Anda di halaman 1dari 10

DISPENSATIONAL TRUTH

"THE GREAT COMMISSION"


FOR ISRAEL, NOT THE ECCLESIA
by M. Jaegle
GOD CHOOSES fellow workers from among mankind and commissions them to ca
rry His evangel to the rest of His creatures in order to save them and reconcile
them to Himself. This precious aspect of the divine operations is found through
out the Scriptures. There are many different commissions and a variety of admini
strations, yet throughout them all, whether in relation to Israel or the ecclesi
a, this practice prevails. In all of them we perceive this undertone, so that, i
n the so-called "Great Commission" also, we may hear the still small voice that
exhorts us to respond to the precious privilege of bearing witness to God's glor
ious gospel.
Although we shall show that this commission is for Israel, and not for u
s, it can be a great blessing to us if we approach it from the divine viewpoint,
rather than our own selfish side. It will by no means dampen our ardor for miss
ions if we correctly cut the Scriptures, and leave this in its proper place, as
the millennial commission of Israel to the nations in their thousand year reign
on earth. On the contrary, it will be a relief to find that we need not reconcil
e its provisions with present truth, for this is quite impossible.
It is not at all necessary for the present ecclesia to base its testimon
y for Christ to the nations on this commission, for it has a much higher and mor
e glorious service, received from Christ, its Head. In the Scriptures there are
two different methods by which God brings salvation and blessing to the nations.
For this purpose He selected two bodies of saints. Each has its special task. T
he salvation of one is far superior to that of the other. Both are built on the
same foundation, Jesus, the Christ (1 Cor.3:11). In their development and result
s, however, there are mighty differences. The best way to discover these is to c
ompare the two and note the contrasts. First, however, we must examine the basic
elements of each.
One evangel for the nations is found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures ("
Old Testament"). Often we read that the nations are yet to be blessed with earth
ly happiness through believing Israel. But it is necessary first that Israel rec
eive their Messiah. Besides this revealed way there is another, which God had co
ncealed. And this way was not made known until Paul, the apostle who was chosen
specially for this task, was called during the Acts period, while Israel was mor
e calloused than ever. But this salvation for the nations is altogether differen
t from that which comes through Israel, when they themselves are saved.
Although this secret evangel is also for the nations, it does not deal w
ith them as such, but only elect, or chosen individuals are called. They do not
become happy subjects in the earthly kingdom, but members of Christ's body, who
are destined to reign with Him among the celestials. If we compare the two commi
ssions with one another, we will discover such notable and convincing distinctio
ns that we may clearly and easily discern that the "great commission" in the twe
nty-eighth of Matthew is exclusively for Israel, and not for the nations, so far
as its heralding is concerned.
The Lord Jesus introduces His directions to His apostles with the assura
nce that "given to Me was all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matt.28:18). If
we compare Christ's authority, that is the power committed to Him, for the near
ly two thousand years of the present administration, with this, we will be oblig
ed to differentiate between what was given and its execution. What a pitiful aut
hority, if we take it that it is already in operation! We would have to acknowle

