Putting First Things First

By Ron Man
Pastor of Music and Worship, EXW Contributor
April 28, 2022

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The Great Commission which Jesus gave to His disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) has rightly been a motivating force and rallying cry for churches and other Christian organizations. In it we find expressed God's heart for the world and His desire for us to be His faithful instruments in carrying the message of the gospel to all peoples. The Commission also instructs us in the full-orbed ministry of disciplemaking, which involves not only evangelism but also the teaching and mentoring of converts into lives of obedience, maturity, and finally disciplemaking themselves.

As such, the Great Commission is a tremendous exhortation to followers of Jesus Christ and one which is well worth our attention and humble submission. However, many churches, missions organizations, and parachurch groups write the Great Commission into their philosophies and purpose statements as if it were a statement of the ultimate goal for Christians. (One fine and effective parachurch group has expressed its mission as "to restore to the heart of the local church a Great Commission passion;" its materials also indicate that it views the purpose of the local church as being to see the Great Commission fulfilled.) That is unfortunate because, as important as the Commission's focus is, it is not the ultimate expression of why God has made us and saved us and called us to serve Him.

The Great Commission is not the cornerstone of our Christian walk and service; it is not the bottom line. The Great Commandment is. Jesus explained in Matthew 22:37 that the "great commandment in the law" is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Through a life and lifestyle of worship we are to be filled with adoration of and love for God and to give it expression from the heart. The New Testament, as well as the Old Testament is clear that true worship begins on the inside (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15; Philippians 3:3; I Samuel 15:22) and that outward expressions are only acceptable as they reflect an inner reality. A scribe whom Jesus said was "not far from the kingdom of God" recognized that observing the Great Commandment is "much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:32-33).

While the Great Commission seeks to promote the glory of God through the believer by enlisting him in the task of bringing others to faith and lives of obedience; yet the primary way a Christian glorifies God is in the response of his own heart and life and walk, not in what he does for others. Actually, spiritual service to others is the essence of the second greatest commandment, which Jesus identifies in Matthew 22:39 as "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." In fact, the Great Commission is a natural outgrowth and expression of both of these greatest commandments - if we truly love God and our neighbors, we will seek to win and equip those neighbors for the glory of God.

Even the context of the Great Commission suggests the secondary nature of the Commission: when the disciples saw Jesus, "they worshiped Him" (Matthew 28:17); and Jesus bases His Commission on the fact that "all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (28:18) The utter God-centeredness of these statements reflect that of the Great Commandment, and is consistent with the observation that the more man-focused nature of the Great Commission is dependent on and subordinate to the doxological focus of the Great Commandment. As John Piper has written, "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't." (Let the Nations Be Glad p. 11)

Let us first and foremost seek to love God with our entire being (heart, soul, mind, strength) and to be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19), that our lives of worship might then overflow with a grateful aspiration to "make disciples of all the nations" -- that they too might worship Him and love Him and serve Him -- that in all things God might be glorified.

Ron Man
Pastor of Music and Worship, EXW Contributor
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