This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Douglas Wilson is the minister of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, which is a member of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). After his stint in the submarine service of the U.S. Navy, he attended the University of Idaho, where he obtained an MA in philosophy.
As one of its founders, he has served on the board of Logos School, a classical and Christian school (K-12), since its inception. He is also a Senior Fellow of theology at New St. Andrews College. He is the author of numerous books, including Reforming Marriage, The Case for Classical Christian Education, Letter from a Christian Citizen, and Blackthorn Winter. He is also the general editor for the Omnibus textbook series. His blog can be found at www.dougwils.com.
Wilson has one of the sharpest minds in evangelicalism today and one of the sharpest wits as well. In the video provided below, Wilson answers this question, “Does the Great Commission Apply to Every Christian?” The video is over 11:00 long and is worthy of your time.
Points of Agreement
1) Wilson believes every Christian should be able to give a response to those who ask about the hope that is within them (01:09; 1 Pet. 3:15). I strongly agree as well. As Christians, we are commanded to learn all that Christ taught the Apostles while on Earth (Matt. 28:20). Christ’s teachings are fleshed out in The Prophets, Himself, and the Apostles. The Great Commission is still being completed in all of us as we learn and apply Scripture.
2) Wilson argues that the whole point of the church is the fulfillment of the Great Commission (01:44; Matt. 28:18-20). He’s right. The Great Commission was given by Christ before He ascended to Heaven, and the rest of the New Testament reveals how the early church fulfilled this Great Commission, and how the church can fulfill this Commission throughout the ages.
3) Wilson argues there is a corporate reality in the fulfillment of the Great Commission (02:00; 1 Cor. 3:7-8; 12:1-31). Whether we plant or water, the entire local body of believers is involved in the salvation of souls. For example, several children at our church have confessed Christ recently. I often pick up the children in the church van, bring them to church, and their discipleship teachers teach them the Word of God. I also preach to these children in corporate worship, and when these children are ready to publicly confess Christ, I’m often the one who prays with them and baptizes them. Nevertheless, all those in the local body who make this discipleship possible are involved in the salvation of these souls. In other words, the harvester is not the only one who is involved in fulfilling The Great Commission. All Christians who have come before and who currently use their gifts in New Salem Baptist Church are involved in fulfilling the Great Commission here. “He who plants and he who waters are one” (1 Cor. 3:8).
4) Wilson argues it’s an evangelistic atrocity that we never hear the phrase, “As honest as an evangelical” (06:35). Wilson is right, evangelicals are not so other-worldly as citizens of the New Jerusalem that those who are mere citizens of this evil world want to be citizens of the New Jerusalem. Citizens of the New Jerusalem should do all things to the glory of God, which should set us apart from the world who has other motivations for their daily lives. Christians should be the best citizens, soldiers, mechanics, teachers, etc. since we know the Author of all Truth (Christ), in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:2-3).
5) Wilson argues Christians should utilize their gifts on behalf of others (10:44). Although I don’t agree that evangelism is a spiritual gift, I agree with Wilson’s point here concerning the use of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given to Christians for the purpose of building up the local church (1 Cor. 12:7). Whether we have a teaching gift or a serving gift or a combination of the two, we must use our gifts to build up the church. This means we also will be built up by other Christians. We must use our gifts on behalf of other Christians who do not have our gifts, and other Christians must do the same for us.
Points of Disagreement
1) Wilson argues not every Christian is called by God to personally evangelize on a daily basis. He thinks this mentality runs rough shot over people’s giftings, callings, abilities, and so forth (00:43). I agree that Christians are not required to evangelize daily, but I think we are required to evangelize. If, as Wilson argues, Christians are required to be ready to give a reason to those who ask about the hope within them, then wouldn’t they also be required to share the gospel without being asked as well? What I mean is that if a Christian must be ready to respond to unbelievers, then this requirement has nothing to do with “spiritual gifts” that some Christians possess and others do not (as Wilson argues). The fact that Christians are required to give a response to unbelievers who ask reveals the reality that all Christians are equipped by the Holy Spirit to evangelize. If a Christian is capable of providing an answer to an unbeliever if asked, then he or she is also capable of sharing the gospel without being asked, regardless of his or her giftings, callings, abilities, and so forth.
2) Wilson argues that the point of the church is the fulfillment of the Great Commission, but we’re not all responsible to fulfill the Great Commission as individuals (00:43). He believes there is only a corporate responsibility to fulfill The Great Commission. I disagree for many reasons:
a) We’re to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). God is worthy to be worshiped, and Christians should be bothered that there are other human beings who refuse to give God glory. This holy jealousy for God to be glorified should produce an active desire in Christians to share the gospel with other self-glorifying humans (sinners) so that they too may repent and believe in Christ to the glory of God. Furthermore, every Christian that has repented and trusted in Christ has done so because someone else shared the gospel with them. If I believe all humans are created in God’s image, and I love my neighbors, I will care where they spend eternity. This love for my neighbors is active, not passive. Just as we should not passively wait for our neighbors to ask us for food, clothes, etc., we also should not passively wait for them to ask us about Jesus. We must actively pursue them regardless of our gifting, for the Holy Spirit has regenerated us for this purpose. As an aside, I wonder how many sinners have been redeemed due to Christians pointing them to Christ even though these Christians were not asked about the hope within them and did not “possess the gifts, callings, and abilities of an evangelist,” but were jealous enough for God’s glory and loved their neighbors enough to actively seek their souls with the gospel?
b) Evangelism is not a spiritual gift. Although, I agree that pastors/elders are primarily preachers of the gospel (evangelists), this truth does not mean that they have some sort of evangelistic giftedness that other Christians do not possess, at least on a foundational level (Granted, pastors may be more gifted in this area). After all, if someone knows the gospel, they can tell someone else the gospel, the same way they can communicate anything else.
c) Christ’s commands are irrespective of the personalities He created. Sharing the gospel will come easier for some than others, but this reality does not mean those who find evangelism difficult are excused from obedience. In similar manner, just as some Christians will find understanding Scripture easier than others, this reality does not excuse those with less God-given ability in this area from actively pursuing understanding all Christ has commanded (The third part of fulfilling The Great Commission; Matt. 28:20).
d) Paul commends churches for their evangelistic efforts: The Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:4-10) and the Romans (Rom. 1:8). These two letters were written to two local church bodies of believers (1 Thess. 1:1; 1 Rom. 1:7). As far as we know, these churches as individuals took the gospel to their communities, which indicates that evangelism wasn’t reserved for a select few of “gifted” individuals in these local churches.
e) All Christians possess the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19). Since Christ has reconciled us to God, we too should seek to share Christ with others so that they too may be reconciled to God. In 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, Paul seems to group all Christians together as ministers of this reconciliation. Thus, this passage should be viewed fundamentally as a repeat of The Great Commission. Sinners are reconciled to God as Christians fulfill The Great Commission by taking the gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them all that Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:18-20).
What do you think?