dge that there has been a steady and continuous increase in the authority of Dar
kness. In reality, however, Christ has never used His authority over the nations
. Otherwise it would look very different in the world today.
According to the account in Mark 16:19 our Lord, immediately after promu
lgating this commission, was taken up into heaven, and is seated at the right ha
nd of God. Prophetically David, through the spirit of Christ, speaks of this occ
urrence as follows (Psa.110:1):
Said the Lord to My Lord, "Sit at My Right,
Till I should be placing thine enemies underneath thy feet."
After this had been quoted five times (Matt.22:4; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42
; Acts 2:34; Heb.1:13), it is once more referred to in Heb.10:13 with the import
ant addition, "waiting furthermore till His enemies may be placed as a footstool
for His feet." Waiting is the opposite of executing. He is still waiting becaus
e this is man's day. He lets the nations rage and bring about their own bankrupt
cy.
Isaiah also sees this waiting period, as well as its close, and the resu
lts that follow (Isa.18:4-6; 33:10; 42:14,15). And
the hour is no longer distant when the Lord will end it (Isa.2:19). It c
annot come until after we have been snatched away to meet Him in the air. In the
Unveiling we are given the point at which Christ will assume His authority and
reign (Rev.11:15): "The kingdom of this world became our Lord's and His Christ's
, and He shall be reigning for the eons of the eons! Amen." The words of Christ,
"given to Me was all authority in heaven and on the earth," is connected with t
he inauguration of His kingdom on earth. They have their fulfillment in the futu
re. This commission corresponds with the commencement of Matthew's account. The
Son of King David closes with a proclamation of the King himself. It corresponds
also with His own words to Israel, "they shall see the Son of Mankind coming on
the clouds of heaven with power and much glory" (Matt.24:30).
We see, then, that the closing commission in Matthew's account by no mea
ns fits the present time. Now it is not Christ Who exercises authority over the
nations, but it is still in the hands of the superior authorities under the dire
ction of the chief of the aerial jurisdiction (Rom.13; Eph.2:2), the God of this
eon (2 Cor.4:4), the adversary of God. We believers are exhorted to be subject
to the superior authorities (Rom.13:1), and to be yielding to sovereignties (Tit
us 3:1). In the coming kingdom, however, it will be the reverse. Then the saints
in Israel will rule, both spiritually and politically, and the peoples will be
subject. For that day the "great commission" is intended, which their resurrecte
d Lord gave the twelve apostles.
The necessary signal for that day is the revelation of Christ in power,
and the commencement of His rule over the nations. Then, when Christ is exercisi
ng His authority over them, His apostles, who have been roused from the dead, wi
ll be His chief commissioners. Next to them come the hundred and forty-four thou
sand, and the conquerors will be given authority over the nations (Rev.2:26,27).
As the promises of the kingdom are closely related, we may look upon the commis
sion as an expansion of Christ's promise to the apostles that they, as well as H
e, will sit on thrones (Matt.19:28). Then He broadens the scope of their ministr
y, so that they go to all nations to make disciples.
Now, if we compare this with the missionary commission of the present ec
clesia, we may be certain that the members of Christ's body are under no necessi
ty to appropriate Israel's orders for they received their own, not through the C
ircumcision apostles, but from their special apostle, Paul. He, also, was sent t
o the nations (Acts 9:15; 13:2,47; 22:2; 26:17). The twelve received theirs from
the Lord personally, but Paul through the spirit (Acts 13:2). But what a differ

ence there is between them, as we shall see!


Now it seems clear that the service of the apostles to the nations was d
elegated to those under them. So Paul, also, continually passes on his service t
o the members of Christ's body, until today. He was sent to the limits of the ea
rth (Acts 13:47), so he considered himself indebted to all, and was always eager
to bring the evangel to all (Rom.1:14,15). His constancy in this witness was du
e to the constraint of the love of Christ (2 Cor.5:14). But Paul was not content
with that. He also sent his helpers and fellow apostles (1 Cor.4:17; 16:3; 2 Co
r.9:3; Eph.6:22; Phil.2:19,23,25,28; Col.4:8; 1 Thess.2:3,5; Titus 3:12).
How heart-stirring is his exhortation to his spiritual son Timothy: "Her
ald the word! Stand by it, opportunely, inopportunely. .." (2 Tim.4:2). And how
he begs him not to be ashamed (2 Tim.1:8,12)! And then he passes on the task for
the rest of this administration in the following: "And what things you hear fro
m me among many witnesses, these commit to faithful men, who shall be competent
to teach others also" (2 Tim.2:2). In this way Paul's commission to teach has co
ntinued until this day. And God has testified to it, in that He has given the ec
clesia evangelists, pastors, and teachers up to the present time (Eph.4:11).
Here, in Paul's epistles, really lie the missionary instructions for the
ecclesia. Indeed, when this is taken as the basis for the great missionary ente
rprises, as well as for our personal witness, and the commission in Matthew twen
ty-eight is left to those to whom it was given, then our missionary activities w
ill by no means be retarded, but rather prosper blessedly. Moreover, we will be
spared many a conflict and difficulty which naturally arise from the misappropri
ation of this passage.
Notwithstanding that the two commissions have points of contact in that
they are directed to all nations, nevertheless there is a serious difference in
the conditions under which they are to be exercised. While the Israelitish missi
onaries go out protected by the authority of the Messiah, and no one dare touch
them, without suffering sudden and severe penalties (Isa.60:12), the commission
for today must be exercised while the adversary, Satan, the grim enemy of God an
d His work, has the authority over earth's kingdoms. Therefore this witness is a
ssociated with much suffering and sorrow, and persecution to the very death.
Now concentrating on the object of each, we will like-wise see a vast di
fference, especially between the spiritual position to which they lead. Through
the service of the apostles of the Circumcision the nations become disciples. Li
terally this, denotes, LEARNers, that is, they become scholars in a school. Of c
ourse we do not wish to imply that we, also, do not become learners. Often it is
the most advanced one who is still very eager to learn. But in school there is
a great difference whether we are in the primary grade, as beginners, or in a un
iversity, nearing the last examination in preparation for one of the highest pro
fessions. That gives an idea of the relationship between a disciple and a member
of Christ's body.
This is further emphasized by the fact that Paul never calls the saints
of this administration "disciples," but sons of God, whom he seeks to lead to ma
turity, to the adult stature of Christ's complement. This suggests a much higher
plane than discipleship. Before Timothy was associated with Paul, he was still
called a disciple (Acts 16:1), but Paul raised him above this elementary stand.
Through the knowledge of Christ he was taken out of minority into maturity, and
never called a "disciple" in Paul's letters.
If we now consider the number of those in view in the service of the twe
lve apostles of the Circumcision, we will discover that it lacks the thought of
election or choice altogether, for all are to be made disciples. All are reached
and drawn into the circle of Christian blessing. That includes all the living m

