How Did the Apostles Carry Out the Great Commission?

Paul preachingWhen Jesus gave His apostles the Great Commission, He said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Why were they told to do this?

  • They were to “preach the gospel” because the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16).
  • They were to preach “the power of God for salvation” because God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
  • They were to lead men to “the knowledge of the truth” because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), and “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Just from the passages above, we can see that the preaching of the gospel was (and is) very important. The apostles were told to “go into all the world,” which suggests that they were to try to reach as many people as possible with the soul-saving message of the gospel. But how did they carry out this commission?

Obviously, the apostles preached. But is preaching enough? Can preaching alone really be effective? Notice what is recorded in the book of Acts:

  • But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words” (Acts 2:14). “And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’ So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:40-41).
  • As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead… But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:1-4).
  • Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip when down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them” (Acts 8:4-5). “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized…” (Acts 8:12).
  • The eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:34-35).
  • ‘So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.’ Opening his mouth, Peter said…” (Acts 10:33-34). “And he ordered them to be baptized…” (Acts 10:48).
  • So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21).
  • After he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household” (Acts 16:30-33).
  • And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women” (Acts 17:2-4).
  • Now when Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him” (Acts 17:16-18).

The list above is not exhaustive, but the examples cited are sufficient to establish the fact that conversions came as the result of preaching. If you read through the entire book of Acts, you will not find the apostles or other disciples engaging in various activities (feeding the poor, building hospitals, organizing recreational activities, staging music performances, etc.) as a way to draw the attention of unbelievers and generate interest in hearing the gospel. Instead, they simply preached the gospel.

Some might object and say that this method is not effective. Yet it was very effective in the first century. So much so that Paul told the Colossians “of the gospel…which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23). It can be effective today as we sow the seed and it falls on good and honest hearts (Luke 8:15).

As we strive to make the gospel known to others, we do not need to resort to gimmicks. We do not need to copy the unscriptural practices of the denominations. Yes, technology and cultures change, but the methods of teaching – the spoken word and the written word (2 Thessalonians 2:15) – are timeless. As we seek to evangelize the lost, let us look to the apostles as our examples, rather than the denominations around us.

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  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Andy, this is an excellent article and plainly shows the power of the word of God to save souls. Preaching the word is what saves, not feasting and frolicking or trickery of any kind.

  2. David Clark says

    I appreciated the message very much again. Well said.