THE GREAT COMMISSION : Matthew 28


And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

Matthew 28:18‭-‬20 ASV

This indicates that Christ was first visible from a distance, and then “came to them,” leaving the probability that some recognized him at once while some doubted, and that as soon as he came to them, all believed. All present on that mountain were there for the specific purpose of meeting Christ, as he had appointed them; and it is a safe conjecture that as soon as he came near, all believed.

The surpassing magnificence of this grand conclusion to Matthew’s gospel is unrivaled by anything even from the sacred pages of inspiration. This Great Commission, as the saints of all ages have consented to call it, constitutes the marching orders of his church for a day and to all eternity.

It is a whole galaxy studded with many of the biggest stars in the firmament of Christian doctrine. It may well be doubted if many passages of similar length are more freighted with divine truth than are these words of the Commission.

They are exactly what one should have expected, only far more, from the lips of a supernatural, divine Saviour, on point of departure to the eternal world of the spirit, and uttering one last comprehensive command to his disciples for all generations to come.

One may observe the stormy band of Orion reflected in a drop of water at night, because both were created by Almighty God and there is a unity in all his creation.

That strange interrelation of all created things was marked by the poet Tennyson who said, Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies; I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little flower, – but if I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is.

It need not, then, be thought a strange thing that this Great Commission should contain embryonically so many of the distinctive doctrines of the faith that is in Christ, Among them, and there is no pretense of exhaustiveness, are noted the following:

1. “All authority in heaven” teaches the divinity of Christ. If these words were spoken by a mere man, they are nonsense; and therefore in this statement Christ lays claim to status as a member of the Godhead.

Ten times in the Greek New Testament, Christ is actually called God (see John 1:1John 20:28Acts 20:28Romans 9:5Philippians 2:6Hebrews 1:8Titus 2:132 Peter 1:11 John 5:20Revelation 1:8; also Colossians 2:9 and John 14:9).

This says nothing of the countless passages in which he laid claim to attributes of deity, as for example when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am!” Christ is God come in the flesh. That is the central meaning and message of Christianity. Anything less than this regarding Christ is blasphemous.

2. “And upon earth.” Christ is head of the church upon earth as well as in heaven. There is no true head on earth, otherwise the church is a two-headed monster. This indicates the reign of Christ is now going on. These are the times of the regeneration when he is reigning with the Twelve in his kingdom, the Israel of God.

Christ was not defeated on Calvary but was there victorious over death, hell, and the devil. He will continue to reign until all his enemies have been put under foot, notwithstanding, the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:24,25).

3. “Go ye therefore and make disciples” Disciples can be made only by teaching; therefore the KJV did no violence to the meaning with the translation, “Go teach all nations.” Mark’s account makes it crystal clear that that is what was said.

Thus, teaching, as a prerequisite of discipleship, is evident as one of the basic principles of the faith. Infants cannot be taught, and therefore, in the true view, they cannot become disciples until they are old enough to be taught. The Great Commission is clearly opposed to infant church membership.

4. “Of all nations”  Here is the world-wide missionary program of the church. Here is the world-wide brotherhood of all nations and races in Christ.

God made of “one” all the families of the earth (Acts 17:26), and that universal kinship and brotherhood appear in the Great Commission. No limitation or abridgment is permitted. All the nations … not merely all “the English-speaking nations” or “all the white nations,” but all the nations!

5. “Baptizing them” If nothing else appeared in all the Bible relative to the ordinance of baptism, Christ’s mention of it in this circumstance would have been more than sufficient to bind it upon all people for all time to come.

That Jesus Christ, the Head of our holy faith, in this grand finale of his earthly teaching, should be charged with having introduced secondary, subordinate, non-essential, and unnecessary commands is a reflection upon his divinity.

Added to that is the sacred triple name of “Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in which baptism was commanded to be administered. Where else in all the Scriptures is there another commandment that enjoys the distinction conferred by those solemn words?

The commandment of baptism, subjoined by the sacred name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is in this Great Commission elevated to a priority that men have been very reluctant to allow; and yet the inclusion of baptism in this Commission dispels any view that it can be considered optional or permissive; it is commanded, not for one or for a few, but for all, “every creature” (Mark 16:15).

