Preaching the Gospel and Making Disciples
This verse is not a commission to anyone in particular - neither to the first-century apostles, nor anyone else. Jesus simply makes a statement of fact, prophesying that the entire world will hear the gospel preached as a witness and then God will act to bring about the end of this present age of man. Precisely how He will accomplish this He does not specify.
However, Christ does give His disciples a commission - and through them, His church:
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." (Matthew 28:19-20; emphasis ours throughout)
Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20 are not synonymous. In the latter verses, though preaching as a witness is included within the scope of the commission, it actually places more emphasis on the entire process of conversion, feeding, growing, and overcoming than merely witnessing, as in Matthew 24:14.
The term "make disciples" in Matthew 28:19 holds the key to this understanding. "Teach," as it is rendered in the King James Version, is not a wrong translation, as long as we understand that it implies a process. Not all of the teaching required to make a disciple can occur just in making a witness to him. There are major differences between the witnessing and making disciples. At best, preaching the gospel to the world begins the process of making disciples. Disciples are created through steady spiritual feeding and a believing response in those who hear, which includes overcoming their sins.
A second factor appears in verse 20: "Observe allthings that I have commanded you." Observing "all things" cannot be done merely through making a witness. Observing all things is a lifelong project requiring the structure and nurture of a church. This is why the church of God exists (see Ephesians 4:11-16).
In verses 19-20, though witnessing is included, Jesus is primarily emphasizing the feeding of the flock (John 21:15-17), for it is the called, the elect - God's children - who are His greatest concern. These special called-out ones are being prepared to inherit the Kingdom of God. It takes a great deal of feeding and experience with God for Christ to be formed in us (Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18).
The gospel message, then, is more than just an announcement, or a basic truth to be impressed upon unbelievers. It is just as applicable to the converted church member - almost certainly more so. In Paul's letter to the Romans, he commends the congregation at Rome because their "faith is spoken of throughout the whole world" (Romans 1:8). The congregation was already established and apparently thriving. Yet Paul says, "So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also" (Romans 1:15).
Why did Paul want to preach to them - for them to be converted? No, but to continue the process of conversion. How did he plan to do this? He was going to preach the gospel to them! He desired to preach it to people who were already converted - in fact, to those who were already so well-established in the faith that others had already heard of their remarkable devotion to God. Yet, even though they had already exhibited outstanding Christian faith, he nonetheless wanted to preach the gospel to them. This shows that it is the responsibility of the ministry - apostles, evangelists, pastors, and elders - to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God continually to the church.
The apostle Paul is referring to "feeding the flock" and preaching "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) in minute detail. The gospel - the Word of God, when we understand it in its broadest sense - includes the entirety of the Bible. God's focus is on preparing His children to share a relationship with Him for all eternity. He requires that everyone who enters His Kingdom to be in His image (Genesis 1:26) and to live exactly as He does. To achieve this goal, He requires his ministers to expand infinitely on the bare basics that bring a person to conversion. God wants each of His children to see the application of His way in every possible situation in life.
God's message is called "the gospel of the Kingdom of God" because that is the goal that He wants us always to focus on. He wants it to come immediately to mind that we are headed toward His Kingdom. We not only have to know that it is coming, but also what we must do to prepare ourselves for it. God calls it by what it ends with, what it will produce - the aim, the result.
However, it also includes all the preparatory material that we need to get there, as well as any other information that may be helpful or provide background to those instructions. "The gospel of the Kingdom of God" is a huge umbrella, under which stands a massive amount of teaching. Each piece of knowledge contained in the gospel ultimately feeds into this central truth: that humanity can have salvation by being born into God's Family - His Kingdom - through the resurrection from the dead.
The gospel message includes topics like the nature of God, the fruit of the Spirit, the Beatitudes, law and grace, loyalty and devotion to God, and other foundational topics. It contains the promises made to Abraham, the history of Israel, and the prophecies. It includes the creation and God's sovereignty, providence, and intervention in its affairs. The gospel includes everything that is necessary to call, teach, correct, and motivate an individual so that he can be saved and inherit the Kingdom. The true gospel is the complete revelation of God to man. It includes everything contained in the Bible.
This is the good news!
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