The Great Commission
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The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20  (ID: 3564)

Before His ascension, Jesus established one of the church’s main priorities, which is to share the Gospel so that people will be converted, be baptized, grow in faith, and tell others the good news of salvation. Unfortunately, some churches have replaced this call to mission with a comfortable “maintenance” approach. Challenging all Christians to embrace Jesus’ Great Commission, Alistair Begg takes a closer look at the claim that only Christ can make, the command that only Christ can give, and the comfort that only Christ can provide.


Sermon Transcript: Print

In a moment, I’m going to read from Matthew and chapter 28. But before I do, I want to read briefly two other passages. And to save you from leafing through them and to save me waiting for you to find them, you can look for them later on, all right?

But the first is the statement that we find in Daniel chapter 7, where Daniel says, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”[1]

And then in John 17:20, Jesus is praying. He says to his Father, “I’m praying that as you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” And from verse—I think 17 is where I was. Yeah: “They are not of the world, just as I[’m] not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”

And now I reach Matthew and chapter 28:

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I[’ve] told you.’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’

“While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to 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.’”

Amen.

Father, as we come to you in Jesus’ name, and as we come now to your Word, we pray that the things that we have said to be true may come home to our lives with your courteous forcefulness so that we might be increasingly conformed to the image of your dearly beloved Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Well, I invite you to turn back to Matthew chapter 28 and to the familiar verses with which Matthew’s Gospel closes.

From time to time, it is good and it is important for us—as a church family, as a local church, as a congregation—it’s good and it is important for us to assess what we’re doing, and at the same time to consider why we’re doing what we’re doing, and to consider how we’re doing what we’re doing as we consider why we’re doing it.

A good number of years ago now, when I had been in Australia and felt as far away as I’ve ever felt in my life, I came back from that trip—I don’t remember when it was—and we decided together as a church leadership that it would be good for us just to take a sentence or two as a purpose statement for our church congregation. And I’m not going to embarrass you by asking you to put up your hand if you know what it is or if you remember what it is. Some of you will. But we haven’t made much mention of it recently, I don’t think. And we simply decided that we would use as a purpose statement “To see unbelieving people becoming committed followers of Jesus Christ”—that as a church, whatever else we might be engaged in, whatever else we might be doing, when people would come into our congregation and when we would go out from our congregation into the community, that there would be a shared understanding of our desire to fulfill God’s purposes in this way.

And, of course, what we made concrete, as it were, in that statement is entirely in keeping with what we find here at the end of Matthew. For that is simply what we refer to as the Great Commission. And that Great Commission—the words of Jesus, the emphasis of Jesus—is provided for us five times in the New Testament: in each of the Gospels and at the beginning of Acts. So, for example, at the beginning of Acts, Jesus has his disciples around him—a group larger than just the eleven or the twelve, those followers of Jesus—and he says to them, “You will be my witnesses.”[2] “That’s what you’re going to be.” In John chapter 20, he says,
“As the Father has sent me, … so I am sending you.”[3] In Luke chapter 24, he makes clear that “repentance [and] forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [Jesus’] name to all nations,” and Jesus says, “[And] you are witnesses.”[4] In Mark chapter 16, “Go into all the world,” says Jesus, “and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”[5] And here in Matthew chapter 28: “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.”

So in other words, Jesus gives the church their marching orders, our marching orders. And it couldn’t actually be clearer. These statements are not tucked away in a corner somewhere that we would have to go and search them out. No, they resonate at the conclusion of each of these Gospel records and at the entryway into the ongoing work of Jesus as it’s given to us by Luke in the Acts.

How much prayer is there in the church not just for physical restoration but for spiritual transformation?

Despite the fact that the Bible speaks with such clarity to this, there is some truth to the cynical observation that most churches think they’re doing fine because they don’t know what they’re doing. Now, we wouldn’t want to overstate it, but we don’t want to sidestep it either. Most churches think they’re doing fine because they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a bit like hitting balls on a driving range that has no targets at all: you can convince yourself you’re ready for the Tour within about three minutes; as soon as somebody puts a target out in front of you, you discover that really, you should just give it up and go home, because you really haven’t got a clue what you’re doing at all.

