Unpacking the Great Commission

Lately I was reading (yet again) the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28:16-20. What struck me was that the authority that Jesus has, because of His ulitmate obedience to God, is also given to those who are sent as His witnesses for Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit.

This, of course, is not a new concept or teaching. As I dug deeper, however, I realized that the key to having Christ’s authority is that we must be involved in Christian work the way Christ defines it. Otherwise we have no authority from God, nor His endorsement to do what we do in His name. It may seem obvious but the subtlety of it is in the practical personal test of asking ourselves: do we really do the mission work the way Christ commanded us?What is the scope of the Great Commission? Here is the text:

And Jesus came up 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 the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Our main goal is to make disciples of Christ who come from among all nations. This is Christ’s commission. How can we do that? By baptizing them in the name of the Holy Trinity, which means that they have already heard the Gospel and made a confession of faith in Christ as the son of God (Acts 2:38). The second aspect of making disciples is teaching them to observe all of Christ’s commandments. This is a lengthier process of growing as a follower of Christ in one’s lifestyle and life-choices. Thus mission has two main goals – an outreach and an “inreach.”

The outreach aims to tell people about God and salvation in Christ. The second part of the missionary task, the inreach, is to help them grow into a Christ-like human being, one that is known to constantly apporpriate more and more obedience to Christ’s teaching into themselves.

If we fall wtihin these limits of the sending out given to us by Jesus, (1) reaching out those who seek God but don’t know about Hiim, and then (2) making sure the converts grow in their faith and develop ever deeper relationship with Christ, we will have God’s approval, His authority and His protection.

These limits are not actually limits – discipleship can take many formats and shapes; it can be done it innumerable various languages, settings, and time spans. The format is not that important; the motivation is and keeping the actual commission. After this evaluation is done, however, we must rest assured that anything that falls outside of the “disciple-making boundaries” will not be supported by God; it cannot be called “The Great Commission”; God’s authority will not be behind it. We may claim that God has given us the authority but this claim will not be true unless we are indeed making disciples of all nations by baptizing them in God’s name and teaching them full obedience to Him.

We have two encouraging observations to make to this brief study of the Great Commision: (1) the commandments of Christ are not difficult (In Matthew 10:30 Jesus stated that His yoke is easy and His burden is light – showing that with God’s help discipleship is not rocket science although it is much more valuable) and (2) they are all available for review and study in the New Testament. Those who want to see the backdrop of our faith can go for a more extensive study in the Old Testament of the Bible.

It will be a grave mistake, however, to attribute to ourselves as believers and Chrsitian workers, God’s authority for mission in this world, if we are not willing to follow the guidelines of His commissioning.

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