I was excited when Michael Horton’s latest book, The Gospel Commission: Rediscovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples, was waiting for me on my doorstep Monday morning thanks to the kind generosity of Baker Books and the excellent work of the U.S. Postal Service.  In the days ahead I’ll be posting a review of the entire book.  For now, I wanted to post a short excerpt I hope will not only be edifying in your understanding of the relationship between The Great Commission and the Great Commandment in light of Christ’s finished work, but will also encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself!  On a side, Valiant for Truth, the blog of Westminster Seminary California will be hosting a giveaway in the days ahead.  Keep your eyes open as it will likely be happening at some point this week!

God has been so gracious to us in Scripture, as he always bases his commandments on the work he has already accomplished.  The two are never separated!  Students of the Bible call this the “indicative/imperative paradigm.”  The indicative refers to something that has been accomplished, and the imperative refers to a command that is to be obeyed.  Tullian Tchividjian has wisely noted, “Imperatives without indicatives equal impossibilities.”  Simply saying that trying to do the Christian life apart from all that God has done in Christ will end up in continual defeat and discouragement.

Horton notes the Bible’s use of the indicative/imperative paradigm as it relates to the fulfillment of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission:

“Biblical imperatives are always the reasonable response to biblical indicatives.  In other words, God’s commands are grounded in God’s works.  As covenant heirs, believers are given two mandates: The Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  The Great Commandment is rooted in God’s act of creation. Loving God and our neighbors is the reasonable response to the work of the Triune God in creating, caring for, and ruling over his world.  “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1).  The Great Commission is rooted in God’s act of redemption.  Bringing the Good News of Christ’s victory to the ends of the earth is the appropriate response to his saving work.  As a beneficiary of the Great Commission, the believer will see even the Great Commandment in a new light, be liberated to embrace it from the heart, and live toward its full realization in the everlasting Sabbath.

All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Christ, but in two senses: as the mediator of creation and as the mediator of redemption.  The Great Commandment and the Great Commission have their authorization in these distinct works.  The following chart helps to explain this point:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore,…”

The Great Commission reflects the holy (saving grace) and is where disciples are made.  The Great Commandment reflects common grace and is where discipleship goes.”

[Cited from Michael Horton, The Gospel Commission: Rediscovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 2011), 242-243.]

*The publisher provided a copy of the book without charge for the purposes of review and promotion, with no expectation of a positive review.

CLICK HERE to view Dr. Horton’s recent “Face-to-Face” interview on the topic, “What is the Great Commission?”



The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Zondervan, 2011)

Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (BakerBooks, 2008)

The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People In A Bad News World (BakerBooks, 2009)


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