If one were to stop and think through what evangelism is, having only the “Great Commission” passages, he would probably come up with something to the effect of: By Christ’s authority and by the power of Holy Spirit, we are commanded to go into all the world, teaching and so proclaiming to every person in God’s creation that Christ was to suffer, die, and rise again on the third day for the remission of sins upon the repentance and faith of the sinner, baptizing the new convert and teaching them to live in a manner worthy of their calling, taking upon ourselves the very mantle of Jesus.
This means that Christ has the authority not only to send us out as evangelists, but that He has the authority to give us lost souls to save. As with Paul who having been threatened by the Jewish leadership was told by Christ Himself: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people,” (Acts 18:9-10, ESV). In these two verses, we see Jesus’s authority commanding Paul to keep speaking and His authority by proclaiming there were many still yet to come to faith.
Yet, it is also done in the power of the Holy Spirit. As Spurgeon wrote, “Dependence upon God is our strength, and our joy: in that dependence let us go forth, and seek to win souls for Him.” Without the power of the Holy Spirit at work in believers’ lives and the lives of the lost to regenerate their souls, they are helpless and weak.
In one’s evangelism effort, there is not to be one stone left unturned. As believers, each ethnicity or people group is to be evangelized, and no believer is to be prejudice toward any, but are to proclaim the truth of the gospel, and upon the convert’s repentance and faith, baptize them into the fellowship that is Christ’s church. But according to the “Great Commission” passages, the job does not end at baptism, but continues as the evangelizer teaches and builds them up in their faith so that they are not those who fall away due to trials, tribulations, or the of this world.
This is a command. As Dave Early wrote, “The word commission is a military term meaning ‘an authoritative order, charge, or direction.’ . . .The one disobeying the commission would be subject to court martial.” Thus there is a seriousness within the commission. It is not a suggestion, nor is it to be taken lightly.
If one were to look at the five passages in question, he would see that there are similarities but also differences in each one as to how the church is to live out the commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus told His followers to go in to all the world. The same would be true in Mark and Luke as well. But in Matthew, one reads that he is to make disciples and baptize the converts. He does not leave room for Savior only theology as he instructs His followers to teach them to observe everything He commands.
In Mark 16:15, one simply reads she is to proclaim the gospel. Like all of Mark, this is a very succinct verse. When one gets to Luke, the definition of the gospel comes through: the Christ must suffer, die, and rise again for the remission of sins. This then strengthens the doctrine of the church as to what the gospel is and what it is not. What is vital to actually evangelize and what is simply information-swapping.
As one reads John recording Jesus’s words that He is sending His followers just as He was sent (cf. John 20:21), one sees that Jesus was the example of how the commission was to acted upon. One is to spend time with those who are lost. One is to have a heart for those who are like sheep without a shepherd. One’s mission in life is to win souls to Jesus. That can only be done by testifying as to who Jesus is and showing what He has done, as read in Acts 1:8.
None of these verses get the full picture of evangelism in and of themselves, but read in light of each other, the church gains an understanding of the action she is commissioned to take. That being said, if I had to pick only one of these five passages, I would have to choose Luke 24:46-47 as the gospel is clearly delineated within those two verses. There is the mention of repentance and the remission of sin by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.
What are your thoughts on the Great Commission passages (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-47, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8)? Did I get anything wrong? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments section; I’d love to hear from you.
 Charles Spurgeon, The Soul-Winner, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1981) 39.
 Dave Early and David Wheeler, Evangelism is. . . How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, (Nashville: B & H Academic Publishing Group, 2010), 21.