6. “Into the name” Three names are given, yet they are one name. God’s unity and oneness are taught by this. There are three persons in the Godhead, and each has a name; but their name is one!

7. “Of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Here is the doctrine of the Trinity. Although not stated in the Scriptures under that terminology, the doctrine of the Trinity is nevertheless a true one, and appears throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

The pronouns for God in Genesis are plural, as in “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). Even the passages affirming that God is “one” employ a word which means a compound rather than an abstract unity.

That Hebrew word is [~’echad] and is also used in such passages as that which says a man and his wife shall be “one” flesh (Genesis 2:24), and in “the people is one” (Genesis 11:6).

Thus, the “oneness” of God is like the “oneness” of a man and his wife, or of the people. In the New Testament, the doctrine of the Trinity appears in this passage, and at Christ’s baptism (Matthew 3:16). Also, the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14 likewise establishes the Trinity.

8. “Teaching them to observe all things” The perpetual mission of the church as a teacher is implicit in these words. Here is the necessity for indoctrination and grounding all the disciples in the Saviour’s teaching.

Here is the divine authority for the Bible School, the cottage meeting, the mid-week service, the evangelistic campaign, and whatever else may be useful in carrying out the divine injunction to teach the taught and to teach the baptized to do all that Christ commanded.

9. “Whatsoever I have commanded you” This establishes the identity of the true doctrine; it is what Christ commanded, nothing else. The most important fact of Christianity is that it is “of Christ.”

The true faith was “first spoken” by him (Hebrews 2:3), and not by any other: Whatsoever was not first spoken by the Lord and confirmed by those who heard him can have no valid claim as a part of Christianity.

Not even the Holy Spirit came to reveal new truth to the apostles but to “bring all things to their remembrance” (John 14:26; 16:13). In practical fact, this limits true Christianity to what is taught in the New Testament, for that is the only book that contains the authenticated teachings of the Master.

With the death of the last of the apostles who heard and confirmed to others what Jesus taught, the revelation of God’s true will for mankind was concluded. Many passages in the New Testament make that crystal clear.

People are commanded not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6); the apostles gave all “things that pertain” to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3); the true faith was “once for all” delivered to the saints (Jude 1:1:3), etc.

In the light of this, how much of present-day Christianity is valueless? Auricular confession, baptizing of babies, countless innovations in the worship, the doctrine of purgatory, penances, redemption of penances, and literally scores of doctrines, devices, and presumptions of men, are all identified as forming a part of Christianity, but it is not so.

Christ knew none of those things. They were not first spoken by him; on the other hand, we know the place, and the time, and the name of the man or men who initiated those things and brought them into God’s worship. Therefore, all such things must be rejected by those who would walk after the oracles of God.

10. “And lo, I am with you always” This teaches the providence of God. God has not wound up his universe, or his church, and left them to run of their own accord.

He “upholdeth all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Christ promised to be with his disciples always. A solicitous and loving providence always watches over the fortunes of God’s church.

11. “Even unto the end of the world.” This teaches immortality. It would have been a vast comfort if Christ had promised to be with his disciples until they die; but this promise far exceeds that.

He is still with Peter, James, and John, and all who ever truly served him in all generations. He is the God of the living and not of the dead; he brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10).

12. “The end of the world” This is the doctrine of the final liquidation of the entire material creation, specifically of the earth and all that is in it.

The apostle Peter elaborated on this (2 Peter 3:1-13). This earth is destined to burn, whether by nuclear fires kindled by man himself, or by some catastrophic judgment of God, is not known.

Even as recently as a generation ago, men scoffed at the idea that the earth could burn; but in the light of what is now known, it is safe to say that scientific knowledge has finally caught up with revelation.

The sun itself is a “nova” and is a type of star that is capable of exploding to a million times its present size and intensity (see National Geographic magazine, November, 1965, article on the sun by Herbert Friedman).

When and if such a thing happens, our poor earth will be millions of miles deep in the flaming periphery of the sun itself. In the light of Christ’s word in this place, and in view of Peter’s words on the same subject, the end of this world is certain.

“No man knoweth the day nor the hour” (Matthew 24:36). The conclusion that thoughtful men should derive from these considerations is well stated by Peter who said, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace” (2 Peter 3:14).

It's Your Turn. Write Something. Say Something.