embers of every nation. This part of God's plan of salvation has a large place i
n the Hebrew Scriptures. It is by no means a secret. The promise begins as far b
ack as Abraham, for in him and in his seed all nations are to be blessed (Gen.12
:2; 22:18). Through Israel, the priest nation (Ex.19:5), will Christ fulfill the
se glorious promises (Isa.2:1-4). The Psalms especially speak of this coming kin
gdom on Earth and the turning of all peoples to Yahweh, the covenant God of Isra
el (Psa.72:11; 82:8; 86:9; Isa.66:18; Jer.3:17). Other passages clearly show tha
t this all-embracing salvation will come only through Israel (Isa.12:4; 11:10; 1
Chron.16:9,28; Psa.2:11; 9:11; 96:7,10; 66:8; 68:32; 99:1-7; 145:10-12).
After the grand mission of Israel with its marvelous success had been so
fully described in the Hebrew Scriptures, it became an unavoidable necessity th
at the apostles who had been with the King during His humiliation, now that He w
as to return to the right hand of God, should be commissioned for this service.
In fact, the ascending Messiah could have given them no more encouraging word th
an to recall to their minds the glorious privilege of bringing their evangel to
the nations.
If we compare the numbers affected by this commission with those of Paul
's later ministry, we are again struck by a notable difference. While the Circum
cision apostles will make disciples of all nations, Paul is concerned only with
an election out of all mankind. We must note, however, that Paul at first devote
d himself to heralding the earthly kingdom. In harmony with its provisions be ch
arged men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). Furthermore, before King Agrippa he
declared that he held a commission to the nations, to open their eyes, in order
that they should get the pardon of sins (Acts 26:17,18).
But after Israel, the kingdom people, are once again calloused, and, as
a consequence, the kingdom flies to the far future, Paul's real commission, for
which he was called, comes to the front. This service brought a different goal i
nto view, not suddenly, but in the form of a gradual transition, in which all th
e truths for us were introduced step by step. In this the number reached was red
uced to some: "that I undoubtedly should be saving some" (1 Cor.9:22). The only
explanation of this discrepancy lies in the fact that Paul was turning from the
"great commission" to a new one. He leaves behind the kingdom with its salvation
and puts the secret evangel to the fore. A similar instance of such a change is
found in 1 Cor.12:30,31 and 2 Cor.12:7-10.
This individual salvation appeared first when Paul turned to pure heathe
ns in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:40). There we are informed concerning the first
believers out of the nations that "as many as were set for eonian life believe."
That is the rule in Paul's own ministry, according to which he worked. The succ
ess which he anticipated among the Romans he expressed as follows: "That I shoul
d be having some fruit among you" (Rom.1:13). After he had shown, in that mighty
chapter, Romans eleven, that all Israel shall be saved (26), yet in his own min
istry, he hopes only to save some: "if somehow I should be provoking those of my
flesh to jealousy and should save some of them" (14). This basic truth in the p
resent administration is emphasized by calling them the chosen, the elect. This
difference demands that we keep the two commissions separate.
Nevertheless Paul's special message is not one-sided. It is not exclusiv
ely for the elect, but deals with the ultimate salvation of all. And this is far
wider and deeper than that brought to the nations in the kingdom by the Circumc
ision apostles. That applies only to earth's then living population. Paul, howev
er, speaks of the reconciliation of all on earth or in the heavens. He reveals "
the living God, Who is the Saviour of all mankind" (1 Tim.4:10), and the reconci
liation includes all other creatures in the universe. This all-embracing return
to God was a secret up to Paul's time. He himself testifies that God foresaw spe
cial eras in which this is to be made known, and commissioned him a herald of th
is glorious truth (1 Tim.2:6). No other apostle or prophet unveiled it before hi

