In Matthew 28:18–20, Jesus gives a clear directive to His followers. It’s not ambiguous. It’s not vague. It’s not hard to understand. It’s the most simple command that disciples of Jesus have been steadfast in following for 2,000 years. This commission is the basis of many individual, church, parachurch, and non-profit evangelical mission statements.
There are several words in Jesus’ command that have incredible weight for followers of Jesus. While there is much to study here, let’s look together at several key ideas that help guide us to also join with Christians around the globe in making Jesus’ command our top priority.
Count how many times Jesus uses an “all-ness” word in these passages. “All authority.” “All nations.” “All that I have commanded you.” “I am with you always.” Surely Jesus wasn’t exaggerating by saying all and always.
The calling of the Great Commission essentially gives us the who, what, when, where, and how wrapped all together. Who do we share the gospel with? Everybody. Where do we go to share it? Anywhere. How far does God go with us? Everywhere. What a beautiful realization: We have all that we need in Christ to proclaim the good news of the gospel. We pray and know that whether we go to our neighbors, across the nation, or to the ends of the earth, God is with us each step of the journey. He never leaves nor forsakes us as we go.
We can also see from these verses that there are no people excluded from the call of the Great Commission. Our enemies, the people far away, those close by, our family members, and the difficult to reach are all included in the “all nations” that Jesus invites us to.
We aren’t ever off the hook for sharing with the people God puts on our heart to go to. We should always have eyes to see people as Jesus sees them, but also praying that our hearts would be open to going wherever God calls us to go.
At times the “all nations” may start with our across-the-street neighbor, it may be on a missions expedition across the country, but it could also mean going across the globe. The Great Commission certainly demonstrates that disciples of Jesus should have a willing heart and be prepared to take the message of the gospel everywhere with them.
Anytime you read therefore in Scripture, it’s always a good idea to see what it’s there for. So often in Scripture, when therefore appears, there has been a preceding passage that gives light to what is to come. The following passages only makes sense in light of what came before it.
In this case, before Jesus gives the Great Commission, He shares that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him and then says, “Therefore, go!” Jesus isn’t sending off the disciples to a task that He cannot go alongside. This is a heavenly command from One who has secured our salvation on the cross, and He is now sending us out. In essence, we share the gospel, God saves the people.
As we share the gospel and people are saved, the next portion is teaching all that Jesus taught us. We are to make disciples who make disciples. The angels in heaven rejoice over those who turn to Christ and I believe they are overjoyed as God’s people continue loving, teaching, encouraging, and demonstrating what it means to follow Jesus to new believers.
We want those who come to faith to be prepared for the challenges in the world. We know that following Jesus doesn’t grant immunity from life’s difficulties, and so we teach people what it means to follow and delight in the Lord through all seasons and stages of life. If we are to continue growing the kingdom, it’ll mean making disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
We cannot neglect the crucial aspect of the Great Commission that is both to continue baptizing and to continue teaching the full gospel to all people. Evangelism and discipleship are both critical rungs on the Great Commission ladder.
As we pray through this Scripture, pray for an open and humble heart to listen and obey as the Lord leads and guides. Remember, He is with us always to the end of the age. You are not alone in this.
Mark Bethea is an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He enjoys hanging out with his wife of 10 years and son Micah (3) and daughter Helen Ann (1). You can follow Mark at marklbethea.com or on Instagram @marklbethea.