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
This text, as you know, is what the modern churches call the Great Commission. It is indeed great, but in what way? I think it is great in two ways. It is great because the scope of what is commanded is great. Like saying that the Pacific Ocean is a great ocean; it’s huge, vast, deep, seemingly indomitable. Verse 19 reads, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” That is huge, vast, and seemingly indomitable!
Just think about what Jesus is saying and who He is saying it to. Here is the resurrected Lord, but don’t think that the hearts of the disciples are full of elation and joy. I am sure that joy is there, but it would be a bittersweet notion. They just witnessed their friend and Lord crucified and buried, and now He is telling them that He is departing again. Their hearts are still raw. Not only that, if you look in verse 17, we see that even though Jesus was resurrected, some of the followers still doubted! Probably not the eleven disciples here, but the multitudes who followed Jesus around while He taught (see John 6, for example). Here is the God-man resurrected and some are doubting, and Jesus tells the disciples, “Go, therefore and make disciples.” Ummm, Jesus, did You notice that these people over here are doubting as we speak? Remember Judas, Lord? You want us to go make disciples when there are those who profess You, and yet are false believers?!
It is indeed a great Commission.
The other way that this commission is great is that its greatness comes from the One who commissions the command. I am sure you have noticed that “therefore” in verse 19, “Go, therefore.” Whenever we read a therefore in Scripture we need to see what it is there for. So, why does Jesus say this? The answer is found in verse 18, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” That is indeed a great truth. This truth, the truth of the power and victory of Christ, enables the church to make disciples, and it is the only way that the church can make disciples (John 6:37). This demolishes the two kingdoms idea often found in some churches. Christ is King over all, His Kingdom is one and it is everywhere. This means that the world, as part of His creation, is His Kingdom, and He has rebels living within it. To make disciples is to have the rebels lay down their arms and bow the knee to the King.
The Great Commission is great in these two ways: 1) it’s scope. Christ wants all. And 2) Christ has the power to succeed. Do you really think He would send His church on a mission unless we could accomplish it? There was a handful of disciples then, and now there are millions. Christ is winning, the church is fulfilling the Great Commission, and both of these realities are true because He has all authority. Now, go and read Revelation 5
For further reading check out J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.