s earthly people is the kingdom gospel witnessed to all the earth (Mat 24:14).
- Baptism is required to be saved. Mark 16:16. Without water baptism there was no cleansing under the law.
- Signs follow their salvation. These signs were pointing to the coming kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom could not be preached without these evidenced signs. The only “sign” of the grace of God is the cross work of Jesus Christ.
- Serpents, poison, and disease do not hurt them. These passages have led a large portion of Christianity into doctrinal disaster and physical peril.
- They taught prophecy fulfilled. Whereas, in this dispensation we teach Jesus according to a mystery, the twelve were taught to teach the Lord according to prophecy.
- Priestly repentance and remission was granted to those who believed in the name of Jesus. This is the same repentance and remission that was received by the followers of Jesus in his earthly ministry when the cross was unknown.
- They were to begin with Jerusalem. Since from Israel is where the kingdom and the law would be taught, it was essential that the message convert Israel first. To this day this has not been fulfilled. The apostles stayed in Jerusalem even after great persecution preceding this dispensation of grace to Gentiles (Acts 8:1).
- They were to witness the resurrection. No one has been able to claim this since the time of the apostles. They were to witness the veracity of the resurrection as the ultimate sign of Jesus’ divinity and Messiahship (Mat 12:39-40).
- Their ministry is the same as Jesus’ to Israel. Jesus’ ministry was to the circumcision confirming the promises made to the fathers (Rom 15:8). Now he sent the twelve to do the same thing preaching the kingdom promises.
- They had the power to remit sins. This function of God’s mediators was given to the twelve apostles of Israel’s kingdom. There is no mediator or priest in this dispensation that can forgive sins (Eph 4:26).
- They could retain sins. Doing so today would make the preaching of the cross vain. We have no such authority.
Matthew-John does not contain the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery (Rom 16:25). As the mystery of Christ was not yet revealed, these instructions leave it out.
Yet, we would not ignore the Lord’s instructions in Matthew-John if there were nothing the Lord sent to replace them. In fact, God has revealed an entire ministry through the apostle Paul toward us in the dispensation of grace (Eph 3:1-2). Our commission from the Lord as his ambassadors comes from passages such as 2 Cor 5:18-20 and Eph 3:8-12.
Trying to practice doctrine in other dispensations comes at the expense of ignoring the clear words or at confusing saints. Instead of going to all nations with the kingdom gospel to fulfill God’s purpose for the earth, we are to go to all men with the fellowship of the mystery of Christ to fulfill God’s purpose in heavenly places (Eph 3:9).