We are taught in scripture that only those who do the will of the Father in heaven will enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21). Obedience to the will of God is therefore a life and death matter for the Christian who would live his or her life in pleasing manner before God. Jesus said in John 5:28-29, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” We must be obedient to God if we want to live in Heaven with Him forever.
So it is important that we understand what the will of God in heaven is so that we can obey Him. Before Jesus ascended back to heaven after His resurrection He gave the disciples this command in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
This command was given to the disciples. We know it applied to us because of something Jesus said in this command: “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded”. we are to observe all things whatsoever Jesus commanded and the command to Go ye therefore and teach all nations and baptize them is one of them.
There are a number of different kinds of commands found within this verse which we today call the great commission. There is a general command, specific commands and implied commands found within this single sentence.
The general command is to “Go ye”. We are told to “Go”. We are not told how to “Go”, we are just told to “Go”. The method for going is left to the discretion of the Christian. We may choose to walk like many first century Christians did, or we may choose to drive our car, or fly on an airline, or use the internet to accomplish this. These various methods of transportation are authorized under the general command to “Go”. We are specifically told how to “Go”, so we are at liberty to choose our own mode of transportation.
If Jesus had of said “Walk ye therefore and teach all nations”, then we would not be at liberty to use any mode of transportation other than our feet. Which brings us to a specific command.
There are commands in scripture which are specific. In the great commission the specific command was to baptize “them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” We must do this exactly as it has been specified. When something is specified all other options are ruled out. For instance, when you go to a restaurant and order a steak cooked well done with a baked potato and iced tea, you specified what you wanted from a list of possible choices. If the waiter brings you anything other than that, then your order was not fulfilled as you wished.
An example of a specific command in scripture is “sing” We see this command in Romans 15:9, 1 Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 2:12 and James 5:13. In relation to music in the church, nowhere in the NT does it ever say anything other than sing or singing.
Many people say, “God did not forbid playing with a musical instrument so it must be ok”.
Suppose the waiter in our earlier illustration brought you exactly what you asked for and threw in a hot roll on the side? Is that ok? Most everybody likes hot rolls, and the waiter just figured you would too so he elected to bring you one even though you did not ask for it. That’s a fair enough question. So let’s suppose at the conclusion of your order, you told the waiter that you did not want anything else added to the original order? I think we could conclude that if the waiter then brought you the hot roll, he disobeyed your directive to not add anything to the original order. You did have to tell the waiter not to bring the hot roll, because you told him not to add anything to the order. That is an implied command.
It was true that you did not tell the waiter not to bring you a hot roll with your order. But you told him not to change your order in any way, the command not to bring you the hot roll was understood by implication. Has God commanded us not to change things that He specified?
1 Corinthians 4:6
Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not (to go) beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other. (ASV)
2 John 9
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. (NASU)
I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book. (ASV)
So, in light of God saying not to go beyond what is written, not to trespass and go too far, and not to add or take anything away from the His word, and we decide to add musical instruments to our praise then we have disobeyed God’s order not to change what He has specified. we are to obey all of God’s will, not just the things which please us. The New Testament never tells us to use a manmade musical instrument. Never does it specifically tell us not to use them but the command not to use manmade musical instruments is implied with the command not to go beyond what is written.
In addition to this, we also have the words of Jesus in Matthew 15:9, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” We are told not to go beyond what is written. So whatever we may add to what God has specified, we must understand that it came from men and not God. In other words, if it is not authorized by God’s word, then it had to have come from man and Jesus said such things make our worship vain. If our worship is vain, it is empty and of no value either for us, or to God. We are wasting our time worshipping God if we add the teachings, wishes, desires and commandments of man to it.
We are commanded to sing. We are commanded not to go beyond what is written. NT scripture never tells us to use manmade instruments of music. If the command to use them did not come from the word of God, then it had to come from man. Paul wrote that whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23. Following the commandments of men is not of the faith of Christ and makes our worship of no value.
