Remembering the Great Commission

Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, July 1, 2016

The so-called ‘Great Commission’ of Jesus is most memorably recorded at the end of Matthew’s Gospel (Matt. 28.18-20).  These timeless words summarize the task our Savior entrusted to all His followers.  As my son Joseph and I prepare to leave for Ghana, I am reminded of this charge:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus ‘prefaced’ his command with a reminder of His authority.  He had risen from the dead, and would soon ascend back to heaven.  After He had gone, He knew fears and doubts would creep in.  So He states that ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.’  As the Apostle Paul would put it years later, Jesus was ‘declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead’ (Romans 1.4).  That power is our guarantee of ultimate victory, and encourages us to be ‘steadfast…always abounding in the work of the Lord’ (see 1 Cor. 15.57-58).

And what is that work?  It can be summarized in two words: Go and Make!  Going is assumed – you can’t reach people if you don’t go to where they are.  Where should we go?  To all nations.  Just as the testimony of God’s creation ‘speaks’ to people all over the world (see Psalm 19.1-3; Romans 1.19-20), so too we proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth (Mark 16.15; Acts 1.8).

And what is the goal?  To make disciples.  Making disciples involves two stages.  When we tell someone about Jesus and they believe in Him, they receive forgiveness of their sin and the gift of eternal life.  The act of baptizing was a public profession that a person believed, illustrating in their immersion in water that the ‘old person’ they were had ‘died,’ and the ‘new person’ they were in Christ had been ‘born’.  Two thousand years later, this remains unchanged: We go with one simple message for every person, no matter what their nationality, education, or position in life.  God loved the world and sent His Son to pay the penalty for all sinners – and for all their sins (John 3.16; 1 John 2.2).

Commission The second step in making disciples is teaching.  Like a newborn baby longs to be fed, and needs to eat in order to grow, so too every new believer needs to ‘eat’ the truth of God’s Word, so they will grow (see 1 Peter 2.2).  This second step in disciple-making has perhaps never been needed as much as today: The presumptuous pride of human knowledge has led to an ignorance of God, and an ignoring of God, in the world.  We have deluded ourselves into thinking we don’t need God, and we have come to openly flaunt His truth.  Even in churches God’s Word is doubted and His gospel distorted.  It is critical to teach the Word today!

That is what my son Joe and I will be doing in Ghana…but you don’t have to go overseas to fulfill the Great Commission.  You can do it right here in New Braunfels, or wherever you are.  Just heed the Apostle Peter’s admonition:

…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3.15)