Let me start by saying that the dictionary says that a commission is: an instruction, command, or duty given to a person or group of people. As I reflect on that, I can think back to a few times I was given a commission.
Growing up, I remember my Dad gave me $5 to rent a movie at the local Jumbo Video. I had been commissioned, given a duty, responsibility, an instruction. I got there, and the movie wasn’t there, so I got on my bike and rode back home. As I got home, I quickly realized I didn’t have the $5 anymore. I rode my bike back to and from the store to see if I could find it, but nothing. I finally had to get home and confess that I had failed at the commission given to me. Not only did I not get the movie, but I lost the money too. We’ve all been given a commission sometime in our lives. But if you are a Christian, you have been given a commission from your Lord and Saviour.
In Matthew 28:16-20 as the disciples gathered together on a mountain top, they will be given a commission to send them out beyond the borders of Judah. As they get to the top of the mountain, they are face to face with the resurrected Jesus Christ. They worshipped, even though some may have been hesitant.
When I read about this hesitation, it’s a great reminder to you and me. The road to mature faith is a difficult one. These disciples doubted, but they still obeyed him to meet at this location. It’s not like God saves someone and immediately, there is never any doubt. Some of the disciples worshipped Jesus at once; some were less sure how to react. That’s the attitude that is needed as we look at this passage.
The command in a sandwich
At the top and the bottom, Jesus gives reason to accept the commission. Verse 18 says, “All authority has been given to me.” Jesus always had authority: he taught with authority, healed with a word, but now it’s full authority. He exercises his authority in a bigger way. Jesus came to serve, but he will now be served. So the first reason to accept the commission: The King told you to do it.
In verse 20, it says, “I am with you always.” Jesus has now risen! He calls his people to become disciple-makers, and he promises to be with them irrespective of their successes or failures.
In Jesus, God remains with us for now and eternity! What more do we need to do to keep on in Christian living? We must go out and obey his commission. But the final word of the Gospel remains Christ-centred. Even when we fail, he remains faithful. So the second reason to obey the commission is that Jesus is with us as we obey, always. These two verses sandwich three commands: to go, baptize, and teach.
The command to go
In verse 19, the command is: “Go therefore and make disciples.” It’s not a command to grow the church or tell people about Jesus, or to make converts. These things are assumed in the command that is given: go and make disciples. To make disciples is to lead new believers to maturity. Hence, they understand and follow Jesus and eventually become leaders too. By making disciples, the church stays healthy over the generations.
A Church that is not obedient to the Great Commission does not raise up Elders. It doesn’t raise up men who meet the qualifications of what it means to be a man of God, because there’s not a push to go out. There’s no need to make disciples, we’ve got all we need right here right now.
In Mark, Mark quotes Jesus as saying, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
Let us see in these words of Christ, the most persuasive argument in favour of missionary work, both at home and abroad. How can one be a follower of Christ if one is not helping other people to follow Christ by first showing them their need for Christ? Remembering these words, let us be unwearied in trying to do good to the souls of all humanity. If we cannot go to the heathen in China and Hindostan, let us seek to enlighten the darkness which we shall easily find within reach of our door. Let us labour on, unmoved by the sneers and taunts of those who disapprove missionary operations, and hold them up to scorn.
Jesus’ main focus here remains the job of every Christian to duplicate themselves wherever they may be.
In that same sentence, Jesus says, “all nations.” In the beginning, how did the disciples do with this? They preached with power, many miracles were happening, as they faced threats they showed amazing courage, but how did they do with the “all nations” part? God had to raise up men like Stephen, Philip, and Paul to get the church out to the nations. Aren’t we the same – if not worse? We know about the Great Commission, but sometimes hesitate to share our faith even with close friends, let alone venture our there to a more radical direction like overseas missions. Jesus has all authority, and he has promised to be with us; he commissions us to go and make disciples.
The command to baptize
What is baptism? “Baptism is a church’s act of affirming and portraying a believer’s union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer’s act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and his people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world.” As the followers of Jesus went out to make disciples, God used that faithful proclamation to call people to himself and then those new believers were baptized. This act is an allegiance to Jesus. It’s an identifying with Jesus in public.
As the church was baptizing new believers, it was done in the name for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is both unity and plurality in the Godhead. Here is the clearest example of the Trinity in the Gospels. When we baptize into the name of Jesus, we confess Jesus is equal with the Father God. Throughout Matthew, there are a lot of hints that Jesus is more than just a man or a prophet. Jesus is calling us, as we go out, to call them to identify with Jesus in public, by the act of baptism.
The command to teach
Teaching obedience to all of Jesus’ commands forms the heart of disciple-making. Evangelism must be holistic. Walk with the new believer, remembering that the road to mature faith is a hard road. Ups and downs.
To teach is a purposeful act. It’s me going to someone and saying, “I’m going to walk with you. We’re going to open our Bibles together and see how God shows himself and says. We are going to pray together according to how God has revealed himself.” It’s a purposeful act. And it’s an act that we are all called to have.
Titus 2 commands the older women to walk with younger women and older men to walk with the younger men encouraging them to grow in Christ-likeness. Titus 2 reminds me of how an older pastor once told me that everyone should have three people in their lives: A Paul, a Barnabas, and Timothy. Who is your “Timothy”? Who is your “Paul”?
The church can be involved in many good things, but miss the Great Commission. The mission of the church is to be faithful disciples of Jesus who go out and make disciples of Jesus Christ, baptizing them, and teaching them with the authority and presence of Jesus Christ.
Why do you and I so often not obey this commission? I think we forget the sandwich that this commission is in. First, Jesus has all the authority to tell us to do something. And we view him more as a buddy than as our King. Second, we forget the promise that he is our King that will be with us as we step out in obedience.
I have a firefighter friend who is an elder in his church. He speaks of the 4 c’s of the church: comfortable, complacent, consumerism, compartmentalization. We struggle with all of these, but what if we saw Jesus as the one who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” and that he will be “with you always, to the end of the age”?
Pray with me that God would move in our hearts to have the desire to be obedient to this commission to make disciples. Because our King said so, because he promised he would be with us, and because it’s the good news we have come to know and want others to know too.
Square – Church in the City. We go out as individuals of a community and as a community to proclaim the Gospel and the love of Christ through our words and show the love of Christ by our actions to the lost, broken and marginalized. We aim to be a church that is looking outward (Matthew 28:18-20, Ephesians 4:11-16; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 6:19-20; Mark 16:15). As we are faithful disciples, we will go out to make disciples. We do this in four ways:
- Participation – Represent Christ implicitly and explicitly
- Restoration – Mercy Projects through hands-on and practical ways (i.e. Soup kitchen, food bank, tax clinic, neighbourhood cleanup, Christmas hampers, Boullee Cafe, etc.)
- Conversation – Having conversations and inviting into dialogue. This is from street preaching to conversations with neighbours, co-workers, friends, etc.
- Multiplication – Done through church planting and revitalization. As a church, we multiply by supporting church planting through prayer, sending others, coaching young pastors, and befriending pastors.
Someone asked me if we would ever hire another staff person. My hope is that the next staff person we hire is one who will help us achieve this goal of multiplying.
So that’s it. Those are the three words that guide us as a church: Pulpit, we are a church gathered; table, we are a church in community; Square, we are a church in the city
These are three words that will help us to be disciples that are making disciples of Jesus Christ. Continue to pray with me that we would be this. That God would place on our hearts desires that line up with his has we commit together to God’s word, together in community, and together in prayer.