There is a predominate belief within God’s Church today that associates Matthew 28:19-20 with Matthew 24:14 as the scriptural basis for continuing to take the gospel to the world as a witness. But is this belief biblically accurate, using these scriptures to show a simultaneous connection?
During his ministry, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong used these two scriptures together to illustrate the responsibility God’s Church had in supporting God’s work during the Philadelphia era. In Chapter 9 of his book, “The Incredible Human Potential”, Mr. Armstrong associated Matt. 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16 and Matt. 24:14 in reference to what he termed “THE GREAT COMMISSION.” However, he did not teach “THE GREAT COMMISSION” was the responsibility of God’s Church to fulfil.
“The GREAT COMMISSION was given to the APOSTLES—those “sent forth” with the Message—NOT the lay members of the Church.” pg. 116 (paperback edition)
During Mr. Armstrong’s time, Matt. 28:19-20 and Matt. 24:14 did have a corresponding connection, but this connection has not always existed throughout much of the history of God’s Church. Upon closer examination, it is clear these two scriptures have separate and distinct meaning in relationship to the return of Jesus Christ.
It is important to keep in mind God is not trying to save the world at this time. Only those God the Father calls can become members of His Church (John 6:44, 65). God does not need an organized “WORK” going out to the world for the purpose of calling people. There certainly was no work occurring when God called Mr. Armstrong at the end of the Sardis era (Rev. 3:1b).
In the first volume of his autobiography, Mr. Armstrong describes God’s Church as “small, powerless, resultless and impotent”, yet having more Bible Truth than any church he could find. When God called Mr. Armstrong, the gospel of the Kingdom of God was not a message being proclaimed through the ministry of God’s Church.
Understanding Matthew 28
Christ’s words in Matthew 28:16-20 were spoken only to the disciples after His resurrection from the dead. These disciples were soon to be the first ministers of God’s Church.
In verses 19-20, Christ lays out their ministerial responsibilities toward those God would call out “of all the nations” into His Church. Notice what these soon-to-be apostles were to do.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Paul explains in Romans 10 how God calls people to an understanding of His Truth.
“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? And how shall they preach unless they are sent (verses 14-15a)?”
These are important questions Paul poses. The answers come only through the men God has appointed into His ministry.
Paul explains in verse 17 how the process of God calling people occurs.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
God’s ministers have the responsibility of teaching God’s Truth to those God calls out of this world. They are to use His Word, the Holy Bible in every message delivered and situation encountered (II Tim. 3:16).
Matthew 28 shows Christ establishing the ministerial responsibility His disciples would soon have upon His ascension to be with God the Father. First, they were to baptize, a process which pictures the burial of the old carnal man and resurrection of a new spiritual man (Col. 3:9b-10). The baptismal process involves coming to repentance for past sins, being completely immersed in water and having hands laid on by a minister of God to receive God’s Spirit (Acts 2:38).
The second responsibility involves teaching people how to live the way Christ commanded the disciples to live. The word teaching means “absolutely, to give instruction.”
How did Christ command His disciples to live? He commanded them to love one another (John 13:34, John 15:12). The kind of love Christ commanded involved keeping all ten of God’s Ten Commandments (Matt. 22:36-40). It also includes following Christ’s example of keeping God’s Holy Days and statutes as established in the Bible (Deut. 8:3).
The responsibilities Christ gave to His disciples in Matt. 28:19-20 were specific only to the membership of God’s Church. These responsibilities not only applied to the early apostles of the first century, but to every minister of God throughout the history of God’s Church, all the way to the end of this present age (Matt. 28:20b).
An honest examination of Matt. 28:19-20 shows this verse to be very specific to the responsibilities God’s ministry have within God’s Church. This has nothing to do with taking the gospel to a world of unconverted people as a witness.
In examining Matt. 24:14, a clear and different picture will emerge showing these two scriptures have separate and distinct meaning which differ in scope and purpose.
This examination will be laid out in “Part 2” of this blog.