“The First Commission”

Two weeks ago, we began this new series about having a healthy body so we can have a healthy church. The central theme for the series, and for all of 2019, is that we are the body of Christ. With that in mind, we can consider that the human body consists of many systems that keep it functioning properly. When one or more of those systems in the human body do not function as they should, the entire body will suffer over time. Likewise, when the church body is not healthy, the church will suffer. And like the human body, the church needs systems in place to function best. So, each month through November we will be comparing a system of the human body to that of the church. And the system for January is the reproductive system.

At first glance, you may wonder how the reproductive system fits into the context of the church. I would argue it is the easiest of all systems to correlate because Jesus said we are to make disciples. That is, as a believer (a disciple), we are commissioned (and expected) to reproduce other disciples. Thus, making disciples is about reproducing, and that fits quite well with the reproductive system.

In fact, as we will see, the idea of reproducing is not just addition, but multiplication, as Reggie taught last week. And we do not just randomly get the idea of multiplication, we see it evidenced in Acts as the early church had numbers added to it (Acts 2.41,47; 5.14) and then soon multiplied (Acts 6.7; 9.31). This idea, related to the church, fits well with the first commandment God gave humanity as well – be fruitful and multiply.

Before we turn to our primary text in Genesis today, you might be surprised to know the Bible talks specifically about the reproductive process even if the actual system is not mentioned. In James 1.15, we find that sin is conceived and then it is birthed before bringing about death at a later point. And this truth about the nature of sin is why we need to make disciples, not just converts.

So, let’s briefly review the reproductive system. First, to reproduce we need two people. And this cannot be any two people. By God’s design it requires a male and a female – that is, the anatomy has to work properly together. But not only does the anatomy have work, the process has to work as well. The male produces sperm and the female produces eggs. This production is regular and consistent over many years, but if the timing is not right or if the overall health of the individual is not right (even influenced by another system in the body), then conception will not occur. So, not only does the anatomy matter, but the timing does, and then of the hundreds of millions of sperm that are released only about 1 in 20 reach the fallopian tube where the egg is, and only 1 – ONE! – will be able to penetrate the egg and allow for reproduction to be possible. At that point, new life has begun, but then prenatal care is important, and finally birth. And then, for parents, the real work begins.

So, that is an abbreviated look at the reproductive system. Let us now turn to the Bible to see how it fits with God’s purpose – beginning in Genesis 1.

1. God commanded humanity to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1.26-28)

We must remember that Genesis 1 and 2 are two accounts of the same story. Genesis 1 starts in the beginning and goes through Day 6. Genesis 2 begins with Day 7, but then backs up and provides some detail of what happened on Day 6.

Day 6 consists of the creation of animals (Gen 1.24-25), but then shifts to the creation of mankind. Verse 26 helps us understand why God would command mankind to reproduce. In Genesis 1.26, the text says, God (singular) said, “Let us” (plural). Thus, God is more than one person. In fact, we call that concept the Trinity. God is three persons in one – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, God had never been alone when mankind was created which is why in Genesis 2.18, God said it was not good for man to be alone. Adam had just named all of the animals, and in some sense realized nothing was like him. But Adam did not know it was “not good.” But God knew it wasn’t. And therefore, God made a woman from man (Genesis 2.21-22).

So, God was (and is) multiple persons and now humanity consisted of multiple persons as well. But unlike God, who is eternal, the human body is not, and thus, to perpetuate humanity, God commanded His new creation to be fruitful and multiply.

I mentioned the reproductive system a few moments ago. A person does not have to understand the system to reproduce. And, due to human nature as the result of the sin in Genesis 3, the curiosity of the anatomy of the opposite sex has been on the minds of men and women (and boys and girls) ever since. But I can’t help but imagine what Adam and Eve thought the first time they were ready to obey God’s command, which was the first command that is explicitly recorded as given to humanity. They had to know their bodies are different, although they were unashamed. But what happened when Eve started to “show.” Can you imagine the conversation? “Adam, why am I getting fat?” “Eve, did you eat from that tree?” “No, Adam, I promise I didn’t…and wait, something just kicked inside of me.” “Eve, were you eating burritos again? You know those can upset your stomach.”

In reality, we have no idea what the conversation might have been. But it must have been interesting!

So, to restate point 1, God gave humanity the command to be fruitful and multiply. And they began to do so.

