Monday, May 23, 2011
Unpacking the Great Commission
(Warning: Another long post follows!)
There’s something profoundly character-revealing about what people choose to say when they’re looking eternity in the face. Last words are often very intriguing, but have you ever wondered what God’s last words would be? Don’t worry, I don’t believe for a second that God is dead or dying, or that He ever will die. But we do have some of the last recorded words Jesus spoke while He was on this earth.
“So then, all of you go to all the nations, making disciples and baptizing them in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And I am with you all for all of the days [every day, all the time], until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:29, 20--my translation of the Spanish Nueva Reina-Valera [N-RV] version)
There’s just so much in this verse. It pretty much sums up everything we as Christians should be believing and teaching. Let’s break it down piece by piece for a little bit.
First we see, “All of you go to all the nations.” We talked about this aspect last week. We’re all called to “go” wherever God calls us. Some of us feel more comfortable at home, others of us believe we could do a much “better” work if we could just leave home and go to some “real mission” field, but all God cares about is if we’re willing to follow Him wherever He wants us to go, even if that means stretching our comfort zone in one way or another. It’s not for us to pick and choose where we want to serve--but “all of you” need to go “to all the nations”--the nation where you live, and/or nations beyond your country borders.
Then God asks us to be “Making disciples.” We’re not just called to get people saved. In some ways, just leading people to “get saved” seems easy compared to the arduous task of discipling them--teaching and helping them grow--in the Christian faith--yet discipleship is so important, as the whole Bible shows us. Some of my particularly favorite books on discipleship are First and Second Timothy (you just have to love letters written especially to a young person!). Paul touches on so much in these letters, pointing out things Timothy needs to “watch” in himself, and instructing him on how to guide others closer to Jesus. And have you ever thought about where we get the term “discipleship” in the first place? Jesus and His disciples! His ministry to them was all about leading them into a perpetually growing relationship with God.
What then? Then we (in God's time and way) lead those disciples to show their commitment to God and His church, “Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Not just a cue for believer baptism (though it is certainly that), this verse also highlights the relationship between the three members of the Trinity. All three are important to us, as we can see in Jesus’ talk with His disciples in John 13-16, and we need to make sharing that importance paramount as we’re working to win others to God.
“And teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Wow--that right there sums up half the Bible! From the Old Testament 10 Commandments to the New Testament’s emphasis on salvation and Jesus’ free gift of grace, all God has commanded is important! I can hardly touch on all the important points of what God has commanded--that’s a subject for at least a couple years’ worth of Bible studies!--but I will say that I've been extremely blessed by exploring indepth the relationships between God's Law and grace, what He's commanded and what He offers, and I'd recommend such a study to anyone!
Finally, Jesus assures us, "I am with you all for all of the days [every day, all the time], until the end of the world.” No, the end of the world wasn't last Saturday night. But someday it will come--and He will be with us until it does. In fact, He'll be with us afterwards too, but we won't need much reminding of the fact! :) We should be sharing these aspects with people, too. There's so much hopelessness in the world--even in professed Christians. What a difference it would make if we could keep Heaven in our sights and share our hope with others!
So there you have it--the Great Commission, and we only scratched the surface! Maybe we'll come back to it again some time. For now...
Next Week: Mission Monday Is there a right and wrong way to mission? Join us next week for "Mission Un-Focused!"