“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt 28:18-20)
These verses coincide the commandment from Jesus found in Mark 16:15-17 where he commanded, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.” And the passage found in Luke 24:46-47 completes the synopsis of what is commonly knows as the “Great Commission”, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”.
The word commission in this context means an authoritative order, charge, or direction. Jesus finished up His earthly stay with directions regarding what His disciples were to do from that time forward in His absence from the physical realm. Let us take a look at the ‘Great Commission’ of Jesus Christ and see how it is a relevant to us today.
The Great Commission constitutes the marching orders of the Lord’s church both then and now. Only Jesus had the divine authority to command His Church to do anything. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven…” Power here is speaking of authority.
This supports the divinity of Christ. Jesus Christ was standing on the earth when He made that statement, but He was much more than just a man in order to make such a statement. Christ is actually called God 10 times in the New Testament (Jn 1:1 ff; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom 9:5; Philip 2:6; Heb 1:8; Tit 2:13; 2 Pet 1:1; 1 Jn 5:20; Rev 1:8; Col 2:9 and Jn 14:9).
When God the Father calls His Son, Jesus Christ God in the inspired record, not once but twice, you can be assured that Jesus Christ is God. These and all the rest of the scriptures which refer directly to Jesus Christ as God leave no doubt whatsoever that Jesus Christ was, in fact, one of the three members of the Godhead which are individually identified later on in the Great Commission.
The disciples were instructed to go. It does not mean to set in services and wait for visitors to show up at the assembly. It means Go and carry the message to the lost. Without those to carry the gospel to the world, the church will fade from existence and souls who might have been saved will be lost.
God gave man the responsibility of spreading the word. God has left this up to us to do. Jesus died and gave His life for the church, and then left it up to us to tell the world about it.
Here is the worldwide missionary program of the church. Here is the world-wide brotherhood of all nations and races in Christ. God made of “one” all the families of the earth (Acts 17:26), and that universal kinship and brotherhood appear in the Great Commission. No limitation or abridgment is permitted. All the nations … not merely all “the English-speaking nations” or “all the white nations,” but every nation under the sun!
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:26-29, )
All Christians, regardless of race or color are brethren in Christ. There is no room in the heart of any faithful Christian for racial bigotry or prejudice.
Baptism is an essential step in the making of disciples. It is understood that with the command to baptize others is the requirement to be baptized. Mark’s account says in 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”. If nothing else appeared in all the Bible relative to the ordinance of baptism, Christ’s mention of it in this circumstance would have been more than sufficient to bind it upon all people for all time to come.
There is a great difference of opinion among the denominations as to the necessity and mode of baptism in the life of a believer. The baptism of the Great Commission cuts through all this and clearly identifies the one baptism which is in effect today. The baptism of the Great Commission is the one that can be submitted to and obeyed by the confessed believer. The baptism of the Great Commission is the one that can be administered to others by mankind. Ephesians 4:5 says there is only one baptism. That baptism can only be the baptism of the Great Commission and that is the one which is an immersion and resurrection in water (Acts 8:36-39).
Baptism is an essential and necessary step in the evangelizing process of the world. Baptism is an essential and necessary step to becoming a Christian.
INTO THE NAME
This means Baptized by the authority of and identified with. Ephesians 3:14-16, “For this reason, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” All who have been baptized with the baptism of the Great Commission are identified with God as His children, as His special people. Our association is no longer with the world and the things therein. Our association is now with God and the things not of this world.
“Of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Here is the doctrine of the Trinity. Although not stated in the Scriptures under that terminology, the doctrine of the Trinity is nevertheless a true one and appears throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The pronouns for God in Genesis are plural, as in “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26). In the New Testament, the doctrine of the Trinity appears in this passage, and at Christ’s baptism (Matthew 3:16) which reads, “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In this context, we have God the Son on earth having just been baptized. We have God the Holy Spirit descending upon God the Son like a dove and we have God the Father speaking His approval from heaven. Three separate persons, one nature, so united in purpose and direction that they are one.
TEACHING TO OBSERVE
The perpetual mission of the church as a teacher is implicit in these words. Here is the necessity for indoctrination and grounding all the disciples in the Savior’s teaching. Here is the divine authority for reading and studying the scripture, teaching and preaching the Word, meeting each Sunday to remember the Lord’s death and give of our means, and to sing and to pray.
Jesus did not stop with His instruction to baptize. The responsibilities of discipleship are more far-reaching than just making Christians. The responsibility of the church does not stop there. We are to follow up with teaching. And what we are to teach is summed up by Jesus in words that are all inclusive of His whole life of teaching. The instructions were to teach new Christians to observe everything I have commanded. Notice, he did not say observe what man commands you. In fact, Jesus condemned such observance in Matthew 15:7-9.
In the light of this, how much of present-day religious practice and doctrine is useless? Baptizing of babies, countless innovations in the worship, the doctrine of purgatory, penances, redemption of penances, and literally scores of other doctrines, devices, and presumptions of men, all which are identified as forming a part of Christianity, but it is not so. Christ taught none of those things. They were not first spoken by him, and they were not revealed by the apostles. We can look back and know who, when, and where man-made innovations and practices were introduced into the church and brought into the worship and practice of Christianity.
If something was not first spoken by Jesus and revealed by the apostles or other inspired writers, then it must be rejected. It cannot be a part of the faith.
I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS
This teaches the providence of God for His church. God has not forsaken His church. He “upholds all things by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). Christ promised to be with his disciples always. A concerned and loving God always watches over the members and activities of His people.
Jesus was about to ascend into Heaven and they needed to know that He was with them, even if they could not see Him. The application for us today is the same. Even though we cannot see Jesus Christ, we know from the Great Commission that He is with us always. He is reigning His spiritual kingdom from the right-hand side of God the Father and He is with us still and will be with us until the end of this age and beyond.
UNTO THE END
This is the doctrine of the final destruction of the entire material creation, specifically of the earth and all that is in it and the heavens, meaning everything, not on the earth itself. The apostle Peter elaborated on this (2 Peter 3:1-13). This creation is destined to be burned up. The means by which this will be accomplished is not certainly known.
In the light of Christ’s word in the Great Commission, and in view of Peter’s words on the same subject, the end of this world is certain. “No man knows the day nor the hour” (Matt 24:36). The conclusion that thoughtful men should derive from these considerations is well stated by Peter who said, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that you look for these things, give diligence that you may be found in peace” (2 Pet 3:14).
Conclusion: Jesus was giving His disciples the farewell instructions of how to proceed with the spreading of the gospel and the growth of His kingdom. His work on earth as a flesh and blood man was finished. He was passing the responsibility of discipleship and the continuation of Christianity to mankind. We are commanded to Go, Make disciples, Baptize and Teach obedience. That is how mankind is converted to Christ. That is how Christians are made. That is how the church, the body of Christ, lives, thrives, grows and continues on this earth.
We cannot add anything to this, we certainly cannot take anything away from it (1 Cor 4:6 f; Gal 1:6-9). If mankind fails to ‘go’ as commanded, the church of the new testament will not continue. If mankind fails to ‘make disciples’ as commanded, the church of the new testament will vanish from the face of the earth. If mankind fails to ‘baptize’ as commanded, the church of the new testament will cease to exist. If mankind fails to ‘teach obedience’ as commanded, the church of the new testament will be replaced by the churches of men.