Some meaningful words from Russell D. Moore from a few years ago. They’re still needed today.
It seems to me that too many of our churches–and too many of us–think of the Great Commission as little more than Jesus’ way of promoting a Christmas offering or of marketing an evangelistic video series.
Too many theologians–even pastor-theologians–tend sometimes to ignore the Great Commission. After all, isn’t it a “practical” exhortation, better left to denominational bureaucrats and women’s missionary auxiliary leaders? At the same time, too many missionaries and evangelists tend to ignore theology. After all, what does abstract theorizing have to do with Jesus’ ultimate church-wide missions emphasis–the Great Commission?
As a result, we are left with theologians who lust more for recognition by the American Academy of Religion than for the global expansion of the gospel. And far too many missionaries, evangelists, and church planters see themselves as the ecclesial equivalent of the civil service–organizing initiatives and promoting programs.
The problem, whenever the Great Commission is taken for granted, is the eclipse of Jesus….
When Jesus announced the commission to his disciples (Matt 28:16-20), he was not launching a global public relations campaign.
The Great Commission points to faith in Christ and the forgiveness of sins as the vehicle for cosmic restoration and the salvation of the world. Those reconciled to God through Christ are receiving more than personal freedom from guilt–they are becoming “sons of God” who share with Jesus in an inheritance that includes the entire created order (Ps 89; Rom 4:13, 8:15-17; Gal 3:27-4:7).
The Great Commission is a theology of cosmic warfare–a theology centering on the unveiling of the long-hidden mystery of Christ and his church. It means the overthrow of the ancient powers that have long held the creation captive through sin and death. It means the triumph of a resurrected Messiah over every principality and power hostile to the reign of the Creator. It means that God is keeping his promises to his anointed King.
It means war.
In the end, demonic powers don’t tremble before denominational programs or bureaucratic public relations campaigns. What they fear is something more ancient, more mysterious, and more personal. What they fear is not a program, but a person–with a name, an authority, and an inheritance. Since the church bears the Spirit of the Anointed One (1 Pet 4:14), the satanic powers lash out violently against it (John 15:25-16:11).
Their question to the missionary advance of the church is the same question they once voiced to the church’s King in his hometown synagogue: “Have you come to destroy us?” When the church is faithful to the commission of its Warrior-King, the answer is heard by an expectant creation even when it is not voiced–“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20). And that is what Jesus would call “good news….”
There are spiritual skirmishes all over the streets right around us…. [L]et your affections be broken for the lost. And let’s join with our God in pleading with sinners to be reconciled to God’s Kingdom through the shed blood and the empty tomb of Jesus. Let’s join in the unseen battle with our tears, our feet, our voices, and our hearts.
And remember, theology means a word about God. Scripture tells us that the definitive Logos about our Theos is not a systematic theology text or a Hebrew grammar, as important as these are. He is not a “what,” but a “Who.” He is our brother, and our Lord. He cries for sinners, loves them, warns them of the wrath to come, and promises them the ends of the universe if they turn to him.
Theology doesn’t just think. Theology walks. Theology weeps. Theology bleeds.