Bible Study: The Great Commission

Bible Study: The Great Commission

Jesus’ statement in Matthew 28:18-20 known as “the Great Commission,” though it is no greater than statements in any of the other Gospels, is very much applicable to us believers today. And so, a Bible study on this subject is important for us to understand the factors that are involved.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The Authority of Jesus

The commissioning of Jesus’ disciples is clearly based on His authority. The word “authority” in verse 18 indicates an authoritative command or the right to use power. It carries the same idea as when an officer reminds a private of his rank before giving the order. Having this authority, Jesus can send whomever He wills to carry out whatever He pleases.

When we read the entire Gospel of Matthew, we would notice how it stresses the authority of Jesus Christ. Here are some of those instances:

  • His teaching had authority (Matthew 7:29).
  • He exercised authority in healing (Matthew 8:1-13).
  • He had authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6).
  • He had authority over Satan and delegated that authority to His apostles (Matthew 10:1).

And at the close of his Gospel, Matthew made it clear that Jesus has been given “all” authority. The word “all” refers to all authority, all things, all nations and all the days. It is for this reason that we can obey Jesus without fear. No matter what circumstances we face, no matter where He leads us, He is in control.

Jesus’ authority over everything and anything, commands us to “go;” it is His authority that sends us, guides us, empowers us and enables His work and message to continue to the world through us.

Making Disciples of All Nations

In verses 19-20, Jesus by His authority orders activity. The Greek verb translated “go” is actually not a command but a present participle (“going”). There is only one command in the entire Great Commission: to make disciples. Here, Jesus was saying, “While you are going, make disciples of all nations.”

Let’s make that clear. The command is to make disciples, not merely converts, church members or supporters of a cause. But what is a disciple? The term “disciples” was the most popular name for the earthly believers. The idea behind the word is of learners, students or scholars.

“Apprentice” might be an equivalent term. A disciple would attach himself to his teacher, identify with him, learn from him and live with him. More importantly, a disciple would not learn by simply listening but also by doing. James, the Lord’s brother, tells us to not merely listen to the word but to do what it says (James 1:22-25).

The words “make disciples” reminds us that disciples are made; they are not spontaneously created at conversion but are products of a process that involves other believers.

How are disciples made? Through teaching – teaching them all the things that Jesus commanded. It is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to present the whole counsel of God to those who are being made disciples (Acts 20:27). The apostle Paul did not share half-truths or watered down Gospel; he shared all of what God revealed and we must do the same.

Another thing noteworthy is the command to take the Gospel to “all nations.” Let us not forget that in Jesus’ previous ministry; He deliberately restricted His work to the Jews (Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24). Of course, there were rare instances wherein Jesus ministered among the Gentiles such as in Matthew 15:21-28.

But that’s all in the past now. The disciples and all believers in Christ today are commissioned to take the Gospel to all nations, to make disciples of all men everywhere without distinction. So no matter where we are, we should be witnesses for Jesus Christ and seek to win others to Him (Acts 11:19-21).

Water Baptism

Significantly, Jesus Christ commands us to go and baptize, not to circumcise those who became disciples. One other thing, discipleship comes first before baptism. The words and context certainly indicate that it’s disciples who are baptized; those who are of age who can be taught and who can observe the things Jesus commanded and those who have already come to faith in Christ.

Apparently, there are churches today who teach that water baptism is a requirement for salvation and they use passages such as Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21 and Titus 3:5. However, the word of God makes it pretty clear that salvation is by grace (alone) through faith (alone) in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9); it’s not something we acquire by doing good deeds such as submitting for water baptism.

*Here’s an article that talks more extensively on the issue of water baptism in regards to salvation: Do you need to be baptized in order to be saved?

The Promise of Jesus’ Constant Presence

In the second part of verse 20, we see Jesus’ authority as ability. Jesus is not only among His disciples when they came together but He is also present with them as they scatter into the world to witness. He sent them to fulfill a mission but He did not send them alone.

Jesus promised His constant presence as rendered by the English adverb “always” – that is, each day as we live it. Had Jesus remained on earth, He could not have fulfilled this promise. But when He ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came so Jesus could be with His people no matter where they are.

The promise of Jesus’ constant presence was more than adequate to strengthen and guide His disciples as they obeyed Him in making disciples of all nations and is certainly adequate to strengthen and guide us as we go into all the world and become witnesses for Christ.

In Closing

The phrase “end of the age” indicates that our Lord has a plan; He is the Lord of history. As we follow His leading and heed His Word, we fulfill His purposes in the world. One day, everything will come into a climax. Meanwhile, let us remain faithful.

What’s hindering you from fulfilling the Great Commission?

2 Replies to “Bible Study: The Great Commission”

  1. Wow! It’s really too difficult to get a site that teaches about Christ, honestly. And I concurred with you on BAPTISM.

    Baptism which authenticates your confession, through its public ritualism as being part of God’s church. Then through Grace. The presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life enables him to live a good life worthy of the Kingdom of God.

    Nice one once again.

    1. Hi Bibian, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      In today’s society where talking about faith and religion is taboo, I kind’a understand why many Christians shy away from sharing their faith in Christ and the good news of salvation. Christians are mandated to preach the gospel to all nations; they are to occupy down here doing the Father’s business. Yet, many are not motivated to obey for fear that they will become outcasts. This is really sad, but true.

      But if we really know whom we have believed, that is Christ (2 Timothy 1:12), we should have the boldness to get the message out there, at any cost. However, as I said, not all of us can be involved in missionary works or in the preaching ministry. But we can still fulfill the great commission by giving financial support to mission teams and also by using the internet as a means to share the gospel.

      In regards to baptism, I’m glad we’re on the same page. Although baptism is necessary for Christians as a public declaration of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, baptism is not a requirement for salvation. We are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) but good works, which include obedience to Jesus’ command to get baptized, are the fruits or results of our salvation.

      Blessings to you!

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