What is the Great Commission? - Radical

What is the Great Commission?

The Great Commission is Jesus’ marching orders for his church after his ascension into heaven and before his return. Until the sky cracks and Jesus comes down from heaven to judge the living and the dead, Christians have a job to do. To understand our responsibility, let’s look at Matthew 28:18–20.

The Power of the Great Commission is in Jesus’ Authority

The Great Commission is an impossible task—if we were left to do it in our own strength. We execute our disciple-making mission in Jesus’ power. He says in Matthew 28:18 that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He’s always had authority as the eternal God. He has earned this right through his perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection” (Romans 1:4; Philippians 2:9–10). 

The Great Commission is an impossible task—if we were left to do it in our own strength.

The world is filled with people made in God’s image. People just like you and me, who love sin so much that they’d rather rebel against the one who created them than bow their knee to him in happy submission (Ephesians 2:1–3). We minister in spiritual cemeteries. But Jesus is powerful enough to bring spiritual life from spiritual death. Jesus, with just a word, tells dead people to rise (John 11:43) and sinful men and women that their sins are forgiven (Matthew 9:5). His authority over all things, including every heart and mind on the planet, gives us hope as we labor to make his glory known. 

The People is The Local Church

Who has the authority to take the gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation? Jesus gives the church his authorization to go out on his behalf to proclaim the coming of his kingdom and the promise of salvation to all who believe. Jesus is commissioning the church as his royal ambassadors, sent out under his authority to make disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

You might see the word “church” isn’t explicitly used in Matthew 28:18–20. Even the biggest, most famous passages of Scripture don’t come in a vacuum. In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus clearly gives authority to the church to declare who he is and who it is that belongs to him (Matthew 16:13–20; Matthew 18:16–20). The Great Commission belongs to local churches and their members because Jesus promised his special presence among them and appointed them to be his official representatives in the world. 

The Great Commission isn’t for lone-ranger Christians.

The Great Commission isn’t for lone-ranger Christians. We’re accountable to pull our weight and make disciples in the spheres of influence in which God has placed us. The local church, however, is the means and the goal of Jesus’ Great Commission. Jesus calls us to work as a team, a visible group of committed Christians who help one another do spiritual good to a lost world through the planting of more healthy churches among the unreached.

The Plan is to Make Disciples of All Nations

How do we fulfill the Great Commission? Matthew 28:19 begins with a simple instruction: “Go!” There are good reasons to keep a special category for those who cross cultures with the gospel to places where it has not reached. We call them “missionaries.” But there is a real sense in which we’re all called to “go.” We might go over to our kitchen table, across the street to a neighbor’s house, or across town to a favorite restaurant. Every Christian has their part in seeing the gospel advance in their neighborhood and around the world. 

When we go, we’re going to make disciples, not quick decisions and converts.

When we go, we’re going to make disciples, not quick decisions and converts. The Great Commission is often long and slow work. Professions of faith are the starting line, not the finish line. True, saving knowledge of Jesus expressed in a life of love and obedience to him is our goal. This guards us against evangelistic strategies aimed to produce maximum response using a minimum amount of gospel clarity. We’re tasked with being faithful—fruitfulness is ultimately up to God. 

Praying for the Advancement of the Gospel

What does Jesus’ discipleship program look like? The Great Commission takes shape as men and women bow their knees to King Jesus, are baptized, and begin learning to follow him in imperfect, but genuine, obedience (Matthew 28:19). Again, the New Testament pattern ties discipleship together with membership in a local church, where possible. 

We pray for the advancement of Jesus’ mission through the progress of the gospel. We pray for the establishment of new gospel-preaching churches among every people group under the sun. Image-bearers are going to hell every day because they’ve rejected God and don’t have access to the one message able to save their souls. 

We desire to see vibrant, local, indigenous churches across the globe that themselves in turn take the gospel to their neighbors and the world at large. That will only happen, by God’s grace, when we go and commit to the seemingly-inefficient, glorious work of making disciples. 

The Promise of the Great Commission is Jesus’ Presence

The Great Commission is Jesus’ command for his followers, as members of local churches, to take the gospel to the nations with the aim of seeing them converted, baptized, and taught how to obey his Word. Wow—that’s a lot! 

The Great Commission is Jesus’ command for his followers, as members of local churches, to take the gospel to the nations with the aim of seeing them converted, baptized, and taught how to obey his Word.

Read how Jesus signs off in Matthew 28:20: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus started by assuring them with the promise of his power; he ends by assuring them with the promise of his presence. The Great Commission isn’t a walk in the park. There are long, hard days ahead. Jesus is going to be there every step of the way, drawing all men to himself (John 12:32).

The Great Commission is Jesus’ command for his followers, as members of local churches, to take the gospel to the nations with the aim of seeing them converted, baptized, and taught how to obey his Word.

Want a sneak peek at mission complete? Flip over to Revelation 7:9. The scene is of people from every tribe, nation, and language worshiping God for all eternity. And look who’s there, right at the center of it all: Jesus, the Lamb of God. He’s promised to be with us now as we make disciples. We can rest assured he’ll be with us forever.

Colton Corter lives in Richmond, Virginia. He and his wife have two boys and are members of River City Baptist Church.

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