Great Commission — to do what, exactly?

How did the original disciples / apostles understand that commission?

First, what was that commission?
“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 (watch, keep, obey) all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-19 KJV)

Second, what were the all things Jesus had commanded them?

  1. And as ye go,
  2. preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
  3. Heal the sick,
  4. cleanse the lepers,
  5. raise the dead,
  6. cast out demons.
  7. Freely you have received, freely give.
    (Matthew 10:7-8)

The original disciples were already quite familiar with that commission. They had observed it while following Jesus, and then had experience in it themselves. It was always more than just preaching. It was much, much more.

The 11 apostles:   “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:20)

The 70 disciples:   “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

Peter (apostle):   “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted [him] up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.” (Acts 3:6-7)

Stephen (disciple/deacon):   “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (Acts 6:8)

Philip (disciple/deacon):   “And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” (Acts 8:6)

Paul (former enemy, a new apostle):   “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” (Acts 19:11-12)

Paul’s own testimony:  “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:19)  “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.” (2 Corinthians 12:12)

Barnabas:   “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” (Acts 15:12)

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Baptism in the Holy Spirit) as recorded in Acts 2 gave them — and us today — the power, the ability to perform the ministries included in the Great Commission.

Church history records that this commission was carried out with miracle signs and wonders from the beginning of the church, although over time for many people it became only the “going” and the “preaching,” not the power of the gospel.

Today the Great Commission is again being fulfilled by believers who know who they are, fulfilled the way it was intended, illustrated by Jesus and carried out by the original church.

How did they do it?

For examples of how the Great Commission was supposed to be fulfilled and actually was fulfilled by the original disciples, see How to Heal the Sick,

Portals are opening

PortholeSpaceWhile I was watching a DVD one morning several years ago, the Lord spoke to me. “What is a portal?” He said. I began to think about that. Portal. Hmmm. I first visualized a porthole on a ship.

On board the Logos 2 I had a cabin in the bow of the ship, quayside. No porthole, though; it had a window to the deck. Well, the window was a portal. I continued to think.

A portal is an opening. Perhaps just a crack. I once lived in an old plantation house where you could see the ground through cracks in the floor. Those cracks were portals.

A portal could be a doorway between similar environments. Like from the dining room into the kitchen. It could be a doorway between slightly dissimilar environments, like from a hot New York street into an air-conditioned office building.

Or a doorway between completely different environments, like the hatch on the space shuttle leading to outer space. It could be a doorway between the natural and supernatural…

Jacob saw such a portal. Tired from traveling, he chose a place out in the open to sleep. In the night he had a remarkable dream. He saw angels ascending and descending through an open portal. And he recognized it! “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” God spoke to him and gave him a tremendous promise. (Genesis 28:10-17)

Peter, James and John also saw a supernatural portal. Jesus took them with him into a high mountain. Suddenly they saw Jesus standing with Moses and Elijah, brilliant in appearance and looking quite different from normal humans! The disciples were terrified. Then God spoke directly to them out of a cloud, “This is my beloved Son; hear him.” (Mark 9:1-9)

The apostle John saw a supernatural portal. The entire book of Revelation describes what he saw! I have sometimes wondered if heaven and earth don’t actually occupy the same space, just on different wavelengths. Then when God wants humans to see something supernatural, he just alters the physics of existence at that place. Well, it’s a theory.

I had gotten that far in my thinking about portals when the Lord spoke again. “I am opening many portals in the world.” Oh, God! That hit me like a jolt of electricity. I couldn’t think any more. I couldn’t even pray. Write it, He said. So I wrote it. That was July 9, 2013…

Since that day I have been on watch for indications of those portals, reading and viewing news stories from around the world. Looking for peculiarly unexplainable, unprecedented occurrences.

Observing signs and symptoms of portals through which some things are trickling, some things are drifting, some things are pouring – supernatural influences for good and for evil. I see more, and more, and more of them every week.

