���Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.��� (Mark 16: 15)
The opening verse of the Gospel of St. Mark reads thus: ���The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God���; but, where is the end of it? The answers are here:
���And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come��� (Matt.24: 14).
���And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations��� (Mark 13: 10).
The great commission of our Lord is to proclaim the gospel to the entire world.
���Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe things I have commanded you��� (Matt. 28: 19, 20)
���And the repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem��� (Luke 24: 47)
The first and foremost responsibility assigned to a Christian, to be accomplished in his life in this world, is preaching of gospel. This responsibility cannot be ignored because it is the assignment of us to be partakers with Jesus Christ to complete His salvific work in the world.
Whenever we are reminded of this vital responsibility, a question or a doubt arises in our mind. Is it the job of all? Is it not the responsibility of a selected few, the bishops, the priests, the preachers and the likes the officials of the church? True, it was the selected few who were entrusted with the gospel work. Twelve apostles, seventy evangelists, seven deacons, elders (Bishops and Kashishas) of the local churches; thus goes the list of the selected ones.
What is our call and selection?
���But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light���
Priesthood and holy nation-hood were the privileged positions God granted to Israel. See Ex. 19: 6 and Deut. 26: 18, 19. Do not be skeptical as to how these privileges have been bestowed upon us. God told to the old Israel:
���You shall be called by a new name��� (Is.62: 2)
���And call His servants by another name��� (Is. 65: 15)
That new name is Christians.
���And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch��� (Acts. 11: 26).
Until then they have been called disciples; not the 12, or 70 or 7, the whole lot of believers were called ���Nazarenes���. (Acts 24: 5)
(Nazranikal - is not a Malayalam word, but only a derivation from Greek or Latin)
.The accomplishment of this new name is seen in Revelation 3: 12; 14: 1; and 22: 4.
���He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem. And I will write on him My new name��� Rev. 3: 12)
A Christian is, therefore, primarily a disciple. Christ���s Great Commission is to bring the entire world into the disciple group of believers. No Christian is exempted from the primary membership of discipleship. Assignment to all is same, but only difference is the functional levels.
���And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.��� (Eph.4: 11, 12)
This is sometimes ascribed and set aside as a call of the church in general, but, what about the individual selection and call? Let us see the case of Paul, a persecutor of the faithful, about whom Jesus said to Ananias in a vision:
���He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel��� (Acts 9: 15)
We should know what God requires of each one of us. We seldom bothered to know that. We move in the flow of this world and live as the rest of the world do. We may be better off than the others in the worldly achievements. But do we know God���s purpose of our call and selection as individuals?
To preach the Gospel is our commitment.
���For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and als0 for the Greek��� (Rom.1: 16).
���For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.��� (1 Cor.9: 16, 17)
To preach the gospel is priestly.
���Because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit��� (Rom. 15:15, 16.- N. I. V)
���Because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit��� (Rom.15: 15, 16-N.K.J.V.)
(Note the significant omission of the phrase ���with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God��� in some versions of the English Bibles that corresponds to the Malayalam phrase ���Daivathinte Suvusheshaghoshanam Purohithanayi Anushtichukondu���)
What is the meaning of these? Proclaiming the gospel is the duty of the priests or priest has no role in it? It is neither, but the omission has a motive behind it to under value the elements of the priestly conduct upon the converts. The preaching of the gospel is not merely the verbal exercise. The produce of the gospel preaching, the convert -the believer, should be presented to God as a sacrifice acceptable to Him by baptizing with Holy Rites i.e. sanctified by the Holy Spirit This final phase of preaching is to be performed by a priest alone and not by any one else who preach the gospel. None is given this authority. Two specific incidents are to be quoted from the Acts of Apostle to substantiate this point of view. Peter and John went to Samaria, prayed and laid hands on those baptized by Philip the evangelist, in order to get them Holy Spirit. (Acts. 8: 14-16). Paul baptized twelve disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus in the name of the Lord and laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 19: 1-7). Without a priest, there is no Mystery (Qudash), no Sacrifice.
How can we become partners of Gospel?
By limiting our rights (1 Cor. 9: 1-27)
���Now this I do for the gospel���s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you��� (1 cor. 9: 23)
By our conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ:
���Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.��� (Phil. 1: 27)
By suffering for His sake:
���For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake��� (Phil.1: 29)
���Yet if any one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter��� (1 Pet. 4: 16)
���Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God��� (2 Tim.1: 8)
���You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ��� (2 Tim.2: 3)
By praying for the gospel work:
���Praying always with all prayers and supplication in spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints and for me that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak��� (Eph. 6: 18- 20)
That conduct of the Christian should be motivated by gospel and encouraging the gospel, is the exhortation of Paul from his own experience. Steadfast faith, suffering for Christ, endure sufferings without shame being a Christian, glorify God in sufferings, share the sufferings of the co-believers and praying for the gospel work and for the preachers are the responsibilities assigned to each of us. We should not perceive the preaching of gospel as something set apart for somebody else.
There is no limitation of time and place set for preaching. Entire world is the field. But Lord Himself had said that there would tribulation in future. (Matt.24: 4- 26; Mark 13: 5- 23; Luke 21: 5-24). The proclamation of salvation is to be continued to the end of the ages. (Matt. 24: 14). The more it is delayed, the more the advent of Christ is prolonged, but:
���The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.���(2 Pet. 3: 9)
Jesus said to His disciples that they would not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of man came. (Matt. 10: 23) Mission of the twelve ended in first century, but Lord did not come. Then what is the fulfillment of His words. Is it not the message to all His disciples living until His coming? Is it not the message to us in this twenty-first century? Yes it is for us.
What is the role of the Christians of India, the habitat of one-sixth of the world population? Are we keeping the divine light we got 2000 years ago on the lamppost or under the bowl? The population that got the Christian light is negligible 3 per cent. There have been no persecution and martyrdom in the Indian soil during the centuries past and we were living in the cool shades of safety and harmony. Now the situation is changed. We have to go a long way to evangelize India; in that every one has got a role to play according to the talents bestowed upon each.
Let us submit ourselves to the will of our Lord and to keep His command.