m. But it will be realized much later than the so-called "great commission."
While this message applies only to those who are alive at the time of it
s proclamation, Paul's evangel does not only include all humanity that has ever
lived, but embraces all celestial powers, although it will not be fulfilled unti
l after the severe judgments that conclude the eons. We have this all-embracing
evangel today, yet only as a promise. Paul never even hinted that it would be ca
rried out in the present administration. In view of this glorious goal he speaks
of "presenting every man mature in Christ Jesus," always carefully limiting his
words to those to whom he was writing (Col.1:28). He speaks of being invigorate
d, that through him the heralding may be fully discharged, and all the nations s
hould hear (2 Tim.4:17). In no case, however, do we read of the salvation of all
during their lifetime.
We now call attention to another difference between the two commissions.
The nations who are made disciples in the millennium will enjoy their blessings
as subjects of the nation of Israel on the earth. Those, however, who are won t
hrough the message of the apostle Paul in the present administration are recipie
nts of a celestial allotment, which they will enjoy in the heavens. Yet they wil
l by no means be subjects there, but receive, together with all believers who be
long to the body of Christ, including Israelites, an equal right to the celestia
l treasures. Instead of being subordinate, they reign over the heavenly powers.
It is self-evident that such a place could not be accorded all nations, for then
there would be no peoples left on the earth.
Now, as to baptism. When the apostles go to the nations, they are charge
d to baptize them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spi
rit (Matt.28:19). A comparison of the two commissions leads to a drastic differe
nce. Christ gave the apostles a charge to baptize, but Paul says, "Christ does n
ot commission me to be baptizing" (1 Cor.1:17). Both can hardly be applied to th
e same time, or we would bring the apostles into a dispute, in which each would
claim to be right, and the other wrong. But, even in this case, we can see a con
genial harmony, as soon as we cut the Word of truth correctly in respect to bapt
ism.
For the comparatively ignorant, underprivileged nations in the thousand
year kingdom, water baptism, administered by the Israelitish apostles, was a ver
y apt arrangement to unite them. But how high above it is the baptism which Paul
taught the ecclesia! In the first case those who administer the rite are men, w
ho can baptize only in water. In the ecclesia, however, Christ Himself does the
baptizing of His elect, for no one else knows who they are, and He does it as so
on as they believe, with heavenly element, the holy spirit. It is easy to unders
tand, and very illuminating to see that Christ did not give his apostle Paul a c
harge to baptize, for no human hand can or should administer holy spirit baptism
.
Following the Circumcision baptism comes the appropriate doctrine: "teac
hing them to be keeping all, whatever I direct you" (Matt.28:20). With these wor
ds Christ installed the disciples as teachers of the nations. This is most signi
ficant. It is quite impossible to find a place for this charge in the administra
tion of the secret, for this function is already filled by the apostle Paul. He
insists that he (only) was appointed a teacher of the nations in knowledge and t
ruth (1 Tim.2:7; 2 Tim.1:11). If we force the "great commission" into the presen
t administration, we make the apostles rivals who contend with one another. But,
if we leave it where it belongs, it presents a harmonious and peaceful picture.
For the Circumcision apostles there is no time where this commission can
be carried out, except in the millennium. That is in complete harmony with the
Hebrew Scriptures. According to Isaiah (2:3) the nations will be eager to be tau
ght in that day. That will be the attitude of the peoples. "And for His law the

