Jesus commands us, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15). This is not a request, but a command. This is not a special gift of some, but a burden for all who are Christ’s. These parting words of Jesus are a commission, giving purpose to the church. Of course this means that the church of God should be proclaiming everything of the Gospel to everyone they can find. To ‘preach the gospel’ is our basic service, not just within the church but in ‘all the world’.
The first word of the great commission is “Go”, which means we have to travel somewhere. The location we must go to is into “the world”, which necessarily means that we must be outwardly focused when evangelising. I cannot see how preaching the gospel only within the church’s buildings is going “into… the world”, rather it is not “go[ing]” at all, let alone arriving in the “world”. Jesus explains His purpose of inviting the lost in Luke 14:23 where he says “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.” “Go” is again the commission of the lord to the servant, and he adds “compel them to come in”. The great commission can only be fulfilled out in “the world” in the workplaces, schools, community groups, neighbourhoods, “highways” and “hedges”.
The Word of God that we preach is bound to have effect. Psalm 126:5 says, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” To “sow in tears” indicates that the work is not easy, but the promise is that we will “reap in joy”. So “…let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9) The worst part of this last verse is that we may grow weary and faint, and that will preclude us from reaping. The promise comes to those who persevere. We may struggle in our sowing for a season, which may be a few years or a few months, but soon enough, by diligently “preaching the gospel” we will eventually “reap in joy” if we do not faint.
All who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). This is a promise that applies to every human being. However we are warned in the very next verse, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” To call on Jesus requires that we first believe in his finished work of sacrifice. To believe Jesus has paid for their sins, they must have heard. To have heard, the cross must be preached! Evangelism is all the more compelling for us if we are aware of the lost’s plight. If we do not preach, how will they hear?
Yes, the good news of Jesus is offensive to the prideful heart. Naturally, unregenerate human nature wants to be right, to be capable, to be important. But in the gospel, we have done nothing to warrant our salvation. It is all the work of Christ. This is the point of the cross. 1 Corinthians 18 states, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The word for “preaching” in this specific scripture can mean “word” (eg ESV), unlike the former scriptures quoted here. Because the foolishness of the cross confounds the wisdom of this world, it emphasises the glory of God. The purpose of this offensiveness and foolishness is quite simple, it is so “…no flesh should glory in his presence.”(1 Corinthians 1:29)
God’s glory is the centre of evangelism. We proclaim the gospel, not only for the salvation of souls, but also because we simply want to “boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31, ESV). Even if not one soul was to be saved, we will still preach the gospel to boast in the Lord. We would boast of how He is righteous, merciful, and still amazingly just. God deserves the glory; Christ deserves our adoration. We must humble ourselves to be “foolish” in the sight of this world, so that their wisdom can be put to shame for the glory of God. Proclaiming the gospel is about boasting in the goodness of God. As we’ve seen before, we will reap if we do not grow weary.
Take home message
The gospel is compelling, and yet offensive. It seems foolish to the wisdom of man, but it convicts each man. Without its preaching, the lost can only perish. And by preaching it we not only give the lost truth to believe, but also glorify God for his goodness. The location of our preaching must be beyond the church’s comfort and into the world’s realm. Even if no one were to respond, the preaching would still go on, because we will continue boasting in God’s goodness in Christ Jesus throughout the world. However, we know that God’s promises that we will reap if we faint not (Galatians 6:9) is compelling enough to preach the word of the gospel to “every creature”.