Sermon Text: Matthew 28:18-20
Sermon Theme: With universal authority, Jesus gave His Church a mission and told us what it would look like.
The risen Jesus is central to the existence and proclamation of the church. There would be no gospel if there had been no resurrection. The resurrection, however, is not simply a datum of history, words about a past event. The resurrection has enormous consequence for present Christian existence. It is the risen Jesus, to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given, who here commissions his disciples and in effect the church of every period of history. They are to go everywhere with the message of good news in the name and authority of Jesus. Theirs is indeed an awesome responsibility: to go, make disciples of all nations, baptize, and teach. If left to their own devices and strength, the task would be overwhelming. Yet they are not left alone in this assignment. The risen, enthroned Jesus promises to be with them in their fulfillment of it, not intermittently but always. Evidence of the truth of that promise is readily available in the narrative of the book of Acts as well as in the history of the church, which has seen a network of believers around the world in every land, of every race, come into existence from what began just after the death of Jesus with but a handful of doubting, confused, and powerless disciples. The statements that frame the commission on either side concerning the authority and the presence of Jesus alone allow the church to continue in the world. Only the ongoing reality of these facts can continue to equip the church for its mission—a mission that will continue until the consummation of the age. The great commission and its frame with which Matthew ends remain, like the whole Gospel itself, one of the priceless treasures of the Christian church, providing comfort, strength, and hope until the final dawning of the end times. “And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
(World Biblical Commentary – New Testament)
- How are you submitting yourself to Jesus’ authority? Are you applying the authority Jesus has given you? Do you believe that submission to the absolute authority of Jesus Christ is not a believer’s option but is his supreme obligation? It is not negotiable or adjustable to one’s own particular inclinations and plans. It is rather the attitude that says with absolute sincerity, “Whatever the Lord commands, I will do.” For Jesus’ sovereign authority was given to Him by His Father, who “has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22), “made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), and has “highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:9-11). Then, finally, in an act of adoring love and submission, “when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
- Have you considered that “all authority in heaven and earth” is focused on one thing?
- Some Christians would consider sound biblical teaching to be the church’s principal focus.
- Some members would consider praise of God to be the supreme purpose of the church.
- A favorite verse for some church members is likely to be, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
- Some believers consider the primary focus is to make disciples.
- What is our mission in this world? Is it to listen? Is it to understand? Is it to obey? The central message of Scripture pertains to the central mission of the people of God, a mission that, tragically, many Christians do not understand or are unwilling to fulfill. It seems obvious that some Christians think little about their mission in this world, except in regard to their own personal needs. They attend services and meetings when it is convenient, take what they feel like taking, and have little concern for anything else. They are involved in the church only to the extent that it serves their own desires. It escapes both their understanding and their concern that the Lord has given His church a supreme mission and that He calls every believer to be an instrument in fulfilling that mission. We have a supreme purpose and motive in every individual believer and every body of believers to glorify God. The mission that flows out of our loving fellowship, our spiritual growth, and our praise is that of being God’s faithful and obedient instruments in His divine plan to redeem the world.
- What is the best way to glorify God? God has been drawing, is now drawing and will continue until the final judgment to draw sinful men back to Himself and to restore the world that sin has corrupted—all for the purpose of bringing glory to Himself. When sinners are saved, God is glorified, because their salvation cost Him the death of His own Son, the immeasurable price that His magnanimous grace was willing to pay. The supreme way in which God chose to glorify Himself was through the redemption of sinful men, and it is through participation in that redemptive plan that believers themselves most glorify God. Through Christ, God was “reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Such magnitude and graciousness is this work that even the heavenly angels longed to look into it (1 Peter 1:12).
- Do you understand our mission is the same mission as that of the Father and of the Son? Jesus’ supreme purpose on earth was “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). That is therefore also the supreme mission of Christ’s church. The work of the church is an extension of the work of her Lord. “As you sent Me into the world,” Jesus said to His Father, “so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Jesus did not spend time teaching in order to entertain the crowds or to reveal interesting but inconsequential truths about God or to set forth ideal but optional standards that God requires. His first mission was to provide salvation for those who would come to Him in faith, that is, to make disciples. His second mission was to teach God’s truth to those disciples. That is the same twofold mission He gives the church. Every Christian is not gifted as a teacher, but every faithful Christian is committed to promoting the ministry of teaching God’s Word both to make and to edify disciples of Christ.
