Misquoted and Misused Passages of Scripture Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15For argument’s sake, let’s call Mark 16:15 an affirmation of the Great Commission, which is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Since Matthew 28:18-20 is rightly understood as a clarion call to all Christians, men and women, to make Christ known throughout the world, does it not stand to reason that Mark 16:15 would likewise be a clarion call for all Christians, men and women, to preach the gospel to every creature?No. And here’s why.There is no call in the Matthew 28:18-20 Great Commission passage to preach. The first command in the Great Commission is to “make disciples” (Gk. πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη). Albeit a very wooden translation of the first phrase of Matthew 28:19, the most literal rendering is: “Having gone, therefore, disciple all the nations.” Contrary to what opponents of biblical evangelism absurdly assert, that the Great Commission can be fulfilled without evangelism, discipleship begins with evangelism. However, Christ makes no assertion or affirmation in Matthew 28:18-20 that evangelism leading to conversion, which then leads to disciple-making, requires the open-air κηρύσσων (“preaching”) of the gospel.
Tony is absolutely correct here. Nowhere in the Matthew 28:18-20 verses do we find a call as to methodology, rather a clear call for ALL Christians to ‘in their going, go make disciples’. Conversion is required in the making of disciples, as is teaching those disciples all that Jesus has commanded them. But the command in verse 20 is strangely left out of Tony’s commentary. It says : 20 teaching (διδάσκω didaskō)”them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The word translated teach means “to give instruction or direction” As Tony asserts in other posts, the word kerusso translated ‘to preach’ necessarily includes teaching. It is also interesting to note that the Greek word μαθητεύω (mathēteuō) that Tony translates as ‘making disciples’ is rendered in the KJV as ‘teach’ and it is the process of discipleship to ‘train’ or to ‘teach’ one to walk in the teaching of his Master. So, for anyone to participate in the Great Commission and thus to ‘in their going’ to win lost people so that they can be discipled, they (man or woman) must necessarily teach. If a woman cannot ‘teach’, then how is she to participate in the Great Commission?
Now, before my open-air preaching brethren get upset, I am not saying God, in His Word, doesn’t command the preaching of the gospel. I am not saying open-air preaching hasn’t been or isn’t a vehicle the Lord uses to communicate His gospel and to draw to Himself those He has chosen from eternity past to save. Of course it is! We see example after example of open-air preaching in Scripture (see Matthew 5:1-7:29; 26:1-31). Post-apostolic Christian history bears witness of the continued, faithful, and biblical practice of open-air preaching.While there is ample biblical and historical support for the continued spiritual practice of open-air preaching, using the Great Commission text in Matthew 28:18-20 to make an affirmative argument for open-air preaching by all Christians is to perform eisegesis with the text—forcing a preferred meaning upon the text instead of exegetically drawing the true meaning from the text. Matthew 28:18-20 simply does not encourage or command all Christians to preach the gospel in the open-air.
I agree. The text says nothing about the method, but the command is to make disciples. To make disciples, you must teach. To restrict anyone who is a believer from participating in the Great Commission according to how God has called them is certainly performing eisegesis with the text.
“But Tony, what about Mark 16:15? The text clearly says “preach the gospel.”
First, as previously mentioned, there is no command to herald, proclaim, preach the gospel inMatthew 28:18-20, as there is in Mark 16:14-18. Second, Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:14-18document two separate incidents. The setting of Matthew 28:16-20 is atop a mountain where Jesus had previously instructed the apostles to meet Him after His resurrection. The location was likely either Mount Tabor, or the hillside upon which Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. The setting for Mark 16:14-19 is indoors. “Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table…” Some translate the phrase “reclining at table” as “down, at meat.” The apostles were literally relaxing at a table, indoors, after enjoying a meal. The endings of Matthew and Mark do not say the same thing and the scenes occur in different places. For these two simple reasons, the passages at the end of Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels should not be seen as parallel.
