What is the Great Commission?
After Jesus died and was raised to life, He came back to earth for forty days. During that time, He appeared to five hundred people and spent time with his disciples. His last words on earth that were recorded for us in the Bible are in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go, 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.”
Jesus’s final words, also known as The Great Commission, are full of action: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. He didn’t tell his disciples to sit back and chill out in a cave. They weren’t instructed to form a little pow-wow and sing hymns until their Savior’s return. Instead, Jesus commanded them to make disciples or followers of Him.
How do we accomplish the Great Commission?
The disciples actually got to follow the physical Jesus. But when Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection, He was no longer with them in person. So how would they be able to follow Jesus if they could no longer talk with Him, walk with Him, and communicate with Him?
Like Matthew, Luke also records Jesus’s last words in Acts 1. We know these are Jesus’s last words because it says after this that Jesus was then taken up into heaven.
He said: “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about (verse 4)… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (verse 8).”
So what are the disciples told to do? Wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also told them during the last Passover supper that it would be better for Him to go so that they could receive the Holy Spirit (John 16:7), who would always be present with them and empower them as witnesses for Jesus. The disciples would not work in their own strength to fulfill the Great Commission; God, in the form of His Spirit, would live in and empower them to accomplish this task.
Where are we called to go?
Jesus called the disciples to witness to those in Jerusalem first, which was their current location. Then He called them to go to Judea, which was the region around them. Jesus also instructed them to go to Samaria, where they were not welcome. Historically, tension and hatred had existed between the Jews and Samaritans. Finally, He charged them to go into every place on the earth.
We could look at Jesus’s command to the disciples in this way:
- He calls us to reach the people in our current sphere of influence or our family and our close friends.
- He charges us to share the gospel with our neighbors and the people in our local community.
- He commissions us to reach not only the country we live in but also to reach all the nations of the world.
Hence, we are called to share the gospel with those people that are most close to us in location and relationship, as well as those people in unknown and unreached areas with foreign languages and cultures.
Maybe the most undesirable or dangerous people for you to share the gospel with are your own family and friends. They may appear to be the hardest, furthest people from God. Yet Jesus’s heart of pursuit goes after the prodigals and those who are least likely to hear the good news.
Who is called to go?
The disciples were the first ones who were given the task of starting Jesus’s church and bringing His kingdom to earth. And they did go – starting in Jerusalem. But because the gospel has not yet been preached to every tribe on the earth, every person who has confessed Jesus is given the same charge and mission that Jesus gave over 2,000 years ago.
Why are we called to go?
God is worthy to receive all glory on heaven and earth.
In the Old Testament, the writers declare the greatness of the Lord in every place.
- Habakkuk 2:19 attests that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
- Psalm 102:15 attests that “nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.”
Jesus’s life on the earth was not only for the purpose of saving people on earth but was primarily to bring glory to God.
- In John 17:1-5, right before he went to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
God’s desire is for His people to know Him and to worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
From the beginning of time, God desired to have relationship with people. He walked with Adam in the garden, but sin entered the world through his and Eve’s disobedience. God took Adam and Eve from the garden and placed an angel with a flaming sword at the entrance. The angel guarded the people from eating from the Tree of Life because the consequence of this would be perpetual separation from God.
Was it God’s desire to withhold something good from his creation? No, that is the first documented lie of Satan in Genesis 3. God went out of His way to demonstrate His goodness to His creation. He did not withhold his only Son from us! His Son Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life of submission to the Father, died, and rose again. 1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that God’s heart is for everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Philippians 2:9-11 speaks about how God honored Jesus after His ministry on earth: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So because Jesus humbled himself on earth in obedience to the Father’s perfect will, God has now raised Him up above every other person, place, government, and nation. The name of Jesus is to be worshiped alone on the earth!
The Bible concludes with people from every nation joining the angels in singing praises to Jesus (Revelation 5 and 7) and sharing in God’s glory by living in His presence for all eternity (Revelation 21). Revelation 4:11 says, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Will we go?
We will one day have to give an account of our time on this earth. Even as you are reading this blog, I highly encourage you to stop and respond to this charge from the Lord:
Will you make your life about magnifying His name and sharing the message of His goodness?
Paul exhorts us in Romans 10:14-15: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”