Saturday, January 24, 2009

"The Greatness of the Great Commission" by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

The Greatness of the Great Commission: The Christian Enterprise in a Fallen World

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"Save Souls, Not Cultures!"This has been the motto of twentieth-century evangelism. Having encountered heavy resistance to the prophet's message of comprehensive revival and restoration in history, modern evangelical Christianity has abandoned the prophets. Unlike Jonah, who grew weary of life in the belly of a whale, modern evangelicalism has not only grown accustomed to the Church's cultural irrelevance today, it has actually proclaimed this pathetic condition as God's plan for the "Church Age." But is it? Not according to Jesus' instructions to His Church: the discipline (putting under God's discipline) of all nations. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Paul makes it clear that the progressive expansion of Jesus' kingdom in history will continue until all things are under His dominion, on earth, before He returns physically to judge the world. "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Corinthians 15-25-26).
This was David's message, too: The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies (Psalm 110:1-2).
In The Greatness of the Great Commission, Rev. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. presents a comprehensive biblical case for God's comprehensive salvation and restoration in history. Sin is comprehensive; God's healing grace is no less comprehensive. Whenever sin reigns today, there God speaks to sinful man and offers a way of escape. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13). To argue that the Great Commission does not include every aspect of today's cultures - all of Satan's kingdom - is to argue that there is no way of escape in many areas of life.

The war between God's kingdom (civilization) on earth and Satan's kingdom (civilization) on earth is total, encompassing every aspect of life. The Great Commission calls the Church (in this "Church Age") to make a full-scale attack on modern humanist civilization, but always in terms of a positive message and practical program: a better way of life in every area of life. This is the greatness of the Great Commission. It must not be narrowed to exclude culture from God's special grace.

"Go therefore and disciple all nations." the Great Commission states that all nations are to be discipled. Sadly, today's evangelicals have reduced Jesus' last command to mean only that individuals and families are to be discipled. Dr. Gentry takes a careful look at the biblical context and background of the Great Commission. His conclusion? That when God tells us to take over the world, He means it! Gentry shows the biblical methods of world conquest, which do not involve political takeovers but rather service and evangelism.


  1. Here is where I have difficulty following Dr. Gentry's arguments.

    Paul makes it clear that the progressive expansion of Jesus' kingdom in history will continue until all things are under His dominion, on earth, before He returns physically to judge the world.

    To support this, 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 is used. But when I read the verses immediately preceding it, I see:

    But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 1 Corinthians 15:20-24, ESV

    Now I admit I'm a simpleton, so in my simplistic eyes, just reading the passage, it looks like vs. 25-26 could refer to the state of things after Christ's second coming. There's an order to this. Included in this order: (1) Christ the firstfruits (His resurrection, ascension, this age), (2) Christ's coming (second coming), (3) the end (which the kingdoms are delivered -- and even death is destroyed). The last time I was at a funeral it didn't look like death was fully vanquished. Perhaps it will happen before Christ comes? I know, I am reading this way to simplistically. :-)

  2. Death is the last enemy to be defeated and that at Christ's return. Prior to His return, all other opposition will be overcome. See my previous post for "Why I Am A Postmillennialist, Part 2".

  3. ...that's the interesting thing about Biblical interpretation. To me it looks like Paul is referring to the kingdoms being delivered at the time of Christ's return, and it looks sudden. It looks like death is dealt with in the same eschatological even.

    When I read Dr. Gentry's line of reasoning, I have to work to follow it, but I can. But then 30 minutes later I forget the train of reasoning and I return back to my old ways. Sort of like a dog returning to its vomit I suppose. :-)

    That's why I can't stay in the Postmillennial camp of Dr. Gentry too long. I had the same problem with my former pastor of was a Postmillennial partial Preterist. I love the guy and he got me away from Dispensational Premillennialism. My brain wasn't wired to follow the rest of the Postmillennial view of his. I got the Partial Preterist stuff, that was a powerful view to a point, it solved some big problems.

    I also read too much of Luther during all this. I was impressed with the discussion Lutherans (the conservative ones like in the conservative wing inside the Missouri Synod) have of the distinction between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross. The theology of glory is what most of "conservative evangelicalism" follows, viewing the Christian life in triumphant kind of terms of material prosperity, political advancement (such as James Dobson's Focus on the Family vision for the USA). I know you make careful distinctions about this with Postmillennialism, but I am uncomfortable with how close it is to triumphantism . Luther, instead, saw that scripture is focused on Christ and the cross and Christ's victory on the cross. We are to take up our cross, Christ's sufferings are made complete in us, Paul in Romans tells us that in order for us to be glorified in Christ we must suffer in Christ. And then I see times when the human visible institution of the church was victorious at the time of Constantine and how corrupt the Church was.

