Unpacking the Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is the classic call to missions for the believer and used in many contexts for sending out workers, both short and long-term. But, I think this is a commission for all believers. Jesus gave this to his disciples before he went back to heaven but it wasn’t just for them. The Great Commission has as much bearing on our lives today as it did back then.

  • Therefore, Go: First, we are each called to go! That implies action but it does not say that everyone is to cross geographical borders. It may mean going down the street, going to the cubicle beside you, or going to a group of people who are different from you. This going is based on the authority that Jesus has that is passed on to the believer.

  • Make disciples: Jesus didn’t say to go build buildings, start churches, or train pastors. You might be saying, “What? Are those things bad?” No, not necessarily. But, our task is to make disciples- followers of Jesus.

  • All nations: This word is ethne, or people groups. Sometimes we focus on the countries of the world, but within countries there are distinct groups of people. These groups may be very different culturally and will require a different approach in disciple-making. This is a call for all of us- from the US, China, Sudan, Brazil, etc.

  • Baptize: There are various opinions on the timing and form of baptism, but we cannot get away from the fact that this is a critical part of disciple-making. Baptism symbolizes our relationship to Christ and commitment to Him.

  • Teach them to obey: This is a big one! So much of what we do is based on knowledge and learning more. But Jesus didn’t say, “Teach them about my commands”, he said, “Teach them to obey those commands”. Would you rather someone know 5,000 things and obey 50, or know 50 things and obey 45? From the very beginning we need to help people learn how to obey.

  • God is with us through each step and it is His work! His authority and presence make it possible.

The Great Commission is one of the commands that we all are to learn to obey and to teach others to obey. It is something that we are all called to, no matter where or what stage of life we are in. It is exciting to be a part of God’s redeeming work among all peoples!

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