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THE GREAT COMMISSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, March 2, 2008
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“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 alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20).


Many of you came here for the first time this morning. We went out on the streets. We invited you to come, and you came to this service. But why did we invite you to come and be with us today? This sermon will answer that question, and let you know why we went out of our way to bring you here this morning. I think the answer will excite you, and make you want to come back and be with us again.

Many people think that evangelism should be done by a few people in the church, maybe the pastor and the deacons, or a few other special people. But that is not what the New Testament teaches. The Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 is given to every member of the local church. Dr. W. A. Criswell correctly said,

The commission of Jesus was to the whole church in every age. The imperative word in the commission is “teach all nations,” more literally rendered as “make disciples” (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., The Criswell Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1979, note on Matthew 28:19-20).

“The commission of Jesus was to the whole church.” Every person in the church is commissioned by Christ to do the work of evangelism. Every Christian is called and commissioned to make disciples. That’s the reason we believe in every-member evangelism. Evangelism must be at the very heart of our church program. That’s why we place evangelism on the “front burner.” We have prayer, followed by evangelism every Saturday night. We have evangelism every Sunday afternoon, following the morning service. We have evangelism every Thursday night. As Dr. Criswell said, “The commission of Jesus was to the whole church.”

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).

Many other people think of evangelism as going to pass out “tracts” or get people to pray a superficial “sinner’s prayer.” But we must remember that the purpose is not to get decisions, but to make disciples. As Dr. Criswell correctly said, “‘teach all nations’ [is] more literally rendered as ‘make disciples’.” This shows that the Great Commission is local church-centered.

Decisionism has, in the last few generations, led to the idea of “getting decisions” rather than bringing people into the local church. But what is the use of “getting decisions” if we don’t get people? For congregations to grow they must literally obey the Great Commission by bringing people into the local church. That is where they will be converted and discipled. Instead of doing “follow up” with people who have never really been converted, we need to go out and bring them in to the local church. In Luke 14:23 Christ said,

“And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

That is the practical application of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. Question – Where should I go? Answer – “into the highways and hedges” – into the roads and lanes – out into “the world” (Mark 16:15). What should I do when I encounter these lost people? Answer – “compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” Simple! Local church-centered evangelism!

Notice two words in Luke 14:23,

“Go out.”
“Come in.”

Simple! “Go out” and get them to “come in.” That’s how you get them converted and discipled – in and through the local church.

“Go out.”
“Compel them to come in.”

I. First, church centered evangelism begins by going “out.”

We can’t wait for the world to come in by themselves. Yes, I believe that God is sovereign. But a sovereign God uses means to accomplish His purposes. If we as a church do not obey the command of Christ in Matthew 28:19-20 and Luke 14:23, we must not expect God to bring them in. Obedience to the Great Commission is the key to success in any church. We may pray – and that is good. We may study the Bible and teach the Bible – and that is good. We may sing our hearts out in the worship services – and that is good. But if we fail to obey Christ’s command in the Great Commission, if we fail to “go out, and compel them to come in,” we have failed to obey the last command Christ gave to us in Matthew 28:19-20. We’ve got to go and get the lost or we have failed our Lord, we have not taken His command seriously, we have not obeyed His voice, we have not lived up to the charge He gave us. And so, I say with all the strength that is in me,

“Go out…and compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23).

Some may be old and weak. Some may be too small and young. But the older members can come to church and watch the little children – and thus labor together with us and free their parents to go out. Those older people, no longer able to go out at every evangelistic opportunity, can hold up the hands of parents, like Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses. You can play a highly important role by freeing parents with children to go in your place to “compel them to come in.” Do it! Whatever it costs, whatever sacrifice you must make, for evangelism is the ministry of Christ’s church, and all the members must do what they can, in their own way, to help this local church obey the command of Christ Jesus, and “Go out…and compel them to come in.” Do it! Work together as a church to help every able bodied man and woman, boy and girl, to obey Christ Jesus, and “compel them to come in.”

