And Jesus came and said to them, "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." (Matthew 28:18-20)
What is the church? Is there any need for another church in Nairobi? What is its mandate? Why do you want to be part of this church? Have very seriously considered the responsibilities for being in the membership? We do not want just another church that does not have a clear vision on what it is going to the advancement of God’s kingdom. We do not want a big church with a thousand members who are not participating in the church. We want a church where no one is a spectator because there is no room for spectators anyway – there are far too many spectators in the church and this is why Christianity in Kenya has remained skin deep.
A very well known story about the great commission is William Carey who was had so much tried to encourage other pastors in their fraternal to go out with the gospel to the heathens and it is reported that one elder called John Ryland rebuked Carey for his zeal saying, “Young man, sit down. You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen he will do it without your aid or mine!”
In 1792 William Carey (the father of missions) published a tract called ‘An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen’. In this tract he very well argued against the prevailing view of the time that the great commission of Matthew 28 had been fulfilled by the first apostles and was not applicable to the church in the succeeding generations. In this tract he urged the Christians to use all the means at their disposal that God has given in the missionary effort. Carey’s view of this opinion was abandonment of the responsibility given to all Christians to carry out the great commission given by Christ. He rightly viewed the great commission as duty and privilege of all generations, and so he began the modern missionary movement.
Thank God this is no longer a problem to us and many churches are willing to send missionaries to different parts of the world with the gospel. But sadly in so many ways we are worse off because we are content to call someone who repeated a sinners’ prayer a Christian. There is now unfounded enthusiasm to make goats sheep with our own aid and yet the Lord has said that apart from Him we can do nothing.
The problem now is that there is no much attempt to consider what the great commission says and yet it is the Great commission that has the terms of reference for the church. There is no need for Faith Reformed Baptist Church if not to consider and fulfill the Great Commission. Does the great commission still apply to us? What is the great commission all about? Who does the great commission apply to? Is it this church as whole? Is it individual members? May we consider the great commission to answer the questions already asked.
1. We Are Commissioned By Christ
It is remarkable that when the disciples already overwhelmed by so much truth being poured by the Lord. He had just died and they were overwhelmed by sorrow and disillusionment. Then He rose just as He had promised them and it was resounding joy that was completely breathtaking and before all these truths sank the Lord was telling great things that they were almost unable to contain. So up in the mountain they saw the risen Saviour and they fell before Him and worshipped Him despite all their doubts. Note that the Lord did not object to being worshipped by them because He is completely God. He fully deserved it because he is worthy to receive all glory, honor and thanks now and forever more. This is what we read in revelation 5:12 "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (Revelation 5:12 ESV). The implication that our commission originates from Christ means that we our true worship to the Lord is when we obey what He has commanded us to do.
It is very essential that we appreciate this commission as from one who has all power and authority. This is because it is actually on the basis of the "All authority in heaven and on earth being given to Him that He gathered the disciples and sends them out to make more disciples. The "All” authority that He had by far goes far beyond the earth and the heavens combined. This is to say that one who is sent by Him will enjoy the abundance of "All” His blessings far beyond human and angelic blessings. Who may give more "All” authority to Christ – no one since His power goes beyond all. Heaven and earth simply means that He has "All” power to establish to establish His church as He said, “… I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 ESV). His purposes cannot be thwarted as Job rightly observed in Job 42:1,2.
This is what Daniel said, that when one like a Son of Man comes into the presence of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7, He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:14 ESV). Jesus here says that this power that He has is particularly in reference to the establishing His church through which all peoples, nations and language serve Him. It is His church which is the everlasting kingdom which shall not pass away. The church of Christ shall not be destroyed even after this life – this is why it is called the bride of Christ in the Bible, this is why He will Himself, personally come for it. Why else would He come for what shall be destroyed? The church will be with the Lord forever because the Bride shall be the wife (if I may use the picture language in Revelation 21:9).
The church ought to always submit to her Lord (Eph. 5:24). This means that what is needed is active and deliberate obedience to Christ that will lead to her sanctification so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27).