coastlands are waiting." So says Isaiah again (42:4). It will be brought to them
by Israelitish messengers. In passages which refer to the coming kingdom we can
get a good idea of the contents of these teachings. In Psa.2:11,12 we read:
"Serve Yahweh with fear,
And exult in Him with quivering!
Bear discipline, lest Yahweh be angry
And you lose the right way.
For consuming soon is His anger."
Fear, quivering, anger, and judgment are the essential ingredients of th
is teaching. It is strongly tinged with law, hence filled with threats. Accordin
g to the Unveiling (14:6) it is also called the eonian evangel, for it applies t
o the whole kingdom eon. It begins with "Fear God," and presents Him principally
as the Creator. In the accounts of our Lord's life we find similar declarations
. Our Lord quotes, "judging shall He be reporting to the nations" (Matt.12:18) f
rom Isa.42:1, and "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (
Mark 11:17). The thought which emerges from both passages is this, that the nati
ons are taught to pray by means of judgment.
Paul bases his message on a different doctrine. Its evangelistic content
s are the exact opposite of this fearful injunction, A God, conciliated in Chris
t, Who does not reckon men's offenses to them, is brought near to them (2 Cor.5:
18-21). One Who actually entreats them to accept it! In place of "Fear God!" His
servants now say, "Be conciliated to God!" Those who receive this salvation by
faith may call God Abba, Father, and are entitled to the rights of children and
sons. That is immeasurably more grace than comes to the disciples in the kingdom
on earth. It seems that we are not at all able to value the grace shown us toda
y until we see how much lower is that of the nations in the thousand years.
Besides, the characteristics of the revelation of the two commissions do
not at all agree. As already shown, the Circumcision evangel is clearly set for
th in many passages of the Hebrew Scriptures. Quite the opposite is true of the
divine truths given to Paul to teach among the nations. Repeatedly he describes
them as "secrets" which were confided to him alone (Rom.16:25; Eph.1:9; 3:9; Col
.1:26). That God had foreseen an administration in which He speaks directly to t
he nations, apart from the mediation of Israel, and calls a predestined election
in order to reign with Christ in the heavens, was a profound secret until the c
all of Paul, which we seek in vain in the earlier pages of divine revelation.
Even the accounts of our Lord's life contain nothing about it, unless He
referred to it when He told them, "Still much have I to say to you, but you are
not able to bear it at present" (John 16:12). Should we, nevertheless, claim to
find these secrets in revelation written before Paul's epistles, then we accuse
him of speaking of secrets, when, in reality, they were no such thing. This dif
ference between the two commissions greatly deepens the cleft between them. The
"great commission" is clearly connected with the Hebrew Scriptures, while Paul's
message was buried in a secret.
"And lo! I am with you all the days till the conclusion of the eon! Amen
!" With these words Christ closed the commission to the nations (Matt.28:20). Th
is conclusion clearly shows, that the whole consignment belongs to the kingdom.
What precedes shows how we are to understand this promise. During His service on
earth our Lord was personally present with His apostles. As the time of His dep
arture neared, He promised the spirit in place of His personal presence (John 16
:7). With the exception of the forty days in which He appeared to them (Acts 1:3
), the spirit took the place of His person until their death. Now that He promis
es to be with them again, this can only refer to the future kingdom, after they
are risen. Then His personal presence will not be confined to a few years, but f
or the whole millennium. He will be able, not only to be with each of them among

the nations, but with His celestial saints as well.


