The great commission was given to the disciples after Jesus’ victorious resurrection from the dead on the first day of the week and before ascending back into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. Jesus said; “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That great commission was given in the first century and is still just as important, powerful, and effective in the twenty-first century. Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation…” (Romans 1:16). This great power would be taken into all of the world as Jesus commanded; “…in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is both biblical and non-biblical evidence to support the fact that the brethren in the first century began to take the message of the gospel into all of the world. Paul’s personal goal was to someday travel to the far western part of Europe when he wrote to the Romans; “I shall go by way of you (Italy) to Spain” (Romans 15:28). The gospel was taken to Ethiopia, Africa when the Ethiopian heard, believed, and obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:26-40). What are the means by which one can go into all the world?
First, the world always begins with the people that we know and where we live. In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he began preaching near where he lived at the time. “And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea…” (Mathew 4:13). Jesus initiated his preaching and teaching with neighboring communities. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” (Matthew 4:23). Beginning his work in Galilee would be the same as preaching the gospel within the state or province where one already lives. After selecting the apostles Jesus told them; “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6). That is what the apostles did and the complete gospel was preached and the Lord’s church established in the city of Jerusalem (Acts 2). The application for Christians in the twenty-first century is the same and that is going into all the world begins at home.
Second, the world does not end by only preaching the gospel to the people that we know or of our same culture. Jesus said; “Go into all the world…” and “…to the end of the earth.” There is also the privilege of taking the gospel everywhere. In the twenty-first century that may be accomplished through many different avenues. There are some brethren that take the gospel to their neighbors, but do not have the time to travel to another country. They can continue to take the gospel locally and support that work and also support those that do have the time to travel to another country. Paul was thankful to the Philippians for their continued moral and financial support as he traveled to other countries. He wrote to the Philippians; “I thank my God…for you fellowship (moral and financial support) in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5). There are also brethren that have the time available to go to another country to teach the truth to other brethren and also to the lost. Their going is a great motivation and encouragement to brothers and sisters in Christ in often difficult places around the world as they know other Christians care for them and are willing to help them in the Lord’s work.
The Lord’s church has the privilege and responsibility to take the gospel to people everywhere beginning where we live and into all the world. Congregations that have a part of their budgets dedicated to mission work are those that have the same vision as did Jesus. Let us work together in carrying out the Lord’s great commission that brings salvation to the lost and edification to the saved.
by Wayne Brewer