Great Commission

What to do on Easter Monday morning?

The Road to Emmaus by Robert Zund (1877).

The Road to Emmaus by Robert Zund (1877).

Easter Sunday is over. The disciples are waking up, wondering was it real? Is he alive? They look around the room and smile at one another. He IS Risen.

But what next? Shall we rise up and remove the Romans from power? Take over the Temple? Make Jesus King! Then wait for the nations to flock to Jerusalem.

Everybody had an opinion. But what was Jesus’ agenda? 

Two thousand years later we still haven’t worked that out. We’re as clueless as the first disciples. Until Jesus speaks.

All authority has been given to him. We are to make disciples of all nations by going, baptizing and teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands.  The message of the forgiveness of sins must go to the whole world. Prepare to receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

Once Jesus pointed them in the right direction, they knew what to do. When they got stuck, the Spirit moved them on.

The Word keeps spreading and doesn’t stop. Jews and Gentiles turn and believe the gospel and immediately begin gathering. Churches start popping up everywhere.

It wasn’t easy. But it was clear. They knew what to do. They got on with it. 

The best sermons, books and conferences can’t help you. Unless they lead you into obedience to Jesus. Put your mission on hold. Embrace his.

The Great Commission — in Chinese UPDATED

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
— Acts 4:13

I assumed that all I needed to understand the Great Commission where some good commentaries. I was wrong. This story came in from a man we’ll call Mr Smith.

I was with a group of Chinese church leaders many years ago. They were studying the Great Commission together. They concluded that “I am with you always” was by far the most important part of the Commission. One by one these leaders stood and testified what that promise meant to them. Here’s what they said,

  1. When I am away from my spouse and tempted to sin Jesus is always with me
  2. When I am being beaten by police, I am never alone Jesus is always with me.
  3. When I do not know what to say when I am accused, I do not have to worry Jesus is always with me
  4. When I go to a new town or village where I have never been I am never alone Jesus is always with me
  5. When I am in prison even if I am the only believer I am never alone Jesus is always with me
  6. If I am tempted not to obey the Great Commission I cannot because Jesus is always with me
  7. Nothing I ever do or say will ever cause Jesus not to be with me.

There’s knowing that comes from reading the Great Commission and studying the best exegetes. Then there’s knowing that comes from obedience at a cost.

UPDATE: Next time someone tells you these multiplying movements are "half a mile wide and half an inch deep" remind him of the outstanding exegetical skills of these Chinese believers." They may not be theologically trained. They may be "uneducated ordinary men and women." But they have been with Jesus and they are learning to obey everything he has commanded.

Great Commission - I am with you

The Great Commission ends, not with a command, but with a promise. Jesus says “I (emphatic) will be with you”. His name is Immanuel (Matt 1:3) — God with us. In the Old Testament when God called people to a task, he promised to go with them (Ex 3:12; Jos 1:5), The risen Lord now makes the same promise.

This is a promise, not just to be present, but to be active on their behalf as they obey his Commission. He is not working with them, they are working with him. Jesus still leads the way.

He will be with them always, literally “the whole of every day.” He will be with them always, and to the end of the age. This Commission is not just for the original disciples, but for all those who will follow, until the end of history.

The kingdom has come, but the present evil age continues until the mission is complete — making disciples of every people group, baptizing and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded. Do this and the risen Lord promises you will never be alone.

The series so far:

Great Commission — all peoples

The Meaning of Ethne

The Meaning of Ethne

“All power . . . everywhere . . . all nations . . . all that I have commanded.” — it is impossible to conceive of anything more inclusive than this.
— Johannes Blauw

Making disciples is a global challenge which cannot be fulfilled without going. The Gentiles are to be gathered in. The church has become a holy nation (ethos) God’s own people (2 Pe 2:9).

“All the nations” (panta ta ethne) is used four times in Matthew (24:9, 14; 25:32; 28:19). When we hear “nation” we think of nation-states which may be comprised of many ethnicities. But ethne also includes “tribes,” or “peoples.”

The aim of Jesus’ disciples, therefore, is to make disciples of all people everywhere, without distinction (Carson)

[ed. I wish I could make it more complicated than this! Anybody can understand it unless they are lost in the missional fog.]

Great Commission series so far:

UPDATE: The Meaning of Ethne in Matthew 28:19

Great Commission: Teach them to obey everything

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All of Jesus' disciples are to make others what they themselves are—disciples of Jesus Christ.

DA Carson

Jesus’ universal authority is central to the foundation to his Commission to make disciples.

Disciples accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Inwardly they believe in him and are united with God. Outwardly they learn to obey him. Their first act of obedience is to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There can be no discipleship without calling people to a living relationship with Christ.

Mission does not end with conversions. Repentance and faith must always lead on to teaching new disciples to obey what Jesus commanded, including the command to make disciples. This Commission was not just for the first apostles. Discipleship fuels multiplication.

New disciples are to learn how to follow and obey Jesus as their Teacher and Master. No Christian teacher can usurp his position (Matt 23:8-10).

Jesus is concerned with a way of life. Disciples learn by hearing and obeying Jesus’ example and his commands.

To say that there is a conflict between the Great Commission (make disciples teaching them to obey everything I have commanded) and the Great Commandment (love your neighbor as yourself) is an absurdity. You cannot fulfill one without the other.

Jesus’ commands have universal and enduring authority. Heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will never pass away (Matt 24:35). They are always true.

Failure to disciple, baptize, and teach the peoples of the world to obey Jesus’ commands is a failure of discipleship. You can’t be a disciple, and not make disciples, who are themselves obeying Christ’s command to make disciples.

It’s not easy, but it is clear.

Great Commission series so far:

Great Commission — Baptize

During his ministry, Jesus trained his disciples to baptize those who repented and believed. (John 3:22; 4:1-3). Therefore, it is certain that Jesus would have ensured that his first disciples were baptized at the beginning of his ministry in Galilee.

Jesus commands his disciples to continue the practice of baptizing new disciples.

Baptism—literally “immersion”—is in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The new disciple has come to know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The authority to baptize is given to every disciple, not just to a select few. Jesus didn’t baptize, he trained his disciples to baptize (John 4:2). Paul was baptized by Ananias, an ordinary disciple (Acts 9:10). At Cornelius’ house Peter didn’t baptize, he instructed the believers who came with him to baptize Cornelius and those who believed (Acts 10:48). Paul didn’t baptize many of the Corinthians because he trained others to baptize (1 Corinthians 1:14).

The New Testament can hardly conceive of a disciple who is not baptized. Baptism occurs when someone repents, is forgiven and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Great Commission series so far:

The Great Commission — Go

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We’ve already seen that at the heart of the Great Comission is the command to make disciples of all nations. That is achieved by going, baptizing and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.

Go means go, not “as you happen to go about your normal life”. Go means crossing geographic, cultural and linguistic barriers. How else are the nations to be discipled?

We may argue that not everyone is called to make disciples cross-culturally. We may say that making disciples begins in Jerusalem and then spreads out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). But however uncomfortable it makes us feel, in this passage, Jesus means what he says — go make disciples of all nations. Don’t stop with your own back yard.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the risen Lord. The mandate is universal.

It may not be easy, but it is clear.