Or, perhaps even worse than cluelessness: a church congregation that either wittingly or unwittingly has replaced the call to mission with a preoccupation for maintenance—the desire to see unbelieving people become followers of Jesus somehow submerged under a desire to live in a comfortable company of people who think the way I think, who believe what I believe, and I don’t have to deal with any of the uncomfortable impact of people who are opposed to the story of Jesus or who by their desire to sidestep me make me distinctly uncomfortable if I profess his name.

One of the ways in which you can detect this in a church is by the church’s prayers. We pray routinely and clearly and purposefully for physical restoration. We have mentioned some this morning, and there are others too. But the question is: How much prayer is there in the church not just for physical restoration but for spiritual transformation? How much prayer to see unbelieving people becoming the committed followers of Jesus Christ?

Now, this challenge is upon me today, and so, when I am challenged, you’re challenged with me. It’s a challenge that I have to face as an individual, and so do you if you are in Christ, and it’s a challenge that we must face as a church. I want to set it very clearly within the context of the next three months: October, November, and December. During October, our focus will be on Jesus, on his identity, and on his statements that he made so clearly in calling men and women to him. Therefore, through the month of October, as a result of that teaching, it provides an opportunity for those of us who are already followers of Jesus to say, “Now, on Sunday morning, we’re going to learn about Jesus as, if you like, the Light of the World. Who do I know in my office that needs light in their darkness? Who of my family would benefit from having the Bible taught to them in relationship to these things?” In short order: October providing a wonderful opportunity to invite someone to come and to consider the claims of Jesus Christ.

Of course, it’s unlikely that we’re going to do that if we have lost sight of our purpose statement, if it has been submerged under our comfortable approach to church life: “My children are in nursery. My teens are largely under care of somebody. I don’t have to sit next to anybody I don’t like. I’m always able to slip out at the same time. There’s nothing really to inconvenience me at all—and certainly not the implication of actually inviting somebody that I need to care for, introduce, follow up with, and so on.”

So, with all that said, notice the Great Commission as it’s given to us here at the end of Matthew. I’m going to make three statements from the text, and I think that they are easily understood and hopefully, by God’s goodness, will be carefully applied.

A Claim That Only Christ Can Make

The first is this: that what we find here is a claim that only Christ can make. A claim that only Christ can make. “And Jesus came and said to them”—and here’s the claim—“‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’”

Now, let’s just allow that to settle in our minds for a moment: that somebody would stand on the stage of human history and make such a claim. “In the entire cosmos,” says Jesus, “I am the authority.” No mere human being in their right mind ever made such a claim. No mere human being in their right mind ever made such a claim. But Jesus does. And at the very beginning of the Gospels, when he steps forward, the reaction of the people, we’re told, is amazement and is wonder, and they say—and you find this at the beginning of Mark—“What is this? A new teaching [and] with authority!”[6] “With authority!” They found themselves saying, “Well, who is this person? Who does he actually think he is? And is he the person that he declares himself to be?” You see, that’s the question that inevitably confronts us when we look into the face of Jesus as revealed in the Bible.

What was Jesus saying on that occasion? Well, what was he saying? He was saying, “The whole Old Testament points to me”: “The time is fulfilled, … the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe … the gospel.”[7] When he returned, local boy, to his synagogue in Nazareth, you remember the exact same thing happened. Reading from the prophecy—“He sent me to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”[8]—the people couldn’t believe their ears, not because he was reading the prophet but because of what he said afterwards: he sat down, and all the eyes in the synagogue were fastened on him, we’re told by Luke, and he said to them, “Today this Scripture [is] fulfilled in your hearing.”[9] And you remember what they did: Well, they decided to try and kill him—to try and throw him over a cliff and be rid of him.[10] Such an amazing statement!

And when you read at the end of Luke’s Gospel—remember, when Jesus is dealing with these folks who had encountered him on the Emmaus Road—when he opens all the Scriptures up to them, you remember he says, “How slow of heart you are to believe all the things that were written about me in the Bible.”[11] He’s doing the very same thing. He says to them, “Do you not realize that this is all about me?” This is not ego. This is divinity! And that’s why we read from Daniel. Because what Daniel saw in the night visions has been fulfilled in Jesus: a dominion that stretches to the ends of the earth; an authority that is both in heaven and on earth.

