Four Commissions In The New Testament
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
According to my Webster’s New World Dictionary a commission is "an authorization to perform certain duties or tasks, or take on certain powers." My 1828 Noah Webster’s Dictionary put it this way, "The act of entrusting, as a charge or duty." Therefore, a commission is a charge, order or mandate given with the authority to carry out the task.
Let me give you an illustration. In my office file I have my commission as a Chaplain. In that commission I was appointed as a military chaplain and then assigned orders telling me where I am to serve and what I am to do.
In this message we are going to look at four of the commissions in the New Testament.
I should also note that the actual word commission is only used once in the Bible. We find that in Acts 26:12 where Paul writes, "Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests." The context is this: the Jewish Sanhedrim had given Saul (later Paul) the charge and the authority to bring Christians at Damascus bound to Jerusalem, in order to be punished. Acts 9:2 gives us further insight into this - "And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem."
While the specific word commission is only found in this one passage, the concept of giving a order or command with the authority of carry out that command is common in the New Testament. The first and most well known commission in the New Testament is…
This is a title given to the command given by Jesus Christ to His disciples to preach the Gospel in all the world. It is not only recorded in Matthew 28, but also in Mark 16:15; Luke 24:44-48; John 20:21 and Acts 1:8, though it is stated somewhat differently in these passages. The "Great Commission" involves two major tasks: evangelism and discipleship. First, the Gospel is to be proclaimed to every person. The Gospel is the proclamation Christ death for our sins, and His resurrection.
Now, turn with me to the Great Commission passage found in Luke 24:46-47. This passage looks at the Great Commission from a little different angle. "And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." As you can see, the death and resurrection are clearly mentioned. However, the focus here is on the preaching aspect of the Gospel.
Note the two words – repentance and remission of sins. So what is the preaching of repentance? A good example is found in Luke 13:3-5 "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." In order for a person to be saved he must turn from his sin and trust Jesus Christ for Salvation. More specifically repentance is a supernatural work of God whereby a responsive sinner, being convicted by the Holy Spirit of his rebellion, turns to God from his sinful ways and trusts Jesus Christ for salvation (Acts 11:18; 26:20).
Now look at the word remission. The word means to dismiss or pass over. God dismisses and passes over the believer's sin because of the sacrifice of Christ (Romans 3:25; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22).
Now, after a person believes the Gospel of Christ
they are to be baptized and taught the teachings of the Bible. The
Great Commission is to be fulfilled by believers and results in the
spread of Christianity and multiplication of New Testament churches.
Matthew 9:9-13 "And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. 10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? 12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The phrase "go and learn" is a phrase used by the Jews when they are about to explain a passage of Scripture, and bring an argument from the connection of the text. In fact that is exactly what happened here. The Pharisees were critical of Christ’s association with tax collectors and sinners. Christ overheard them telling his disciples this and responded that people who are healthy don’t need a doctor, but people who are sick do. Then Christ points out a Scripture these Pharisees should have known; Hosea 6:6 "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." Basically Christ reproves their ignorance of the Scriptures! He is implying, instead of finding fault with Him, and His conduct, it would be far better to find out the meaning of Hosea 6:6 – "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice…."
While this commission, go and learn, was given to the Pharisees, clearly believers have been given a commission to do this as well. We are to "desire the sincere milk of the Word" (1 Peter 2:2). We are to "search the Scriptures daily…" (Acts 17:11). We are to "study to…rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
That brings up another thought – How Do We "Go and Learn?"
Consider Proverbs 2:1-6 "My son, if thou wilt receive (grab hold of and don’t let go) my words, and hide (to store up) my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear (listen intently) unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding."
If you will learn you must…
All believers have the commission to learn the
Word of God.