The last command of Christ was to “share the good news” with the world! That is called the “Great Commission.”
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 22:19-20).
This is the message – the news that God has come, that he loves and forgives, he tasted death, swallowed it, and still lives! It is our mandate to teach the nations, baptize believers one-by-one, teach men to act on the truth, observe things commanded and make them disciples, students of Christ Himself.
Before Jesus gave the “Great Commission,” he gave the “Great Commandment.” In Matthew 22:37-40, he declared:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The “Great Commission” is the message, but the “Great Commandment” is the music. The “Great Commission” is proclamation – what we tell them. But the “Great Commandment” is incarnation – what they see in our lives. Francis of Assisi called the gospel “love in action on the streets.”
The “Great Commission” operates on the continuum of truth. The “Great Commandment” operates on the continuum of love. If we have truth (the “Great Commission”) without love, (the “Great Commandment”) we have no truth at all. It is only hollow sounds. If we have love without truth, we have only a sweet wrapping for a lie. Love without truth is deceptive, hypocritical and unpredictable – in the end, not love at all. The message of Jesus is found in the cross-hairs of love and truth. “Christians don’t tell lies they just go to church and sing them,” declared A. W. Tozer. To reach this world, we must heal the dichotomy between the lives we intend to live and lives we in fact live.
There is another ‘great’ – the “Great Commitment.” It comes from Paul. We find it in 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and all in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
It is this ‘great’ that drives the other two. The source of our power is prayer. Gospel truth, to effect change, needs gospel power. It is not with enticing words, but in the demonstration of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Here are the three avenues God uses for witness – truth, love and power. Some, like Lydia, already a truth seeker, are ready for the message itself (Acts 16:14).
In contrast, the jailer threw Paul and Silas into a cell without caring for their wounds and bleeding backs, and without appropriately processing them. He heard bits and pieces of the message, but he needed the music. Here were men who sang with bloody backs, men who forgave and cared, after being mistreated, after being denied their rights as citizens. They demonstrated love at personal peril. With the earthquake, they could have seized the opportunity to escape to freedom, but that would have put the jailer at risk. Paul prevented it (Acts 16:23-30). That is agape.
The slave girl, in bondage and spiritually blind, could not understand truth. Treated so badly and emotionally abused that she could not discern love – she only knew manipulation. For her, she had to experience the liberating power of the Holy Spirit. Only God’s power could free her mind to understand truth and make her healthy enough to perceive true love (Acts 16:16-18).
Every Christian and Church is admonished to be a person of prayer and then a missionary through prayer. The “Great Commitment” changes us! It opens our hearts to the harvest. It reminds us to fulfill our duty to be world-citizens, to pray for the king. It urges responsibility for authority systems and the things that make for peace in the city. It is not our love improved that fuels our capacity to fulfill the “Great Commandment” and love our neighbor as ourselves. It is God’s love imputed – and that comes only through time with God, thus the “Great Commitment.” Such prayer invites God’s intervention into the lives of the lost, and it invites the empowering of the Spirit into our lives to authenticate our faith. It aligns us in such a way that God’s love is poured into us and through us to a broken world. That is the music! The world will want to know the lyrics to such a song, and those are the words of the gospel, the “Great Commission,” the good news of God’s love, the story of the cross.
We have been attempting to do “Great Commission” witnessing without “Great Commandment” love! It is a mistake. We cannot do “Great Commandment” relating, without “Great Commitment” praying. First, we pray. We pray into closed doors and hearts. We pray on site. We prayer-walk. We pray for those in authority – national, state and city leaders. We pray for friends and family. Second, we look for ways to care for lost friends who need Christ, to demonstrate his love. We look for ways to care for the city, to demonstrate God’s unconditional love. We start with our own neighbors. Having prayed and cared, we ready ourselves to provide an answer to those who ask about the hope within us. We look for open doors and hearts into which we share the love and truth of the gospel.
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.
 Ray Bakke, A Theology As Big As The City (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 195.
 Jesus Maymi, A Common Man’s Devotional (Xulon Press, 2007), 53.