“PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE”
We may well ask the question: What Gospel did our Lord thus commission His apostles to preach? Perhaps an intelligent answer to this question will do more than any thing else to satisfy the Christian’s mind as to whether or not the so-called Great Commission is the great commission for the Church which is Christ’s Body.
Every Christian should know that there are several different Gospels in the Bible. Dr. Scofield distinguishes four, on page 1343 of the Scofield Bible. It may be well to quote a part of his note:
“(1) The Gospel of the Kingdom. This is the good news that God purposes to set up on the earth, in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (II Samuel 7:16, and refs.), a kingdom, political, spiritual, Israelitish, universal, over which God’s Son, David’s heir, shall be King, and which shall be, for one thousand years, the manifestation of the righteousness of God in human affairs.”
In order to discover what Gospel Christ commissioned His Apostles to preach, it is necessary to examine the Gospel accounts in which the commissions are found. Since Matthew 28:19, 20 and Mark 16:15 to 18 are usually quoted as the great commissions (although they are really two separate commissions given at different times and places, as the records show), our task will be to examine these two Gospel accounts to discover which Gospel these commissions authorized the Apostles to preach.
The word Gospel, which means an announcement of, good news, is used five times in Matthew as follows: “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogue, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23) ; “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogue, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” (Matthew 9:35); “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them.” (Matthew 11:5); But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved. And the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:13 and 14); “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. (Matthew 26:13).
The word is used seven times in Mark as follows: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (Mark 1:1); “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14); “And saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15) “And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Mark 13:10); (Mark 14:9—same as Matthew 26:13); “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be judged.” (Mark 16:15 and 16).
Who would be foolish enough to say that the Gospel in the last reference was a different gospel to that in every other reference here quoted, namely the Gospel of the Kingdom? That is the only Gospel known to the Gospel records,
Since the commissions given by the risen Lord to the Twelve Apostles authorized them to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to every creature, it may be well to examine more closely the content of this Gospel. Dr. Scofield’s note quoted above, gives a very concise statement of the content of this Gospel, It is well to notice the following points also, as brought out by the references quoted. This Gospel is directly connected with earthly blessings, always associated with the healing of the body. It is the message for the earthly millennial Kingdom. It is a gospel which requires water baptism as a necessary prerequisite to salvation. It is a gospel which requires man to endure to the end in order to be saved. It is the gospel which will be universally preached during the Tribulation period, and then will come the end of the age.
We may now ask the question: Is this the Gospel which God wants us to preach today? Are we to proclaim an earthly Kingdom? Are we to look forward to proclaiming this message during the Tribulation? The promise of Christ in Matthew 28:20: “Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age,” means unto the end of the Tribulation; for the Lord Himself defines the end of the age in Matthew 13:39: “The harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be at the end of this age.” The Pentecostal brethren and others of like practice would say, Yes, this is the gospel we are to preach. But to so answer is to absolutely ignore the claims of the Apostle Paul, and to reject the Gospel of the Grace of God which was committed to Paul for us Gentiles.
It is plain that Peter and the Eleven were preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom as they were commissioned to do, which Gospel is in Galatians 2:7, called the Gospel of the Circumcision. But Paul claims to have received a different Gospel, which he calls “My Gospel” and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, which was given him by the ascended and glorified Christ, several years after the Great Commission had been given. It is just common sense to follow the last command given by the Lord, and it is nothing but a play on the emotions to say Christians are not obeying the last command of Christ by not carrying out the Great Commission, To say that the Great Commission is the last command of Christ is to deny the whole Pauline revelation; for from where did Paul get his Gospel for the Gentiles and the truth of the Dispensation of the Mystery, if not from Christ, and all of that after Christ spoke the Great Commission? The last words spoken by Christ to mankind were spoken to and through the Apostle Paul, and only in his writings will be found Christ’s last words and commands.
