Today we’re going to dive into the Great Commission. But before we look at the actual text, let’s look at history again. Remember, the Bible is not just a historical account; it is a heart account of what God is doing to overcome evil, redeem people, and receive glory.
Many accounts describe this. Abraham’s blessing in Genesis 12:1-3, which we looked at the first week. God told Abraham, “I’m blessing you so you can bless others.” God raised up Joseph to be a witness to the Egyptians in Genesis 41:37-41, 56. He recruited Moses to convince the Midianites, starting with his father-in-law, of God’s authority (Exodus 18:9-12). He appointed Daniel to influence the Babylonian empire (Daniel 6:26-28). He drafted the psalmists to describe how the Great Shepherd pursues us (Psalm 23:6) and to sing of His global mission (Psalm 67). And He sent His Servant to achieve the world’s salvation (Isaiah 49:6).
God has mandated us to carry out His purpose. To live under a mandate is to be entrusted with a task of lasting significance. In Matthew 28:18-20, we are commissioned to join God:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
There are several pieces to this. First, we have a Savior who has all authority to give us this mandate. He expects obedience. If want to see some examples of this authority, study Revelation 5:1-14, Daniel 7:9-14, and Psalm 110.
Second, is the statement of making disciples of all people groups. We know that the original word did not mean nations in the sense of geo-political borders, but rather this sense of ethnicity. We define an “unreached people group” as a people group where there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize their own people.
Third, we are to baptize and teach them all that He has commanded. This has to do with proclaiming allegiance and growing obedience to Christ. The idea is to bring up a new believer in the ideas of prayer, reading the Bible, and following other key spiritual disciplines. Then by their growth, they can in turn being making disciples of their own. In other words, it’s not to prepare fully trained and taught followers, but rather to plant a church that can begin to reproduce churches themselves. Ordinary people, empowered by the Holy Spirit, must lead them.
And lastly is referenced to carry this task out until it is finished. Jesus said He’d be with us always. And that an end is referenced signifies that idea that the task will, in fact, be completed.
Each of the gospels and Acts underline this mandate.
Mark 16:15-16 – And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Luke 24:46-49 – “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
John 20:21-23 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Acts 1:8 -But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Israel did not understand the original commissioning as given to Abraham. Christ illustrated their failure with a parable. He described a man who planted a vineyard and left some people to work the land. When the time came for the harvest, he sent a servant to the workers, but they beat the servant. So he sent another and they killed him. Finally, he sent his son, thinking surely they would respect his own flesh and blood. But they killed him and threw his body out.
Will we, the church, fall into the same trap? Our mandate is clear from our Savior who has all authority to give it. The job is not done because Christ has not yet returned. How will each of our lives count for eternity? What is it going to take in each of our lives to understand this not as an obligation, but as a privilege? God is more sovereign than we think He is. We are more responsible that we think we are.