2. God commanded humanity to fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1.28)

Before God gave this command, He had already given a task to the man. We can see this by reviewing Genesis 2. Originally, God created the man outside of the Garden and then moved the man into the Garden (see Gen 2.5, 7-8). While there, the man took care of the Garden and gave him the task of working it (Gen 2.15) with one warning – do not eat from a certain tree (Gen 2.17). So, man was created with the task of tending to God’s Creation. Then the animals passed before the man and he gave names to all of the animals (Gen 2.19-20). And then, God created the woman.

The sequence here is important. God created the man with the purpose of working and keeping His creation. And, everything was in harmony. Yes, man had to work, but it was not difficult labor. In fact, we might say that his work was fruitful.

But after God created the woman is when the statement in Genesis 1.28 is made. Notice God said to them…that is, God spoke the command to be fruitful, to multiply to both of them. And then, He continued by giving authority to both of them. Now, truly all authority belongs to God, but He entrusted that authority to the first man and woman. They were to fill the earth (reproduce) and subdue it. That is, they were given dominion over the earth. In fact, specifically, if you read the remainder of verse 28, their dominion was over birds, fish, and anything that moves. God then gave them all plants for their benefit – including those with seeds for their food.

The words for subduing and having authority convey the idea of having an active power – even using force, where necessary. Thus, God gave full authority to mankind – both male and female – over the rest of His Creation. And, as they multiplied, that authority was to be passed down to their offspring as well. Why? Because the authority was given to the first man and woman – who were made in God’s image (Gen 1.26, 27) – and as their offspring we are made in that image is well.

But sin!

So, God commanded the first humans to be fruitful and multiply. Then He gave them His authority over the earth. But that authority and the fruit of our labor was challenged because of sin.

3. Humanity lost our intimacy and our dominion because of sin.

Genesis 3 is known as the Fall of man, or simply, the Fall. But before we briefly state effects of the Fall, let us look Genesis 3.8. Consider the intimacy of Creation at this point. The man had and intimate relationship with:

the Garden. He tended it, and it produced. (Genesis 2.15-16)

the animals. He named each species of livestock, the birds, and beasts of the field. (Genesis 2.19-20)

the woman. They were naked and unashamed. (Genesis 2.24-25)
God. (Genesis 2.18, 21; 3.8)

All of this intimacy was how God designed it to be. Again, we can conclude this is God’s design because of the intimacy of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit – united as One. But sin ruined all of it for humanity. Notice, the effects of sin – mostly from Genesis 3:

The intimacy was broken. The man and woman now covered themselves. (Genesis 3.7)

Being fruitful and multiplying became challenging. For the woman, it meant that giving birth would be increasingly painful (Genesis 3.16). For the man, it meant that thorns, thistles, and sweat would be part of the “fruit” of his work. (Genesis 3.18-19)

Humanity’s authority was forfeited to Satan. We see this in God’s response to the man, but we can see it more clearly in passages like Matthew 4.9 (where Jesus does not refute that Satan can make such an offer) and Ephesians 6.12 (where Paul says cosmic powers are in play), and very directly in Colossians 1.13.

But God! Our sin is why Jesus had to come!

4. Jesus reclaimed the dominion over this world, and has now commissioned us to be fruitful and multiply a new type of people. (Matthew 28.18-20)

Yes, Jesus came to die for our sin. But it is more than that. God gave authority to humanity to rule over His Kingdom. But mankind lost that right. Actually, it was stolen from them when the serpent deceived the first man and woman. So, Jesus comes and says, that the Kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 4.17). That is, the time of Satan’s domain including the world was coming to an end and people needed to repent of following the dark ways – the ways that broke the intimacy between all aspects of Creation – and turn to the coming Kingdom, the returning Kingdom, where Jesus has all authority as the King of all kings.

Please understand, God never lost full dominion. We see evidence of this in Job 1 where Satan had to go to God for permission. But humanity lost the dominion we were given by God due to our sin and the separation we have from God. But Jesus’ sinless life captured that dominion once again, and His death confirmed that He alone is worthy and should have the dominion.

So, what does Jesus do after He has regained the authority – now not only as God, but also acting on behalf of man? He says the same thing that God said in Genesis 1.28 – Be fruitful and multiply. Of course, Jesus used different words. His words were “make disciples.”

In Genesis 1, God needed the humans to fill the earth with other people – those created in the image of God.

In Matthew 28, Jesus needs the humans to fill the earth with other humans – those restored into fellowship with God.

This is an amazing parallel. We did not lose our commission to multiply. But the form was changed. Rather than reproducing humans, we are to reproduce disciples. And just as God gave the responsibility to the first humans to reproduce, Jesus has given His disciples the responsibility to reproduce.

We know longer have the dominion – it was given to man (Adam), but he proved irresponsible, and Jesus had to win it back. But now Jesus has all authority, but He entrusts it with us (we
participate).