And so, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Well, the disciples were completely taken aback by that themselves, weren’t they? At the end of a long day—a day that had begun with the women going to the tomb, coming back with a story; the big, brave men saying, “Sounds like an old lady’s tale, not something we should believe in”—by the time you get to the end of the day, they’re all gathered there, and John tells us that “Jesus came and stood among them.”[12] He “came and stood among them.” They had seen him calm the sea. Remember, they said, “Who is this, that even winds and waves obey him?”[13] And now they see him come to calm their doubts and their troubles and their fears and to commission them—he who has declared himself to be the Way and the Truth and the Life and the Light and the Shepherd and the Bread and the Gate and so on. And the King. The King!

It’s been interesting this week, hasn’t it, singing, “God Save the King”? I’m not supposing you have. I’ve tried it a couple of times. But in the weekend essay in The Times of London, A. N. Wilson, the historian, has a wonderful piece that’s the heading of his essay: “It’s too much to hope the King can save us from ourselves.” That’s the essay for the weekend: “It’s too much to hope,” he says, that “the King can save us from ourselves”—this great groundswell of sort of royal nostalgia sweeping over the nation in such a way that even political arguments are set aside momentarily. And he writes and he says, “Do you really think that this is going to fix us?”

Of course, no earthly king can fix us. But to Jesus has been given a “name that is above every name, … that at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[14] That’s what Paul is saying. Paul’s saying! Paul, who hated Jesus. Paul, who didn’t believe in Jesus. Paul, who thought the whole Christian thing was a crock, until he met Jesus. And you may be here this morning, and that’s exactly where you are. For whatever reason, you attend church. I’ll never know why, unless you tell me. But deep down inside, no, it maybe has something to do with social acceptability. It maybe has something to do with the hope that you might catch something along the way.

But when you meet Jesus, when you meet him as he is, when we find him to be a Savior for sinners and a Friend to the lonely and the one who grants peace to our troubled consciences and so on, then we’ll be able to speak of him in a very different way. Then we’ll understand why the writer to the Hebrews begins this great letter, “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”[15] Do you believe this? Yes! He is “the heir of all things.” He’s the creator of the universe. He “upholds” everything “by the word of his power.” So when he steps forward and he says to his followers, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me,” frankly, he’s not kidding. He’s simply saying what is true. So it is a claim that no one but Christ can make.

A Command That Only Christ Can Give

Secondly, we find in this a command that only Christ can give: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go…’” Now notice the “therefore”: “Go therefore.” It is the authority of Jesus that gives us the responsibility to evangelize. That’s the reason for the “therefore.” “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Now you go. Therefore, you go, to tell the world—to tell the world, the whole world—that God will forgive and reconcile sinners to himself through Jesus.” That’s the good news: that although we are bent, crooked, messed up, and apparently unfixable, the good news is that despite our rejection of God, our rebellion against his commands, our disinterest in his authority, and so on, he loves us with a pursuing passion, and he comes to us and speaks to us, because God loves saving people—so much so that he unleashes his church to be about the business of doing that very thing.

Now, there’s a logic in this, isn’t there? And it helps us to answer the kind of question that is inevitably put to us. This is what people will say: “What right do you have,” or worse, “What right do you think you have to interfere in the religion of another country or of another culture or of another classroom?”—in the realm of education. “What right do you think you have to speak to the children of our generation? What right do you think you have to stand up against a godless agenda and proclaim Jesus as the only way? What right do you think you have?”

The answer is, “The right that I have is because I am in the service of the one in whom resides all authority in heaven and on earth.” “Why would you do this?” someone says. “Because I’m commanded to.” Commanded to. The answer is not because I feel a surge in my tummy. It’s not because I feel guilty. It’s because it is an inevitable consequence of who Jesus is. The whole world needs to know who Jesus is. If Jesus is going to “reign where’er the sun,”[16] in its ultimate expression, how is that going to happen, except through the church of Jesus Christ understanding the claim that only he can make and obeying the command that only he can give?

God loves saving people—so much so that he unleashes his church to be about the business of doing that very thing.

Now, notice it: “Go therefore” and do what? Well, “make disciples of all nations.” What does that mean? It means simply this: bring people to Jesus so that they might be converted. It doesn’t mean “Go and try and bring your lifestyle into their orb.” It doesn’t mean “Go and try and share your ideas with them about religion.” No. It means “Go to them and share Jesus with them in such a way that they understand: to meet Jesus is a crossroads.” It is a crossroads. You either are going to follow Jesus and bow beneath his command, or you’re going to reject Jesus and go on your own way. That’s what it means to go and make disciples.

