In our series “The Top 10 Things Jesus Said” we arrive today at Number 5. Number 5 is found at the end of Jesus’ time on earth, nearly right before He returns to heaven. I think we can find these words at this moment important for 2 reasons. One, because we tend to cling to people’s last words. If you could say just one last thing what would it be before you leave this world? It’s almost as if you are trying to sum up your life’s meaning in some profound way to pass on to those left behind.
But, secondly, and specific to the Church, this passage is important because we find our entire purpose. This is where the Church’s purpose, meaning and focused energy are given to Her. What are the words? They are Number 5 in the Top Ten Count Down of the Greatest Things Jesus ever said. And they are found in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation.”
#1: Preach Christ Crucified.
Going with the Gospel means preaching Christ Crucified. Notice the Lord’s words, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News…”
Preaching has always been the means by which God accomplishes His plans. He does everything by His Word. Behind men who speak for God is a God who Himself speaks. And because He speaks men speak. The OT major prophet Jeremiah said it in such a striking manner, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak of His name, His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Isaiah, perhaps the most prominent OT prophet, when God asked “Who shall I send?” he was so arrested by God’s glory that he declared, “Here am I! Send me Lord!” God told Ezekiel “Stand up Ezekiel for I am going to speak to you, and you will go and speak to the Israelites what I tell you.” The Apostles Peter and John standing under the shadow of the Sanhedrin’s threats declared, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” And it was Paul whose very well being hinged on whether he spoke or not when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:6, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!”
All these men of God had within them an unstoppable force compelling them to preach. And for clarity, that force is the empowering ministry of none other than the Personal, Divine Holy Spirit who gives men the ability and the urgency to preach. It was not until the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost that they burst forth from their room of prayer to publicly declare the praises of God to all Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit moved them up and out to preach! Forcing them to preach. Driving them to preach. Preach they must! And preaching still is and will always be the necessary perforce activity of advancing the message of Christ crucified. That is why we must always – always, always, always – preach. Romans 10:14-17 says, “How can they call on one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? Consequently, faith comes by hearing the message and the message is heard by the word of Christ.” Leveling all the weight of conviction he could on Timothy when Paul bound him with these words: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His Kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word”.
But preaching is specifically the message of the Cross of Christ. The Church is not “issues-driven” and letting politics or Hallmark’s calendar govern the preaching content. Nor is the Church supposed to be “market-driven”, surveying the tastes of the customers and tailoring its final product to perfectly match the customer’s wants. Nor is the Church to be “pragmatic-driven”, offering an endless supply of 3 ways to be a better version of yourself.
The Church must be tenaciously, relentlessly, tirelessly preaching Christ and Him crucified. In 1 Corinthians 1:23 it says, “But we preach Christ crucified”. Then in 1 Corinthians 2:2 it says, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Galatians 3:2 says, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified.” This is how God uses people: to speak for Him. He uses men to reach mankind.
Christ crucified is the most magnificent thing anyone can hear about. We have no patience with those who belittle the preaching of Christ crucified to favor social justice. Give them a cup of water yes, but give them the Living Water. Give them food, yes, but give them the Bread of Heaven. Give them clothing, yes, but give them the garment of righteousness from Jesus Christ. Liberate them, yes, but manumit them through the message of the cross. The greatest act of kindness towards another human being is to lay the Gospel upon their ears. Measure your own burden for your fellow man by how concerned you are that they hear the Good News. If I could choose between coming up with a cure for cancer or converting those dying of cancer with the Gospel I would choose the latter. Caring for someone’s life on earth while showing no concern for their eternal safety is a criminal before heaven.
The Commission we have from Jesus Christ is to tell people the ultimate message. God has done something for everyone that everyone needs to hear about. We need to tell them. We need to tell them about Christ and Him crucified. What does that mean? It is a message that exposes their sinful state, their condemnation before God, the love of that God towards them in sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for their sins, thereby quenching God’s wrath towards their sin, making peace with God for them, and opening the way for them, through faith in Jesus Christ, to have eternal life and forgiveness of their sins.
