Would it surprise you to know that only half of U.S. churchgoers recognize the term “Great Commission”?
When asked if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission,” 51% of U.S. churchgoers said they do not know this term. This question was posed in a recent survey by Barna in partnership with Seed Company. The report continued by saying, “It would be reassuring to assume the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%).
Meanwhile, “the Great Commission” does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term “the Great Commission” before.” Translating the Great Commission
Go with me for a moment to that mountain outside of Galilee. Some believe it may have been the same mountain where Jesus first selected the disciples. The scripture says, “when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). The disciples met Jesus there at His request, but they are still confused about the true nature of the Kingdom Jesus had come to establish (Acts 1:1ff). So much happened over the last few weeks that it is hard for them to take it all in. They are still filled with so many questions.
Jesus is standing before the disciples in His resurrected body. In plain sight are the nail-scarred hands that held Him to the cross. Those hands had become a familiar sight over the last 40 days as he appeared to them from time to time. But now, with His mission completed He is ready to depart and return to the Father. Last words are immortalized often when people die, but these last words are from the resurrected Son of God who has defeated death and overcome the grave.
He begins by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (verse 18). You don’t question the authority of One who can come back from the dead and walk through walls. So, what He says next has all the power of heaven behind it.
“Go therefore.” The “Go” literally means “as you go”; “therefore” because of the authority He has. The command to go is powered by all the authority of heaven and earth. The participle conveys a continuous action that is already happening right now, but that also continues to happen into the future. So, the idea is more like… “As you’re going along in your life.” Wherever you go, discipleship is a part of your life here or wherever the commission of God may send you.
“Make disciples.” As His disciples He was their Rabbi and their very aim in life as a disciple was to be just like their Rabbi, even to the point of saying things like He would say them. They were to embody the teaching of their Master, not just have knowledge of it. Jesus told the disciples that people would know they were His disciples by how they loved each other (John 13:35). Now Jesus is commissioning them as they go throughout the world to disciple others as they had been discipled. It is a process of multiplication. Disciples make disciples who make disciples.
“Of all nations.” Literally ethnic-specific units (ethne= nations). We are talking about every tribe and language on the face of the earth. Without Jesus, they are lost. The message is to not leave anyone out. Jesus was not trying to establish a new Jewish sect. His message was for all people everywhere.
“Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism was to picture a transformed life of one who had died to self, was buried in water symbolizing physical burial and then resurrected to walk a new life of service to Jesus. Disciples were to no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them. Their life from this point forward was to glorify Christ.
“Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” The teaching is more than just imparting knowledge. This is not a trivia contest to see who can answer all the questions correctly. The end goal is obedience. Our faith in Christ is not just fire insurance, but a walk with Christ and a process of being transformed into His likeness in all that we do (Colossians 3:17).
“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The One who gave the commission is also going with us. Not in the flesh as with the original disciples, but His presence is “IN” us through the Holy Spirit that he gave us (John 14:17).
So today we can go forth with the same authority as we share the most important message of all time. There are no boundaries, for everyone in the world needs this message desperately. This is what makes it “The Great Commission.”
These comments will seem familiar to some who read this, but if you are a part of the 51%, maybe, just maybe, this will become your personal great commission to take this message to your world, your ethnic group, tribe or tongue. But it is also a commission to take this message to those who are not like your group, tribe, or tongue. Disciples make disciples wherever they go.
“We have an incomprehensibly great God who has looked upon a sinfully depraved people and sent a scandalously merciful Savior, and as a result, we have an indescribably urgent mission” (Radical, by David Platt).
Each of the Gospel writers states the commission in his own words and understanding.
The Commission Modeled: “As the Father has sent me…” John 20:21
The Commission’s Magnitude: “go into all the world… to the whole creation” Mark 16:15
The Commission’s Methodology: “…make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:18-20
The Commission’s Message: “…repentance and forgiveness of sins…” Luke 24:44-49
The Commission’s Means: “you will receive power…” Acts 1:8
Maybe one of the reasons the “Great Commission” is not better known and understood is that we seldom see people live out God’s heart for the nations. So before moving on I want to go back to the beginning and see that God’s eternal intention has always been to reach all the world. We will do that next time.