The Unfinished Commission (matt 28:18–20)

Timothy Tow

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt 28:18–20).

When Sun Yat-Sen, Father of the Chinese Republic, toppled the Manchu regime in 1911 and became its president, he called on his followers: “The Revolution is not yet finished. Let comrades struggle on” (革命尚未成功,同志仍需努力。). The Great Commission, which our Lord gave to the Church 2,000 years ago, is an Unfinished Commission. There remains much land to be conquered, and untold millions have yet to hear the Gospel. With the Return of our Saviour looming nearer each day, this Unfinished Commission must be accelerated. This is mandated to us in the Olivet discourse, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt 24:14). What have you and I done to speed this Unfinished Task? We must confess we have done very little. “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev 2:5). If we do not repent from our Laodicean lukewarmness to serve the Lord fervently, God will give our candlestick to another that will fulfil His purpose. And has not our Lord given it to the Korean Church that has sent thousands of her sons and daughters to 120 countries in the world? And if it is true there is a Chinese restaurant wherever you go in the world, it is also true wherever you go in the world there is a Korean church.

Despite our cold-heartedness, He Himself will bring it to fruition. And though the Great Commission is unfinished, His power over heaven and earth and His presence with His devout disciples will finish it. We believe in a sovereign God.

Now, the Unfinished Commission is a full-four Commission. Many works in the Name of the Lord by para-church organisations stress one or two points, but it is a full-four Commission. It is:

  1. Go! This is the Missions emphasis.
  2. Teach (matheteusate), ie, to make disciples. This is the Evangelistic emphasis.
  3. Baptise. This is the Church Planting emphasis.
  4. Teach (didaskontes). This is the Indoctrination emphasis.

When we diligently carry out these four points of the Unfinished Commission, we will be attended with divine power and blessed with His holy presence. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. . . . and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” How often the Great Commission is misquoted, leaving out the all-pervasive power of God in us, around us and behind us to thrust us forward. No wonder the little headway we make in our own strength.


The Unfinished Commission begins with Go. Notice these are the first two letters that spell Gospel. The Gospel must be on the Go. Missions is the First Commandment to the Church. This is clearly exemplified in the Acts of the Apostles. And what the Apostles did for the early Church becomes our infallible pattern. Paul says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

Let us learn a lesson from the earliest churches. The church in Jerusalem was the first to be founded. It began in AD 33 with Pentecost, Though it continued for a full year in the Apostles’ doctrine it was not until a great persecution came upon it and scattered it abroad, that the disciples went everywhere preaching the Word (Acts 8:4).

Some of those scattered abroad travelled as far as Antioch. They preached to the Jews but others to Grecians and a great multitude believed. This Antioch Church drew the attention of Jerusalem which sent Barnabas to exhort them. To add more power to the Church, Barnabas departed to Tarsus to bring Saul in. Now, as the leaders of Antioch prayed, the Holy Ghost said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2–3). Thus was opened officially the Door of Foreign Missions. The pattern for us to follow between Jerusalem and Antioch is the latter one. Go with the Gospel is indeed the First Commandment to the Church.

Now, I come as one representing the mission field. My roots run deep to the year 1859 when my great-grandfather was converted in Swatow, South China. He was saved after William Chalmer Burns, Scots missionary sent by the English Presbyterian Mission. My great- grandfather became the first Swatow pastor in 1882. He gave his daughter to my grandfather because he also was a pastor. My father who became a doctor trained by the English Presbyterian Mission Hospital, was an elder. And now, me, whom the Lord has graciously accepted from my mother’s womb that I should follow in their steps.

My theological roots also reach back to China. I studied under Dr Chia Yu-Ming, ICCC Vice-president for China and Dr A B Dodd, missionary of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. From China, the Lord transplanted me to Faith Seminary, Wilmington, Delaware. After I graduated in 1950, I was ordained by the hands of the Philadelphia Presbytery at the Second Congress of the ICCC in Geneva. I returned to Singapore where I was called by my Mother Church to start an English Service.

In order to separate from our Mother Church which was linked to the National Council and the World Council of Churches, we established the Life Bible-Presbyterian Church. Rev Dr K C Quek, then an elder, stood firmly with me.

Now, in the matter of missions, we did not have a Mission Board to guide us. Our young, inexperienced Church, was our Mission Board. The four walls of our little church, with a congregation of 50, could not contain us. We went everywhere preaching the Gospel, especially to next door Malaysia. In four years we founded a station in South Malaysia, and in seven years we established two branch churches in Singapore. By God’s grace, Life Church has grown today to 48 churches and institutions (such as Far Eastern Bible College) all over Southeast Asia, with a dozen missionaries. This does not include the branch churches’ extended churches.