But some one objects: Why did Christ commission his disciples to preach the gospel of the kingdom, and then shortly after give a different message to be preached? This is a logical and legitimate question, but it betrays one’s ignorance of what God was doing during the Book of Acts. The Twelve Apostles were there preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, offering the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 3:19 to 26). It was revealed that then Jesus Christ would come back to earth to bring about the restoration of all things spoken by the prophets; that he would rebuild the tabernacle of David which was fallen down (Acts 15:16 and 17), and then when Israel was established in all of the blessings of her covenants and kingdom, all the Gentile nations should also be blessed. But the fulfillment of this was dependent upon Israel’s reception of the Messiah, and the Acts is the record of Israel’s refusal both in the Land and among the Dispersion, so that instead of blessing coming upon Israel, judgment came,
It was during the course of this “Acts” period that God called another Apostle, Paul, and began to unfold and to lay the foundation for a secret purpose about which He had never before spoken. This secret dispensation was made known first in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, after the Book of Acts was completed, and it stands in direct contradistinction to the Kingdom dispensation which it has temporarily displaced. In this new dispensation the Gentiles get their blessings, not because of Israel being in God’s place of favor, but because Israel is out of her place of blessing, which is just the opposite to all that had been revealed in the Old Testament and in the Gospel accounts.
Because of the character of this new dispensation the unworthy Gentiles (dead in trespasses and sins, aliens commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God) are receiving salvation and being blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, and that because of Israel’s failure; it must of necessity be the Dispensation of the Grace of God. (Ephesians 3:2). Thus in this dispensation salvation has no prerequisites, such as water baptism or other ceremonies, nor is it conditioned upon any kind of works or enduring to the end, nor does it contain a message of physical sign healing or other earthly blessing.
Since Christ called and commissioned Paul with a different Gospel after He had commissioned the Jewish Apostles, and since Paul claims that it was given to him to introduce an entirely new and heretofore secret dispensation, and since Paul claims that it was given to him to fulfill or to complete the Word of God (Colossians 1:25), we should have eyes to see that when God saw fit to make a change of dispensations He must also make a change of commission.
What then is the position of one who claims that the Great Commission stands today unchanged as the marching orders, for the Body of Christ?
Either such an one is so unmindful of the Word that none of the things herein discussed have ever come to mind; or he refuses to make the distinction which God has made between the Gospel of the Kingdom and Paul’s Gospel; or he denies, wittingly or unwittingly, the truth of revelation which Paul claims was given to him.
What shall we say concerning those who claim to acknowledge the Pauline revelation and also to labour under the Great Commission, as do a great number of Fundamentalists today? The following gives a little idea of how they twist and change the Word in order to make the kingdom commission fit into the Grace dispensation, and one may judge for himself whether they are really working under the Great Commission. The Commission says, “Disciple all nations;” they say, save individuals. The Commission says, “baptizing them (the nations)”; they say, baptizing individuals. The Commission says, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”; they say, “Don’t teach to observe all things that Christ commanded while on earth, for Paul plainly tells us not to observe many of these things.” The Commission says, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the age” (that is, to the end of the Tribulation); they say, the church will not go through the Tribulation, The Commission says, “preach the Gospel (of the Kingdom) to every creature”; they say, Preach Paul’s Gospel. The Commission says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”; they say, “He that believeth and is saved should be baptized”. The Commission says, “And these signs shall follow them that believe”; they say, “these signs are not necessary or are lacking because of so little faith.”
How much of the Great Commission have they left intact? They are guilty of having changed the content of practically every statement of the commission, making the original of none effect. The Jews accused Stephen of speaking blasphemous words against the law, but Stephen retorted that they had received the law by the disposition of angels and had not kept it. Those who take the position advocated in this article will be accused of chopping up the Word, but the accusers will be guilty of handling it deceitfully and not keeping it.
But another question must be answered. Has it not been said if the Great Commission is not for us, then we have no missionary commands or motives, and we might as well recall all our foreign missionaries? Yes, such childish statements have been made, but we leave you to answer the question, with this thought in mind. The Twelve Apostles who laboured under the Great Commission never got outside their own land, and, as far as the record goes, only one of them ever preached to a Gentile audience and that only because of a thrice repeated vision from God. The Apostle Paul, who laboured under a different (Commission which the ascended Lord gave him, could say: “I have fully preached the Gospel, of Christ. Yea so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation” (Romans 15:19, 20); and also, “to preach the gospel in the regions beyond” (II Corinthians 10:16); and finally “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). The greatest missionary who ever lived did not work under the Great Commission. Will we lose our missionary zeal or spirit by working under Paul’s commission?