It is commonly understood that the Great Commission comes from the last instructions of Jesus Christ to His disciples before He ascended back to Heaven. These instructions are recorded in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and the Book of Acts, though Christians commonly quote Matthew 28, thereby ignoring the accompanying signs, healing and miracles in other accounts. Below are two references to Jesus’ great commissioning of the Christian:
Matthew 28:18–19 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and MAKE DISCIPLES of 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 age.” Amen.
Mark 16:15–18 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and PREACH the GOSPEL to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these SIGNS will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
2000 years later, a serious misunderstanding has occurred which is akin to a construction company commissioning its workers to “build bulldozers and cranes,” and after many bulldozers and cranes got built, they sat in the company’s parking lot without ever building much. It is as though the purpose of the Lord’s instructions has been lost to His followers. It is as though they forget what the end goal is supposed to look like, which is… lots of new buildings people can live in, work in and use!
Our modern understanding of the Great Commission is incomplete without realizing what Jesus came to accomplish. The Great Commission has an end goal. This end goal cannot be understood by reading only the last words of Jesus in Matthew 28 and Mark 16, for they provide us no picture of the end product!
The words in Matthew 28 and Mark 16 give us the means to accomplishing an ends. We are to teach, preach, baptize, heal, make disciples, yet these instructions paint no picture of the final outcome.
- What should it look like when we have accomplished the Great Commission in our culture or in our generation?
- What should real disciples look like?
- How should Christians behave inside and outside of church?
- Without fully answering these questions, most pastors have reduced the Great Commission to: a) come to church and b) invite nonbelievers to Christ, and then to church. I dare say this was not the full picture the Son of God had in mind.
Matthew 28 and Mark 16 are like instructions to build bulldozers and cranes, and most pastors have been faithfully filling our churches with bulldozers and cranes who don’t do much. They drive around the church and use the parking lot once or twice a week. I mean no disrespect to church attendance (it’s part of obedience). These bulldozers and cranes come to church to get oiled and repaired, but they are meant to achieve something great inside and outside the church. What is it? One place where we get a picture of or a blueprint for what they’re commissioned to do is here:
Matthew 24:14 And this GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
The Great Commission is more than preaching salvation, teaching God’s Word, healing the sick and baptizing people so that they can merely sit in church. The Great Commission is accomplished when these saved, baptized, Spirit-filled, healed, well-taught Christians build on earth a divine Kingdom – a form of leadership and rulership which is different from the world’s system.
- If Jesus is to be King, we must be a Kingdom.
- We are supposed to pray “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”.
Yes, “the kingdom of God is within”, but everything that is truly within will make its way out and manifest. Love that is within longs to express itself externally. Faith that is within must be accompanied by works without.
God’s Kingdom, a society ordered by the Divine Person and Principles of Jesus Christ, is the measurable outcome of the Great Commission. Modern Christians lack a picture of God’s Kingdom. One reason for our lack is that the main place where we can see a picture of the Kingdom is the Old Testament.
We correctly understand the law of Moses does not save us, but we incorrectly dismiss the entire Old Testament. That is a mistake that comes from over-emphasizing a formless, orderless kind of grace message. Form without power is dead (2 Timothy 3:5). Power without form is also dead. God devotes a lot of time and attention to the Old Testament to show us the leadership styles and structures He approves and disapproves of. He has bestowed on us entire books on government called Judges and Kings. He has given us models of top-level leadership in Moses, David, Solomon, Daniel, Nehemiah and Ezra.
Modern Christians object, “Didn’t Jesus say the Kingdom comes in a way that is not seen?” Yes! The Kingdom starts with God ruling your heart, but if it stops there, the mission – the great commission – has been aborted!
It is as though we don’t want to read or believe the whole verse of Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the GOVERNMENT will be upon His SHOULDER…”
We don’t mind believing “unto us a child is born” (born representing the humanity of Jesus); we also believe “unto us a Son is given” (given representing the Divinity of Jesus); but very few Christians care much to believe “the Government (a real system of ordering life and dispensing justice on earth) is supposed to be on His shoulder.”
Christians again object, “Jesus’ rulership will be in Heaven.” Why then did Isaiah say around 700BC the government “will be” on His shoulders, in the future tense, when Jesus already reigned in Heaven. Heaven’s government has always been on His shoulder! “Will be” refers not to Heaven but to earth, and His “shoulders” refers to His Body, which is us! We are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Until we grasp the duty of bringing
- Christian justice to government,
- Christian education to schools,
- Christian inventions to science,
- Christian art to building,
- Christian songs to entertainment,
- Christian principles to the economy,
- Christian prayer to families, then we will not have truly fulfilled the Great Commission.
We may build a few churches here and there without capturing the culture or “discipling nations”. We may present the Gospel of Grace to a few poor people without presenting the Gospel of the Kingdom to the leadership of nations.
It is time for this incomplete understanding to change. The Great Commission, as defined in a limited way by the last words of Jesus, is the means. The Kingdom of God, as defined by the entire Bible, is the ends. It’s time to disciple nations!
Find my teachings on Biblical worldview & discipling nations: Discover Ministries