What has all this to do with great commission? Unless you know who is making the command, you will remain in lethargy. Jesus is here telling them who He is and because they had seen it themselves in the past three years, what they saw now made some sense. Jesus had walked among them full of the power of the Holy Spirit. He had walked and lived among them as the "All” powerful Son of Man, overruling the nature, walking over water, healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, teaching with heavenly authority, forgiving sins and some had even beheld His glory in the mount of transfiguration. His own suffering, death, burial, resurrection was something beyond their imagination.
The "All” authority of Jesus is not limited in any way. He is God the Creator who created all your relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors, your leaders etc. He knows them all and desires all of them to be saved (1Tim. 2:4). He well knows what you have to go through in order to bring the gospel to them and what you will have to put up with on order to make them His disciples. It is hard, very difficulty for you to go to Southern Sudan or Somalia to take the gospel and you still find it hard to make disciples in the comfort of your office, home, neighborhood, and with people that you know?
Ask yourself these questions: I am aware of the Lordship of Christ over my life – body, time, resources, and belief? What do I do that shows that the Lord reigns over my life – with the things listed above? Do conduct myself as a person who is enslaved to Christ to bring more disciples, so that I would seek to gather as many as possible in order for Him to consider me faithful?
2. We Are Commissioned To Make Disciples
What is the need for the commission? Why is it that Jesus was not content with those He made after His earthly ministry? Well because missions exist because worship doesn’t. Through missions we spread the supremacy of Christ by gathering more who will worship God through Christ. I need to impress upon that the thrust and the emphasis is not ‘go’ as many preachers have said. The emphasis of the passage is making disciples. Baptizing and teaching are simply the means by which the disciples are to be made. Whatever else baptism might symbolize or involve; here it refers to the initiation of disciples into repentance and submission to the authority of Jesus, the reigning Lord of the world.
God is telling what you are to do and you don’t seem to be very interested, although your eternal life and those of others is at stake. Unless they hear the gospel, unless they become Disciples of Christ, unless they are conformed to His likeness, He will not accept them. The instructions are very specific and are written down for reference – as you go make disciples (not one disciples) but of all nations and confirm that they are disciples by their willingness to publically declare it and then prove it by their willingness to be taught and to obey everything!
The church exists for the sole purpose of glorifying God through disciple making of "All” nations. Many have used this verse as the charter for missionary work in Sudan, China, Somalia etc at least that is what happened after Carey got them out of their previous lethargic mindset. The emphasis of the sentence is not so much on ‘going’ but on making disciples of "All” nations.
The structure of the sentence has the going part as a participle probably it would be better translated “when you go” or “as you go”. Rather this is a commission that makes disciple-making the basic agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple. This instruction was not just a specific instruction to the apostles gathered around Him at the time of His ascension. The disciples were instructed to make more disciples from others who would in turn heed the same words. Besides, the Lord gives the extent of the commission as not just around Jerusalem but up to the end of the world. Moreover, He promises to be with those who heed His Commission not just up to 100AD but up to the end of age and this is clearly a promise that comes to us this day.
Get the words clearly, it is not to make converts of all nations – it is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Saviour of sinners to convert a wicked sinner – even the king of sinners to make him a Christ. It is not the work of the believers or the church to make non-believers to be saved. Christ never commissioned us to save anyone because we can’t and even Jonah in a belly of a fish will tell you that you can’t and so you shouldn’t try to do it! Our work is to make disciples and to disciple them of all nations.
It is very sad that what we have in our day is a church that is reluctant to make disciples. They are willing to do anything else in the church except the very purpose for which they exist of making disciples. The church does not exist to make money and yet if you watch almost every preacher in the TV is on the mission to get money. The work of the church is not to make ‘anointing oil’ or to heal or to make people rich or barren to bear children. It is not the work of the church to be involved in the projects that will not translate into disciples for Christ. Our task is to make disciples who will make more disciples and so forth.
The disciples are to reproduce what Jesus Himself had done with them. Christ has been their teacher for three years and had taught them and so in effect they had grown in knowledge and understanding. By the way you notice that Jesus did not substitute teaching with His presence! The disciples had known from the Lord how to be a disciple so that he could be able to make another disciple.
