Mac Deaver has recently written an article “The Great Commission has been fulfilled.”
You should read his entire article, but here are some key quotations:
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate truth regarding our non-amenability to the commission given by the Lord to the apostles before he left the earth. It is not the purpose to lessen our efforts among men in trying to reach the lost with the gospel, but I would have us all understand that any evangelistic effort that we put forth is based on something other than the commission. …
Sixth, the next point I wish to make is that even if someone could prove that the early church sustained the very relationship to the commission that the apostles did, still it would be the case that the church today simply cannot sustain that relationship. Why would I say such? I would say it because the fulfillment of the Great Commission depended upon the capacity of the apostles to speak by inspiration and to confirm the preached word by miracles (Heb. 2:3-4). …
Furthermore, please consider that all of the evangelism that we read about in the book of Acts transpires under the authority of the assignment given to the apostles. All of it! …
- All assignments that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working are assignments that Christians today cannot carry out.
- The assignment to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; Heb. 2:3-4).
- Therefore, the assignment to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that Christians today cannot carry out.
- Any assignment that the apostles were given which changed human amenability on earth for all time is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
- The assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment which changed amenability on earth for all time (cf. Col. 1:23; Acts 10:36; 17:30-31).
- Therefore, the assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
- If (1) the fulfillment of the Great Commission today would require some brotherhood-wide authority in order to its fulfillment, and if (2) there is no brotherhood-wide authority to manage a fulfillment of the Great Commission, then there can be no Great Commission assignment currently operative.
- (1) The fulfillment of the Great Commission today would require some brotherhood-wide authority in order to its fulfillment, and (2) there is no brotherhood-wide authority to manage a fulfillment of the Great Commission.
- Then, there can be no Great Commission assignment currently operative.
I have no plans to comment further, but I invite the readers to agree or disagree in the comments. Politely, please. (I have notified Mac of this discussion by email and invited him to participate as he might wish.)
Except I do want to say this: I agree with Mac’s final paragraph (almost) —
The evangelism to be characteristic of God’s people today is that which is the normal, supernatural yet non-miraculous work of the Spirit within the heart of God’s people. It is not “guilt-driven” evangelism. It is not evangelism attempted because we have been intimidated or shamed into doing something constructive for the lost. It is not “cult” evangelism. It is the evangelism of light, leaven, and salt (Matt. 5:13-16; 13:33), and it will be the effect of the Spirit in a Christian’s heart (Rom. 5:5; 15:30; 2 Thess. 3:5) and which effect, among other things, is love for both saint and sinner (Rom. 13:8-10; Matt. 22:37-40).
The “almost” part is that I have no idea what “non-miraculous” means. I mean, how can it be supernatural and yet be, you know, natural? Isn’t anything supernatural necessarily miraculous, even if not spectacular like healing the blind or raising the dead? I’ve never understood that strand of thought among many of my brothers in the Churches of Christ. But that’s not the point of his article, and I probably should not have digressed into the metaphysics of what some call the providential.
The point I want to focus on is the tendency all humans have to over-simplify. Once a leader of the standing of Mac Deaver says the Great Commission does not apply to the church today, well, some are going to hear, “We need no longer tell our friends and neighbors about Jesus.” And that would be bad, but I don’t think that’s his point. Rather, it seems to be more of a question of whether we are under a command to do evangelism. And, of course, he’s right that many preachers use guilt as a motivator in a religion of grace. That can’t be right either.
So, dear readers, what is right?