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The Church's Great Commission?


Paul Rose

The so-called Church's Great Commission is a traditional teaching that is in error and really underlines the importance of properly reading what Scripture says. Nowhere in Scripture is the Church told to "Go... into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Also, the Church was not told to "Go... and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost..." (Matthew 28:19). These passages are generally referred to as The Church's Great Commission, but if you read the passages carefully, the Lord was very particular in saying this to the eleven apostles only. This was the Great Commission of the Apostles, not of the Church, and it has already been accomplished, as described in the book of Acts. The Church, or believers generally have never been instructed to do this. What we are told is:

"...unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ... And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers..." (Ephesians 4:7, 11).

Not all of Christ's Church are called to be evangelists-there are "some, evangelists", others are called to be pastors, teachers etc. But all of the apostles were called to be evangelists and for a very specific purpose. When we read on in Mark 16, for example, we find that there would be signs:

"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:17-18).

Are these things that happen today? Do people today take up serpents or drink deadly things without harm? Do people today (genuinely) lay hands on people to enable them to receive the Holy Spirit (see Acts 8:17)? These were special times and this was a special commission for the apostles, not for the Church.

Compare this with Acts 1:1, 2, 7, 8:

"The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:... he said unto [the apostles], It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."

Again, here it is stressed that the Lord was speaking to the Apostles only.

We should seek to "shine as lights in the world..." (Philippians 2:15) but this is not "The Church's Great Commission".

We should be the "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13, 14, 16) but, again, this is not the so-called "Church's Great Commission".

Witnessing for the Lord is something we do as individual Christians as the Holy Spirit directs, not collectively as a so-called "Church's Great Commission".

In Acts chapter 2, it was the Apostles alone who "were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance". This is clearly seen in a number of ways.

  • Those who heard them speak in other tongues "were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?"

  • In Acts 2:14 Peter "standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them...".

  • Acts 2:43 "And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles."

If Acts 1:8 applies to the Church at large then all of the above would have been the experience of, not just the Apostles but also of other believers in the early Church, but we see that this was not so.

The Lord's words "I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19) were spoken to Peter and his brother Andrew, both of whom were destined to become Apostles. It was not said to believers generally and was not said to the early church as an assembly. Rather, individuals were singled out, such as Timothy, to whom Paul said: "Do the work of an evangelist" (2 Timothy 4:5). Paul said this to Timothy who he knew well and had placed in the role of a Pastor. It does not follow that this applies to every believer.


There is in the Church today, an undue emphasis on evangelicalism. This is a buzzword of the popular Christian press, but evangelism is only one of the many gifts of the Spirit, and not all Christians are called to evangelism. All gifts are necessary (I Corinthians chapter 12) but every believer does not have every gift. Specifically, only those called to evangelism have the gift of evangelism.

© Paul Rose 2008 <>

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