    On the other hand, I see the Church victorious in Communist China. How? Through its suffering people became Christians in much greater numbers than when it was more prosperous. In fact, Christianity was in China during early, by 600 AD (I forget the dates) and was prospering -- but it was wiped out because it was tied to the ruing dynasty and not the faith of the peasants.

    So I see victory in different terms -- and I see it everywhere right now. But it is through the theology of the cross, not the theology of glory. It is the ironic victory that most of the world misses and can't see. Some might call this pessimism. But I call it optimism because I see Christ victorious right now. I see that Atlanta can be worshiping Christ very shortly not through the visible triumph of the church (although I don't rule such things out), but through our weakness sharing the foolishness of the gospel, which was a scandal to the trumphalist Jewish zealots and foolishness to the sophisticated Greeks.

  4. Remember, the postmillennial view acknowledges suffering along the way. We are involved in Christian warfare against the forces of darkness. Our sword is the Word of God. People suffer and die in war, including Christians who are being obedient to the Lord of the universe. But Scriptures teach that in God's timing the victory goes to the church, not to the enemies of the church. Christ completely subdues all His enemies at His feet prior to His return. That is, Christ's expectation that the Great Commission will actually be completed comes to pass. Then, He returns and defeats the last enemy, death. Thus, the general resurrection at His return. And, of course, our resurrection is to the New Heavens and New Earth where there is no suffering, sin, etc. for all eternity.

  5. Christ completely subdues all His enemies at His feet prior to His return.

    So on 1 Corinthians 15 -- you see how we interpret that passage differently, which gives us our different perspectives. That in turn gives us our different understandings of the Great Commission. There is a subset that we agree on -- go disciple. It allows us to work together to evangelize with the same energy.

    Here is where I am wondering what is the difference in our activities. Would I do something different in pursuing the Great Commission than you would? Would you do something different than me?

    For instance, D. James Kennedy was probably a Postmillennialist, listening to his sermons. He came up with Evangelism Explosion (with the diagnostic question, "if God were to ask you why should I let you in to my Heaven, how would you answer?") which I have used, an Amillennialist.

    What is the difference in our activities?

  6. For a start, consider the following from "The Greatness of the Great Commission":

    In chapters 8-10, Dr. Gentry elaborates on the following areas in fleshing out some applications of the Great Commission:

    Church: (1) Commitment to the local church, (2) Engagement to worship, (3) Training in the truth, (4) Training in hierarchical covenantalism, (5) Promotion of Christ’s Cause, and (6) Service in the world.

    Family: (1) Regular, content-oriented family devotions, (2) Involved child rearing and discipline, (3) Teaching the value of labor, (4) Teaching the value of money, (5) Providing an inheritance, (6) Formal Christian education, and (7) Developing a home library and reading program.

    State: (1) Concern for civil government, (2) Obedience to civil government, (3) Exposing evil governmental policies, (4) Involvement in civil government, and (5) Promotion of Christian distinctives in government.

    Page 132

    “The Great Commission has important, direct bearings on the three foundational societal institutions, the family, the Church, and the State. The full-orbed character of the Great Commission demonstrates both its greatness and its practicality to life. The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good (Prov. 15:3), not just in the heart, but in all areas of life.
    If Christians are to preserve the very greatness of the Great Commission, they need to see its applicability to all of life. To do so will require a radical re-orientation in our thinking, a biblical re-orientation … .”

    Page 142
    “8. Contrary to … amillennialism, the Church will not fail in its task of evangelizing the world, see: Matthew 13:31-32; 16:18; 28:18-20.
    9. Contrary to … amillennialism, Christ’s redemptive labors will hold a universal sway in the world before the end of contemporary history, see: Matthew 13:31-32; John 1:29; 3:17; 4:42; 12:31-32; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Hebrews 1:3, 13; 10:12-13.”

    In addition, I would refer you a Dr. Gentry quote in a previous post:

    “Historically amillennialism has tended to be pessimistic in terms of the question of widespread, long-lasting cultural success for the Christian faith. That is, regarding these:

    As a system of gospel proclamation it teaches that the gospel of Christ will not exercise any majority influence in the world before Christ's return;
    As a system of historical understanding it, in fact, holds the Bible teaches there are prophetically determined, irresistible trends downward toward chaos in the outworking and development of history; and therefore

    As a system for the promotion of Christian discipleship it dissuades the Church from anticipating and laboring for wide-scale success in influencing the world for Christ during this age.

