Phil Bray, President Pastors’ Conference
The mission of the church, the purpose of our existence, is founded upon the universal sovereignty given to Jesus Christ. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). We know this Scripture well. We know that Christ has commanded the church to be about one mission – making disciples. He gives us the means to accomplish that mission – as we go through the life we proclaim the gospel with clarity and conviction so that people respond in repentance and faith, thus publically aligning themselves with Christ through baptism. We follow that with disciplined, rigorous and faithful teaching of God’s word to these believers so that they learn how to obey God in all aspects of life.
But why do we give ourselves to this work? Why is this commission the mission and purpose of the church? What is the ground or reason for this particular command? What is the “therefore” of verse 19 referring back to? “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18). We are to make disciples of all the nations because Christ has been given complete sovereignty over everyone and everything in heaven and on earth. Prior to the coming of Christ, Satan ruled over the earth as the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). He is referred to as the “god of this world” who has the power to “blind the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (2Cor. 4:4). Through cunning deception he usurped Adam’s throne in Genesis 3 plunging humanity into slavery to sin and death. Through the fall of Adam all of humanity was placed in the shackles of sin (Rom. 5:12, 18, and 19). We lived under the authority and power of Satan, enslaved to sin and corruption, thus indulging our every evil desire to our own destruction (Eph. 2:1-3).
The kingdom of darkness ruled over this world with an iron fist manifesting its wretched evil through countless dictatorships and empires. Yet now God has established His unshakeable and unconquerable kingdom of light that demolishes the reign of evil with complete finality. This is the vision Nebuchadnezzar saw in Dan. 2:36-45. God in the last days will establish a kingdom that will grind to powder all previous physical manifestations of the kingdom of darkness establishing itself as the kingdom that will last forever. This kingdom will overthrow all previous kingdoms through the reestablishment of God’s anointed king, Jesus Christ – the Son of Man – the Branch of David – the Seed of Eve who has crushed the serpent’s head (Hag. 2:20-23; Dan. 7:13-14; Ps. 2; Isa. 9:6-7).
Jesus Christ is the God Man – the second Adam – who has come to throw off tyranny’s oppression by offering up His sinless life as a substitutionary payment for the penalty of sin (Rom. 3:21-26). He has been resurrected in a glorious explosion of life that shattered the dragon’s teeth having paid the penalty of sin in full (1Cor. 15:20-28; 50-58). As the God Man who died in substitution for guilty humanity and rose to life in conquest of death’s finality He thus reclaims the throne Adam lost to the cunning serpent thousands of years ago. Now He stands on the neck of this beast and grinds its face into the dust of defeat through the expansion of his never-ending kingdom of light (Rom. 16:20).
Jesus Christ is the God-Man to whom God has given all authority over all of existing Creation – seen and unseen (Col. 1:15-20). As the new ruler Christ expands His kingdom and crushes the kingdom of darkness through the work of His church by making disciples. We are announcing the glad and glorious news that rule of the vile dictator of death is over, having been conquered by the unconquerable King of Glory. You see, the Great Commission is the expansion of His sovereignty over all the nations.We are liberators, setting the peoples of this world free from the kingdom of darkness as they trust in Christ’s work on their behalf (Col. 1:13-14).
All authority has been given to Christ over every nation – they belong to Him – it is time to go tell them the wonderful news that the reign of death has crumbled in defeat! Victory and life have won. Our Missouri Baptist Pastors’ Conference this year is an attempt to focus our attention on this glorious God Man, Jesus Christ, and so motivate us by His splendor and grace to run forth to all nations with the good news that life has won! I hope to see you there in glad-hearted worship to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! (Phil Bray is lead pastor at First Baptist Church, Macon.)