Publisher’s Foreword

Kenneth L Gentry

Narrated By: Joseph Spurgeon
Book: The Greatness of the Great Commission
Topics: , ,


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Chapter Text

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Gen. 1:27-28).

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: ‘leaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matt. 28:18-20).

There is a tremendous need today for evangelism. By this, I do not mean simply the limited personal evangelism of tract-passing. In any case, the tract is no longer with us. The newsletter and the satellite TV interview show have replaced tracts. What is needed today is a comprehensive program of worldwide evangelism that brings the message of salvation to every individual on earth, in every walk of life.

Having brought people into the kingdom of God through conversion, God then asks them to begin to make a difference in their world. He does not mean that they should spend day and night passing out tracts or the equivalent thereof; He means that they should reform their lives, their families, and their daily walk before Him and men. Evangelism means teaching people to obey God’s law, through the empowering of God’s Holy Spirit. Evangelism means obedience. This is the message of John, who wrote the Gospel of John: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14:21).

This is not the message of modern fundamentalism, however. Fundamentalism’s message is “no creed but the Bible, no law but love.” Its message is that Christians have nothing specific to say to a dying world except tell individuals to get ready to be pulled out of it, either at the Rapture or at death (preferably the former, of course, since fundamentalists really do expect to get out of life alive). They intend to leave nothing behind. They plan to disinherit the future. Dave Hunt tells us why the Rapture is so much better than dying:

(1) If we are in a right relationship with Christ, we can genuinely look forward to the Rapture. Yet no one (not even Christ in the Garden looks forward to death. The joyful prospect of the Rapture will attract our thoughts while the distasteful prospect of death is something we may try to forget about, thus making it less effective in our daily lives.

(2) While the Rapture is similar to death in that both serve to end one’s earthly life, the Rapture does something else as well: it signals the climax of history and opens the curtain upon its final drama. It thus ends, in a way that death does not, all human stake in continuing earthly developments, such as the lives of the children left behind, the growth of or the dispersion of the fortune accumulated, the protection of one’s reputation, the success of whatever earthly causes one has espoused, and so forth.[1]

This is dispensationalism’s program of “scorched-earth evangelism”: Preach the imminent Rapture. Tell Christians to leave nothing valuable behind to future generations! But this is not what God tells us our task is. Our task is far greater.

Biblical Evangelism

When God says to “evangelize,” He means we should tell the good news to the world. Not easy news, or inexpensive news, but good news. The good news is that Jesus Christ has overcome the world. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

What fundamentalists want is a watered-down gospel message suitable for children, and only for children. The problem is, children grow up. What do you tell a newly converted adult when he asks the question, “All right, I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Now what do I do?” The modern fundamentalist says all he has to do is tell someone else about what just happened to him. Then that person can tell another, and so on, until the Rapture ends the whole process.

Modern fundamentalism looks at the gospel as if it were some kind of gigantic chain letter scheme. Nothing is of value in God’s sight, they say, except keeping the chain letter alive. But the gospel is not a chain letter. It is the good news that Jesus has overcome this world.

It is our job to demonstrate this victory in our lives, meaning every aspect of our lives. We are to exercise dominion. We should do this as Church members first, but in all other realms.

The Dominion Covenant

Had there not been a fall in Eden, every person would self-consciously define himself or herself in terms of dominion. This was what God told man his task must be: to serve as God’s intermediary over the earth. This assignment is called the cultural mandate by Dutch Calvinists in the tradition of Abraham Kuyper. I call it the dominion covenant.[2] The dominion covenant did not cease with Adam’s fall; it was reconfirmed at the “new creation” after the Flood:

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, [which is] the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man (Gen. 9:1-5).

The Great Commission is necessary because man, in his rebellion against God, has forgotten Who it was who gave him his assignment. He has forgotten to Whom he is historically and eternally responsible. Men are in need of regeneration in order to re-establish the favor of God. Man is still under God’s rule, but he refuses to acknowledge this fact. He worships other gods, either made by him or found in nature (Rom. 1:18-21). He may even worship nature itself, personifying it into a feminine form.

The fact is, God’s two assignments are linked together by their status as covenants. God issued the dominion covenant first because man had not yet rebelled. He issued the Great Commission because He had established the judicial foundation for a New Covenant, a universal covenant that binds men of all races and backgrounds together under God.

The Church and the Great Commission

The Church is the primary administrator of the Great Commission, for it alone controls lawful access to the sacraments. The family is the primary covenantal agency through which the dominion covenant is to be extended. The family supports the local church financially in most cases, except when there is an emergency for a particular family. The Church is not equipped, as a non-profit institution, to initiate projects under the dominion covenant. The task of the Church is to preach, give moral guidance, heal the sick, feed the destitute, and administer the sacraments. It is not designed to innovate businesses and other dominion-oriented projects.

