By Roland W. Keith
Nearly two thousand years ago eleven men gathered on a mountain in Galilee to meet with their Master. It was on that mountaintop that Jesus gave His appointed apostles what is known as the Great Commission, telling them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). This occasion was recorded in the gospel accounts of both Matthew and Mark, not merely as an historical event passed on in posterity, but as a living command. Christ promised to be with those fulfilling His directive “to the end of the age,” however, the men He spoke to on that day have all passed on, yet the end of the age has not arrived. So, to whom does Christ’s promise extend beyond those faithful disciples who watched Him ascend from this earth on that day?
In his letter to the Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote, “For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:3-15). The responsibility to further the gospel of Jesus Christ has been passed on, from one generation of Christians to the next, and will continue to be forwarded until the day the Lord returns to this earth. Each of us has inherited the duty of fulfilling the mandate handed down by the Lord before His ascension. Whether we stand before crowds in a pulpit, or study one-on-one with a friend, or act in a supporting role we are all accountable for taking the Lord’s message of salvation “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).
As Paul proclaimed in his letter to Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). It was Paul’s goal to be a part of the great work to proclaim God’s word to “all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23). The funny thing about spreading God’s word to all creation is that it is an unending battle. As one generation passes from the earth a new one is born that knows not the Lord. The work continues and must continue until time in this universe is no more. The question then becomes “How do we further the gospel and the continuing works of our Lord?” Today we will consider four ways.
The first is through fellowship. The spreading of the gospel is a partnership between individuals and congregations within the body of Christ, as Paul told the church in Philippi, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6; see also 4:15-16). The work of these faithful Christians in helping to evangelize the world has been memorialized in scripture as an example to the church in all ages. Whether it is in sending missionaries forward across the globe with funding, by providing Bibles and other teaching supplies, or by participating in local evangelization teams we all have a vital role to play in God’s plan of salvation. We just need to answer the call. Those who refuse to do their part or use the occasion to deceive others with claims other than the words of Christ are not worthy or our fellowship and will face a day of reckoning (II John 1:7-9; II Thessalonians 2:3-10).
To succeed God intended us to band together as one body to do His work (Ephesians 4:4-16; Romans 12:4-8; I Corinthians 12:12-31). However, to be successful in God’s eyes we must go beyond mere effort to an obedient and faithful adherence to God’s will in all matters (Colossians 1:18-23). Which brings us to our second point— we must further God’s word even when others oppose it. Paul regarded his imprisonment as an opportunity rather than a hindrance, writing to the church in Philippi: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14; see also Acts 16 &17). For him opposition was not only a chance to proclaim the truth, but to set an example for others laboring with him (II Timothy 3:10-12).
Luke’s historical account of the early church is replete with examples set by Paul and others in how to deal with adversity for the sake of Christ. When Peter and John were brought before the council and charged not to teach in the name of Jesus, they responded by answering, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-21). A similar instance occurred later that apparently involved all the apostles. Once again when charged not to proclaim the gospel their response was the same: they must obey God. After conferring among themselves Luke records that the council reconvened, “and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:40-42).
To weather all such opposition from the world Paul warned that we must prepare ourselves (Ephesians 6:10-18; II Timothy 2:15; Titus 2:9-12). It is through preparation that we are able to achieve competence in any endeavor in life, including our service to God. By becoming a knowledgeable and competent worker we can further God’s work in a third way— by demonstration or example. Knowledge and experience lead to the type of strength and confidence that others will look to for guidance.
Paul followed the example of Christ and often referred to our Savior and himself, along with his co-workers imitation of Christ as examples for the church to follow, calling upon his readers to set that same pattern for others. In his first letter to the Thessalonians he wrote, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1:6-7). He encouraged those in Philippi to imitate him and in turn to keep an eye on those who walked according to that example (Philippians 3:15-17). He implored the same group to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27-28).
Finally, we further the gospel by proclamation. Simply put— we tell others about Jesus. In First Corinthians we read, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:21-24). We do not need a 160 IQ or a powerful voice or eloquent vocabulary to tell others the gospel. It doesn’t matter if we are nervous or afraid. All we have to do is trust that Jesus is with us in His word, and to proclaim that word in His name. God will take care of the rest (I Corinthians 2:1-5). Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
We do not need to, nor can we, compel others to believe the word of God. That’s not our responsibility. Our job is it to tell them the truth about Jesus and God’s wonderful plan. God gives the increase. As Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The power is not in us, it’s in the gospel. That is not to diminish our role as God’s servants. We have been entrusted with the gospel (I Thessalonians 2:4). But, as faithful members of His kingdom we seek only to do our part, trusting in Him. As Paul wrote, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself… it is the Lord who judges me.” (I Corinthians 4:1-4).
In the end we cannot always know who has truly been touched by the word through our efforts, nor is it important to know. God only asks that we go into the vineyard and work as honest and faithful servants. If we do that we do not need to look back at the “successes” or “failures.” They were never ours to begin with. Not if we have given our best. If we have done that we can have confidence in how the Lord will judge us.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.