SEED & BREAD
THE DIVINE COMMISSIONS
Three great commissions are set forth in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These
are not the same, even though they are often treated as though they
were. There are those who insist that the wording of all these
commissions demonstrate that it was the declared intention of Jesus
Christ that His apostles, and anyone else who felt inclined to do so,
should go at once and proclaim the salvation-bringing message of God to
all mankind. They further insist that the ministry of the apostles in
the Acts period was greatly hindered and restricted by their
nationalistic feelings and their Jewish prejudices against the Gentiles.
Such charges are grossly unfair to these faithful servants of God. In
View of this, these commissions need to be carefully examined in order
to find the exact instructions of Jesus Christ in each one of them. This
we will do in this study. The first of these is recorded in Matthew.
The Commission in Matthew
* And Jesus came and spake to them saying, All power is given unto Me in
heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
and, lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world. Matt.
There is hardly any passage in the New Testament that has been subject
to as much twisting and wresting, and to as many misapplications and
misinterpretations as this one. And all this has been helped along by
the very careless translation we find in the King James Version. A more
accurate rendering of the Greek is a crying necessity here, so I submit
the following resultant paraphrase. The reader will note that it is my
conviction that the Greek verb baptizo has in it the idea of
establishing a fixed relationship; that is, the idea of identification.
A literal, grammatic rendering of this commission would read as follows:
* And Jesus approaching them, spoke unto them saying, All authority in
heaven and on the earth has been given to Me. Going, therefore, make
disciples of all the nations, relating them to the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teach these discipled
nations to observe all whatsoever I direct you. And lo, I am with you
all the days even to the consummation of the eon. Matt. 28:18-20.
These words were spoken to "the eleven disciples" (Matt. 28:16), and
when honestly interpreted have nothing to do with the proclamation of
God's salvation-bringing message, nothing to do with proclaiming the
gospel which is the power of God unto salvation . This commission did
not have to do with the apostles course of action in the present evil
eon. This directive belongs to that condition and state of things called
the kingdom of God, the time when He governs the earth and the nations
upon it (Psa. 67:4). It will be fulfilled and performed to the letter in
the time after the Lord Jesus has assumed sovereignty, after He has
taken to Himself His great power and is exercising it upon the earth.
The central command in these directives is to "make disciples of all the
nations." This does not mean to preach to them in the hope that a few
will accept. This commission does not have to do with individuals, but
with nations. These are to be discipled and are to be identified with or
related to the name (the character) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit. These are to be merged into all the purposes and programs of the
Deity at that time (See Psalms 22:27,28; 66:3,4; 82:8; 86:9; 102:15;
138:4). The words "in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit" were never intended to be some magic formula that a clergyman
was supposed to repeat as he dipped a person into water or sprinkled
water upon them.
This commission cannot be carried out until Jesus Christ makes request
of the Father and the nations are given to Him as His portion (Psa. 2:8;
82:8); not until God is governing the nations upon the earth (Psa.
67:4). At this time the men to whom these words were spoken will be
sitting "upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt.
19:28), and because of their positions, powers, and past histories will
be the most honoured and revered statesman upon the earth. And since the
nations at that time will want to be identified with the Deity (Psa.
67:4; 72:11, 17; 138:4; Isa . 55:5; Matt. 12:21; Rom. 15:12), these
powerful men will go forth and relate nations to God in Christ in a
formal and declared union. Furthermore, they will instruct the nations
in regard to their responsibilities and conduct under God's government.
To those who insist that the commission in Matthew sends all believers
to herald God's salvation-bringing message to men of every nation, there
is one perfect answer. The men to whom these words were spoken did not
understand them this way. We are on safe ground when we interpret these
words in the same manner as they were understood by these
divinely-possessed, Spirit-filled apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ,
whose words were confirmed by the God they were serving. Who are we to
say 1900 years later that they misunderstood and failed to obey His
The Commission in Mark
The commission recorded in Mark is entirely different from the one given
in Matthew, even though it was spoken to the same eleven men.
* And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel
to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and
he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them
that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak
with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any
deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick
and they shall recover. Mark 16:15-20.
This commission was performed and fulfilled to the letter in the
thirty-three years of which the book of Acts is the history, and it was
the fulfilment of this commission that did so much to give the Acts
period its peculiar character. The heralds went forth and proclaimed
everywhere, covering every Israelite in Palestine and those who were
dispersed throughout the world. They did what they were told to do, and
God did what He promised He would do. The final verse of this chapter is
proof of this:
* And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with
them, and confirming the word with signs following. Mark 16:20.
The words pase te ktisei which are here translated "to every creature"
obviously do not mean this. If it did it would include the animals,
which pushes it into the ridiculous. This phrase means "in every
creation." Few indeed have dared to translate this phrase literally,
since there is very little understanding as to how ktisis (creation) is
used in the New Testament.
In 1 Peter 2:13 where pase anthropine ktisei is translated "every
ordinance of man," it should read "every human creation," and these
creations are then described as being kings and governors. In Col. 1:15
where prototokos pases ktiseos is translated "firstborn of every
creature," it should read "firstborn of every creation." These creations
are then described as being thrones, dominions, principalities, and
powers. Thus empires, nations, states, cities, and all their officials
would be "creations" in the Biblical use of this term.
As the heralds went forth some of these creations would take a very
hostile attitude toward the proclamation of the gospel in their
countries; others might be more or less friendly, such as those on the
Isle of Paphos, where Sergius Paulus was the proconsul (Acts 13:6-7).
But the heralds were not to choose the easy places; they were to preach
the gospel "in every creation" whether the political climate was
favourable or not. If there were Israelites within the borders of these
creations, they were to go there.
Some may continue to insist that the words "in every creation" mean that
these men were to go everywhere and preach to everyone without exception
or distinction. However, again let it be noted that the men to whom
these words were spoken never understood them to mean this. Their
conduct in the early chapters of Acts make this plain, and we can arrive
at no better understanding of these words. The apostles limited their
ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In Acts 10, after a
vision was repeated three times, Peter went to the devout, God-fearing,
Gentile family. This was the way God wanted it, and this was the way
they did it. We should honour their faithfulness.
The Commission in Luke
The commission recorded in Luke is different from those set forth in
Matthew and Mark. In Luke we are told that after the Lord had opened
their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures, He said
* Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise
from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins
should be preached among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are
witnesses of these things. Luke 24:46-48.
There were Israelites in every nation, and it was the pledge of God
that, "To whom He was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have
not heard shall understand" (Rom. 15:21; Isa. 52:15). This is why
repentance and remission of sins was to be proclaimed "among all
nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
This was no command or commission to proclaim God's salvation-bringing
message to all men without exception or distinction. Those to whom these
words were spoken did not understand them this way, and these were the
very men whose understanding had been opened so that they could
comprehend the truth (Luke 24:45). Peter did not understand them this
way. It took a spectacular vision thrice repeated and some direct
conversation with the Lord before he would go to even one Gentile
We lose nothing by acknowledging the unique place of Israel in the Acts
period. We gain much in the way of truth when we do. From the day of
Pentecost to the house of Cornelius, an eight year period, the gospel
was to the Jew only. At Acts 10 one Gentile household is evangelised,
but nothing more is done or can be done until the great apostle to the
Gentiles, Paul, begins his ministry. We read of this in Acts 13. From
that point on a company of Gentiles was called out and participated in
the blessings of Israel. After Acts 28:28 the salvation bringing message
of God was made freely available to all men. This produced a new and
different company of believers of which we are a part.
Issue no. 013