So, does this somehow invalidate Jesus’ call to preach the gospel in Mark 16:15? No. But it requires more study to determine to whom such a call is made. The Great Commission inscripturated in Matthew 28:18-20 is rightly understood as a call to all Christians (men and women, young and old) to “make disciples.” But, since Matthew 28:18-20 does not speak directly about “preaching,” and since Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:14-18 are not parallel passages; we must look elsewhere in the Word of God to determine who should preach. We must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.
My friend, Pastor Josh Williamson (one of the best open-air preachers of this generation), provides a very important caveat to this particular discussion.
“Often time the Great Commission in Luke’s Gospel is overlooked. For instance in Luke 24:47 we see Jesus commissioning the disciples to go a “proclaim” (preach) the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ. Moreover, to make the claim that there is no call in the Great Commission to preach would go against other Scriptures that talk about preaching being the God ordained means of bringing people to faith (Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21).”
Pastor Williamson is, of course, correct. While there is no specific instruction in Matthew to preach the gospel, the Great Commission, as I previously mentioned, does indeed include preaching. But again, the fact that the Great Commission (sharing the gospel and making disciples) is for all Christians does not rightly translate to mean that all Christians are called or given the authority to preach.
Agree. But it does indicate that all are called and given the authority to evangelize- and it does not single out gender as a qualification for using preaching as the methodology for evangelism.
The Women at the Tomb
I used to refer to the women who found the tomb of Jesus empty as the first open-air preachers. After all, they ran back to where the apostles were hiding and declared to them that Jesus had risen from the dead.
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.’ And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened” (Luke 24:1-12).
How blessed these women were! Oh, to be the very first people on earth to testify that Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed!
Yes, the women testified, maybe even with a loud voice in their excitement, that Jesus was not dead, but alive. But what they did was not an example of open-air preaching. We don’t even know if the women were out of doors when they made the declaration (sarcasm mine). In any case, it was a far cry from heralding, preaching, proclaiming the good news of salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The women at the empty tomb is not an example of women preaching in the open-air.
Agree, but it was an example of a proclamation- to men- whether it was indoors or out. The word translated told is ἀπαγγέλλω (apangellō) and it means to tell, to give intelligence, bring word from any person or place, to relate, inform of, to tell what had occurred. That is what open air preaching, one to one evangelism, and tract distribution is. It is the telling of information, giving of intelligence, making of a factual report- that individuals have sinned against God and they need a Savior. This may or may not be an example of open air preaching, but it is certainly a report of what the women knew was true.
The Woman at the Well
One of the best known stories of the New Testament is found in John 4:7-45–the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. There are so many great truths shared in this story: the omniscience of Jesus Christ, the application of the Law of God to bring a person to the knowledge of sin, and Jesus identifying Himself as the Messiah to a Samaritan woman. What we don’t see in this passage, however, is an example of a woman open-air preaching.
The idea of the woman at the well returning to her village to open-air preach to the people is predicated upon an idealistic interpretation of the following passage:
“So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ They went out of the town and were coming to him . . . Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world’” (John 4:28-30, 39-42).
The woman telling the people of her village that Jesus knew the secrets of her heart and her life does not constitute preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in the open-air. And here is something that is often overlooked. Look closely what she says to her fellow villagers. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ” (emphasis added)?
Too often it is assumed that the woman was saved the day she met Jesus at the well. However, she testified about what Jesus said to her while still uncertain He was the Messiah. Even though Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he,” she asked the people of her village, “Can this be the Christ?” Certainly, the woman could have come to genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that day, but Scripture doesn’t tell us. Scripture doesn’t provide us with enough information to support the idea that the woman, having come to faith in Christ, went to her village to proclaim the gospel. The woman at the well is not an example of a woman preaching the gospel in the open-air. No justification can be made for a woman preaching the gospel in the open-air by using this story as a means of support.
Jesus never told women that they could not share the Gospel. If that was Jesus’ intent, he would have told his disciples to stop the woman at the well from going and telling the entire town, filled with women, kids, and - gasp - men.
