The Great Commission
“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"
Matt 28:17-20 (NIV).
This is the foundational verse to the Christian mission to
evangelize the world for the sake and cause of Christ. Whenever the church calls upon its laity
(members) to contribute to the mission effort wherever that effort may lie,
Matthew 28:17-20 will be cited. The
command is explicit and made with the authority of the risen Savior, Jesus
Christ. Jesus was able to make this
statement because of the fact of His resurrection from the grave which He had
predicted to these same disciples.
The command itself is prefaced with Jesus’ statement that all
authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. Obviously, this authority had to be given by
God the Father. Together with the
witnessed miracle of the resurrection, this was the ultimate fulfillment,
ratification, verification and acknowledgement that Jesus was the Messiah, the
Son of the living God. It was made with
authority that was undeniable and beyond contestation.
It is noteworthy that Jesus went to His disciples to give
them this command. He did not wait for
them to seek Him out but rather, the importance of the message drove Him to
seek them out. It is a statement that
would provide the impetus for the outreach of the Christian church.
His statement was clear and concise; it left no doubt in the
minds of those who heard what their purpose was to be. The imperative message, “go”, was a direct
command to those who believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior that they were
to travel wherever necessary to spread the message of the love of Christ. It was not limited in its scope but rather
was a directive to reach out to all nations and to perform certain
The first task was to “make” disciples. This particular verb is translated as “teach”
in the King James Version of the Bible and literally means to teach, disciple
or instruct. It was and is incumbent
upon the church to teach those who are seeking to be disciples or followers of
Christ. Inherent in this verse is the
concept that this is a process for the believer, a process that allows one (a
seeker) to progress from milk to meat in his/her diet.
The next task was to “baptize” them in the name of the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, i.e. the Trinity. Once again, this was a command that
substantiated the role of Jesus as God Himself.
The act of baptism, as evidenced by Christ prior to the inception of His
ministry on earth, was an earthly act and became a sign and outward
manifestation of one’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Clearly, once a person was baptized before
other believers, that person would be identified as a Christian or “little
Christ.” This act was not for the faint
of heart during that time and even today, can be an act that has severe
The final command emphasizes teaching once again but this
time specifically pointed to obedience and adherence to everything that Jesus
had taught. What had He taught?
“Hearing that Jesus
had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert
in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest
commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind.' This is the first and greatest
commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two
commandments" Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV).
It was a message of love, love that was unconditional, love
that was sublime, love that was foundational and unshakeable. This love was to be given to God completely
and without reservation (all your heart, soul and mind). Then was to be given to yourself and then to
your neighbor. If you were to love your
neighbor as yourself, isn’t it implicit that you were to love yourself as the
created child of God? Love yourself and
love your neighbor. That neighbor was
not limited to just the person next door.
Every other commandment flowed from these two commandments.
Finally, Jesus promised that He would be with us always, even
to the end of the age. The end of the age?
What age? I surmise that Jesus
meant that He would be with us in fulfilling the Great Commission through the
end of the church age. There are many
who now believe that we will actually witness the end of the church age and
that the end of this age will come with the rapture or “snatching up” of the
children of God.
Some question why many of today’s Christians are so
concerned about the Second Coming of Christ or what is commonly known as the
“Rapture”. They believe that God will
act on His own timetable when it comes to the Second Coming of Christ (a true
statement) and that we shouldn’t speculate when that time might be (another
true statement). In other words, why
worry about it?
If it is true that
Christ is coming soon, then the discussion of the Second Coming of Christ and fulfillment
of the Great Commission is not merely an intellectual exercise but rather
becomes important and extremely urgent.
Once Christ comes again and His believers are removed from the scene,
the Christian influence now present on earth will be absent.
This scenario creates a very fertile environment for the
rise of the antichrist and the establishment of a one world government and one
world religion. The Great Commission
will no longer apply to those believers have been raptured; they will be
celebrating the wedding feast with Jesus Christ as the bridegroom of His
church. However, those who remain to
live through the Tribulation and then the Great Tribulation will endure what no
person has yet experienced.
Life will become virtually unbearable and terrible choices
will have to be made. These choices will
have not only temporal but more importantly, eternal consequences. Will one take the mark of the beast and bow
before the image of the antichrist or forfeit his life for the sake of
Christ? Unfortunately, many will make
the wrong decision and forfeit eternity in heaven rather than endure suffering
This is the reason why the Great Commission is not only
important but extremely urgent. We do
not know when the Bridegroom will knock, when one will be taken and another
left in the field. Even if God tarries,
we do not know how long each of us has on this earth. We do not know when will be the last time
that we have to witness for the cause of Christ; we do not know when we will
have our last opportunity to speak to that brother, sister, father, mother,
aunt, uncle, son, daughter, friend, worker or acquaintance about the cause of
We are each commanded to fulfill the Great Commission; the
Commission was not given for the benefit of the redeemed but rather the
redeemable. We need to be urgent in our
witness. Be strong, be bold, be
courageous but most of all, be loving, for the sake,
for the cause of Christ, before the end of the age.
Comments or questions may be directed to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.