If you ask the average Christian to identify the Great Commission then chances are that he or she will point you to Matthew 28:18-20. In fact, the New Testament contains five Great Commission passages—passages where Jesus commissions his apostles to proclaim the good news throughout the whole world (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). Nevertheless, Matthew 28:18-20 rightly receives the preeminent position among the five Great Commission passages because none are quite as comprehensive.
Consider all the questions that are answered in these three verses:
What should we do? “…make disciples of all nations…”
How should we do it? “Go…baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you.”
Why should we do it? “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”
To this list, I would add one more question that it is all too easy for us to neglect: By what power will we ever be able to do it?
Our familiarity with the Great Commission can, at times, give us the false confidence that the Great Commission is in fact “doable.” The twenty-first century church has plenty of people and agencies, strategies and resources to complete the task, right? But take a moment to imagine yourself in the first-century. There are no mass communication platforms and no Boeing 747s criss-crossing the sky. You are standing on a mountain in the remote, backwater of Galilee with the eleven disciples (Matt 28:16). Jesus appears, but some of the people standing beside you still doubt (Matt 28:17). Then Jesus commands you to “make disciples of all nations.”Our familiarity with the Great Commission can give us the false confidence that it is doable. Click To Tweet
Wouldn’t you feel like Jesus’ command was impossible? And, of course, in that judgment you would be right. Indeed, that judgment is always right in every age.
The impossibility of the task makes sense of the final sentence of the gospel of Matthew: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20b CSB).
The necessity of God’s presence bookends the gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 1, we learn that to save us from our sins God must send Immanuel—God with us. Having come to be with us, Jesus promises in Matthew 28 to never abandon us. Jesus keeps his promise of presence by filling every believer with his Holy Spirit.
God’s presence, enjoyed through the redemptive work of the Son and the indwelling of the Spirit, makes sense of the impossible command that Jesus gives to the church. The Great Commission is not a human task. Rather it is the work of God done in and through us, and, more specifically, God’s powerful presence is experienced through the act of prayer in the name of the Son and with the help of the Spirit (e.g. John 14:13; Rom 8:26; Eph 6:18; Jude 20).The Great Commission is not a human task. Rather it is the work of God done in and through us. Click To Tweet
In these first days of launching Gospel Life Global Missions, we refuse to fall prey to the false confidence that any human contribution can make this ministry successful. By necessity, we have been up to our noses in legal paperwork, board meetings, website development, promotional printing, and much more. Nonetheless, my greatest conviction as president of Gospel Life is that we exists for God’s glory and thus God must do the work. Therefore, we need to be asking the Father to provide specifically for every need.
Will you join the team of those who will pray for us specifically?