The Great Commission
The Great Commission - Bible Lesson
Information gathered by the American Policy Roundtable

The Great Commission of Jesus Christ
Adapted from Brian M. Schwertley’s article entitled “The Great Commission

What does Matthew 28:19-20 mean?

The Great Commission is one of the most referred to and preached upon portions of Scripture by Evangelical and Fundamentalist pastors and teachers today. Given the fact that the Great Commission contains Christ’s marching orders for the church, this emphasis is warranted. What is unfortunate regarding this Evangelical emphasis is the fact that this portion of Scripture is almost always misinterpreted in a manner that severely limits the meaning and scope of the passage….

There are five things that one should know regarding Christ’s authority:

1. Jesus Christ was given all authority by God the Father. “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”…

2. Jesus received His authority as a reward for His redemptive obedience. Jesus came to do the Father’s will. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Lu. 2:49). “Behold I have do Your will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). Jesus said to His disciples: “My food is to do the will of the Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (Jn. 4:34). Thus at the close of His earthly ministry Jesus said, “I have finished the work which You gave Me to do” (John. 17:4). Immediately before Jesus died on the cross He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:10).

Jesus earned His glorification by perfectly fulfilling His redemptive mission. This mission was two-fold. As the second Adam He had to fulfill the covenant of works by living His whole life in perfect obedience to God’s law. He also had to suffer and die as a blood sacrifice for His people (the elect). Jesus came to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). He was the sinless, spotless “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Jesus came “to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Dan 9:24). “He having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12)….

3. Jesus received His authority when He rose from the dead. The verb “was given” in the original language indicates that at a single point of time in the past Christ received all authority. Since the Great Commission was spoken to the apostles before the ascension, the logical point of time in which all authority was bestowed was during or immediately after the resurrection. Paul said that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The resurrection of Christ is the turning point of His ministry and of all human history. When Jesus was dead in the tomb He was still in a state of humiliation but the moment He rose He entered into His exaltation and reward.

4. The authority that Jesus received is comprehensive in nature and scope. The Greek word (exousia) translated authority “denotes active power; the full ability to do as one wills.” This means that Christ’s desire will be accomplished and that His commands must be carried out. The scope of Christ’s authority is indicated by the phrase “in heaven and on earth.” Jesus has been given universal…dominion not only over the physical universe and everything in it but also over everything spiritual: the spirits of those who have died and all the heavenly hosts (angels and demons). “Jesus Christ...has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (1 Pet. 3:21-22). He is the “head of every man” (1 Corinthians 11:3) and the “head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:10)….

5. Jesus Christ’s authority is the basis or foundation of the commands. He gives to the apostles in verses 19 and 20. Before the resurrection Jesus told the disciples: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 10:5-6). After the resurrection the apostles are ordered to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Mt. 28:19). The word therefore indicates that those who go and make disciples of all nations, do so on the basis of the "mediatorial" authority given to the Messiah. Those who go are to promote obedience to that authority, because Jesus obeyed the Father and achieved salvation for the whole world (i.e., people of every tongue, tribe and nation). He received all authority from the Father. Because Christ has been given comprehensive, universal authority, the apostles are commanded to go and make disciples of all the nations. Jesus after having won the war is given all authority. He then delegates that authority to the church. The church is to command all nations to kiss the Son, to submit to the King of kings and Lord of lords. “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).

The fact that the Church’s marching orders for world conquest are based upon Christ having all authority in heaven and on earth should give the Church great encouragement and optimism. Is there anyone or anything that has more power or authority than Jesus Christ? Christians should march off to battle knowing that Christ has secured the victory, and that His omnipotence cannot be thwarted. The pessimism and defeatism taught in so many churches today is totally unscriptural. Although there are periods in history when Christians suffered persecutions and setbacks, rest assured that the white horse Rider will conquer all His opposition. The “therefore” indicates “that what otherwise would be absolutely impossible now becomes gloriously possible, yea, an assured reality.”…

Avoiding a Common Interpretive Error - [It reads] “As you are going make disciples. When you are at work, or shopping or on vacation make disciples.” Although Christians certainly ought to win people to Christ whenever the opportunity arises, the participle "poreuthentes" should be translated as an imperative….

What Is a Disciple? -….Since Jesus instructed the apostles to make disciples, one needs to define the word disciple. In ancient Greek society the term disciple was used to describe a pupil or apprentice of a wise man. Disciples were seekers of knowledge and wisdom. In the Greek philosophical schools a disciple was a person who submitted himself to a gifted teacher. This...process involved a close relationship with and dependence upon the philosopher. The New Testament defines a disciple as a person who believes in Jesus Christ and then spends the rest of his or her life following the means of grace….

