The Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The goal of the Christian life is to know and love God. This goes right along with what Jesus tells us in the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34-40), that, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
It is of utmost importance that Christians understand the priority of the Great Commandment. John Piper says, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t”. Living out the Great Commission and making disciples of all nations is only necessary because of the fall of man. If humanity did not cause the world to break through our sin, the Great Commission would never have been given. Instead, we would be living in harmony with our Creator without sin or death. But that’s not the world we live in. We live in a broken world and God has commanded us to work with him in proclaiming the solution. Therefore, the Great Commission exists not as an end in itself, but as a means to a greater end: a world restored to God through self-giving love.
This is what my previous article was about, but because of this emphasis on our head and heart, I want to now make the jump to the hands: active obedience to the Great Commission itself. While we need to be reminded of the heart constantly to guard against the idols of ministry and achievement, we need to understand the great task that has been given to us as Jesus’s followers and His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20).
It is difficult to express the magnitude of importance of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). These words have been the framework for the Church in its great task since Jesus ascended two thousand years ago. This is the task Jesus has given us, and it encapsulates everything the Church has been doing since its conception.
My goal is to provide clarity in our task on an individual level through a simple outline to better understand the different components of the Great Commission. My desire is that this can be a tool for reflection and self-evaluation for your heart and your obedience. In John 14:15-24, Jesus directly connected our love for him (Great Commandment) with our obedience to his commands (Great Commission).
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.”
7 Key Aspects to the Great Commission
Jesus begins by announcing that he has all authority in heaven and earth. This is an enormous claim that has infinite implications, but the clearest one is that we should listen to him. Jesus makes commands all throughout the gospel accounts, but almost never does he directly tie his commands to his position of authority. Essentially, this is the only time Jesus plays the “Listen to me because I’m Jesus” card. So, whatever follows this claim must be a big deal!
Unfortunately, many people fail to realize the implications of Jesus’s authority as King. We are prone to treat him like he exists to serve us when the reality is quite the opposite. We can fall into the trap of self-exaltation and treat Jesus like our personal genie who is supposed to make our life easier. Yes, Jesus laid his life down for us, but it is HIS name that every tongue will confess and to which every knee will ultimately bow. He is the Lord, not us. He calls us to nothing less than surrender to his authority. Jesus is not your sidekick; he is your King. (See also Colossians 1:15-20, John 13:3).
Question: Is your life surrendered to Jesus? Are you following him or are you trying to get him to follow you?
What does Jesus mean here? I believe he is addressing our heart posture towards the world. The truth is that we should not expect the world to come to us, and just like Jesus entered our brokenness, we are called to do the same with others. This means that WE are the initiators to the world, that WE are the ones who pursue them. Whether it be across the ocean or across the street, we are called to go. WHERE you go is less significant than the fact that you are in fact going at all. A car needs a functioning engine that first moves the wheels. The specific direction is a secondary issue. (See also Romans 10:14-15, Matthew 9:36-38).
Question: Regardless of where you want to be in the future, are you saying yes to God’s command to go right now, whether it be your classmate, family, neighbor, or coworker?
Here it is. This is the primary command of the Great Commission. Make disciples. This is what Jesus did, giving his life away to help those around him grow closer to God, modeling the good life up close and personal, showing them the depth of God’s character and how to turn the world upside down. This is what Jesus wanted them to do, continuing the work of the gospel through following his example. This is what Jesus wants us to do, to join him in his work of winning the world for his glory. The clearest sign that Jesus has changed you is that you start caring about helping others to know him better.
Through spiritual reproduction, the church has multiplied throughout history, bringing many people not only to the cross, but causing them to bring others with them! Jesus focused his time on a few people in order that the whole world would be reached with the gospel. Jesus made disciples who made disciples who made disciples, and eventually, because of God’s grace and their faithfulness, the gospel reached you. Why would you think you have been called to anything less? (See also John 17:20, 2 Timothy 2:2).
Question: Are you doing whatever it takes to help others grow closer to God, regardless of the cost?
Of All Nations
The scope of Jesus’s mission is global reconciliation. That means people from every tribe, language, people group , and nation (Rev. 5:9) will worship him. Every knee will bow, and tongue confess the name of Jesus as Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). Even though God had chosen one man, Abraham, to be the father of a single nation, Israel, the end goal was never limited to that sphere. God chose one nation to be a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:1-3), in that through that one nation came the Savior of the whole world! It is far too small a thing for the Almighty God to only care about one nation.
Much like the small beginnings of the nation of Israel, the beginnings of the Church were just a small group of men and women who could fit in the upper room of an ancient home. Yet Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and prayed not only for his followers, but for others who would come to know him through their witness (John 17:20). That is you and me! The gospel is designed to saturate every corner of God’s creation, and until that is a reality, there is more work to do. Every sunrise is a reminder that God is not finished saving people yet! (See also Psalm 46:10, Malachi 1:11).
Question: Are you willing to live to this end, until every corner of the earth is reached with the Gospel?
One of the key aspects that defines the ministry of the Church is baptism. However, it is important to note how baptism should be associated with the initial conversion of a new believer. Upon repenting of sin and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Christian is to be baptized as an outward expression of inward change. I believe Jesus’s inclusion of baptism in the Great Commission is not to emphasize the act of baptism, but rather what baptism points to: conversion. To summarize, Jesus wants his followers to be committed to engaging the lost world with the gospel — to evangelize, and Lord willing, to see people born again! (See also Colossians 2:9-12, Galatians 2:20).
Question: Are you sharing the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus with people?
Teaching to Obey
The other key aspect of the ministry of the Church is teaching to obey. I believe the word “train” is helpful here in understanding the task. To put it simply, to “teach to obey” carries the same basic command as “make disciples”, but regarding your Christian brothers and sisters. If “baptizing” or “evangelizing” is partaking in the Great Commission in relation to people who don’t know Jesus, then “teaching to obey” or “training” is partaking in the Great Commission in relation to Christians.
Many Christians are all too comfortable getting together and opening a Bible to read and discuss, even teach one another. But there is a difference between “teaching” and “teaching to obey”. The latter requires courage, willingness to have hard or challenging conversations with a friend who might need it. To teach to obey requires entering the danger zone in each other’s lives, to spur on through encouragement, correction, or rebuke. (See also 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Notice the scope of our teaching is “ALL that I have commanded”, not just some parts I feel comfortable with. Each of us is prone to emphasize certain things, which is natural, but we must be careful to not neglect other areas. We can fail here by falsely teaching a particular point in Scripture, but we can also fail by refusing to bring it up because it is hard.
Question: Are you engaged in wholly teaching others to obey? (admonishing the idle, encouraging the fainthearted, helping the weak, and enduring with patience)
I Am with You Always
Jesus prefaced his commission by announcing of the reality of his authority, and now Jesus is reassuring his followers by announcing another reality: he is with us. Surely, he is with us. His commission is sandwiched between the promises of his power and his presence. The result of believing these realities is a complete trust in God and confidence that the victory is already secure. When combined, the Christian is invincible to the attacks of the enemy and their joy untouchable from any and all life circumstances.
Beyond that, this promise demonstrates God’s love toward us. He does not need us to do his work, but he wants us to join with him. He invites you in to partake in the highest calling imaginable, to be the hands and feet of our Redeemer, bringing global reconciliation one person at a time. He wants to involve us in what He is doing! And at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is that He really is with us. (See also Romans 8:28-39, Isaiah 41:10).
Question: Are you letting circumstances or results dictate your joy, or are you anchored in the reality of this promise?