(This week we are digging into the archives to bring a column from 2014.)
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 28:16-20 ESV)
This is the passage of Scripture known around the world as the Great Commission. Commission is defined as “an authoritative order, charge, or direction; granting authority for a particular action. This is indeed the primary role of the New Testament believer and, in particular, the role of the church as a whole. In verse 19 we see the mission laid out clearly, succinctly, plainly.
(1) Go. The word is “pa-ru-thentes” or in its root form, “pa-ru-oh,” and means, “to depart” and is translated as either “go, depart” or “walk.” In recent years, a myth has gained some traction and popularity, and that is “go” should be translated “as you go” or “as you are going,” implying that this isn’t a command for intentional missions, but rather a statement that “as you go through life, do these things.” It’s a nice thought, but it’s simply untrue. The argument is that the word “pa-ru-oh” or “go” is a participle and should be translated, “as you go.” The problem with that is that it’s not a present participle, but an aorist participle and it’s followed by an imperative and then most reasonably should be translated “Go.” As in, it’s a command. It’s not, “as you walk, make disciples.” Rather, it’s a forceful command, “Go make disciples.” Go!
(2) Ye. Go ye. Technically, this is included in the word “pa-ru-thentes.” But we have to ask, who is the “ye”? Some would argue the “ye” are the disciples. Drawing this conclusion, they believe this was an imperative for the disciples, not for us. Others believe the “ye” is you. But Jesus didn’t say this to you. So who is it to? The answer: the church. First, to the pillars of the church, the Apostles, and you’re a part of the church and this is a command to you.
(3) Make disciples. Let it go on record to say that we are not commanded to make Christians. We can’t make Christians. God makes Christians. He converts souls. He saves people. We disciple them.
(4) Baptize them. This is the first step of discipleship, to follow Christ in discipleship as a public profession of one’s faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as a sign and seal that God has raised your spiritual corpse from the dead and given you the newness of life through Christ.
(5) Teach them. Teach them what? To observe everything Christ commanded the disciples to teach us. We find what they taught us in the New Testament of the Holy Bible.
Now, that’s the commission we’ve receive from Jesus Christ. So then, let us put it in reverse and look again at verse 18.
 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Why is the commission prefaced with this statement? Christ is telling us by whose authority he’s commanding us to go make disciples and by whose authority we are able to make disciples. In Exodus Ch. 3, God tells Moses to walk into Egypt, where he’s despised, rejected and on the run and then to the Israelites and say, “The God of of your fathers has sent me to free you and you need to follow me out of this place,” and he asks the question, “assuming I do that, and they ask who is that God, exactly, what is your name,” and God responds, “My name is what it is, and I am that I am.”
Christ has commissioned the church to go find the lost sheep of spiritual Israel, into a world where we are despised and rejected and say to them, “God has sent me as his messenger, that he will free you, and you need to follow me out here” and he’s presupposing they ask, “By whose authority do you do that,” and our answer is, “His name of Jesus, the King of Kings, Ancient of Day, and Judge of the Quick and Dead – the one who has been all authority in heaven and in earth has sent us to make disciples.