July 21, 2011 :: Author:
Missions or Great Commission?
One of the frustrations with life is that over time the definitions of words change. If you’re a Christian living in the United States you can see this in comparing the way modern judges and lawyers tend to interpret the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents compared to the way the writers interpreted it. Part of the problem is that the definitions of some words have changed with use throughout the years and the meaning is distorted. The same is true in the Scriptures. For instance, the King James Bible sometimes used the word, ‘let’ in places where it actually meant ‘hinder’. Since then the definition of that word, ‘let’ has changed to mean, ‘allow’. It’s a 180 degree turn!
In some circles the use of the word ‘missions’ has suffered a similar fate. Admittedly, it’s an extra-biblical word. It didn’t actually appear in the texts of many early English translations. It’s a word that many adopted to refer to the Apostle Paul’s journeys where he turned many to Christ and established churches throughout the world of his day. So eventually, the word came to be applied to our obedience to the ‘Great Commission’ (another extra-biblical word). However, the command of the Great Commission is described in detail great in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and Acts 1. It can also be seen by example in the actions of the Apostle Paul throughout Acts and in his epistles and he carried out his mission.
The problem is that through the years the definition of our specialized use of the word ‘missions’ has changed to include relief efforts and many other good works that believers do throughout the world in the name of Christ. So, you ask, ‘Why is that a problem?’. It is a problem because in some cases, and perhaps in our thinking we’ve now inadvertently come to substitute many of those good works for what Jesus commanded in the ‘Great Commission’. And as a result we may not be fulfilling the ‘Great Commission’ itself.
Don’t get me wrong, those are good things, ‘even necessary good works’ as they’re described in one version of the Bible. Go for it! However, if we go drill a well in a needy village of Africa and don’t tell them whose love motivated us to do that, then we haven’t fulfilled the ‘Great Commission’ to tell every creature, everywhere that Christ died for them. You might ask, is that really necessary? Well, we’re commanded to!
We might see its importance better in an illustration which might also help us prioritize our efforts. Let’s say that you have a passion to help people caught up in human trafficking. That is a wonderful cause! You could spend your life rescuing people and changing their lives for good! However, what if you never told them about Christ? Through your efforts they might have a wonderful life only to die and have a ‘hell’ of an eternity! I say that reverently. Now, what if we could only do one thing or the other? Would it be better to rescue them from a horrible life, or better to rescue them from an awful eternity? I think you get the point.
Fortunately we don’t have to choose! We can offer both. We can deliver people from a bad life and offer them a wonderful eternity at the same time. Now that fulfills the Great Commission!
I’m not raising an argument for the sake of semantics here. However, what I am saying is that the commands of the Great Commission taken together with the example of the obedience of the Apostle Paul in Scripture paint a clear, graphic picture of what God meant when he commanded us to go. And if we only go and do good works without telling people in who’s name we do them, we could be giving people a nice life, but condemning those same people to a ‘hell’ of an eternity when we only meant them good.
Why not make your life’s mission to fulfill the Great Commission?
It was great to talk with you Porter Adoption Party after church today. As I mentioned, it has been awhile since visiting the GRO website.
Indeed, the meaning of many words have changed over time. You sparked my thinking around the word "let" and how it had changed . . to also consider how possibly our understanding of a word's "origin" may not actually be the origin at all (e.g. - did "let" mean something different prior "hinder"?). While such is difficult to know . . . it highlights the challenge of context when we communicate with others. Often we think within the context of our learned understanding of the meaning of words. The learning is often as different as the experiences we individually encounter that makes the application of a word and its meaning relevant.
Okay I am going somewhere with the above, but for the sake of time I will stop for now.
Simply want you to know I appreciate your thoughts above and thanks for taking the time to share.
All the best,
Contributed on August 28th, 2011 at 6:38 pm
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