The time period for the length of His presence, "till the conclusion of
the eon," is typical of the kingdom. To enter "the eon" amounts to the enjoyment
of the kingdom, and that is Israel's revealed future glory.
This personal presence, "I am with you all the days," cannot be transfer
red to the ecclesia, because His relation to us
is spiritual. Through and in the spirit He is with every member of His b
ody, but not in person. His presence with the believer today is described as "Ch
rist in us" (Rom.8:10; 2 Cor.13:5; Gal.4:19) and that is much more than being wi
th them all the days in the thousand years.
It is evident that the application of the "great commission" to the pres
ent ecclesia is a descent from its high allotment down to the earthly blessings
of Israel. That comes very near to the appropriation of goods that do not belong
to us. According to our Lord's words, it is taking away the children's bread, w
hich is not ideal (Mark 7:27).
We will not close this exposition without giving it a final test which w
ill substantiate its correctness even more clearly than has been done. In mathem
atics a good rule is to test the answer to any problem by working it out again b
y a different method. If we get the same answer, we may consider our first solut
ion correct. So we will put our conclusions to a test by another method, the act
s of the apostles. Alas! In general there is too little research into this evide
nce, and in such a superficial way that it is a hindrance rather than a help in
the life of faith. Yet this is one of the essential methods of recognizing the w
ill of God in many a difficult situation.
If we search into this matter we will marvel at the measure of understan
ding shown by the apostles and their faithfulness in fulfilling their Lord's ins
tructions. Besides this commission they received others from Him. There are at l
east three. Each is adapted to a special phase and development, and each broaden
s the scope of the previous one. The first is found in Matt.10:5-7, and has narr
ow boundaries: "Into a road of the nations you should not pass forth, and into a
city of the Samaritans you should not be entering. Yet be going rather to the l
ost sheep of the house of Israel." Only to full-fledged Israelites are they allo
wed to go. This applied to the time while the King was still with them in humili
ation.
After His resurrection Christ started a new phase of ministry and adjust
ed that of the apostles to it. So He gave them a new commission and broadened th
e scope of their service. We read in Acts 1:8, "you shall be obtaining power at
the coming of the holy spirit on you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jeru
salem and entire Judea and Samaria, and as far as the limits of the land." Now S
amaria was open to them, and Philip, went there as a witness (Acts 8:5). Thereaf
ter their service extended to the boundaries of the land of Canaan. We especiall
y call attention to the fact that the usual translation, "unto the uttermost par
ts of the earth," does not agree with their interpretation, as recorded in Acts.
This commission was given to cover the time of the apostles, when, in pl
ace of Christ's personal presence, the spirit was their Consoler. Even if this c
ommission was given after the early one in Matthew's evangel, its fulfillment co
mes before, for it was given the apostles during the forty days, while the so-ca
lled "great commission" was given at their close, just before He ascended. This
broadened the boundaries of their activities to include all nations, and that is
the great future missionary program in the coming kingdom on the earth. We cann
ot find the least hint in the Scriptures that the apostles fulfilled, or even co
ntemplated, such a missionary program during their lifetime.

Let us not forget that Peter required a special revelation before he was
persuaded to go to the proselyte, Cornelius. This should show that neither he n
or God then thought of carrying out the "great commission." Otherwise a simple o
rder would have sent him to Cornelius. Even Philip was directly led by the spiri
t to the meeting with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26,29). Neither of these inci
dents indicated a beginning of the present order, but pointed prophetically to t
he kingdom, the Ethiopian being a representative and firstfruit of Ham, and Corn
elius of Japhet. Israel will reach all of these in the millennium.
In the further service of the apostles it became evident that their peop
le, as such, opposed their evangel, and the question arose what attitude the Jew
s of the dispersion would take. But the twelve apostles were not sent beyond the
limits of the land, rather the newly called apostle Paul. The Circumcision apos
tles held strictly to the instructions they had received at the beginning (Acts
1:8) and went only to the boundary of the holy land without going beyond it. The
y evidently understood that the "great commission" would not be in force until C
hrist's personal presence.
And now we come to the main evidence (Gal.2:6-10) in which the apostles,
in an agreement concerning the sphere of their activities, clearly indicate tha
t the commission in Matthew twenty-eight was not to be fulfilled at that time. T
he importance of this is evident from the fact that it does not appear in the re
cord given in the book of Acts, but in a Pauline letter. In this decision it was
definitely decided that Peter, as the chief apostle of the twelve, was entruste
d with the evangel and apostleship of the Circumcision, and confined his service
to Israel. It is clearly evident that the first of Acts, and not the last of Ma
tthew was decisive, in fact, the latter was not even considered.
The apostles correctly recognized that, because of the renewed rejection
of Christ by their nation, God was beginning an altogether new and different ad
ministration, hitherto hid, through the apostle Paul. They acknowledged the spec
ial and unique grace which was given him for the nations, and on the basis of th
is new situation they made their agreement as to service. This decision is the p
rincipal evidence in our essay: "...[Barnabas and Paul]...are to be for the nati
ons, yet they [James, Cephas and John] for the Circumcision ..." (Gal.2:9). It c
ould not be clearer or more convincing that neither the apostles of the Circumci
sion nor Paul, with his message for the nations, considered themselves obliged t
o carry out the "great commission."
In view of this fact the appropriation of the last of Matthew as the pre
sent basis of missions is terribly tragic, for it implies the utmost disobedienc
e of the apostles to our Lord's command. If Christ, at that time, sent the apost
les to the
nations, how dared they limit it to the Circumcision? Paul, in the same
chapter (Gal.2:11), boldly withstood Peter to the face because of his censurable
conduct. He himself would have been even more censurable for leading him astray
. Paul exhorted his fellow apostles to fulfill their ministry (Col.4:17; 2 Tim.4
:6). We may be sure, if the apostles had really failed in this matter, God would
surely have called their attention to it and reminded them of the "great commis
sion." His silence is evidence that it was not His plan to turn it over to Paul
and the ecclesia in this eon.
We must not overlook, however, a very important matter in this connectio
n. The blessing which God has vouchsafed to missionary effort, though largely ba
sed on the last of Matthew, is no proof of its correctness. The converts who hav
e come to a living faith in Christ among the nations never represented their who
le countries but were always an election. God does not allow us to counteract Hi
s purpose when we mistakenly base our service on words which were never spoken t
o us. God would have had to ignore many a move of the ecclesia if He were not gr
acious. Much is unscriptural in our service and hardly a believer can claim to b