In fact, if you want to turn for just a moment, I’ll show you how amazing it really is in the John 20 passage, when “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” John 20:21: “Jesus said to them …, ‘Peace be with you.’” That’s nice—the peace that comes from the work of Jesus. “‘As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ … When he had said this, he breathed on them and said …, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”—a kind of little prophetic foretaste of what is going to come on the day of Pentecost, it says. And then he says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”[17] So he’s saying to his followers, “You have the prerogative to declare the remission or the retention of sin.”

Now, those of you who have been brought up in a Roman Catholic background were taught that this actually leads you to the Roman Catholic confessional. Roman Catholic dogma is that this was a unique prerogative given to the apostles which is then passed down in the apostolic pattern, in through the popes and to the priests, and so the priest in the confessional has the ability—and the only one who actually has the ability—to do what Jesus is saying here at the end of John’s Gospel.

But this is not about something that is given to a small, unique priesthood. This is something that is given to all believers. Do you understand this? In other words, if you’re talking with somebody about Jesus—who he is and why he came—you’re able to say to them, “You know, there is a promise here that I want to share with you. And that is that if you receive the message that Jesus proclaimed, if you receive the gospel, your sins will be forgiven.” “Oh,” says the person, “really?” “Yes. And the other thing I should mention to you is the warning. Because if you do not receive the message, your sins will be retained.” Picture Pilgrim with the great burden on his back. Picture twenty-first-century pilgrims in your office with great burdens on their backs—in your classroom, on your street. Where may the burdens be relieved? In whom?

Well, here, at the cross. “Rolled away…” We used to sing it as children in Sunday school. We didn’t really know what we were on about, I don’t think. I get it now: “Rolled away, rolled away,” and “the burdens of my heart were rolled away. Every sin had to go ’neath the crimson flow,” the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Every sin had to go, and the burdens of my heart were rolled away.” We say to people, “Listen, the message of forgiveness is a promise to be received. If you receive it, your sins will be forgiven. If you reject it and you die in your sins, you will be lost for all of eternity. That’s why it is so profoundly important.” And that’s why, again, it is a claim that only Christ can make. We’re not out here to offer a brand of religion in the smorgasbord of religious and spiritual opportunities that are available to us in Western culture. We’re actually out there under command of the King to say, “Listen, I got a story to tell you. I’m here to, with God’s help, make you a disciple.”

Now come back to Matthew, and what does it say? “Make disciples.” “Make disciples.” “Baptize them.” “Baptize them.” What is a baptism? Well, it’s a public profession, isn’t it? Tell them, “There’s no such thing as a secret disciple.” I mean, either your discipleship will destroy your secrecy, or your secrecy will destroy your discipleship. No, eventually, if you really bow beneath Jesus, you will stand up and acknowledge it. This is not a question about the nature and the style of baptism. Leave that aside for now. Baptism in every context is a public identification with Jesus. It is the mechanism whereby we become visible members of a believing community of faith. So what Jesus is saying is “Don’t just go out there and ask people to make decisions. Make sure that when they come to Jesus, that they will profess it clearly, and they will be part of the professing church.”

And thirdly, that you will be “teaching them.” “Teaching them.” “Teaching them” what? “Teaching them” these things. “First importance,” says Paul in Corinthians, doesn’t he? That “I delivered to you as of first importance … that Christ died for … sins,”[18] and so on—so that those who have become the followers of Jesus will understand basic Christian doctrine; so that then the followers of Jesus will not simply be going out into the community to give our testimony. Don’t misunderstand me: we are going to give our testimony. But our story to proclaim to the world is not a story about something that has happened in us, but it is a story about something that has happened for us. For us. Some of us don’t have a very dramatic story about what happened in us. Every story is actually dramatic, but it’s like, I was never a Hells Angel. I never fell off a Harley-Davidson and banged my head on the floor and was met by an angel that told me to go here and so on. I got nothing like that at all. No. Neither you do, mostly.

And furthermore, if you just tell people about what has happened inside of you, they will very quickly come back and tell you about something that happened inside of them. And whether it involved Buddha, whether it involved New Age, whether it involved yoga or whatever it was, it involved meditation, and they’ll just say, “Oh, I’m so glad for you. I’m so glad that that’s how you found it.” And as soon as you get there, you’re stuck. You see? You say, “No, it’s not about what I found.” “Well then, what are you talking about?” Well, because that’s not what we’re talking about.