Another form of an implied command is found in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” We want to look at the words “and such like”. The inspired writer listed a lot of sins of the flesh, but did he list every possible sin of the flesh that could ever be committed? No he did not. Paul did not list pornography. So how do we know pornography is wrong? From the words “and such like”. Things which are associated with or can be “such like” the sins Paul listed are forbidden by implication. When Paul used the words “and such like” he included all things which were “such like” the things he did specify.
We must never disobey one command so that we can obey another one. we see this is common in the world today among many people who claim Jesus Christ as their savior. We cannot disobey the command to not go beyond what is written in order to obey the command to make a melody in our hearts to the Lord with manmade musical instruments.
The implied command in the great commission is “teach all nations”. By implication, all nations means teach all the people on the earth without regard to race, sex or culture. In the first century this meant teach the gentiles as well as the Jews and the Jewish Christians had a real hard time with that one. Things have not changed today. Many people today still have trouble with that one. There is no room in the heart of a Christian for prejudice and that is an implied command in the great commission.
Another implied command in the great commission is that while it was directed to Jesus’ disciples, we are expected to do what they did as well. We are commanded to go ye therefore and teach all nations… in the same way they were.
Commands from examples
We are also given commands from the approved examples of the inspired writers. we are told to follow the example of God in Ephesians 5:1 “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children”. We are told to follow the approved examples of the apostles in Philippians 3:17, “Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them that so walk even as ye have us for an ensample.” We are told to follow the examples of the apostles and Jesus in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, “And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit”. And we are told to follow the approved examples of the church in Thessalonians 2:14, “For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus”.
We are to follow the approved examples. Examples that are not approved is the one of Peter’s prejudiced behavior against the gentiles in Galatians 2:11-13, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.”
Ananias and Sapphira lied to God in Acts 5:4 and paid for it with their lives. We cannot use their poor example as authority to lie to God today. So we must be careful to follow the approved examples and not examples which were obviously not approved.
Non Relevant Commands:
There are commands which do not apply to us. Speaking from a gender specific perspective, men cannot obey the commandment for wives to be in subjection to their husbands. Likewise, wives cannot obey the command for husbands to love their wives. Commandments which pertain specifically to men cannot be obeyed by women and vice versa.
There are commands and examples which do not pertain to Christians today. In Mark 16:16, we are given a very familiar command that is very relevant to us today, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” But then in verse 17 Jesus goes on to say, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Nobody today is casting out devils or really speaking in languages they do not know that other people can understand. Nobody is picking up poisonous vipers that bite them and drinking poison and not being hurt. Nobody today can walk in and lay their hands on someone crippled from birth and heal them perfectly. There are a lot of people who think they can and pretend to do these things but we know that the age of miracles has passed from a study of 1 Corinthians 13.
We are told in the great commission to teach those who were baptized to “observe all things whatsoever I [Jesus] have commanded you”. We are to observe everything Jesus commanded and rightly discern whether or not it applies to us and obey it, no matter what. It is commanded and it is our responsibility to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). God’s word thoroughly furnishes us unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17) so we know that everything we need to obey is there for us. All things pertaining to life and godliness have been given to us (2 Peter 1:3).
We can be assured that God’s word is complete and that it contains everything we need to know to live and pleasing life before God and to inherit eternal life in heaven. Everything we need to obey is there. Everything we need to believe is there. Everything we need to do is there. All we have to do is read it, learn it and rightly apply it to our lives. We must do all things, leaving nothing out and adding nothing to what He has commanded. By doing that, we are assured that we are walking the right path to heaven. That we are walking the path that must be right and that cannot be wrong and that those who we teach and bring along with us, are on the right path too. We can’t come back and try again. When we are gone, the chance for doing it right is over and our destinies are sealed. Let’s make sure we walk the sure path that cannot fail. Let’s make sure we are leading our loved ones down that sure path and not the path some man thinks is right. We can be absolutely assured of our righteousness and absolutely confident of our walk with God. John, the inspired writer told us how.
1 John 2:5
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
1 John 3:24
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.