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Fellow ship > What is the Difference Between the Gospel and the Great Commission?

              Thy WORD Is Truth.

What is the Difference Between the Gospel
and the Great Commission?

by Tom Stewart

October 25, 2000

Charles G. Finney ---New Window remarked in his "Revival Lectures" ---New Window that it "is the great business on earth of every Christian, to save souls". "A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a Word spoken in due season, how good is it!" (Proverbs 15:23). And since, Wisdom teaches us the most efficient application of the means to the end of saving our neighbour's soul, it would be more appropriate to find the right time and words than to multiply our words with little thought. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (Proverbs 25:11). Balancing our Gospel message with the Spirit's leading, will give us the greatest joy of knowing that our Christian witness has done as much good as the Spirit intended. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the Earth" (Acts 1:8). The Laodicean Church, characterized by profuse professions of knowing Christ, while oblivious to their spiritual nakedness, will never produce the Philadelphian fruit for which we yearn. "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" (1Corinthians 3:6). However, this does not mean that we do not have great expectation of a still greater harvest of souls, because of the impending Pre-Tribulational Rapture, i.e., the salvation and reclamation of those who are left behind after the First "Come Up Hither" (Revelation 4:1). "That the spirit may be saved in the day of the LORD Jesus" (1Corinthians 5:5).

Honest hearted Christians often mistake the Gospel Message of John 3:16 as the Great Commission itself, instead of it being only the vital spearhead of the message to be preached in
"all the world... to every creature" (Mark 16:15). "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life" (John 3:16). The Great Commission, on the other hand, is clearly given by the LORD Jesus in Matthew 28. "19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:19-20). As you can see, the Gospel Message is necessary for the New Birth of lost sinners, for the reclamation of the backslidden, and for the rededication of laboring Christians; but, the Great Commission itself enjoins that we "teach all nations... to observe ALL things whatsoever [Jesus has] commanded" us (28:19-20). And, we need not be mystical about the substance of His Commandments, for they have always been with us in His Moral Law, i.e., the "Law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). That Law is not a special interpretation of Sabbath keeping, tithing, or fulness of the Spirit (which all are right in their place), but the Law is the holy and just requirement of the Living God that all men love Him supremely, and that we love our neighbour as ourselves. "37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the First and Great Commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-39).

What is the Gospel? The Apostle Paul gave us the inspired answer.
"1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the GOSPEL [Greek, euaggelion, or the Good News] which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1Corinthians 15:1-4). The Gospel is the Good News that "Christ died for our sins" (15:3), and "that He was buried" (15:3), but also "that He rose again" (15:3) to certify the Divine Power of His Finished Work of Atonement, to "whosoever believeth in Him" (John 3:16). If mankind had not individually and completely trampled upon God's Moral Law, it would be unnecessary to proclaim the Good News that God has granted amnesty and forgiveness to whosoever "repent[s].. and believe[s] the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).

And, what is the sin for which all men need forgiveness?
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the Law: for sin is the transgression of the Law" (1John 3:4). The sin for which all men need forgiveness, then, is the transgression of God's Moral Law. When man does not love God supremely and does not love his neighbour with equal consideration as he has for himself, then he has sinned. "12 Wherefore the Law is holy, and the Commandment holy, and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the Commandment might become exceeding sinful" (Romans 7:12-13). The Moral Law cannot save anyone; rather, it can only condemn those who disobey, or praise those who do obey. "20 Therefore by the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the Law is the knowledge of sin... 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same" (3:20; 13:3). Unfortunately, the dismal truth is that all have transgressed God's Moral Law and have merited God's just condemnation. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (3:23).

Why does God save men? He saves us because He loves us.
"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His Only Begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (1John 4:9). For what purpose, then, does God save us? He saves us that we might magnify Him in fulfilling our created function of loving Him supremely, and our neighbour as ourselves. "If ye love Me, keep My Commandments" (John 14:15). Just as the Son of God was born to die for our sins, we have been given New Life to obey Him. "9 As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. 10 If ye keep My Commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's Commandments, and abide in His love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is My Commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (15:9-14).

Should we witness to our neighbour of the love and forgiveness of God because we would feel condemned if we neglected our duty? No. It is from the abundance of our heart that we should speak, i.e.,
"out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34), for a "good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good" (Luke 6:45). It would be mere legalism that we would "witness for Christ", if we do it more to appease our conscience, than to share His love. "Verily I say unto you, They have their reward" (Matthew 6:16). The Holy Spirit leads us. He does not push us. "Teach me to do Thy will; for Thou art my God: Thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness" (Psalm 143:10). The Law compels us to obey with punishments for disobedience, i.e., the "soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20). But, when we have a good thought, a good desire, or a good intention to share the Gospel, then we are being led by the Spirit of God. "Every Good Gift and every Perfect Gift is from Above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). A Spirit led witness for Christ may not yield a convert for Christ, but it most certainly will yield the fruit of Great Peace to the one who obeyed the Spirit. "Great Peace have they which love Thy Law: and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165).


Tom Stewart


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