This year we have considered Jesus’ issuance of the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Not just part of it, mind you, but all of it, from the initial triumphant “Great Announcement” that all authority has been given to the Son from the Father, to the “Great Commandment” to “go” into all the world to use the right tools most suited to the message’namely, preaching, baptizing, and teaching disciples everything that Christ commanded. Now, in this capstone issue, we do in fact come to a climax. Jesus concludes the Great Announcement and the Great Commission with the Great Assurance: “And lo, I will be with you even unto the end of the age.”
Editor-in-Chief Michael Horton begins the issue with a compelling reminder that Jesus has done everything, and that he will finish the task of calling his people to himself. We have the great joy of telling everyone about it. That’s the church’s mission. Be encouraged, Christian, that you are not left wondering if you will be able to pull it off, because it’s not your work to do. It’s the news that we spread, namely, the word that redemption has been accomplished, completed on the cross, and perfected in the resurrection.
One of the things we don’t often think about or realize is that “Christ is more truly present with his church by his Spirit than he ever was while he walked the earth.” This is the sound and encouraging note struck by Reformed minister Brian Lee. The Holy Spirit is not some poor substitute for Christ, but the counselor who is the Lord and Giver of Life, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified. But Christ is not only with us by his Spirit; the Spirit also conveys the fruits of Christ’s earthly and heavenly labors through the elements of “water and blood,” or baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as Lee explains from John’s Gospel.
Sometimes it is astonishing to think how much good news there really is in the gospel, and part of this good news is that Christ will one day return in glory. Michael Horton discusses this in a “Revelation roundtable” with reliable exegetes Steve Baugh, Dennis Johnson, and Kim Riddlebarger, and missionary David Zadok discusses present-day missions and God’s plan for ethnic Israel.
What do we do then while Christ builds his church using his appointed means? Actually, it’s quite simple, as Professor T. David Gordon relates: we “work quietly with our hands.” In other words, we pursue our vocations, each of us according to our gifts. Surprisingly simple, yes? More like astoundingly simple.
What else do we do? We also pray. But have you ever prayed and wondered if it pleased the Lord? Luther asked this in his Large Catechism before recommending the Lord’s Prayer for Christians on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid of frequent repetition, Lutheran pastor John Bombaro insists, because God loves to hear the prayer that he taught his disciples.
It is important to remind ourselves time and time again that Christ will return on the day the Father has set, and in the meantime he will build his church. This relieves us of the impossible burden of doing it ourselves and actually liberates us to proclaim the work that the Triune God has been carrying out since before the foundation of the world!