The State is not a primary covenantal agency in either of the tasks, evangelism or dominion, although it imitates both Church and family when it becomes autonomous and rebellious. The State defends both Church and family from physical attack. It also is not to become an initiating agency. Its task is negative: imposing negative sanctions against evil-doers. Socialism is the result of a pseudo-family State; empire is the result of the pseudo-Church State.

We preach the centrality of the Church. But we also preach that there is a whole world to bring under God’s righteous rule.

Escaping Responsibility

It is always difficult to sell personal responsibility. The dominion covenant establishes mankind’s responsibility over the creation and under God. This involves a lot of responsibility. In a fallen world, this hierarchical system of responsibility also places some men over others in certain institutions and in certain circumstances. Men must exercise dominion over each other, depending on what institution we are talking about.

Those who enjoy exercising power are not hesitant to misuse this inevitable hierarchical aspect of every society. They endorse the power religion. Those who fear responsibility are also willing to endure oppression for the sake of security. They endorse the escape religion. What neither religion wants is freedom under God, which means self-government under God’s Bible-revealed laws, the God who brings negative sanctions, who sends people into eternal torment if they refuse to make a covenant with Him.

Christianity is the alternative to both the power religion and the escape religion.[3] It teaches the whole Bible, which includes the dominion covenant. It preaches restoration with God, meaning the restoration of man’s law-governed authority over the whole world.[4] But without redemption, and without obedience to biblical law, men cannot be trusted by God to exercise lawful dominion. So, in His grace, He has made a way of restoration. This is the saving, healing gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing is to be excluded from Christ’s healing: not the family, not the State, not business, not education, and surely not the institutional Church. Salvation is the salve that heals the wounds inflicted by sin: every type of wound from every type of sin.

This is why the Great Commission was given: to enable mankind to return to faithful service under God and over the creation. God’s salvation brings us back to the original task: to exercise dominion to the glory of God, in terms of His Bible-revealed law. The gospel will succeed in history before God comes again to judge the world. The Bible gives us hope for the future.

The Restoration of Hope

I assigned this book to Rev. Gentry because he wrote a superb essay with the same title in 1981, which appeared in an issue of The Journal of Christian Reconstruction that I edited, the Symposium on Evangelism. I realized at the time that his view of the Great Commission, if accepted widely by the Church, would transform not only the Church but the Christian concept of civilization.

In this book, he provides many of the footnotes and Bible references that he had to skip over in his original essay. This is a scholarly treatment of the subject, although it is eminently readable. It is comprehensive – so much so, that I do not expect pietists to reply to it. It will silence them. It presents Christian activists with their God-given marching orders. Pietists of all eschatological views will continue to define God’s kingdom narrowly enough to match their visions, and they will achieve successes of comparable magnitude, as always.

The Greatness of the Great Commission is written as a motivational book for people who need to be persuaded. If you are willing to look at the sources listed in the footnotes, you are likely to rethink the whole question of both the scope and method of evangelism. Dr. Gentry has done his homework. His critics owe it to God, to themselves, and to their followers to do at least an equal amount of homework. Insisting that Gentry has the Great Commission all wrong is not the same as proving it. Disproving his thesis will take more than a two-page book review in some in-house magazine or journal.

It is my hope that this book will serve the Church well in a time of historically unprecedented revival. Such a revival, if it comes in our day, will be international. I hope that it will also be comprehensive. Without a theological case for the comprehensive nature of redemption, there can be no comprehensive revival. This book provides the biblical evidence for the comprehensive nature of the Great Commission.

If Gentry is correct in his analysis of the meaning of the Great Commission, then every church, every seminary, and every parachurch ministry needs to re-examine what it is doing and why. Such re-examination will be painful, but not nearly so painful as the looming judgments of God in history – another doctrine that the modern Church has conveniently forgotten.[5]

There will be great resistance to his thesis within the modern Christian world. It is difficult to sell responsibility, and there is now so much to do. Our task today has grown so great because so much undone work has accumulated for so long. Christians have neglected their comprehensive assignment from God. We have lost at least three centuries, most of the churches, and every university. We can and must win back these institutions, plus many more that Christianity never controlled. We have been commissioned to do it. We must get to work.

[1] Dave Hunt, “Looking for that Blessed Hope,” Omega Letter (Feb. 1989), p. 14.

[2] Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis, 2nd ed. (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987).

[3] Gary North, Moses and Pharaoh: Dominion Religion vs. Power Religion (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), pp. 2-5.

[4] Gary DeMar, Ruler of the Nations (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987).

[5] Gary North, Millennialism and Social Theory (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), ch. 8.