We will look a further look at the idea of bearing fruit, reproduction, and the effects on church attendance next week. But for now, let us just realize that God’s reproductive system is about us making disciples even more than it is making babies.

CONCLUSION

Reproducing disciples is not as easy – or as fun! – as reproducing children. But the process is similar. Notice the similarities.

You need two people.

Discipleship – guided by Holy Spirit – puts the right discipler with the right disciple

Human Reproduction – two people are necessary to bring life into the world

The discipler needs persistence.

Discipleship – not easy, which is why many do not participate or succeed.

Human Reproduction – 250 million sperm are released and only 1 in 14 million make it far enough to have a chance.

The disciple must be receptive.

Discipleship – The timing must be right for the person to grow

Human Reproduction – the egg must be ready to be fertilized

Early care is critical.

Discipleship – A study diet of the Word of God is important. Opportunities to serve others is critical as well.

Human Reproduction – The food a child ingests can drastically impact the health of a child in the womb (as does the presence of harmful substances, such as drugs), and eventually a newborn

Guidance is necessary.

Discipleship – Disciplers are to teach others to observe all that Jesus commanded. That means showing others the way not just talking about it and leaving them on their own (although that comes later).

Human Reproduction – a baby cannot care for self. A child needs guidance until they can begin to live on their own.

A new generation reproduces.

Childhood – just as a young child gains confidence and begins to explore life, a new Christian begins to explore the parameters of their faith.

A teenager may rebel against authority, but love can help to retain the necessary bonds. Likewise, a new Christian may rebel for a time, but a gracious and loving God will welcome the person back – and uses humans to show the love necessary to restore the individual.

Adults typically seek a mate and eventually procreate – reproducing a new generation to carry on their life. For the Christian, reproducing is not about them passing down their own genes, but making Christ known to the next generation so that His life, ministry, and mission is carried forward for generations to come (see 2 Timothy 2.2).

The JOURNEY letter for today is: OOBSERVE.

We may be willing to follow certain commands of Jesus, but are we willing to make disciples? As our Lord, our King, it is not for us to choose, it is for us to follow. We must observe in order to be a better disciple, and we must observe in order to make more disciples as well.

PRINCIPLE: We are not asked to reproduce. We are commanded to do so. Make disciples!

QUESTION: Who are you intentionally making a better disciple?

OPPORTUNITY: Make 2019 a year to strengthen this Body of Christ by reproducing disciples for Jesus.

NEXT STEP(S): Become a more complete disciple of Jesus. The idea of being a disciple is to learn what a master teaches and to do what He says.

LEARN: Take time to learn what Jesus taught. If you need to be a better disciple (and we all do), ask someone to lead you.

LIVE: Begin to live as Jesus lived – which included making disciples of others.

LOVE: Find a way to share the love of Jesus with a random person this week.

LEAD: Begin praying about one person you can disciple.

“The Great Commission” by Reggie Koop

Key Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20, And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 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 always, even unto the end of the world.” (KJV)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on Earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

Other references: Mark 16:15-18, Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:8, John 20:21-23

Setting:
On a mountain somewhere around Galilee, a group of men (Jesus’s disciples) were given the greatest challenge to tell others the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and of God’s love and forgiveness to a broken and sinful world.

The Definition of a disciple according to:

Merriam-Webster dictionary: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as Christianity: one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ’s followers according to the Gospel accounts

Bible dictionary: a scholar, sometimes applied to the followers of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14 ), and of the Pharisees ( 22:16 ), but principally to the followers of Christ. A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice, (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example (Matthew 10:24 ; Luke 14:26 Luke 14:27 Luke 14:33 ; John 6:69).

Cambridge dictionary: a person who believes in the ideas of a leader, esp. A religious or political one, and tries to live according to those ideas

We can conclude then, that the definition of a disciple is someone who receives instruction from another person. But a Christian disciple is a baptized follower of Christ, one who believes the teaching of Christ.

With that definition, we are now going to look at this command from six questions: Who? What? Why? Where? When? and How?

I. Who gave the Great Commission and to whom was it given?

Verse 18, “and Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’”

There is only one person who can give such a great challenge, and that is Jesus Christ, the son of God. Mark makes Jesus place clear in Mark 1:1 where he wrote, “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The deity of Christ is further stated in John 1:1-5, “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. 2 the same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 in him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Genesis 1:26a says, “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

In Colossians 1:15,16, we find more about Jesus “who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”

Then, Paul continued in Colossians 2:3,9-10, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge… 9 for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”

God became man. He walked and communed with man. He died on the cross and was raised from the dead to save people from sin and to give them eternal life, to those who accept him into their heart.

