by Mike Ratliff
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)
The passage above (Matthew 28:16-20) is best known as our Lord Jesus’ Great Commission to the Church. This is what we are to be about. I heard a survey taken at a Christian bookseller’s convention not very long ago in which one of the questions asked was something like, “Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’” Well over half of the answers given were affirmative for the latter rather than the former. That was not surprising after the rest of the survey results were revealed though. The overall lack of depth of real Bible knowledge and doctrine in that group was indeed telling. From that discussion it became apparent that most of those responding to the survey actually believed that their performance as Christians had more to do with evangelism than actually preaching the Gospel itself. This started me thinking…
Is it even possible for even the most devoted Christian to “be the Gospel” to the point that their live is a substitute for actually preaching the Good News? Also, when we obey God aren’t we actually obeying His Law? The Gospel is Good News about what Christ did on behalf of sinners who could do nothing in and of themselves to be reconciled to God who is Holy, Righteous, and Just. That is why the Gospel is Good News. It is not something that can be lived. What about the transformed life then? That is not the Gospel either. Yes, those in Christ have victory over sin and have triumph in Christ, but that is not the Gospel. In fact, when we look at that, we find that that triumph is all because of God and what He has done and is doing, not what we do. It all stems from one Greek word, ικανος or hikanos, “sufficient, competent, qualified.” Carefully read the following passages.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 ESV)
Paul asks in v16, “Who is sufficient for these things?” The word sufficient translates ικανος. Paul is saying that he is nothing in himself, that he is insufficient for anything, whether it be ministry or personal living. He says that his ικανος is God alone. Now let’s skip down a few verses to 2 Corinthians 3:4-5.
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, (2 Corinthians 3:4-5 ESV)
Again, the word sufficiency translates ικανος. Contrast Paul’s statements in these two passages with the message today from much of so-called Christianity in which man views himself as the measure of all things. In these teachings, man is self-sufficient, self-directed, self-motivated, and self-centered. Man’s self-esteem and self-worth are primary and protected and treasure.
No wonder people believe they can “be the Gospel” and believe that corruption, calling it “being missional” replaces being obedient to the Great Commission of planting Churches and preaching the Gospel everywhere to everyone relying on the work of the Holy Spirit to build the Church not our ικανος.
What did Jesus tell us in John 15? Notice especially the verse in bold.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:1-11 ESV)
Our sufficiency is in Christ alone, not ourselves. We are to obey God and preach the Gospel. We cannot “be the Gospel.”
Soli Deo Gloria!