Whose example are you following?

ExamplePowerOfGodJesus told the disciples to follow him, do what he had been doing, and teach others to do the same things. They did.

“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20 NIV)

The apostle Paul said, “Be ye followers (imitators) of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (I Cor. 11:1 KJV)

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (I Cor. 2:4-5 NIV)

“… by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of His Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (Rom. 15:19 NIV)

Demonstration of God’s power = signs and miracles. Without that, the gospel has not been fully proclaimed. You may be following the wrong example.

What Paul did while weak

When you’re weak, then are you strong like Paul was?

To authenticate his ministry, Paul laid out his credentials in a letter to the Corinthians. In doing so, he reported an event that had happened 14 years earlier, when he was being harassed by a messenger (angel) of Satan. He had asked the Lord three times to get rid of it for him.

In II Cor. 12 (Kenneth S. Wuest Expanded New Testament) Paul writes:

“He said, My grace is enough for you, for power is moment by moment coming to its full energy and complete operation in the sphere of weakness. Therefore, most gladly will I the rather boast in my weaknesses in order that the power of the Christ [like the Shekinah Glory in the Holy of Holies of the Tent of Meeting] may take up its residence in me [working within me and giving me help].

“Wherefore I am well content in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, and in circumstances under which I am subject to extreme pressure on behalf of Christ, for when I am weak, than I am filled with ability and power.”

He had been asking God to do something God had enabled him to do for himself.

Was Paul weak? He said that he was, in his own strength. Yet in this weak condition, he was able to do “miracles of a startling, imposing, amazement-wakening character, and miracles that demonstrate God’s power.” (II Cor. 12:12, Wuest)

Phil. 4:13 (Amplified): “I (Paul) have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me – I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me [that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].”

Rom. 15:19: “… by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of His Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (NIV)

Paul said he had preached the word fully, and the Lord confirmed the word preached by miracles, just as He had done for the disciples.

Mark 16:20: “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (NIV)

Here is some of what Paul and Christ’s sufficient grace accomplished, in his weak condition:

Acts 13:11 – caused the sorcerer to go blind
Acts 14:3 – miraculous signs and wonders – the Lord confirmed message by miracles
Acts 14:9-10 – healed the man lame from birth
Acts 14:19-20 – he himself was raised from the dead (presumably) after being stoned
Acts 15:12 – miracles, signs and wonders
Acts 16:19 – cast demon out of slave girl
Acts 19:11-12 – extraordinary miracles, healing by handkerchiefs and aprons, evil spirits cast out
Acts 20:9-12 – raised young man from the dead
Acts 28:8-9 – on Malta, father of Publius healed, then all the rest of the sick on the island healed
Romans 15:19 – signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit
Saw many, many people come to faith in Christ.

All this, while being opposed by many kinds of trouble:

II Cor. 11:23-29:
Worked much harder than anyone else
In prison more frequently
Flogged more severely
40 lashes minus 1, five times received from the Jews
Beaten with rods three times
Stoned once
Shipwrecked three times, a night and a day in the open sea
Danger from rivers
Danger from bandits
Danger from his own countrymen
Danger from Gentiles
Danger in the city, country and sea
Danger from false brethren
Labored and toiled without sleep
Hungry and thirsty, often without food
Cold and naked
Concern for the churches daily
Temptation to sin

Paul believed – and obeyed – what Jesus had said:

John 14:11-12: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Remember Mark 16:20? “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (NIV)

The Lord can’t confirm what isn’t being preached.

Called but not chosen

Saul of Tarsus was called. “Saul, I need you. Come here.” Of course, it was couched in other words initially: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9)

My mother loved to work in her back yard, pulling weeds, planting flowers, puttering around. She didn’t want to come into the house with dirty hands and feet just because she was thirsty, so she would call me. “Bette, I need you. Come here.”