You see, God’s demand on His servants to preach is also a demand on their audience to respond. God confronts men through the preaching of His word. He comes right up to them and requires of them a response. “What will you do with Me?” “What will you do with My Son?” The hearer of God’s Word is thrust into a decision point. Many deny Him. Many try to delay but still that is a decision against Him. But to those who receive Him He gave the right to become children of God. Those who put their trust in Him will never be put to shame.
The purpose of the Church is to preach Christ and preach Christ crucified.
#2: Preach Christ to All Creation.
Secondly, the Church is to Preach Christ to All Creation. Everywhere in the world. Our Lord said “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” All creation does not mean explaining John 3:16 to a Maple Tree or walking your Yellow Lab through the Romans Road. It’s way to say “everyone everywhere!” Colossians 1:23 does the same thing, “This is the Gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven…” In other words, everyone on earth. Jesus Christ’s point here is that wherever there are people in this world go to them and tell them this good news about Himself. In the beginning when God created Adam and Eve He commanded them to fill the earth with people. Now in God’s Redemptive work through Jesus Christ He commands His Apostles to fill the earth with the Gospel. Colossians 1:6, “All over the world this Gospel has been bearing fruit and growing…”
It began in Jerusalem and spread out according to the Lord’s plans in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (A pattern is established there: Getting the Gospel out globally starts locally. Local churches spread the Gospel locally and graduate their reach further and further out).
Inherent here is the Bible’s teaching that all mankind is lost in sin and separated from God. All men need to hear of God’s Salvation. There is force and urgency rising up in this fact that energizes the Church to its mission. This is why the most valuable benefit humanity has ever received is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And because it is the most beneficial gift humanity has ever received it is worth whatever cost comes to give it out. Going out with the Gospel means personally giving up things so others can hear. It cost Jesus to come down and preach, teach and minister. It cost the Apostles and prophets. It cost the early church. It has cost the Church ever since. Believer after believer has personally traded in themselves and even their very lives so that others can hear the greatest news any human could ever hear.
Application #1: Implicit here is that everyone needs to hear about Jesus because Jesus died for everyone. First Timothy 2:4 and 6 say, “[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. [Christ Jesus] gave himself a ransom for all men…” Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” You can be confident that no matter who you look at two things are certain: 1) Jesus died for that person’s sins and 2) the Lord wants them to be saved. Do not hesitate then to share with them the One who is the way the truth and the life.
Application #2: Bring the Gospel everywhere in your world. Does this mean you personally should get up and go to foreign countries and spread the Gospel? Not necessarily. First, you must be called by the Lord to do such a thing. Second, your character must make others unquestionably confident in you. Third, you must have a track record in your own local church of routinely sharing the Gospel, teaching the Word effectively, and mature leadership before you are sent somewhere else to do all that. Lastly, the Church of Jesus Christ is way bigger than EFC in Spring Lake MI in the 21st Century. This command has been and continues to be fulfilled by multitudes. Some parts of the Body do that, but, many are planted locally to build locally.
So for many Christians, including us, preaching the good news to all creatures in all the world means right there in “our own corner of the world”. Are you bringing the Gospel to your children and grandchildren? Are you bringing it to other family members? To the check-out clerk you see each week. The bank teller you interact with regularly. The waitress whose section you always seem to be seated in. The co-worker you work alongside. Where in your world can you be bringing the Gospel? We must be ready and on the lookout for moments to share the good news in “our” world.
The Church must preach Christ to all Creation.
#3: Teach Christ’s Commandments
Thirdly, we need to not only preach Christ crucified, but teach Christ’s commandments. We must not neglect our responsibility to those who believe in Christ crucified – that is believers. Entailed in our Commission is a responsibility to teach and train those who believe to obey Christ’s teachings. The pre-eminent passage on the Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” It corresponds with the Mark passage before us today in this sense: Mark explicitly commands us to preach the Gospel whereas Matthew explicitly commands us to baptize and teach. Taken together we see the full detail of our deputation: preach, baptize and teach.
A Church that is doing that is a Church that is faithful. A Church that is faithful can be certain that God is with them. After all, the final words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, after issuing the Great Commission were a promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Anyone who is “with” the Lord will be doing these things He said. Anyone doing these things, He said that He will be with them always.