Why are you required to be a member of the church? It is so that you may be accountable to the Lord through His appointed authorities. The pastor is there to equip you for ministry by the Word of God that has made you wise for salvation. It is for this reason that the Lord gave gifts to men so that he gave some to be the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV)
The categories of the ministerial gifts listed are "All” actively involved in the affairs of the church in order to equip the saints for the work of ministry. When saints are equipped so as to build up the body then when the Church is built up it will be more united in faith and knowledge of the Son of God so that come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Don’t be lost in the multitude of words – the point is that your growth to maturity, your level in discipleship class is measured in basically one way – that you are like Christ as marked by your life of living genuine faith and knowledge of Christ.
3. We Are Commissioned To Teach Them All
The method by which you will make disciples is first, by going out to them and as you go share the gospel with them. Then those who believe and repent of their sins to Christ, are to be initiated into the church by baptism – anyone can administer baptism (remember Philip in Acts 8?). In baptism one is publically declares the condition of his heart to the people. Baptism is a sign for the candidate of his new fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection and of His being engrafted into Christ as His sins are forgiven. It also indicates that the convert has given himself up to God through Jesus Christ so that he may live and conduct himself in the newness of life. God then works in the convert’s hearts to confirm a new ownership to the person being baptized.
As you go and as you baptize them, you are also teach them all the things that Christ has commanded. teaching them all that Christ has commanded, and supervising them as they make mistakes and helping them out of the mess in which they get into, is a life-time commitment that many Christians are not willing to give. I like what D.A. Carson says about how the Christianity is to spread, it is by an internal necessity because one of Jesus’ commands is to teach all He commands and to have them obey "All” that He commanded. Failure to disciple, baptize, and teach the peoples of "All” nations is already itself one of the great failures of our own discipleship.
The newly made disciples are under the lordship of Christ and are expected by the Lord to obey everything that Jesus taught and so this makes them to fall under the same mandate of disciple-making! This making-disciple-by teaching who will be disciple-makers themselves, corresponds to preaching the gospel parallel mandate in Luke, where Jesus says” (Luke 24:47) “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
The goal of Christian ministry is quiet simple, and in a sense measurable by answering the question, “Are we making and nurturing genuine disciples of Christ? The church always tends towards institutionalism – running and maintaining programs that simply use people rather than have them serve the Lord in their areas of influence. The church, and I pray that this will be true of this church will shift its focus from preserving and maintaining just programs and meetings and structures that make the goal lost an d will simply the whole focus in disciple-making in all programs so that you do not have to force people into programs.
Very seriously let us bear in mind that the mandate of disciple-making provides the touchstone of whether our church is engaged in the Great commission. We are to be concerned about making and nurturing disciples as we eat and drink. As we labour in our places of work and schools we always need to ask ourselves – I am I likely to make and nurture any disciple of Christ in the activities that I do? How may I sue this free hour in being of some profit to the Kingdom rather than joking around.
As we have considered being part of this local church and not others, let us know that the vision is not to thousands who are not willing to submit to the lordship of Christ to be disciple-making disciples… the vision of the church is bring you under faithful preaching of the word of God so that you may be made wise for salvation and thoroughly equipped for every good work. This is the employment that the Lord has given us.
The Great Commission for this church is not to make you comfortable without Christ, but to make you see how much you need Him. And the members of this church, as led by the pastor are to make you see that. May I beseech you brethren not to be content living with people who are not in Christ – for then they are without God and without hope. Who would be happy living with very sick person in the house and not doing anything? Who would be willing to live in a house with a corpse? Yet this is what we do when we are working with unbelievers and live with unbelievers and don’t share the gospel with them. Please make them disciple as we are commanded.
If you are not saved it makes sense for you to come to see that you are sadly living outside of the plan of God. Are you telling me that you are happy in your sins when you very well know that sins as long as they are not given to Christ are like a live grenade in the hand of a person? And until they are given up and thrown to Christ, you are under a real threat of death. Unless you are willing to give them up to Christ – God who created you is very clear – the wages of sin are death. But the message of the good news is that although the wages of sin are death the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Please would you now tell Him to forgive you your sins, would cry to Him that He may show you mercy and pardon for your sins?