The talk from Hannes’ commissioning service
This morning we are commissioning Hannes. What exactly is it that we are commissioning him to do? What better place to find out than this famous passage often referred to as “The Great Commission.”
Before we go on, note three important things
– First that it in fact it is not us that commission. We are simply passing on Christ’s commission
– Second that whilst there is a specific way in which Hannes has been called to fulfil this, the commission is for all of us
– Thirdly, we need to say something about the context.
This is after Jesus’ resurrection and initial appearances. The disciples have been told to meet him in Galilee. Jesus meets them and they worship. It is after his resurrection and they are now recognising who he really is. However, “some doubted” (v16). Not everyone is completely sure. This may be that there are some who are not sure how to relate to Jesus – they are still coming to terms with how they ran away. It may be that some are still not yet convinced of who he is and his message.
So, it is helpful to see that Jesus deals with this in two ways. First, he tells them that he has been given all authority. He is the true King and they can rely on his word and command (v18). Secondly, he promises his presence with them and with us throughout the ages, through his Holy spirit, until he returns (v20).
Then he commissions them, just as today he commissions Hannes and he commissions us.
- Go …Make Disciples
This is the main command. It’s a call to action. We are not to be passive and wait but to go. This command has often been used to encourage people to cross cultures for world mission and rightly so. It is a command that Hannes has obeyed, going first to serve with Om, coming here, then on to Wales and now going back to Austria. It is a command we are all called to obey. It may be that this will mean going to serve in other communities, a long distance away but we also go as soon as we step outside of our front door.
Going means a willingness to tell work colleagues and friends about Jesus
Going means a willingness to share the love of Jesus with people from different cultures and backgrounds to us.
Specifically, we are to “make disciples.” We’ve often seen that a disciple is someone who wants to know Jesus, to follow him, love him and learn from him. We’ve also seen that disciples are people who go and tell others about him. In John’s gospel we see Andrew finding Jesus then going to get Peter and Philip doing the same with Nathaniel.
We are not recruiting people to be part of our club. This means that we are not simply in the numbers game – how many can we get to attend an activity or a service. We are calling people to know Jesus and follow him.
It means that if we are to introduce others to Jesus, that we need to know him ourselves first. You see, what does it mean to follow Jesus? Well the whole context of this commission after his death and resurrection reminds us that following Jesus mean responding to the Gospel.
– I admit that I am a sinner
– I ask God for forgiveness through Jesus’s death
– I receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour of my whole life, knowing that he will indwell me through the Holy Spirit.
- Baptise them
The next two instructions really expand on the first one. This is what it means to make disciples. We make disciples by baptising them into the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Baptism was a ceremony that Jesus’s followers would have been familiar with. The Gospels start with John, Jesus’s cousin calling people to repent and then be baptised in the Jordan. It was a symbolic washing that represented being made clean.
Baptising people into the name of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit means that the symbolic action declares their identity with God. They belong to him, they are part of his people. Romans 10:9 tells us that to be saved we must believe in our hearts and confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord. This reminds us that
– A Christian is not just someone who has gone through an outward ceremony. There must be an inward change of heart as we trust in Jesus and repent from sin.
– However, the outward bit is important too. There is a public profession of faith. We are not to be secret believers.
It is a bit like when I got married. I married my wife because I love her. That is my heart attitude. However, I also made a public commitment with vows in front of witnesses. Sarah and I were telling everyone that we belong exclusively to each other as husband and wife.
Baptism is when we declare that we exclusively belong to Jesus Christ. Salvation means that he has forgiven us, he has taken our place on the Cross but it also means that he has bought us (redeemed us), we belong to him, not to sin, not to death not to Satan and not to ourselves.
Baptism is not an extra step. If we think of it as an add on we will end up in a muddle. We will see it as a hoop to jump through at a certain point. We might also start to identify alternative ways of showing that we are Christians, going forward or putting your hand up at an event may be helpful to you but it is not an alternative to baptism. Indeed, we should not think of Church membership as an alternative process. Church members are really simply those who have publicly professed their faith in Christ.
This challenges us before we call others to make this public profession of faith, have we?
Hannes, this also tells us that pastoral ministry will be hard work, costly and long term. Baptism carries a cost, for some people it will mean causing offence to relatives and friends, others will find it a nerve racking experience. You will be tempted to tone things down and to offer alternatives. It may take a long time to see someone move from interest to the Gospel to this outward verbal profession. For some of the people you baptise, the cost will be high, in some communities it will be such a definitive statement of faith in Christ that it will put their lives in danger. Sometimes there will be huge, crushing disappointments as someone realises that they simply cannot make that exclusive, life changing, public profession of faith.
Be encouraged, there is great joy in seeing someone turn to Christ and publicly own him as Lord.
- Teach them to obey all….
A disciple belongs to Jesus, has been forgiven and received the free gift of eternal life. A disciple has received Jesus as saviour. However, you cannot do that without submitting to Jesus as Lord.
Hannes, your role is not simply to preach Gospel sermons. Our desire is to see people reaching maturity in Christ. That’s a long term, day to day responsibility.
Jesus tells his disciples to teach the new disciples to obey everything he has taught them. What does that mean?
Well we could sum it up as Jesus did with two commands
- Love God with your whole heart
- Love your neighbour as yourself.
Disciples will completely love God. This means we find our joy, satisfaction and hope in him. This leads to an outpouring of worship in gratitude to Him for salvation.
Disciples will love others as Christ has loved them -sacrificially.
The Great Commission does not get separated from the two great commandments. A church that is outward looking, seeking to share the good news with those who have not heard will also be inward looking as there will be a great concern for one another. A missional church will be a loving church where people are welcomed and cared for.
Teaching people to obey Christ will mean being willing to challenge and correct. You will not always be popular. In fact, you will often be unpopular for it. You will have to say deeply uncomfortable things to people
“No, you cannot date a non-Christian”
“I know you will find this hard but God calls you to stay with your husband/wife through good times and bad and not give up on your marriage.”
“You must wait until you are married before you share a bed together.”
“What you are doing/saying is dishonest. You need to fess up and tell the truth even if it will make life awkward for you.”
“What you just told those three people in your small group ‘in confidence for prayer’ was in fact gossip and it has to stop.”
And we could go on. Each time, you will be challenging people about difficult things. You will be concerned about the danger of legalism, that they just try to follow some rules. They will be overwhelmed thinking that it is impossible to change.
Yet we come back to two crucial points.
First that the Lord who commissions you and calls them has told you and tells them that He is with us for ever. We are not on our own. It is not down to our effort. He is the one who has saved us and he is the one who will complete the work he has begun in us.
Secondly, they have been baptised into Him. They have declared outwardly what has happened inwardly that they are united with Christ, adopted by the Father, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This gives great hope as we set out making disciples.
Today we are going to commission Hannes for a specific part of this Gospel work. However, the call for each of us is to use today as an opportunity to renew our commitment to obeying this great commission.