Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 13, 1952
NUMBER 44, PAGE 4-5a

Jesus' Farewell Instructions

Roy E. Cogdill

The four gospels have preserved for us the record of how Jesus came into the world in fulfillment of all the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament writers and teachers. Everything that the Old Testament pointed forward to was summed up and fulfilled in Christ, the Son of God. These four inspired historians have written an accurate story of the life of Christ; they tell us of his birth, his miracles, his teachings, his death on the cross, his resurrection, yea, even his ascension into the presence of God. Luke, one of these historians, wrote two books, addressing both of them to the same person. In his second volume, the Book of Acts, he says, "The former treatise I made, 0 Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen."

Another of these historians, John, gives his purpose in writing the story in these words, "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye may have life in his name." (John 20:30) Thus the Old Testament pointed forward to Christ; the four gospels declare his life — in fulfillment of those promises; and the rest of the New Testament points back to the time when Jesus came in fulfillment of God's promises.

The last instructions of Christ, according to the gospel records, were given very shortly before he ascended into heaven. Luke gives that story in these words, "And he said unto them; These are my words which I spoke unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father unto you; but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high. And he led them out until they were over against Bethany and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple, blessing God." (Luke 24:44-58)

That same beautiful story is told by Matthew in these words, "But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped; but some doubted. And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying; All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.

Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:16-20)

Mark's version of that memorable occasion reads like this, "And afterward he was manifested unto the eleven themselves as they sat at meat; and he upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." (Mark 16:14-16)

From these inspired records it is very evident that the last instruction Jesus gave to his apostles, shortly before he ascended into the presence of God, was that they should preach the gospel to every creature in all the world. This preaching was to be worldwide and age lasting. We call this the "great commission," and that word "great" accurately describes it. It is great because of its unlimited scope; it reaches to all the nations of the earth. It is great because of the great salvation which it promises, the actual and immediate release from the guilt of sins. It is great because of the eternal life which it makes possible. It is great because it is the glorious gospel of the Son of God; it was He who instructed and commanded that gospel to be preached in all the earth.

The authority of the Lord Jesus Christ himself is back of this commission. He said "All authority both in heaven and on earth" had been given to him. There could be no greater authority, indeed, no other authority than this. Christ prohibited the apostles from preaching under this great commission until he had departed from the earth.

Prior to his death they could not go. Luke says, "And he strictly charged them and commanded them to tell no man, saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day." (Luke 9:21) Only after these events were the apostles to go forth with his message. They were to "wait in the city" until they should be endued with power from on high.

When we open up the Book of Acts, we find the story continuing in unbroken sequence from the Gospel of Luke. "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." (Acts 1:8) They were to be eyewitnesses and ear-witnesses of Christ, equipped and qualified by the Holy Ghost that they might correctly recall and correctly give and record the testimony concerning Christ. There are no living "witnesses" of Christ. The cult of "Jehovah's Witnesses" does not understand the meaning of the word "witness"; nor can they "bear witness" for Christ. For one to bear witness of Christ, one must have seen him and heard him. Such was the case with these apostles. They knew from personal knowledge, therefore they could testify or bear witness. And the Holy Spirit gave them the power to recall, and to testify accurately concerning those matters wherein they had bad personal contact with the Lord.

Our next study will deal with the immediate events following the ascension of Christ, and of the witness that was borne of him by these men whom he had chosen.