No, Jesus, the Son of God, fully God and fully man, was on a perfect time table. God sent Him to this place. He walked through Samaria when a ‘good’ Jew would avoid it. He spoke with a woman who was a Samaritan- for a ‘good’ Jew this was a shocking break of tradition- to speak with a woman and a Samaritan was shocking- even his disciples marveled that this was happening. But despite the fact that there were disciples there, Jesus- knowing that the woman would go and tell the town- allowed her to go. And she SAID
λέγω (legō 3004) 1. say -ing, -est; said, -st; saith. to lay, lay together, to collect; then, to lay before, relate, differing from the words below in that it refers to the purport or sentiment of what is said and the connection of the words; it denotes the collecting of words in a sentence or oration; in reference to the scripture it denotes the statement of the scriptures (while λαλέω (laleō 2980) is the utterance or speaking of that statement.) When λέγω(legō 3004) seems to be put for εἶπον (eipon), it has reference, not to the meaning of speaking but of thinking, feeling, commanding. When used in connection withεἶπον (eipon) the speaking is an additional notion (when used alone the idea of speaking already exists.)
The men came…and believed…
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”
μαρτυρέω (martureō) to be a witness, to bear witness, that is to say to attest anything that one knows, and therefore to state with a certain degree of authority, usually for something, and hence, to confirm or prove.
Women Open-Air Preachers and the ‘Down-Grade’
Why do I include women open-air preachers as part of what I believe is the current “Down-Grade” in the open-air preaching community? One reason and one reason only: the practice is unbiblical. And who bares the responsibility for the unbiblical practice of women preaching in the open-air? Well, any man or church who has encouraged, trained, and supported women to be involved in the practice. And that would include me. For too long, leaders in the open-air preaching community have turned a blind-eye to the impropriety of women preachers. The reasons are several, and none of them are malicious in nature: zeal to see as many Christians as possible preaching on the streets and a genuine desire to see as many lost people as possible hear the gospel, a misunderstanding and oversimplification of the what the Greek word kerusso (“to preach”) means, an abandonment of God’s created order for men and women–equal in dignity, but distinct in roles, a too-narrow view of a woman’s biblical role in the Church, and an eisegetical misapplication of multiple narrative biblical passages, none of which remotely support the idea of women preaching in the open-air.
Disagree. Nowhere in any of these scriptures Tony presented states that a woman cannot open-air evangelize. A woman cannot Preach in a church, or hold an office in a church. But a woman can, and MUST if she is a Christian evangelize. The method she uses is up to her line of authority - God, her pastor/elders, and husband (if she is married). It is not for Tony to tell any woman (except his wife and unmarried daughters still in his household) that she can or cannot evangelize using any methodology that she chooses and that her line of authority approves of.
Christian women must certainly have an important role to play in the evangelization of this lost world. Christian women, like men, are called to fulfill the Great Commission, to make disciples of every nation, to be witnesses on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ. And there are ways Christian women can do that without violating God’s dignified design He has given them, and without undermining the ever-so-important role He has given them in His Church. Two ways in which Christian women can fulfill the God-given desire to reach the lost with the gospel is through tract distribution and one-to-one conversations.
And open air preaching if her line of authority approves of it.
The distribution of gospel tracts and one-to-one conversations should not be seen as lesser means than open-air preaching for sharing the gospel. No Christian should ever say, “I just hand out tracts.” Or, “I just talk to people.” Any Christian, man or women, who treats other forms of evangelism as if they are second-rate to or not as important as open-air preaching may want to examine their motives for engaging in evangelism. If you can only see yourself open-air preaching and you think too highly of yourself to be relegated to distributing gospel tracts or engaging people in conversation, then open-air preaching is more about you and what you get out of it than it is about reaching the lost with the gospel and bringing glory to Jesus Christ.
Agree, nor should open-air evangelism through preaching be seen as the ‘lofty mountain’ that only certain men can climb. As long as a person is called and sent by their local church, they should be able to practice evangelism in the way in which they are called and gifted.
Having said all of this, I firmly believe one important step in either reversing or preventing a “Down-Grade” in the open-air preaching community is for Christian women to stop preaching the gospel in the open-air, and for men and churches to stop endorsing and encouraging the activity.