Throughout the last 2000 years Christians have gone to extreme lengths in order to carry out the Great Commission. There are countless examples of Christians who have given up high-paying jobs, sacrificed comfortable lifestyles, and even risked their lives. What could possibly be the motivation behind making such extreme life choices?
In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah is confronted with the holiness of God. When he witnesses God’s perfect holiness he is immediately convicted of his sin and recognizes that he deserves punishment. He says: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (6:5). However, God shows mercy to Isaiah. God demonstrates Isaiah’s salvation when an angel takes a piece of coal and touches Isaiah’s lips with it (6:6-7). Instead of giving Isaiah the punishment that he deserved, God provided grace for him.
After this interaction, God asks Isaiah: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (6:8). God was looking for a servant to represent Him in the world. Isaiah’s response to this question is revealing: “Here I am! Send me” (6:8).
Why is it that Isaiah responds with such excitement? I believe there are at least two reasons. First, God had just shown Isaiah more mercy than he could have possibly imagined. He deserved God’s holy punishment but instead received God’s grace. When this gracious God asked for a servant, the only natural response for Isaiah was to enthusiastically volunteer himself. The second reason Isaiah responded with such intensity was because he couldn’t wait to tell the world about the God who saves. After both understanding the punishment he deserved and experiencing God’s grace, Isaiah desired for many more people to come to know God in this same way. His life had been changed—he wanted others to have their lives changed as well.
The Christian’s Commission
Isaiah’s call to ministry exemplifies the Christian’s relationship to the Great Commission quite well. Whether you were a prophet living in Old Testament times or are a person living today, salvation is found through the grace of God alone. God’s holiness requires a punishment for sin. When Isaiah realized this, he cried out, “Woe is me!” He understood what is true for all mankind, that sin results in God’s wrath. However, just as God demonstrated His grace to Isaiah, He has done the same for us. In God’s grace He sent Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life as a man on the Earth. Jesus then went to the cross and took God’s punishment for sin. All who place their faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection will find true salvation. Just as Isaiah responded with excitement, those who realize their sin and come to know God’s great salvation will naturally have an overwhelming desire to serve Him by telling others about Him. Christians who seek to fulfill the Great Commission do so both because their redeeming God has asked them to and because it is the obvious response to such a great salvation!
When we hear of those who have given up everything, even risking their lives, to proclaim the gospel we should not think of them as foolish. While their decisions may not appear logical, they risk it all because they have been given all they need. They give up their lives so that others may find salvation, just as their Savior did for them.