How are we to think about the church’s relationship to the secular world? Are believers called to be so heavenly minded that they completely avoid worldly activity? Or are we called to be salt and light as we love and serve our neighbors around us?
On this special edition of White Horse Inn, Michael Horton discusses these issues and more as he unpacks the distinction between “the Great Commandment” and “the Great Commission.”
“At one end, there’s a tendency to confuse the Great Commission with the Great Commandment. The Great Commission, of course, is ‘to go into all the world and preach the gospel, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything that I’ve commanded you’ and then the Great Commandment, which Jesus summarizes as ‘loving God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus was just repeating Moses. So, it’s always been a summary of God’s eternal moral law that never changes, to love God with all we have and our neighbor as our self.
“There’s always been a tendency in church history to either confuse these mandates so that we think by loving and serving our neighbors, we’re expanding the gospel or to separate these mandates as if we can take one over the other. Both of these two callings are important for us as believers and look at it in terms of the Great Commandment, ‘love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and neighbors our self;’ and the Great Commission, to take the gospel the ends of the earth.”
Term to Learn
“The Mission of the Church”
Like our own lives, the church is gospel-driven. Every new-covenant command is grounded in the gospel. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:10, 19). We choose Christ because he chose us (John 15:16; Eph. 1:4–5, 11; 2 Thess. 2:13). We are called to holiness because we are already declared to be holy in Christ, clothed in his righteousness (Col. 1:22; 3:12; 1 Cor. 1:30). Because we have been crucified, buried, and raised with Christ, we are no longer under the tyranny of sin and are therefore to offer up ourselves in body and soul to righteousness (Rom. 6:1–14). In view of “the mercies of God,” we are called to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). Similarly, in our corporate calling as the church, we are always responding to a state of affairs that God has spoken into being, rather than creating that reality ourselves. The church’s mission is grounded in God’s mission, which he fulfilled objectively in his Son and whose subjective effect he is bringing about in the world through his Spirit. Because the Father sent the Son and then the Spirit, we are sent into all the world with the gospel. So being mission-driven is really the same as being gospel-driven. As believers and as churches, we are motivated by the mission of the Triune God, as the Father, the Son, and the Spirit save us and send us with that saving message to our neighbors.
(Michael Horton, The Gospel Commission, p. 24)