The church of Jesus Christ is, above all things, the missionary church. Christ sent his church into the world to save souls. If identifying the church as being missionary doesn’t excite us as much as, say, the nature of its worship, we do not have the heart of God, who “does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NET).
In John’s account of the Great Commission, Jesus speaks four words to his disciples. Though there is an immediate application to the Twelve, his words remind us also who we are as Christ’s missionary church.
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”
1. Jesus brings peace (19-20).
As his people, we often hide behind four walls, rather than penetrate the world, for fear of rejection or opposition. Jesus brings peace into our midst, so that even when men reject our message, we may be at peace in the midst of conflict.
2. Jesus bestows purpose (21).
Our purpose or mission is linked to what Christ came to do. His task was clear and he often declared it, to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He poured out his blood “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Jesus determined that this forgiveness would be extended to others through public proclamation or preaching (Luke 24:47).
The key word is “sent.” He who is sent, goes.
3. Jesus endues us with power (22).
The Twelve received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in a unique way, giving them special powers. But the promise of the Spirit is ours, his reception hinging upon immersion (Acts 2:38), as our spiritual energy to do all things in the Kingdom.
Peter connected the Spirit and power in the life of Jesus (Acts 10:38). Paul speaks of Christians’ hope “by the power of the Holy Spirit” in Romans 15:13. He prayed the Ephesians might “be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person” (Ephesians 3:16).
4. Jesus declares the means of pardon (23).
To the Twelve were revealed the marvels and conditions of the Good News. More than that, Jesus says that pardon comes to people when — and only when — they hear it from the lips of his emissaries.
When it would have been easy for Jesus or the Spirit to appear and tell someone how to be saved, we have stories where God goes out of his way to put a human teacher before a lost soul. So he sends Philip to the eunuch (Acts 8), Ananias to Saul (Acts 9), Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10).
Yes, through the apostles would be revealed the terms of salvation, but the principle is wider than that. Through the presence and preaching of those Christ has sent, people hear the Good News of salvation and have opportunity to be saved. No angel, no spirit, no heavenly visions or dreams, but people speaking to people.
That’s where we come in. We are the missionary church of Christ.
There is no other.