What we’re saying is Jesus—Jesus—is the one who has stepped into time, has made God known to us in the fullness of his person, and has died in the place of sin, and has risen triumphant, and comes to live and reign in the hearts of those who trust him. “A story to tell to the nations that [will] turn their hearts to the right.”[19] Of course he’s doing something in us. But the real mystery is that he has done something for us.

It’s a command that only he can give. You know, we’ve got many activities here at Parkside Church, all good, all necessary, but all to serve one priority. To serve one priority: to see men and women being converted; seeing them baptized, fearlessly identifying themselves as followers of Jesus; seeing them being taught, being catechized, growing in an understanding of Scripture and of Christ and of his work. And this does not happen and will not happen… This kind of widespread evangelization will only happen when it is undertaken by all. This command is not given to a select few. This command is given to the followers of Jesus. It is a charge that is laid upon the whole church, a whole gospel for a whole world.

And I can sense that some of you would say, “Well, you know, I don’t know that I’m even fit to have any part in that.” Well, that’s a good starting point, isn’t it? The reason that some of us say nothing is because we have nothing to say. We’ve got nothing to say. Because we ourselves are, if you like, unconverted believers. Unconverted believers! Sitting Sunday by Sunday, answering the catechetical questions, getting the right answer because it’s on the screen, but in our hearts going home and saying, “But I am not a child of God. I am not a follower of Jesus. I know I’m not.” Well, good that you know it. But do you want to stay that way? I have a promise for you: forgiveness. I have a warning for you.

Well, some say, “Well, I’m afraid to take part. I’m afraid.” Good! Welcome to my club. I’m afraid too. You’re in good company. Not just my company. You’re in the disciples’ company, back again at the end of John and at the evening and the end of the day, how they were all there with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.[20] These are the people that are going out to evangelize the world: a tiny, huddled group saying, “Look out! We may be next. We don’t want to go the same way our Master went. No, no. Keep those doors locked. Did you lock the doors? Make sure the doors are locked.”

Either your discipleship will destroy your secrecy, or your secrecy will destroy your discipleship. Eventually, if you really bow beneath Jesus, you will stand up and acknowledge it.

And when you read the commentaries, the commentators spend pages on “How is it that Jesus got through the door without opening the door?” you know. It’s like, what? And the same thing about “Well, how did he get out of the grave with the graveclothes. They’re not…” Get out of here! Listen: the great miracle is not how he managed to get in but how he got these characters out! That’s the miracle. It was over: “We’re done, collapsed, buried, finished.” And “Jesus came and stood among them,” and he says, “Now, guys, get out of here. Get out of here, and do what I told you to do.”

“Oh, we need peace.”

“It’s mine to give.”

“Oh, we need power.”

“It’s mine to supply.”

“Oh, we need your presence.”

“Well, you can be guaranteed it.”

A Comfort That Only Christ Can Provide

So, that brings me back to Matthew again. (You can tell I’m bouncing between all of these records.) A claim that only Christ can make, a command that only Christ can give, and a comfort that only Christ can provide. “I’m fearful.” “Yeah, I understand. Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” There will be a new age when Christ returns. But he says, “You can be guaranteed my presence from now until then.” Matthew’s Gospel had begun with this amazing declaration, hadn’t it? “And the virgin will conceive and bring forth a son, and his name will be called Immanuel, ‘God with us.’”[21]

And people say, “God with us? God with us?” Who else has authority on earth to forgive sins? So it starts with “God with us,” and he ends his Gospel, “God with us.” Jesus had been preparing his disciples for his departure. He’d said to them, “You know, I’m going to go away. The Holy Spirit will come.” They didn’t have a clue, really, what he was saying. But now he says to them, “And I want you to go, and when you go, I am with you.” They weren’t going out to start a new deal. They were going out to continue the work that he had begun to do. That’s why Luke’s Gospel ends as it does, and Acts begins, “In my previous thing,” says Luke, “I told you all the things that Jesus began to do and teach. Now I’m going to tell you all the things that he continued to do.”[22] How did he continue to do it? Continued to do it through his followers.

