I have heard a number of sermons and teachings on the Great Commission and the two Greatest Commandments. What I do not often hear much of is how the three work in tandem and how they are inseparable with one another. Sure, some talk about it but I do not find it taking place as much as one might think, at least not from my perspective. And yes, I am guilty of this thing.
At many mission conferences, the Great Commission is the central theme, and I get it. Believers come together to learn about and share how God is working among the nations. We talk about the need to send more missionaries to the farthest corners of the globe. We tend to focus on some of the famous Great Commission verses like Matthew 18:19-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8, and Matthew 24:14. If we do not use one of these passages, some use Genesis 12 where God called Abram to go to a land he did not know.
Now do not misunderstand me. I believe God has, in fact, called His Church to take the Gospel to all peoples in all places. I believe the Church globally has more than enough resources and manpower to have already penetrated every nation, tribe and language with the Gospel by now. I believe we should continue to talk about the famous Great Commission passages, while exploring how God sent people in the Old Testament, to stir one another’s involvement until the Task is finished. However, I do not believe that sending and/or telling believers to go share the Gospel should be the central theme of our Great Commission conversations, teachings and conferences.
The central theme should be the two Greatest Commandments, with the first greatest being front and center, and how these commandments lead into effective Great Commission activities. Allow me to explain.
One of the places the Greatest Commandment is found is in Mark 12:29-30 (ESV). Jesus says, “The most important is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” In essence, we are to love God with 100% of our being and nothing less is acceptable. If we are to love God with 100% of ourselves, then how do we live out the second Greatest Commandment? How does a husband love his wife as Christ loved the Church? If we give every ounce of our love to God, there is nothing left to give, or is there?
Having the ability to live out the second Greatest Commandment is simple. That kind of love is a byproduct of living out the Greatest Commandment. As we love God with every ounce of our being, our ability to love others as ourselves flows from our love for God. At the same time, if we claim to love God with every ounce of our being but do not love others as ourselves then we do not love God with our whole being. The two are simply inseparable. Given this reality, how does the Great Commission fit into this picture?
As we authentically love God with everything we are and have, our love for others will overflow as a result. As we love others as ourselves, the natural byproduct of that love will be that we are intentionally laboring to ensure our neighbors know the message of Christ and to teach them everything we have learned from Christ. I say this because we, the body of Christ, generally love ourselves so much that we invest a lot into ensuring we learn as much about God’s word and to grow in Christ as we can. We spend a massive amount of money on conferences and self described worship events (not referring to church services) that feed us spiritually. Doing this is ok. Investing in ourselves spiritually so our walk with Christ is strengthen is imperative. Doing this while ignoring the lost world around us is not okay. It is unloving.
When we love ourselves so much to ensure we grow in Christ, then to love others as ourselves means we should be helping others receive the same opportunity to know and grow in Christ. If we are not working toward that end with our neighbors, then we do not love our neighbors. If we do not love our neighbors as ourselves, we likely do not love God with every ounce of our being.
You see, it is vital that we talk and teach about the Great Commission and how the Church needs to send more missionaries to the nations. I will continue doing this until my last breath. However, if we do not first teach the two Greatest Commandments and how they are vital to fulfilling the Great Commission, we will not be effective at much in the Great Commission.
The two Greatest Commandments and the Great Commission work in tandem with one another. The three are inseparable to one another. Each one is vital in ensuring God is glorified and His Kingdom is advanced to every nation, tribe and language.
1 Corinthians 13 (ESV)
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Steve Schirmer, President of Silk Road Catalyst and co-Host of Missions Talk. Least Reached Advocate. Dedicated to No Place Left.