Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Christ's Great Commission: Powerful Christian Apologetics in Action

When God commands Christians to obey His Word, they listen and make an effort to submit. When the Bible tells believers to profess faith in Christ for the Gift of Eternal Salvation, they do so eagerly and rejoice. When Christ commands believers to evangelize – make disciples of all the nations – they hesitate. In many cases, they panic at thought of it. 

That response poses a problem for several reasons, not the least of which is telling God “NO” to a direct order, while being responsible for potentially consigning thousands of people to a fiery judgment in Hell in the process.

Does that claim sound overstated? It’s not. First, look at Christ’s words when He gave us The Great Commission.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the
Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I
am with you always, even to the end of the age.

~ Matthew 28:19-20 ~

If one answers the Bible’s call to defend the faith, they’re obeying God’s Word. To become proficient in Apologetics – the defense of faith – one must read, study, and understand God’s Word. During this time, one develops a more intimate bond with their Savior, their faith becomes increasingly grounded and strong, and the Christian’s level of spiritual maturity increases. 

While that may be personally enriching, it in no way acts on Christ’s command, nor does it reveal the glory of God to non-believers that need to hear the truth of Salvation. Some may believe that “evangelism” isn’t their gift or calling:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles,
some prophets, some evangelists,
and some pastors and teachers;

~ Ephesians 4:11 ~

If your concept of evangelism is preaching to crowds of thousands in a football stadium, you may be correct about it not being your gift. That acknowledged, it would also be correct to state your concept of evangelism was incorrect. Sharing the Gospel is every Christian’s duty and honor. It’s a duty because God commands it; it’s an honor in that it allows Christians to glorify the God of their Salvation. 

Sharing the Gospel doesn’t have to be formal public speaking; informally sharing a testimony with friends and associates, in a one-on-one conversation, is how most Christians fulfill the Great Commission.

In some cases, a direct conversation isn’t required. For example, recall the dialogue between the teacher and your child in Chapter 04 (7 Pillars). Only this time – because the child knew basic principles of Apologetics – the outcome changes significantly. For this example, assume the same scenario, using the same verses. 

Do you believe God tells the truth, never lies, and never makes mistakes?

Your Child:
Yes, I do.

Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, divinely-inspired Word of God?

Your Child:
Yes, I do.

What would happen if God made a mistake, lied, or …

Your Child:
With all due respect, I know where you’re going with this. I can prove to you no conflict exists in the Scripture and put this issue to rest quickly.

You think so?

Your Child:
Yes, I do. The original Greek uses the word mis-eh'-o for “hate.” It does mean that, but it also means to “love less” or “to hold in lower esteem.” It’s a translation issue based on lingual restrictions, not a contradiction as you suggest. 

I’m going to have to verify that myself.

Your Child:
I would encourage that. I would also respectfully suggest that a more in-depth study of the Word of God might reveal truths and insights that can’t be discovered when it’s only read to prove God doesn’t exist. You’ll also find that no contradictions exist in Scripture, the harmony of the Gospel is perfect, and the power of Christ’s message of Salvation exists in the divinely-inspired Word of God we believers call the Bible.

Teacher: [Silence]

Be strong and courageous, do not be
afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord
your God is the one who goes with
you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

~ Deuteronomy 31:6 ~

The child in this scenario just experienced three victories, the rewards of which may not be fully perceived immediately. First, a Christian that’s strong in their faith will continue in their faith. 

Second, a teacher with an agenda will be changed forever – hopefully it results in a profession of faith in Christ – but if not, the teacher will think twice before walking into another field of spiritual landmines. 

Finally, the indirect witness given to the one-hundred classmates, who just watched a Christian boldly proclaim and defend their faith, may be just the gentle nudge several classmates needed to come to Christ for Salvation.

In fact, if 5 students in this class of 100 are led to Christ, that’s wonderful. If those 5 students each lead another 5 people to Christ, that’s a blessing. If each of those students each lead another 5 people to Christ, that’s 3,750 souls saved from an eternal death. One Christian student with a knowledge of Apologetics, boldly proclaiming and defending their faith in front of 100 classmates.

Does that claim still sound overstated? It’s not, and therein lies the dilemma. The potential exists, but a lack of biblical literacy almost guarantees that scenario only plays out rarely, if ever at all. Why should we care? Because when it comes to Salvation and the Great Commission, there’s no “Plan B.”

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but
he who does not believe will be condemned.

~ Mark 16:16 ~


Michael I. Kaplan lectures regularly to faith-based organizations on the topics of apologetics (reasoned arguments or writings in justification of theological doctrine), biblical studies and spiritual warfare.


  1. What would you say to those who claim that the great commission is already fufilled based on Collisions 1:23?

    1. That’s an interesting point; I would say to them the text of Colossians 1:23 should be viewed within the context of the language of the time, and the synchronicity of the Gospel.

      It was (and still is) a common rhetorical device to describe past events in present tense, and future events in past tense. We see this in Revelation: “And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years …” (20:4). An event that will happen sometime in the future is describe in the past tense; the Bible is filled with such occurrences. Paul’s use of the past tense is based on the knowledge of God’s Word, and the certainty of a future occurrence. It hasn’t been done yet, but as God said it would be, he considers it a “given,” and a done deal.

      I would also look at the intentionality of the writing style in the Gospel of Matthew, the book I quoted when referencing the Great Commission. When Jesus is teaching, Matthew uses the same rhetorical device to draw attention to (and isolate) the text: “Jesus began,” Jesus finished,” and “Jesus departed.” He writes this way 5 times in that Gospel; I have listed a few examples below:

      (Matthew 5:2)
      He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying …
      (Matthew 7:28)
      When Jesus had finished these words …
      (Matthew 8:1)
      When Jesus came down from the mountain …

      (Matthew 10:5)
      These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them
      (Matthew 11:1)
      When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed …

      (Matthew 13:3)
      Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying:
      (Matthew 13:53)
      Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there.

      There’s only one deviation from this style: The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Unlike the other accounts of Christ’s instructions, this one isn’t sealed off and closed. Given the deliberate nature and the consistency of Matthew’s writing, I would suggest he le left it open intentionally – as an ongoing command from Christ.

      That would be my answer – thanks for asking – I hope that helps, and I pray you have a blessed weekend.