God used a simple cobbler in the 1780s to birth what we now call the modern missions movement. William Carey developed a God-given passion for the glory of God among the nations. When others were telling him he need not go to the heathen with the gospel, Carey said otherwise. When others said that if God desires to save the heathens He will do so without our help, Carey said that the very means that God has chosen to save sinners is through the proclamation of the gospel by sinners who have been saved.
In his book An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, Carey wrote:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, a little before his departure, commissioned his apostles to Go, and teach all nations; or, as another evangelist expresses it, Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. This commission was as extensive as possible, and laid them under obligation to disperse themselves into every country of the habitable globe, and preach to all the inhabitants, without exception, or limitation. . . . It seems as if many thought the commission was sufficiently put in execution by what the apostles and others have done; that we have enough to do to attend to the salvation of our own countrymen; and that, if God intends the salvation of the heathen, he will some way or other bring them to the gospel, or the gospel to them. It is thus that multitudes sit at their ease,
and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow-sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry” (quoted from When Missions Shapes the Mission, 2).
Our obligation, therefore, is from the Lord. We may not sit idle and do nothing. Nor may we be content and spiritualize our participation in the Great Commission as if it is fulfilled because we are seeking to reach people where we live. The GC is not like a childhood love letter with optional check boxes of “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” The GC is all-encompassing. We are to reach our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the nations with the gospel. In fact, we are obligated to do so.
Upon hearing the word “obligated” people often first react with reserve or inward rebellion. The thought goes something like this: “No one is going to tell me what I must do!” Yet, the word obligated is a beautiful word when understood in the context of Paul’s use in Romans 1:14. You see, Paul, as one who had received the grace of God, felt obligated to share with others the same hope given to Him in Jesus. He could not fathom a world in which all peoples did not have equal access to the life-transforming gospel of Jesus.
For the Jews, he was willing to be cut off from the life-giving gospel of Christ, so that they might hear and believe (Rom 9:1-5). As for the non-Jews, he could not imagine not saturating the nations with the gospel of Jesus (Acts 26:17-18). Further, Paul understood the GC to be binding on his life because the command came from God himself. The authority behind our obligation to send the gospel and to embrace all peoples for the gospel is not man made; it’s divinely given. As Jesus made it so clear from a mountainside, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18). The authority of the GC resides in the giver of the Commission. His authority has not changed; therefore, our obligation to His command still stands.