Much is said of the “great commission” which our Lord gave to His apostles just before His ascension. We wonder whether our readers have ever examined the various records of this commission carefully.
This “great commission” does not say one word about “the preaching of the cross” or “the gospel of the grace of God”. The “gospel” which they were sent to preach was very evidently the same “gospel” they had been preaching — the Gospel of the Kingdom — only they could now declare, as Peter did at Pentecost, that the King had risen from the dead and would still some day occupy the throne of David.
The “great commission” demanded faith and baptism for the remission of sins (Mark 16:15,16); it included the power to heal the sick and work miracles (16:17,18), but it did not include the glad message that “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor.15:1-3). At Pentecost, when Peter began to carry out this commission, he rather blamed his hearers for the death of Christ and when, convicted of their sins, they asked: “What shall we do?” he did not say: “Believe on Christ who died for your sins.” He rather commanded them to “repent and be baptized every one…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
But after Christ and His Kingdom were again rejected, God interrupted the prophetic program and sent Paul forth to proclaim “the preaching of the cross” and “the gospel of the grace of God”. In II Corinthians 5:14-21 this apostle proclaims “the love of Christ” who “died for all” and instructs us as to our “great commission”:
“And all things are of [provided by] God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, AND HATH GIVEN TO US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION;
“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself… AND HATH COMMITTED UNTO US THE WORD OF RECONCILIATION” (II Cor.5:18,19).