What is 'The Great Commission'?


Before ascending into heaven, Jesus said to His disciples (and to us too since His promise is to be with us unto the end of this world): “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus suffered and died for the sins of the world and is risen again and ascended to the right hand of God the Father. He has all power and authority in heaven and earth. As the risen and exalted Christ, He is over all things and works to build His Church through the preaching of His Word and the right administration of His Sacraments (cf. Eph. 1:20-23)!

Having all power and authority, He commands us (with one active verb and three participles in the Greek): “Going, therefore, teach (or disciple) 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 world” (literal translation of the Greek text).

What Jesus commands us to do is to disciple, or make disciples of, all the nations and peoples of this world. (The word translated “teach” in verse 19, μαθητευσατε, is different than the participle translated “teaching” in verse 20, διδασκοντες, the first meaning to disciple and the second to teach and instruct.) The way that we are to do this is by going out to the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, and teaching them to observe all that Christ taught and commanded.

This great commission of Jesus is not complete when a child or adult is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or even when confirmed by publicly professing his or her faith; those who are baptized into Christ Jesus are also to be taught Jesus’ doctrine – all that He taught and commanded – that they might observe it and continue in the true and saving faith until death or Christ’s return.

Thus, the work of parents, sponsors, and the entire church continues far past the day of Baptism. We carry out Christ’s commission as we continue to teach and explain the truths of God’s Holy Word that the Spirit of God, through the Word, might preserve and strengthen faith in Christ Jesus. We continue this work as we celebrate together Christ’s Supper and partake of His atoning sacrifice so that we and our fellow believers might be assured of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ Jesus and His death and resurrection in our stead.

And, as Jesus said, we are not left to ourselves with this task. Jesus gives us the added assurance that He is present with us always, “even unto the end of the world.”

O Jesus, our Savior, grant that we be Your disciples through Baptism and continuing in Your Word, and grant that we too disciple the nations by going out, by baptizing, and by teaching Your life-giving Word. Amen.

[Except as otherwise noted, Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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