T. PIERCE BROWN
As I was meditating on the Great Commission, I was struck anew by the word “therefore.” Without it, the Great Commission would have no power or purpose. Jesus had said, “All authority is given unto me–therefore, going, disciple, baptize, teach–.” Do you get the implications of that? Without the authority of Christ any going we do is useless; any teaching we do is vain; any baptizing we do is but empty ritual; any discipline we perform is wasted.
Just the awareness of that fact alone, and acting upon its principles would change the whole course of religious activity, both in the Lord’s church and in all denominations. In fact, if men acted upon that principle, all denominations would cease, for none of them exist by the authority of Jesus, so all doctrines and practices which they perform, even if the outward act is the same as that which is by His authority, would automatically cease!
Then the awareness of the implications of “therefore” would have both positive and negative effects in a fantastic way. That is, it would have negative effects in the sense that none of us would do that in a religious context which was not authorized by Jesus. No discussion would be necessary concerning the use of instrumental music in worship, for example. “All authority is given unto me–Go ye therefore and sing” would be easy to understand. But “Go ye therefore and play” would automatically be eliminated, for the simple reason that it is not authorized.
Then the positive effects would be wonderful if it were fully comprehended. The question might be raised, “Why are you so concerned about going into all the world with the gospel?” The answer would immediately be evident, “Because of `therefore.’ My Lord, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, who died for me and thus demands and constrains my loving obedience, desires it.”
David Lipscomb and others who claim there is no higher motive for baptism than that the Lord commanded it are no doubt right in that. But to conclude from that the false notion that a person can “obey from the heart that form of doctrine” (Rom.6:17) without understanding in the heart what the form of doctrine involves does not follow.
To make it simpler: If the One who has all authority says, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” and a person replies, “I do not think that is necessary,” it is impossible for him to be baptized by the authority of Jesus, no matter what he may say his motive is!
A man may say, “I am going to take the Lord’s Supper by the authority of Jesus, because I want to obey him.” We may admit that there is no higher authority, nor any higher motive. But if he then takes what he calls the Lord’s Supper consisting of a cookie and coffee, only on Easter Sunday (or even once a quarter, and consisting of whatever he chooses) because “his church” so practices, whatever he may say about it has little value. “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9) should not be too hard to apply if we kept “therefore” of Matthew 28:19 firmly in mind! It suggests, “Christ has all authority. Therefore do what you do by his authority. Leave undone that which does not have his authority.” We may not always make a proper application of the rules of generic and specific authority, but if we do not accept the principle that all we do must be authorized, we can never be right.