We have no overall mission board. Each B-P Church is its own mission board. The B-P Churches of Singapore, though now each on its own after our split in 1988, has become a missionary movement that has encircled the earth: in Southeast Asia, Burma, India, Pakistan, East and West Africa, England, Canada, Saipan, China, Australia. This is the Lord’s doing. Without a mission board each church handles its own accounts, so the cost of running missions is nil.

As to financial support there is not the leniency of the American government which allows deduction for Income Tax. Ours is pure giving, after paying all the taxes. A good number pay their tithes and some much more above the sacred tenth. And when others outside our church are touched by the good reports of our missionaries, they channel their gifts to us. I say all this as a testimony to the Lord’s blessing on our home grown missionary movement.

But the pastor himself must be the ever outgoing one. Like the Israeli commanders, the generals and colonels must be prepared to lead at the forefront.

Furthermore, we encourage the formation of laymen’s missionary societies, so that young people are attracted to mission trips on their own. Out of these trips have gathered smaller groups who go out at regular intervals to speak at children’s and youth meetings, and sometimes at church services. This quickens the growth of young churches in the mission fields. Insofar as Life Church is concerned, our Missions Fellowship publishes its own literature and runs its own accounts.


The second point in the Unfinished Commission is the need to make disciples, to evangelise. This the pastor must emphasise and apply in his weekly sermon. The pastor must be a soul winner. He must make every effort to hold evangelistic meetings. The dissemination of Gospel tracts is a silent auxiliary to evangelism. Some of these from his own pen add a personal touch. The Sunday School and children’s ministry must also be geared to the saving of souls. The members added to the church by baptism each year is a barometer of its growth.

Soul-saving is also the main task of our missionaries. The failure of missionaries is their lack in winning souls. Hence the quick resignations from the fields, or if they hang on, it’s a chore and a job, not a joy. Missionaries of this calibre are quick to assert their rights but slow to perform their duty.

We have a most outstanding example of a missionary. A graduate of Far Eastern Bible College, he is sent by my brother’s church, Calvary B-P Church, to the island of Saipan, former Japanese territory in the South Pacific now under American mandate. For six years he has had a most illustrious ministry to the garment sewers, mostly women from mainland China. With a vigorous emphasis on repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he has baptised 600 in six years. His converts are born again in tears of repentance. Though we do not expect every missionary to measure up to him, he has set the pace for others to follow, to the glory of God.

A collateral in the advancing of missions is the support of nationals. These are chosen from foreign graduates of Far Eastern Bible College. For example, Rev Robert Thawn Luai, graduate from an Indian Bible College, came for a semester’s refresher course at FEBC. Having proven his worth as leader of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Burma, we supported his work by building a four-storey Bible College, costing half a million. Nearly a hundred have graduated from this College since 1987. Many of the graduates have become pastors who have added to the growth of his denomination, from 22 to 55 churches.

We have supported several other national leaders and are pleased with their steady progress, not only in Burma but also in Indonesia and Malaysia. With their natural fluency in the vernacular they have instant access to the hearts of their own people. This method of missionary work is most cost-effective.


The third point in the Unfinished Commission is baptism, which is missed out by para-church organisations. Calvin defines a Church to be one that preaches the Word regularly on the Lord’s Day and that administers baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This is the foundation of the local church.

It is important for believers to be baptised and be joined to the local church. And it is this sacrament and the Lord’s Supper that builds it up to be a branch of the universal Church. Being baptised as a member, he has obligations to fulfil. He not only attends church regularly according to Hebrews 10:25, but also gives of his substance to support the work of the Church. The tithe is the test.

When Life Church was branching out to build a new church, we did not rely on man’s method of raising funds by jumble sales, garage sales, fun fairs, concerts, etc. We preached tithing and free-will offerings. One weapon, very effective, is interest-free loans.

Baptism is normally given to the catechumens who attend catechism classes for an extended period. To those who receive Christ on sick beds, it must not be delayed. Once baptised the family which often is non-Christian, will submit to the Lord. The power of baptism over heathens is to be experienced by western pastors.

Evangelism and baptism is the only way to solid church growth. Not by the display of charismatic gifts, the slaying of spirits, and speaking in tongues. Nor social programmes catering to the flesh. But by the slow but steady process of winning them to the Lord, one by one.