Why All Nations? - …Jesus could have instructed the apostles to disciple all individuals or all men, but instead He instructed them to disciple all nations. This fact is significant. The word for nation in the original language (ethnos) means a multitude of individuals of the same nature, genus, race or nation. It indicates a large group of people who often speak the same language and have the same culture. The ancient, biblical and modern uses of the word nation are basically the same: multitudes of people that are distinct from other groups in various ways such as language, customs, heritage, culture, geographical location, etc. Paul said, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Ac. 17:26). John wrote: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9).
The significance of Christ’s choice of the word nations, rather than individuals or men is that the goal of the Great Commission is not just that a few individuals here and there are to be discipled but rather that eventually whole nations are to be brought under the subjection of Jesus Christ. The Church’s task is not completed until institutions, cultures and civil governments submit to the King of kings….

Go! - …After Jesus told the apostles that He had received all authority, He then ordered them to go and make disciples of all nations….

Baptized - …In order to disciple the nations one must go. The second thing necessary is to baptize. Why is baptism placed before teaching? Because under normal circumstances the majority of teaching occurs after baptism. This point is true not only of covenant children but also of adult converts. The knowledge needed by an adult to be saved is small. But once a person is converted to Christ the whole Bible is to be learned and applied to life….

There are many reasons why baptism is important for discipleship

1. Baptism signifies a person’s regeneration by the Holy Spirit. It is by this sovereign act of God that hearts are subdued. The heart of stone is replaced by a heart of flesh. The unwilling are made willing and the unable are fully enabled. Christ’s conquest of the earth begins in the hearts of men. Not one person would believe in Christ and become a disciple without the new birth.

2. Baptism signifies a believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection. All the saving graces flow from Christ’s atoning death.

3. Baptism signifies a Christian’s cleansing from sin.

4. In baptism the new believer publicly acknowledges his submission to Christ’s ownership and authority. The sincere believer who comes to be baptized has repented. He has laid down the weapons of his warfare and has submitted to the rule of the King of kings and Lord of lords. He “is proclaiming that he has broken with the world and has been brought into union with the Triune God, to whom he intends to devote his life.” Many converts to Christ who come from pagan cultures have testified that they were disowned by family and friends only after submitting to Christian baptism.

5. Baptism under normal circumstances is required for membership in the visible church. Becoming a member of a church that teaches the true Reformed religion (i.e., biblical Christianity) is absolutely essential to one’s spiritual growth. Discipleship is not to be divorced from the church government, officers, laws and censures that Christ has instituted for His body. The anti-institution church spirit of this age is a reflection of the world’s hatred of Christ’s authority. Personal devotions and self-government are important factors for sanctification. But, they are only part of the Christian life. God is also zealous for public worship, the sacraments, church discipline and Christian fellowship. “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account” (Heb. 13:17).

6. Baptism is in (or into) the name of the Triune Jehovah (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Baptism signifies that union with Christ brings believers into a vital relationship with the three persons of the Godhead. When a person believes and is justified he is adopted into God’s family. God is Father (Abba). Believers are co-heirs with Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells in believers and enables them to more and more put off sinful behavior and to put on righteousness. The church is Christ’s body, His own bride. Dickson writes: “There are three Persons in the Godhead distinct from another in order of subsistence and operation, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost…. These three are one GOD, undivided in essence and operation, equal and one in authority and power; their name and their exercise of authority is one; for it is said, Baptizing them, not in the names but in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Teach - The third thing necessary to disciple the nations is to teach them to observe all things that Christ has commanded. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is described as riding on a white horse going forth to conquer the earth (19:11-14). How does Christ subdue the nations? Does He employ physical means such as bullets, bombs and missiles? No. “Out of His mouth goes a sharp two-edged sword, that with it He should strike the nations”


Related Articles

A Sermon on Civil Government, - James R. Willson

The Great Commission - A Personal Instruction, -

The Great Commission According to Matthew, by Wayne Jackson



Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Matthew 28:19-20

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:20

All heaven and earth – that means civil government. – David Zanotti, President of the American Policy Roundtable

Living good lives in this fallen world – discipleship. It’s not just, “Go make converts.”…Conversion is where it begins…the great commission goes beyond conversion. – David Zanotti, President of the American Policy Roundtable

There’s a part of the great commission that requires, in the whole aspect of making disciples; that we do evangelize; that we do bring people to Christ. But that…is a beginning point. Part of discipleship is taking folks past that initial experience where the receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and move on to be involved in civil government, in the marketplace, in the public square. – Melanie Elsey

We have one part of the great commission, but we’re missing part 2, 3, 4 and 5. – David Zanotti, President of the American Policy Roundtable





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