And I came, often to be sent back indoors for a tall glass of water or a “milk shake.” Mama’s version consisted of milk with sugar and vanilla flavoring added, ice cubes but no ice cream. Once I put it into her hands, I could return to my book, homework or television, whatever I was doing before.

That’s not the kind of call Saul of Tarsus got. When he heard that voice, what it didn’t say was understood just as clearly as what it did say.

“Saul, I want another apostle. You’re it.”

“You meet my criteria: genealogy, authority in the Sanhedrin, Roman citizenship, self-supporting occupation, knowledge and zeal for the law. Come here.”

It wasn’t just an invitation, it was a draft notice. To make sure he paid attention, Jesus brought this invitation in person, in quite a dramatic fashion. Saul paid attention; he obeyed the instructions to the letter. He became an apostle.

Fast forward twenty plus years. Saul’s name is now Paul and he’s planning a trip to Rome, where many Gentiles and Jews have become followers of Jesus. He writes them a letter, informing them of his plans.

This letter to the Romans begins with an explanation of who the writer is, for a good reason. Though they had never met him, he had a widespread reputation; they knew who he was. Still, he was about to give them some orders. Why should they listen? Who is he, to them?

And so he begins, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God… apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

He is identifying himself to them, and with them.

A servant? He was born into a prominent family, had achieved prestige and position, and he probably had servants himself. Now he’s a servant instead, as many of them were.

Called? Like they were? They knew what it meant to be called. Recruited, drafted, not because it was their own idea, but because it was someone else’s idea. They had accepted calls from owners or employers or government officials in the past, and now had accepted the call of Christ. This man says he was called, too, something else they had in common.

But Paul had not just been invited to be part of this group who believed Jesus to be God’s son, as they did. He says he was called to be an apostle, somebody sent out on assignment, traveling from place to place with God’s message for his people.

Paul’s zeal had gotten him into trouble soon after his confrontation with Jesus and he’d had to be sent home to Tarsus. Where once he’d been a respected, honored and feared member of the Jewish authority structure, he had become an outcast. A criminal, like those he’d pursued and arrested. The time back home was put to good use, I’m sure. Studying, meditating, communicating with God, learning, unlearning, relearning.

He was learning everything he could about the gospel of God, who Jesus was and how he fulfilled the promises, the prophecies. About God’s power. Grace. Faith. He was preparing to be an apostle, to share with the world at large what the Holy Spirit was teaching him. We know the rest of Paul’s story, that he did indeed become an apostle.

As I meditated on just what “called” means, I came across the Greek word for church. Ekklesia: the called ones. The invited ones. The drafted ones. And I began looking for other instances of this word, called.

Jesus told a parable about a wedding for a king’s son in Matthew 22. The king had invited (called) the proposed guests beforehand, then when everything was ready he sent his servant to say, “It’s time.” But they were too busy, they weren’t prepared. They refused.

So the king had other guests invited. The servants brought in everyone they could find – they filled the banquet hall, but the king wasn’t pleased with one of these new guests. He was invited, he had come, but he wasn’t prepared. He wasn’t wearing proper clothing for a wedding. He was thrown out.

He was called, but because he wasn’t prepared, he wasn’t chosen. Jesus ended this parable with, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” You get the picture.

The call isn’t the only thing necessary. Saul of Tarsus was stopped on that road in such a way it left no room for argument. He acknowledged Jesus’ identity and he accepted the assignment, but that wasn’t enough. He had to be prepared, clothed with something he couldn’t provide for himself.

And he was. In Acts 9 Ananias told Saul, “The Lord… has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The results, in his own words: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I had said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” (Romans 15:18-19)

“The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance.” (2 Cor. 12: 12) When I think about all that happened to Paul in his lifetime (2 Cor. 11), I realize he could not have survived without that essential preparation; that clothing of the Holy Spirit.

Called, prepared and chosen. Clothed. That’s what and who we need to be.