Now, we must stop, because our time has gone. But I want you to notice—and think I’m right in suggesting this—that it is in our going that we experience his power and his presence. In our going. We could add “in our gathering” as well. Because when we gather in this way, we go. You don’t go, you don’t know. You go, you know. This is learning on the job. “Go, and I will be with you.” You don’t go? How will we know his presence? You say, “Well, I know it in different ways.” I get that. But we’re talking here about a very express command. And the same is true here.

You see, when we gather here to proclaim the gospel—and I’m not proclaiming the gospel. No, I’m seeking to encourage us to get serious about the opportunity to share with our friends and invite them to hear others as they proclaim the gospel. When we gather to proclaim the gospel, the X factor—the X factor—is not the competency of the preacher. It is not the vibrancy of the praise. It is the authority of the presence of King Jesus—that he is actually here, that he is actually among us.

How will people hear unless someone tells them?[23] This is just an opportunity, a morning for realignment, for refocus, to say to one another, “Let’s get out of the stands and onto the field of play.” It’s an opportunity for realignment. Realignment. Sounds like chiropractic work or something. I’m not going to get into that at all. It scares me. But the idea of going to get realigned, it’s supposed to—doesn’t hurt, apparently, but it’s necessary. Well, this does hurt. Getting realigned does hurt. Because I realize, “I’m doubting your claims. I’m not obeying your commands. I’m not enjoying your comfort.”

How about this: We’ve got three months till we get to the end of the year. How about if we decide that we will pray about bringing three people under the sound of the gospel between now and the end of the year? Three months, beginning October 1. The Christmas concert doesn’t count. You’re not getting a freebee on the Christmas concert—not for a moment. That’s bonus points. No.

Because here’s the deal: the greatest evangelistic potential of Parkside Church—except when we’re scattered in the community—the greatest evangelistic potential of Parkside Church is not in special events, vis-a-vis Christmas, Easter, whatever it might be, but is in the routine services, the Sunday-by-Sunday services, conducted well and under the prevailing power of God the Holy Spirit. If you don’t understand that, I really pray that you will understand it: that you have the privilege under the tutelage of the pastoral team here that few enjoy; that the people that I meet throughout the entire nation, many of them would give their eyeteeth to be able to be present on these occasions, to bring their loved ones to hear the story of Jesus. That sounds like ego. There’s not a shred of it in there.

So, three people. And then how about praying that one of the three will be converted before Christmas? You say, “Well, why don’t you pray like Jeff Mills? He prays, ‘Maybe a million people will be converted before Christmas.’” He’s a much braver pray-er than I am. I can’t get there. I can get three invited and one converted. That’s as good as I can do at the moment. So many people here between the two services—two and a half thousand people—all bringing three people. One person getting converted out of the three. Does that give us two and a half thousand new followers of Jesus? One times two and a half? It’s quite a thought, isn’t it?

A claim that only Christ can make. A command that only Christ can give. A comfort that only Christ can provide. And the job’s not done. The task’s unfinished. And you have been assigned, under Jesus, to a place that has not been assigned to the person next to you—just to you.

Father, thank you for the clarity of the Bible. Thank you for the loveliness of Christ. Thank you for the promise of the gospel. Thank you for the warnings that attach to it. Complete your plans and purposes in us and through us, we pray. Help us to bow beneath your command as we trust your claim and as we enjoy your comfort. For Christ’s sake. Amen.


[1] Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV).

[2] Acts 1:8 (ESV).

[3] John 20:21 (ESV).

[4] Luke 24:47–48 (ESV).

[5] Mark 16:15 (ESV).

[6] Mark 1:27 (ESV).

[7] Mark 1:15 (ESV).

[8] Luke 4:18–19 (paraphrased).

[9] Luke 4:21 (ESV).

[10] See Luke 4:29.

[11] Luke 24:25 (paraphrased).

[12] John 20:19 (ESV).

[13] Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41 (paraphrased).

[14] Philippians 2:9–11 (ESV).

[15] Hebrews 1:2–3 (ESV).

[16] Isaac Watts, “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun” (1719).

[17] John 20:20–23 (ESV).

[18] 1 Corinthians 15:3 (ESV).

[19] H. Ernest Nichol, “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations” (1896).

[20] See John 20:19.

[21] Matthew 1:23 (paraphrased).

[22] Acts 1:1–2 (paraphrased).

[23] See Romans 10:14.

Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.