The fourth point of the Unfinished Commission is “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” This is where full indoctrination comes in. Although the Sunday School is a powerful auxiliary to imparting Scripture knowledge to members, we need the Bible College or Seminary to train pastors, teachers, and missionaries. The secret of growth of the Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore is the Far Eastern Bible College, founded 1962. Over 350 have come out of its classrooms and many scores have been ordained who are now serving in many parts of the world.

Our students have also to be trained to contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Being in the 20th century Reformation Movement, we have taken a stand against the many “isms” that try to undermine the Church: liberalism, modernism, neo-evangelicalism, charismatism, ECTism (Evangelicals and Catholics Together), the total denial of the 16th century Reformation.

There is now a concerted attack also on the Bible. The hundred versions of the English Bible, beginning with the Revised Version of 1881, have swarmed out of the Westcott and Hort Pandora Box, so that our vision of Truth is blurred. For a century a conspiracy of silence on the evil character of the two masquerading angels of light in textual criticism have prevailed. Faith Seminary and Dallas Seminary, for example, had sheepishly bowed to their dictates. In Faith Seminary, I was taught all that Westcott and Hort had revised of the beloved King James Bible was Gospel Truth. Ten thousand alterations and deletions were accepted by us students, such as the passage of Jesus pardoning the woman taken in adultery, the last 12 verses of Mark, and the Johannine comma—1 John 5:7–8. These were declared later interpolations. As much as the equivalent of 1 and 2 Peter were scissored.

But now the true colours of these so-called Greek experts are revealed, the best part of it all, by the sons of Westcott and Hort. Do you know that Westcott and Hort were liberals and modernists of the deepest dye? They detested the doctrine of the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures, denied the Virgin Birth of Christ, His Blood atonement and resurrection. They derisively declared the Creation, Temptation and Fall to be myths. They were secret worshippers of Mary. They were friends of Darwin, Freud (called a Fraud by The Straits Times) and Carl Jung, all enemies of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Westcott founded the Hermes Club at Cambridge, which was reputed to be a homosexual club. He branched into the Ghost Club with Hort and others. Scoffers called it the Bogey Club. Bogey means Devil. They practised necromancy, ie, communicating with the dead, which is abominable to the Lord (Deut 18:11,12).

They were the architects of revision of the KJB, but where is the Revised Version of 1881 now? It died a diseased death. “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matt 7:19). Now, the hundred new versions that have swarmed out of Westcott and Hort are emanations from their corrupt text, in one way or another.

“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (Isa 59:19). While God has used Dr Carl McIntire to raise the ICCC Standard, there was a fellow student of his in the early days of the founding of Westminster. He was McIntire’s friend and his name is Edward F Hills (ThD, Harvard). He took a brave stand against Westcott and Hort. Before him was David Otis Fuller. At one of the ICCC Congresses I heard Dr Fuller’s impassioned appeal to stand up for the KJB. Then arose Dr D A Waite (ThD, PhD), president of the Dean Burgon Society, who testifies how when a student at Dallas he was as much taken in as when I was in Faith Seminary. Following him is raised up another, David W Cloud, with his O Timothy monthly. Though G A Riplinger has been questioned for accuracy here or there in the exposure of Westcott and Hort in her book New Age Versions, she has done yeoman service in ripping off the masks of Westcott and Hort (Riplinger’s book has sold 100,000 copies). Last but not least is my brother, Dr S H Tow, whose latest defence of the King James Bible, Beyond Versions, is just off the press and to him is added the full weight of FEBC’s faculty. (Last but not least is the Resolution on the Bible by the International Council of Christian Churches at her 50thAnniversary Meeting in Amsterdam, August 11–15, 1998, supporting the KJB against the hundred versions.)


The Unfinished Commission is encumbered with so many wiles of the Devil, especially in Satan’s last attack on His Holy Word. “Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him” (Isa 59:15,16). Truth must prevail! “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth” (2 Cor 13:8).

The words of Sun Yat-Sen, Father of the Chinese Republic, that the Revolution he led to topple the Manchus was unfinished, and comrades must continue to struggle on reminds us that the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ is also far from finished. Let us go forward to carry out its fourfold programme of Missions, Evangelism, Church planting, and full theological indoctrination with increasing acceleration until our Lord comes again. Even so, Come Lord Jesus.

We are in the closing chapter of the 20th century Reformation. In no time we will enter the new millennium, and will there be a 21st century Reformation?

Message delivered by Rev Dr Timothy Tow to the 62nd Synod of the Bible-Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida, USA, August 7, 1998, and to the ICCC 50th Anniversary, English Reformed Church, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, August 13, 1998.

Published in The Burning Bush, Volume 5 Number 1, January 1999.