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 specific tasks.

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 consequences.

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 and death.

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 Christ. 

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.    

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