e free from this failing. Indeed, if God had acted thus, the ecclesia would have
vanished from the earth long ago.
What would become of us if we deduced that everything on which some bles
sing rests, or in which we are happy, proves that we have all the truth! Are the
re not in many an unscriptural sect, even such as put themselves under the law a
nd its curse (Gal.1:8), members of Christ's body through faith in the crucified
and risen Saviour? But the presence of believers in their midst is no conclusive
evidence of the correctness of their doctrine. That would be a basis on which a
ny unscriptural teaching could be justified. Alas! Under this cover many a delus
ive and dangerous doctrine has a shelter in the ecclesia. The blessing which has
followed worldwide missions must never be used to prove the propriety of claimi
ng this passage for us. The principal proof is always the correct cutting of the
Word of truth.
We must not, however, overlook the fact that every incorrect interpretat
ion carries with it harmful results. So, now, the world has passed severe judgme
nt on God's methods in salvation. Unbelievers take this scripture as it stands.
When they read that all nations are to be made disciples, and hear the slogan "T
he World for Christ," they judge accordingly. As during the last two thousand ye
ars not a single generation was reached and this goal is still far from being at
tained, they cannot be blamed for looking upon Christendom as a failure. And it
would be, if the "great commission" were for us. Even the saints can be depresse
d and distressed by this. Judging the results according to the correct standard,
that of election, all is in harmony. During this whole period not a single gene
ration lacked members of Christ's body. There has been no break in the continuit
y of God's operations.
EPILOGUE
We have elsewhere given a condensed exposition of 2 Tim.2:15, correctly
cutting the Word of truth, and have pointed out the deplorable results of incorr
ectly partitioning divine revelation. We have seen many difficult problems solve
d and the Scriptures, in complete harmony, filling our hearts with thankfulness
and adoration as we see the wisdom of God's great plan of salvation. Obedience t
o this divine injunction brings blessing even when it teaches us to regulate our
life of faith only by that part of the Scriptures which applies to us. False cu
tting often introduces contradictions into the text and gives the critics of the
Bible good grounds for objections.
Men deem it a serious offense when a true and upright expression is so d
istorted that a false meaning is injected into it. Many a one who has done this
has been compelled to publicly withdraw such corruptions. But how much worse is
it to misuse God's declarations! According to 2 Tim.2:15, such evil workers will
be put to shame. Correct cutting will save us from this.
We must not overlook the fact that the judgment which comes to those who
misuse this passage is very mild. That is only because we live in an administra
tion of deepest, purest, unmixed grace. Under the law it might call for death. H
ananiah, the prophet, who sought to change the length of the Babylonian deportat
ion, was doomed to die within the year (Jer.28). Although the administration of
grace suffers much more from this lawlessness, the sentence is limited to shame.
Still, it will be no light matter to see our lifework go up in flames before th
e dais of Christ, and to be ashamed of our achievements.
Notwithstanding this, very few pay any attention to this exhortation. Wh
erever it is really done, it is often given derisive names, and treated as a des
troyer of God's Word. So many of God's beloved children are influenced by the pr
ejudice and rejection of others, not realizing that they refuse the very best in
the Lord's hand. It is most important that we learn to differentiate between di

vine revelation and human tradition, because the latter, clothed in the garments
of truth, but usually undetected, only too often displaces God's inspired Word.
This exposition must not be concluded without a hearty exhortation to ev
ery reader who is unacquainted with this method of explaining the Scriptures, to
examine it without prejudice, uninfluenced by contrary opinions, freely and ind
ependently, with heartfelt prayer to God for enlightenment. That is pleasing to
God. He will enable every upright heart to grasp this liberating and joyous trut
h. May He bless many with this boon, to the praise of His glorious grace!
Concordant Publishing Concern
[[Return to main indexpage]