The Great Commission

Jesus was crucified, but after three day and three nights in the grave, He was resurrected and came to life again.  He appeared to many, but especially to his apostles.  Acts 1:3 “To whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  We are given this account in Matthew 28:16-20 “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.  When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”  This statement by Jesus is known as the Great Commission.  Let us analyze what He said.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”  Jesus now has the power over everyone in heaven and on earth and all must obey Him.  This was given to Him by God the Father.  Philippians 2:8-11 “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  The position of Jesus is further described in Ephesians 1:21-22 “Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.  And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church.”  Jesus now has all authority in heaven and on earth.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”  Jesus sent out his apostles to all the nations.  The word apostle means “one who is sent forth.”  Church tradition is that the apostles spread out and carried the gospel message to all of the known world.  And yet, today there are still many groups of people who do not know about Jesus Christ.  Did you know that there are at least 7000 languages that are spoken or signed around the world?  As of the year 2020, there are at least 1.5 billion people who do not have the full Bible in their language.  There are at least 2000 languages that still need a Bible translation started.  This information comes from the Wycliffe Bible Translators.  And even in your community and in your country there are many people who are ignorant about the gospel message.  The point is that the work of making disciples of Jesus is still needed and ongoing today. 

Jesus instructed his apostles to make disciples of Him.  There are two parts that Jesus gave for making disciples.  The first is “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Galatians 3:26-27 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  Romans 6:3-4 “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  To be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is to be baptized with the baptism that they require and authorize.  There can be many baptisms in other names and for other purposes.  When we seek to make disciples of others, one of the first things is for them to be baptized.

The second part of making disciples for Jesus is “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”  A disciple of Jesus, by definition, is one who follows His teachings.  Jesus personally taught the apostles as they traveled with Him during His ministry.  He also sent the Holy Spirit to remind them of His teachings.  John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  The apostles in turn passed the teaching of Jesus down to us in the books of the New Testament.  You and I are disciples of Jesus and can rightfully call ourselves Christians when we observe the things that Jesus commanded the apostles.  When we seek to make disciples of others, our work is to teach them to observe the things that Jesus commanded the apostles.

“And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Jesus physically left the apostles and went into heaven.  But He sent His Holy Spirit.  John 16:7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”  In a similar way, we also have Jesus with us always.  Hebrews 13:5b-6 “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say:  ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?’”

A similar passage to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:16-20 is given in Mark 16:15-16 “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’”  Few Christians today have the ability to go into all the world.  But I encourage you to do whatever part you can to preach the gospel and make disciples.  If it is not to go to some foreign country, it may be to speak to those who are your neighbors or it may be to give of your resources or to pray for the work of others.  The Lord is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).