    My debates with Strimple (Three Views on the Millennium), Gaffin (formal debate in Elkton, MD), and Fowler (in West. Theol. Jrnl.) confirm this to me.”


    “Please understand that my comment is not meant to be pejorative (as some frequently take it). I am simply highlighting the key difference between amillennialism and postmillennialism.”

  7. Give me a concrete example. For instance, we homeschooled our children, my Postmillennium pastor did not when I thought that is the kind of radical discipling action Dr. Gentry calls for. We evangelize.

    Is it government? I go to local government forums. I've spoken at forums, taking controversial positions in the eyes of secular people. I vote.

    Is it going to poor shelters? What is that you do that I don't? I'm not interested in generalities of what Amils supposedly don't do -- I don't buy that. In fact, I don't see Postmils doing what Dr. Gentry says they are supposed to do.

    You see, personally I think that Dr. Gentry overstates the difference.

  8. Works. Hey, fellows, this sounds like works, not grace. Does it matter in this blog who home schools and who doesn’t? I am assuming that both of you obey Scripture about sharing your faith and bringing up children, but that your private obedience to God is not a platform for your eschatology.

    Evangelism. God calls His elect and may use you in the process. But He is the one who orders all things—He can use Amil-, Post-, Pre- and Dispensationalists. He is not bound by our definitions of theology in evangelism or how we do or don’t obey Him.

    Uniformity. Also, how do you know that all Postmils act a certain way and all Amils act consistently another way? I don't see that in the Christians I know. I see variety.

  9. New Kid,

    Amen! Preach it to me, I was doing a bit of self righteous works preaching. Preach that pure gospel of grace to me. You see how easily I get off into the weeds.


  10. New Kid,

    Your comment was very well stated, "Uniformity. Also, how do you know that all Postmils act a certain way and all Amils act consistently another way? I don't see that in the Christians I know. I see variety."

    My inept comments were my attempt to make the same point. Dr. Gentry constructs strawmen of viewpoints and then pushes others into his mold.

    Again, very well stated comment.

  11. It appears to me that Dr. Gentry's characterization of the amillennial view is based upon a scholarly analysis of recognized, consistent spokespersons. Remember his quote in my post: "My debates with Strimple (Three Views on the Millennium), Gaffin (formal debate in Elkton, MD), and Fowler (in West. Theol. Jrnl.) confirm this to me.” If you or the postmillennial pastor you mentioned do not accord with the "typical" description then take that into consideration when you read Dr. Gentry's comments. My experience with Dr. Gentry is that he is scholarly and courteous in his writings and personal demeanor. By the way, Dr. Bahnsen who was an amillennialist for a number of years prior to embracing the postmillennial view, agrees with Dr. Gentry's characterization of the amillennial position. I can provide you with references if you desire. Have a nice day. :-)

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  13. Earl,

    Do you think any further exchanges would be useful at this time? You don't agree with my representations of amillennialism, and your views are eclectic and unique to you in various ways. You reject my use of terms like optimistic or pessimistic to describe your view of the future of God's kingdom in history. You don't know when Christ is going to return, but you reject my view of Christ's returning after fulfillment of the Great Commission as I understand the Great Commission. It appears you reject the abiding validity of much if not all of God's Old Testament law as applicable in its general equity to modern man and the millennium period. Perhaps your expertise would carry you much further in future exchanges, but I am nearing the end of what I can bring to the discussion at this time. I don't think I am able to further discuss this subject in the way you desire. Perhaps I am, in fact, a mind numbed robot. But the material I quote does actually make sense to me, so I believe I am quoting it with understanding. Our discussion has made me more confident that I am not mistaken in my views. You are probably more convinced that I don't know what I am talking about. So you see, how can we go forward at this time. Maybe New Kidd can invite someone who can continue the discussion with you.

  14. Ouch! I am sad. Thank you so much, Bill, for your contributions which of course I value highly. Dr. Gentry has made sense to me also. Both you and Gentry certainly are gentlemen when you approach theology and other areas of life.

    Earl, think about why you said that Postmillennials don't want to engage in conversation or dialogue with you. Perhaps is it that you move away from dialogue and get to the point of debate and near mudslinging?

    I bought your recommended Kim Riddlebarger's "A Case for Amillennialism" and also Bill made a CD of Dr. Hill's Revelation series for me which you recommended early on--trying to understand your viewpoint. Thanks, Bill for doing that.

    If erudite Bill Sullivan has trouble having a discussion with you, I do not want to find someone else to enter this discussion. Someone may appear.

  15. Bill and New Kid,

    My apologies. It has been frustrating for me. I am sorry that my posts have been seen as mudslinging -- and you all are the better judge of that than me. Please forgive me for that.


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