Turning to Matthew 19b, Jesus affirms the reality of the Trinity: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…”

Jesus says baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is sharing the three-in-one nature of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is baptism unites a believer with Jesus Christ in their death to sin and resurrection to new life. Baptism symbolized submission to Christ and a willingness to live God’s way.

To whom did Jesus give the Great Commission?

He gave it to His 11 disciples but also to every Christian who believes on him. When we represent Jesus Christ as his disciple, we are representing the One who possesses all power, wisdom, and authority.

John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

1 John 4:4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

But you might say, the 11 disciples were different from me. They were much more extraordinary. They possessed something more powerful. Much better than me.

But they were just common, ordinary people. A working class of people having the same weaknesses as you and me. The only two differences are:

1. They experienced seeing Jesus crucified, resurrected, and then watched Him ascend into heaven.

2. They were the first to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

II. What is the Great Commission?

Verse 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Jesus’s command is to take the Gospel to every person to every part of the world and to make disciples in all nations. But it doesn’t stop there. It involves training. Training these disciples to spread the Gospel in their area and to train these disciples to train other disciples to do the same. Generation after generation. We’ll call this spiritual multiplication.

What is the difference between spiritual addition and spiritual multiplication? Spiritual addition is one person leads someone to the Lord and then leads someone else to the Lord and continues this process, one by one. On the other hand, spiritual multiplication is a Christian disciple introduces a non-Christian to Jesus and then trains that Christian to share the Gospel. Then they each introduce someone to Christ. This process continues and expands resulting in Christian multiplication.

Our responsibility is to preach and teach the Gospel, it is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to make our witness effective.

III. Why should we help fulfill the Great Commission?

Let’s look at 4 reasons.

1. Jesus commanded us to do so. Jesus said, “Go!” But the sad thing is, most Christians have never taken this command seriously. But look at the world around us, what’s happening, what’s going on?

If we take our Lord seriously, we must dedicate our time, talent, and treasure to fulfill the Great Commission. Remember what Jesus has done for us.

Consider Mark 8:34-38. “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his father with the holy angels.”

2. There are people who are lost without Jesus Christ; this includes family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, associates, etc.

Romans 3:23 reminds us, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,…”

John 14:6 states that Jesus is the exclusive answer. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

In Acts 4:12, we see again that only the person of Jesus can save us. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

3. People everywhere are hungry for God. All over the world.

4. There is an urgency. We must have an urgency to complete this command while the doors of opportunity are still open.

John 4:35-36, “Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”

IV. When will the Great Commission be fulfilled?

The Great Commission is God’s idea and only He in his almighty power and all knowledge knows when and how it will fulfilled. Consider some of the following verses from Scripture:

Acts 1:7, “And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”

Matthew 24:36, “but of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

Mark 13:32-33, “but of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.”

As Christians sharing the Gospel should be our number one priority each and every day, each and every minute, to each and every person. Why? Because the message of Jesus brings joy as we see in the story of Jesus’ birth? “And the angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2.10).

V. Where must we go?

Acts 1:8, “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 Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

We are to be involved in helping reach the entire world, but here Jesus gives us a strategy.

Jerusalem: in your own home, in your neighborhood, in your school, at your work.

Judea & Samaria: in your community, in your county (Atchison, Holt, Nodaway), in your state (Missouri), your nation (United States).

Rest of the world

But, as we go, Jesus gave us a promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28.20b).

Jesus is telling His disciples then and His disciples now, He will be with His followers spiritually until the end of this age, meaning until He returns.

Matthew 1:23b says, “and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

We must go out and obey His commission. Because even when we fail, He is faithful.

VI. How can I help fulfill the Great Commission? (Application)

Remember the 3 T’s: Time, Talents, Treasure

1. Become a Christian.

2. In everything, start with prayer. Take time to pray-ask God for guidance. Pray for the pastor, others, missionaries. Pray hearts will be softened.

3. Take inventory of your talents. How can you serve? We have all received gifts the we can use to help fulfill the great commission.

4. Learn.

a. Be in church, be in bible study, be in Sunday School, be in fellowship.
b. Learn how to share the Gospel.

5. Be a mentor. Who can you come alongside? Invest in another. Teach another Christian to share the Gospel. Remember it is about multiplication.

6. Share your treasure. Give.

7. Develop a strategy: home, neighbors, relatives, work, school, county, state, nation, world.

The Great Commission reveals the heart of God. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that it is God “who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”