The Great Commission According to Matthew

Posted on September 19, 2010 by

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Jesus of Nazareth had been judged and executed by the Jews and the Romans; however, Jesus the Christ was raised from the dead by the power of the Father (Rom. 1.2-4). It would be through this divine demonstration that declares Jesus to be both Lord and Christ (Acts 2.36), or as Thomas would declare Lord and God (John 20.28). The preaching of the Great Commission is built upon the universal application of Jesus’ ministry (1 Cor. 15.1-11).

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Great Commission was declared based upon Jesus’ authority; and therefore, he spoke these words:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28.18-20 ESV)

While the other Gospel accounts contain complimentary passages regarding the message the apostles were to proclaim (Mark 16.15-16; Luke 24.44-49; John 20.30-31), we will develop a number of points from Matthew’s gospel.

Points to Ponder from Matthew

[1] Matthew emphasizes that the new era has begun. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus emphasized that his identity as “the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matt. 16.16) would be the foundation upon which His church was to be built (Matt. 16.18). During this time, the apostles would have delegated authority to bind Heaven’s will on Earth (Matt. 16.19).

[2] Again, in his ministry Jesus spoke of “the new world” (Matt. 19.28), where those who follows Jesus “will inherit eternal life” (19.29). This is no doubt the same time spoken of earlier, the time of the church-kingdom (16.19). In this connection, Jesus said that while he would sit on his “glorious throne”, so too would the apostles sit upon their own “twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (cf. Gal. 6.16; Mark 10.30, Luke 18.30, 22.30).

[3] When Jesus announced to the Apostles that the Father had given him “all authority in heaven and on earth” he was affirming that all his predictions of the “new world” had now arrived at their feet. The “new world” is better to be understood as the time of the new genesis (19.28). This is in keeping with the basic meaning of the term tei palingenesia at times translated “the regeneration” (ASV, NASB, and KJV). Hence, this is as a new beginning for the world (2 Pet. 3.9-13), and for every person who comes to Jesus (Tit. 3.4-6).

[4] When Jesus gave them the final charge to “go therefore”, it is with the understanding that the new age was underway. The Apostles were to “go” in the authority of Jesus and “make disciples of all nations” (28.19). This is a very fascinating phrase, because it demands that our evangelism be such that it generates interest among people to learn about Jesus and to identify with his mission and teaching. Moreover, the gospel is not limited to any nationality – it is universal.

[5] The Lord said that the new disciples were to be taught (cf. “teaching them” Matt. 28.20) the full spectrum of the Lord’s teaching. It is clear that the Christian age is to be an age of education in things Divine. The call is to make disciples (Gr. matheiteuo) and to teach them (Gr. didasko), words which call to one’s mind devotion to learning and application. Contrary to popular belief, the gospel and teaching are complimentary elements of God’s redemptive plan.

[6] How then do people desiring to learn about Jesus and to identify with his mission and teaching accomplish this task? The Lord said that this is accomplished by “baptizing them” into the name of the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (28.19). This is the Lord’s teaching. This is how people experience the transformation of the new beginning in the church age. In other words, this is how people inherit eternal life (Matt. 19.29).

[7] It is of vital importance to understand that Jesus speaks of an age-lasting baptism. The term “baptism” (Grk. baptizo) is to be understood as a plunging, dipping, washing, and immersion.[1] This is the water baptism associated with the Great Commission in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 2.38ff, 8.36-38). Finally, while the Book of Hebrews speaks of baptisms which are temporary in scope (Heb. 6.1-3), Ephesians affirms that there is but “one baptism” (4.4). This is the baptism of the new birth (John 3.5-8), the washing of regeneration (Tit. 3.5), and is in vogue throughout the Christian age (cf. “to the end of the age”).

[8] The whole phrase, “in the name” of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, was an ancient technical term of commerce. It carried the force of charging something to someone’s “account”; an account which bears the owners’ name.[2] Thus, we are to envision a Divine “accounts ledger” upon which those who are baptized are charged into Heaven’s ownership. Little wonder that salvation is often described as being set free for a ransom paid – i.e. redemption (Rom. 3.24, 8.23; 1 Cor. 1.30; Eph. 1.4, 14, 4.30; Col. 1.14; Heb. 9.15).

[9] The Lord promises his abiding presence (Matt. 28.20). This presence is age lasting, for notice that it extends “to the end [i.e. consummation] of the age”. How could the Lord affirm this? Observe a few responses: (a) Jesus is God (cf. John 1.1-3, 14), consequently Jesus is ever present (cf. the Divine “I am”, John 6.35, 8.12 etc.) for the Apostolic ministry and subsequent Christian ministry; (b) Jesus’ message would be perpetuated by the Apostles and later Christians, and in this way He is present as well (cf. Luke 10.16; John 14.25-26, 15.26-27); (c) Jesus authority has been delegated to the Apostolic preaching (Matt. 16.19, 19.28), and that authority now resides in the Apostolic and prophetic writings of the New Testament (cf. Eph. 3.4).

Conclusion

With these principles from the Great Commission outlined, we see that a great deal of attention needs to be paid to mature of our proclamation of the good news to the world. May we, as servants, give these principles prayerful attention, and faithful allegiance. This is our commission, so let us go.

Sources

  1. Barclay M. Newman, Jr., 1993, Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), 31.
  2. A. Oepke, 1964-c1976. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, and G. Friedrich (Electronic ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1964-76), 1.539-40.
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