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The Great Commission
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Read the Verses: Matthew 28:19-20

Find the Answer: What should I tell people about Jesus?

Item Number: MAT28-01

Read the Verses

The Great Commission prints and framed art include these verses:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing 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.

Matthew 28:19-20

What should I tell people
about Jesus?

In our post-modern culture of relativism, cynicism, and liberalism, it has become increasingly difficult to share one's faith in meaningful ways. Our circumstances differ from the early church, but the Lord's promise to be with us has held true for every generation of believers. In the Great Commission, the Lord's clarion call was that His disciples tell others about Him, that they take his message to "all the nations." and Christ's command applies today as true as when He first spoke these words. And so it is the Lord's expectation that we will not only evangelize, but that we will take the next step to teach new believers and thereby make them disciples of Christ.

After His triumphal resurrection, we find two features in the text of the Great Commission that tie Jesus' command to His universal authority. It is precisely because Jesus now has this authority that his disciples were to go and make disciples. In essence, the onset of the new age of messianic authority changed the circumstances and impelled his disciples forward to a universal ministry He himself never engaged in during the days of His flesh. Jesus' promotion to universal authority serves as an eschatological marker inaugurating the beginning of his universal mission. Because of that authority, His followers in every generation may go in confidence that their Lord is in sovereign control of "everything in heaven and on earth" (reference Romans 8:28).

In the Greek, the word "go," like "baptizing" and "teaching," is a participle. Only the verb "make disciples" is imperative. Some have deduced from this that Jesus' commission is simply to make disciples "as we go" (in other words 'wherever we are') and constitutes no basis for going somewhere special in order to serve as missionaries. While we are impelled to make disciples of those in our immediate surroundings, from the perspective of mission strategy, it is important to remember that the Great Commission is preserved in several complementary forms that, when taken together, can only be circumvented by considerable exegetical ingenuity (see Luke 24:45-49; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; cf. Matt 4:19; 10:16-20; 13:38; 24:14;).

The main emphasis, then, is on the command to "make disciples," which in Greek is one word, matheteusate, normally an intransitive verb, here used transitively. As such, "to disciple a person to Christ is to bring him into the relation of pupil to teacher, taking Christ's yoke of authoritative instruction (11:29), accepting what He says as true because He says it, and submitting to His requirements as right because He makes them" (Broadus). Disciples are those who hear, understand, and obey Jesus' teaching (12:46-50). The injunction is given at least to the Eleven, but to the Eleven in their own role as disciples (v. 16). Consequently, they are paradigms for all disciples. It is possible that the command was given to a larger gathering of disciples and yet it is binding on all Jesus' followers, in every generation, to make others what they themselves are, disciples of Jesus Christ.

Sources: Expositor's Bible Commentary, New Testament: Zondervan Reference Software; Class Notes, 4 Gospels and Acts; Dr. Philip Powers, Capital Bible Seminary, (Lanham, Maryland).

Photo Credits: FreeStockPhotos.com

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