By Ryan Shaw
Jesus’ Commission in Matthew
Last week we introduced the question “What is the Great Commission” and highlighted it being four separate commissions (one in each Gospel book) – each stressing crucial elements of the whole.
Today, we want to look in depth at Jesus’ commission in Matthew. This is generally the one we are most familiar with.
“And Jesus came 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 of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 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. Matthew 28:18-20
First, the entire Great Commission is based entirely in the fact that “All authority has been given to Me…” (vs. 18) What we do in this commission is to be done because He possesses all authority.
Because He humbled Himself, taking all the defilement of sin and independence from God upon Himself and has defied the grave, He has been given the highest place of authority by the Father.
Through His death and resurrection He has taken back universal dominion over all. This had been lost in Genesis 3 when human beings first chose sin. He has purchased that lost Kingdom and inaugurated it in this age as His gospel is lived and proclaimed, submitted to by millions.
An important purpose Jesus had in declaring His authority was emboldening His disciples in the commission He was about to give. Because of His resurrection and defeat of death, disciples go forth with confidence that His absolute authority is sure.
His authority is a delegated authority. First, delegated from God and given to Jesus as King. Second, delegated from the King to His children as we are obedient to His commission.
The first message of the gospel is the supreme Lordship of Jesus as rightful King over all human beings and the world itself, proven through the fact of His resurrection from the dead. We declare an invisible King and Kingdom with the proven right to rule.
The first action of the commission is, “Go Therefore!” A better rendering from the original language is, “As you are going…” Jesus assumed His disciples would be “going.”
The implication is there is something wrong if disciples are not moving outward in obedience to His commission. This does not refer only to the traditional understanding of “missionary.”
It includes every disciple prayerfully considering where the Holy Spirit is planting them with professions, families, etc. Many jobs can be done in a variety of countries – doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, farmers, accountants and more. These are your professions yet you are there for the Kingdom.
The next command is the phrase, “make disciples of all the nations.” Again, the original language translates better as, “disciple all ethnic groups.” From the former we approach the gospel in an individualistic way. We “make disciples.” Yet the commission here is to be understood as “discipling every ethnic people group” as a whole.
How do we do this? By living, teaching and providing examples of the Kingdom of God in their midst. We influence the ungodly elements of culture through exposing ethnic groups to a thoroughly different, counter-cultural way of living – the Kingdom of God.
To do this effectively it needs to be understood that “discipling” happens before and after people are born again.
As individuals respond (part of the whole ethnic group being confronted with the gospel), Jesus next instructs us with two specific responsibilities, baptizing and teaching.
We baptize those identifying with Jesus in His death and resurrection. Baptism doesn’t save us but symbolizes the dying to the sinful nature and being raised from enslavement to sin. It is an important outward expression of an inward faith.
The next action step Jesus gives as we “disciple ethnic groups” is to “teach them to observe all things I have commanded you.”
Once believers have been brought into initial union life with Jesus, there is crucial teaching and instructing that goes on. This is where intensive discipleship takes place, where the Kingdom of God is taught and life in the Kingdom is communicated as the highest standard.
Focused and consistent teaching of the depth of spiritual life is what Jesus is getting at, what the early church emulated and what we are called to do among the ethnic groups who are becoming believers.
Jesus doesn’t merely give us this commission and leave us to our own devices. He declares, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He Himself promises to be with us as we respond to His beckoning to knowing Him, loving Him and obediently responding to His commission.
This is the promise of the New Covenant through Jesus. He abiding presence is now “with us” in a very real, dynamic way.
It is this inner, abiding presence of Jesus, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, that empowers and emboldens disciples to press on in obeying this commission.
Many attempt to do so from intellectual understanding and lack true spiritual authority and power, harming themselves and failing to produce the fruit Jesus intends.