You go on in the strength of your youth and vigor, you step up to the plate for Christ. You expend the strength of your youth and health, and your comparatively unencumbered life, to push forward in a mighty stream of evangelistic fervor, a steadfast commitment that, at all costs, will fulfill the Great Commission and “go out – and compel them to come in.” That is the first point that we need to stress in a church that makes every-member evangelism its holy duty and sacred calling. It starts by going out. If you don’t go out, they will not come in – and God’s house will not be filled. “Go out…and compel them to come in”! It starts by you, saying in your heart, “I will go out. I’ll do it no matter what it costs and no matter what hardships I must bear. In spite of everything – I will go out. Christ commanded me to do it, and I will obey Him. I will ‘go out’!” Say in your heart, “At every opportunity, I will obey the command of Christ. I will ‘go out’ with eager feet and a Spirit-filled heart – I’ll do it for the sake of Christ Jesus, who died to redeem my soul from sin and Hell! I will ‘go out’!” It starts by going out. That’s the way we begin to fulfill Christ’s command. Get all the names and phone numbers you can, and bring them to the leaders of the church to phone, arrange rides, and get them to the Sunday services.

II. Second, church centered evangelism continues by bringing them “in.”

It isn’t enough to hand them a tract or a flyer. We know by long experience that few if any will come in that way. We know also that praying a sinner’s prayer with them at their doorstep or on the street – is an ineffective way to bring them in. Such methods may give comfort to “decisionists,” but we have long since found by experience that this method brings few if any into the local church. We must do more, much more than that! Jesus said,

“Go out…and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”

They must be “compelled” to come into God’s house. They must be compelled to come in! Pressure them, persuade them, constrain them to come in! That’s what the Greek word for “compel” signifies! As a great old hymn puts it,


Bring them in, bring them in,

   Bring them in from the fields of sin;

Bring them in, bring them in,

   Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.

(“Bring Them In” by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).


But they are not “in” when they come to a service or two. They are not “in” until they are “in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:30). They are not “in” until they are united with Christ in true conversion. We must continue to “compel them to come in” until they have heard enough preaching to know that they are lost, until they come under conviction of sin, and are united with Christ. Even after they are converted we must work with them and help them become strong disciples of Christ Jesus.

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

This is not the work of the pastor alone. The Bible says,

“Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…”
      (Hebrews 10:24-25).

We must not forget about newer people when they have been coming to church for a while. We must continue to “provoke [them] unto love and to good works.”

I think we sometimes read the Great Commission too quickly, without actually thinking about the words. Let us stand and read it again, out loud, from Matthew 28:19-20.

“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 alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

You may be seated. Surely a careful reading of Christ’s command in the Great Commission includes what I have said. Surely real evangelism is not confined to merely going out. Surely it also includes compelling them “to come in” (Luke 14:23). Evangelism that does not add people to the local church can hardly be said to follow the pattern of the New Testament! Biblical evangelism added people to the local church. We see this concerning the church at Jerusalem.

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

“Soul winning” that does not add people to the church, as they were added to the local church at Jerusalem, is not New Testament evangelism!

III. Third, church centered evangelism fills the house of God.

Jesus said,

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

I take this to mean the local church,

“The house of God, which is the church of the living God”
      (I Timothy 3:15).

“That my house may be filled.” To me, this is meaningless if it does not refer to the local church, “the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (I Timothy 3:15).

Our “mission field” is all around us – on the streets, at the colleges, at the malls, and at the stores. “All nations” are right here – on the campuses of seven colleges surrounding the civic center of Los Angeles where our church is located. Our commander in chief is Jesus Christ. His commission is clear,

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

Go to evangelism! Let nothing stop you! Throw yourself into the work of Christ! “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled”!

Some of you here this morning are still unconverted. I cannot end this sermon without appealing to you to come to Jesus. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life. He is alive in Heaven praying for the salvation of your soul. Come to Him. Throw yourself on Him by faith. His Blood will cleanse every sin, and you will begin a new life in Him and in this local church.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 14:16-24.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Rescue the Perishing” (by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE GREAT COMMISSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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 alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

(Luke 14:23; Mark 16:15)

I.   Church centered evangelism begins by going “out,” Luke 14:23.

II.  Church centered evangelism continues by bringing them “in,”
I Corinthians 1:30; Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:47.

III. Church centered evangelism fills the house of God,
Luke 14:23; I Timothy 3:15.