Marching orders—we all get them at some point in our life. Your company transfers you to a new city to open a branch office. An army battalion receives orders to help quell a disturbance in an overseas location. A father “suggests” some new plans for enjoying an uninterrupted supper hour and a family devotional time afterwards. Marching orders reveal the character of the one issuing them and help determine the purpose of the one(s) receiving them.
The church of Jesus Christ has marching orders as well. They are expressed in various ways in each of the four gospels and Acts (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8), and are commonly referred to as the Great Commission. Like all marching orders, the Great Commission expresses something about the one from whom the orders come, and what will occupy the time and energy of those to whom the orders are given. Matthew’s account of the Great Commission reveals both. The two things we learn about God are that his purpose for the church—to spread the gospel and disciple the nations—flows out of his authority and his presence: “All authority . . . has been given to me,” Jesus said, and “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God’s ultimate purpose on earth has always been to invite people to enter into a relationship with him. Those who know him reach out to tell others.
For example, the Jewish patriarch Jacob was told by God almost the exact same thing that Christ told the disciples: “I am the Lord your God” (authority) and “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go” (presence) (Gen. 28:14-15). And where were Jacob and his descendants going? To spread out to the north, south, east, and west so that “all peoples on earth will be blessed.” Marching orders—Jacob had them and the church has them. As Christians, they are part of our purpose for living.
Telling the world about God’s love is no small order. Thankfully, we are not left on our own in fulfilling our purpose. God’s power and presence ensures that, as we “march” in step with him, we will succeed.
God’s Promise to You: “I have called you to no purpose greater than my provision.”
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