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 (Manna 76: Commission)
Understanding and Fulfilling Our Commission
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Philip Shee—Jakarta, Indonesia

 

When Jesus was faced with His impending death, He said, “But for this purpose I came to this hour” (Jn 12:27b). Jesus clearly understood His ultimate purpose on earth, and never let Himself be distracted from it. He was regularly overwhelmed by crowds of people who sought Him for healing, but He would say to them: “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Lk 4:43). And when He was interrogated by Pilate, Jesus responded, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:37b).

 

Jesus was sent to the world with the commission to preach the gospel of salvation and to give His life as a ransom for us, and He stopped at nothing to fulfill His duties.  Are we able to be as dedicated as we carry out our own commission as ambassadors of Christ?

 

UNDERSTANDING OUR COMMISSION

 

There are many who commit their lives to a certain cause or career. Some do so out of duty, while others are driven by passion or ideology. They brush aside distractions and dedicate themselves to what they deem to be their calling. A rich heir may seek to expand his family’s business empire. A musician may devote lifelong practice to present that perfect performance. A political activist may risk his life to influence society according to his ideology. And an altruistic man may work unceasingly to help the underprivileged. But what about us? What is our calling today?

 

We have often heard about the great commission Jesus gave His apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). Indeed, this commission is entrusted to all Christians. But do we have a clear understanding of our purpose and the conviction to carry it out? If we want to stay on the right path, then we must know what our purpose is and carry it out with conviction.

 

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8)

 

This commission was given to the church, but it was not until the Holy Spirit descended that the church was established and sent to do the work. Therefore, before we preach the gospel, we must first be sent by God (Rom 10: 15). The presence of the Holy Spirit confirms that the church has the authority to cleanse sins and save souls through water baptism (Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Jn 5:6–8). When we received the gospel and were baptized, we gained salvation. But just as we have freely received, we need to freely give (Mt 10:7–8). We have not only received salvation, but also the commission to bring salvation to others. If we do not pass it on, then who will?

 

Like Jesus, we must understand that this is the reason we have been called. This is the purpose of our lives. We may come from different walks of life, harbor different passions, or have different talents. We may live in different countries, work in different companies, or study at different academic institutions. Without a doubt, these factors will shape our lives, but they do not define our purpose on earth. Instead, our lives are defined by our commission to preach the gospel. We should ask ourselves: Why has God placed me in this country, this company, or this college? How can I use my circumstances to further the work of the gospel? And how can I offer my knowledge and talents for the same purpose?

 

FULFILLING OUR COMMISSION

 

The early apostolic church left us a positive example of fulfilling the commission. After the church was established on the Day of Pentecost, the brethren continued to worship together daily, learning the word of God, praying and breaking bread from house to house. Preaching the word became the center of their daily activities, so “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). When they were threatened with punishment for preaching in Jesus’ name, they raised their voices to God with one accord and prayed for boldness to speak His word (Acts 4:24, 29). And, indeed, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly spoke the word of God (Acts 4:31). These passages show that the early church was not deterred by threats and persecution. Not only the apostles, but the entire church, strived to fulfill their commission.

 

Furthermore, the early church remained committed to their cause even in the face of heightened persecution. When Stephen was martyred, a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem. Believers were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. But this did not prevent the spread of the gospel, for “those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4, 1). This persecution even caused the gospel to spread beyond Jerusalem, into Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth, thus fulfilling Jesus’ word.

 

Apart from the apostles and other workers who had devoted themselves to the ministry, the believers would have had their own occupations, such as tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:3). Still, the work of the gospel took center stage, while their livelihoods were used to support the ministry. For example, Aquila and Priscilla provided lodging for Paul while he was in Corinth, and even sailed with him to Syria. They also played a part in correcting Apollos in Ephesus (Acts 18:1–3, 18, 24–26).

 

We are certainly better off today, as most of us can practice our faith without persecution. God provides for our physical needs, even exceeding our needs and expectations. We have received a good education, and may have a stable job or a place in college to further our education. But have we, like the early believers, taken our commission seriously? In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, he calls us ambassadors for Christ, entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, to reconcile man to God (2 Cor 5:18–20). In the world of international diplomacy, an ambassador may host various events, galas and social functions in the country he has been sent to, but the purpose behind these is to promote his own country. Hence, wherever God places us, whatever we do there should be secondary to, or the means by which we fulfill, the real purpose of God.

 

For example, if we are students, there will be many opportunities to meet new friends. While our schedules may be packed with lectures, laboratory sessions or examinations, there will still be pockets of time that we can spend socializing. If we fully understand our commission, we will seize every opportunity to reach out to our friends. It can start by simply asking them about their weekend plans, and then inviting them to church. Or discussing with them about the existence of God, or their aspirations in life, and then sharing about God’s purpose for human beings. If they are already Christians, we can ask about their views on certain topics, such as speaking in tongues or the existence of so many denominations today, and proceed from there to explain the biblical perspective.

 

Similarly, for those who are already working, there will be times when we are having tea or lunch with our colleagues. During these occasions, we can reach out to them, even if it is simply an invitation to an evangelistic service. Like the early believers who were scattered, it does not matter where you end up. The key is to preach the gospel wherever you are.

 

HAVE WE FORSAKEN OUR COMMISSION?

 

When we read about Jesus’ calling of Peter, it causes us to reflect upon our own purpose and calling in life. When Peter was first called by Jesus, it was after he had “toiled all night and caught nothing” (Lk 5:5). This encapsulates a life that is focused on secular things, and not on Christ and His commission for us. We will toil throughout our days and, in the end, gain nothing. Jesus then commissioned Peter to undertake his true purpose—to “catch men” (Lk 5:10). So Peter left his nets, forsook all and followed Him (Lk 5:11).

 

The next few years saw Peter leading a much more meaningful life as he accompanied Jesus in His ministry. He was sent to preach from city to city and was given authority to cast out demons and to heal. However, after Jesus was arrested and crucified, Peter lost his direction.  He forsook his commission and returned to fishing. The other disciples followed suit. But they discovered that, as before, they toiled all night only to catch nothing (Jn 21:3). This again emphasizes the futility of life that is not directed by the purpose of God.

 

Many people devote their entire lives in pursuit of material goals such as wealth, status, fame, enjoyment or intellectual achievement. But no matter how hard you work, success cannot be guaranteed. Even if you achieve your goal, all will be lost at the point of death. If we do not understand the spiritual purpose of God and devote ourselves to it, then we will be like the disciples toiling all night and catching nothing—our labors will be futile.

 

After one of these fishing expeditions, Jesus again appeared to Peter. During their conversation, the Lord stirred him up to reflect on and reaffirm his love for Him. Then Jesus called Peter once again, as He did at the beginning, saying, “Follow Me” (Jn 21:19; cf. Mt 419). Even though Jesus revealed how Peter would suffer a terrible death, Peter readily accepted His commission (Jn 21:18–19). And this time, he did not turn back.

 

As we journey through our lives, it is not uncommon to be overwhelmed by the pressures of the world and the fear of being left behind. We may get swept up in the endless pursuit of physical advancement. If this happens, we do not have the luxury to slow down and ponder: Why are we chasing these goals and where do they really lead us? Before long, we may discover that we have rushed through life without really having lived. Have we understood our true purpose and what God’s commission is for us? If not, we need to slow down and examine our lives. Have we aligned our lives to God’s commission, just as Jesus and the believers in the apostolic church did? Or have we suffered some setbacks or confusion in our service, like Peter? If we want meaning and purpose to come back into our lives, then let us subject ourselves again to Jesus’ commission, and live to fulfill it.

 

 

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Author: Philip Shee
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