Matthew 28:18-20 — “THE GREAT COMMISSION”

Last month we looked at “The Limited Commission,” the Christ’s charge to the apostles to preach temporarily only to the Jews (Matthew 10:5- 7). Now we want to consider what often is called “The Great Commission.”

In Matthew 28:18-20, it is written:

(18) 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 the 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.’ Amen.

That message has a different “feel” to it than “The Limited Commission” did. The scope of the Matthew 28 charge is greater. Not identical words, but the same basic thrust from the mouth of the Master is found in Mark 16:15,16 and Luke 24:46,47. Those two passages complete “The Great Commission.”

Originally the charge of “The Great Commission” was given to eleven disciples as Jesus spoke to them on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16). As we study beyond the book of Matthew to the end of the new covenant message, it is clear that the task of getting our Lord’s message “out” to people applied to more than eleven apostles. It also applied to Matthias, Paul, Stephen, Philip, and other first-century disciples (Acts 8:4). It applies to Christians in every generation.

When we consider the totality of the Great Commission, the concept of “all” stands out. Consider:

All authority – This commission has the authority of Jesus behind it. He proclaimed that all authority has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). He is the One through whom God speaks to mankind (Hebrews 1:2). He is the Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14). When Jesus speaks, His followers must listen!

All nations – The Christ said to make disciples of/ teach all nations (Matthew 28:19). None is to be left out. The Greek word for “nations” is “ethnos,” which sounds like our English word “ethnic.” The call is not simply to preach to people in every country, but to reach each ethnic group. The Lord God does not discriminate against any race or group of people. He opens the door of His kingdom to folks of every background. Those who love Him take the same approach when they spread the gospel to lost folks.

All places – The Master charged His followers to go “into all the world” to proclaim the gospel (Mark 16:15). Anything short of that is not getting the full job done. We need modern-day saints to have the spirit of Isaiah and say, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8). Modern technology makes it possible in some cases to communicate the gospel from long distance. Yet, nothing takes the place of or is better than “boots on the ground,” person-to- person teaching. Effective communication requires that people be able to understand what is being said. We dare not take the approach of, “If anyone wants to hear God’s gospel, they can learn English.” Yes, we need to be prepared to use the English language as a medium for teaching, but the responsibility falls on our shoulders to get the gospel into the languages employed all over the world, not expect all the world to learn English.

All people – Our Savior wants “every creature,” meaning every human, to hear the gospel (Mark 16:15). What an awesome task! It is a privilege to be part of the greatest teaching team in the world, but the work required to get the gospel to every single one of the earth’s more than seven and one-half billion souls is enormous. Let us pray for God to send forth laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9:36-38).

All that Jesus commanded – As we go out to teach/make disciples and baptize into the name of the Godhead those who receive the gospel, we are to instruct them to “observe all things” that the Christ commanded (Matthew 28:20). Again, we are back to the authority of Jesus. He “calls the shots.” Anyone who is not ready to submit fully to what Jesus commands is not ready to follow Jesus, period. There is teaching that must be done before one is converted (Mark 16:15), and there is teaching that must continue following conversion. A portion of what Jesus taught/ commanded is what He said when He was on the earth; the other portion of His teaching is what He communicated through His apostles and other inspired disciples (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:37).

All time – The duration of the Great Commission is identified as “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). As long as the world stands, that commission will be in effect. If the world is still in existence two years or two million years from now, the major mission of the Messiah’s followers will be the same: proclaim the gospel to every person in every place. It alone is God’s power to salvation (Romans 1:16).

If you and I love the Lord, then His Great Commission means everything to us. Think about it.

— Roger D. Campbell