- As believers, we have been commissioned to help others understand who their Lord and Savior is and to give them the opportunity to become his disciples. What are you doing with your commission? For we are chosen to bring those who identify with the world into a new identification. It is seeing themselves anew as citizens of God’s kingdom, as children of God, as brothers and sisters of the Messiah, and as brothers and sisters with the rest of the family of believers. Our mission is to bring people to a point where they see themselves differently—because they have become different through the transforming work of God’s grace.
- What is the one reason for the Lord allowing His church to remain on earth? Is it to seek and to save the lost, just as Christ’s only reason for coming to earth was to seek and save the lost? “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Therefore, a believer who is not committed to winning the lost for Jesus Christ should reexamine his relationship to the Lord and certainly his divine reason for existence. Fellowship, teaching, and praise are not the mission of the church but are rather the preparation of the church to fulfill its mission of winning the lost. There is no greater reason for world missions then what Jesus commanded us to do — “Go and tell” Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8. Yet above all others, this mission can only be accomplished while we are on earth. We will have no opportunity in heaven to call the lost to the Savior.
- Where are your true priorities on earth? Have you looked at your check stubs for the past year or checked your calendar or appointment book? Have you recognized your true priorities which invariably are reflected in the way your spend your money or where and for what you spend your time is also a reliable barometer of your true interests and concerns? Consider that an isolated Christian cannot disciple others, nor can others disciple him, and it is impossible for the gifts to be ministered either way.
- Does our Church have the unity, stability and progress toward maturity that is necessity for the Church to provide the responsible witness to the surrounding society? Are we always trying to met our own needs before starting to disciple and meet the needs of other people? When you help, love, and serve others, this allows them to become more healthy and mature, so that they can turn around and start helping, loving, and serving you and the surrounding society. The church is often sickly and weak because far too many people are sitting around saying, “Help me! Feed me! Clean me! Take care of me!” In response to these cries for help, Paul says, “Go help others! Go feed others! Go clean others! Go care for others!” As you do your part, it will strengthen and edify them, and in return, they will begin to disciple others and meet their needs. For at the heart of our mission is the reproduction in others of what Jesus has produced in us: faith, obedience, growth, authority, compassion, love, and a bold, truthful message as his witnesses.
- Do we sometimes use the form of easy believism that maintain that the only requirement for salvation is to “accept Jesus as Savior?” Then, at some later date, a saved person may or may not become a disciple by accepting Christ as Lord of his life. Taking up one’s cross and following Christ (Matthew 10:38) is looked on as a secondary, ideal level of relationship to Christ that is commendable but not mandatory. Scripture knows nothing of receiving Christ as Savior but not as Lord, as if a person could take God piecemeal as it suits him. The very point of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler was that this man—although highly moral, religious, generous, and admiring of Jesus—refused to give up everything for Christ and submit to Him as Lord. He sincerely wanted eternal life and had the wisdom to come to the source of that life. But he was unwilling to give up his own life and possessions and obey Jesus’ command to “come, follow Me” (Luke 18:18-23). He was willing to have Jesus as Savior but not as Lord, and Christ would not receive him on those terms. Because he refused to be Christ’s disciple when the cost was made clear (like those in John 6:66), he could have no part of Christ or of the eternal life that He gives.
- Do you consider baptism to be optional for believers? We baptize into the “name” of the Godhead, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Note the singular, “name,” meaning one God—the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It does not refer to three gods. The Trinity is involved in our salvation. God the Father elected or chose you before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6). The Son of God redeemed you by going to the cross and dying on your behalf and paying your debt to the righteousness of a holy God (Ephesians 1:7-12). The Holy Spirit regenerated you and caused you to believe on Jesus Christ as your personal Savior when you heard the saving Gospel of God (Ephesians 1:13-14). The word “trinity” is not used in the Bible, but the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly taught throughout the Bible in many passages of Scripture (Matthew 28:19; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; Hebrews 6:4-6; 1 John 3:23-24; and many more). We baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit because Jesus commanded us to do so.
- How do you accomplish such an impossible task of redeeming the world? The apostle Paul said, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 2:17). The ministry of grace is never easy. It is not a bed of roses. What is our motive of service? We have been commissioned by the Master. He has chosen to do His work in and through us for His glory. It is not I, but Christ. The apostle Paul declared it beautifully when he wrote, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). For Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The pronoun “I” is also very emphatic. “No one less than I myself am with you.” Literally it reads, “all the days, even to the consummation of the age.” I am with you, literally “all the days” or to the “consummation” at the second coming of Christ. What a promise to the believer. Jesus promises to be with us when we go in His name to talk about Him. We are not serving Christ as best we can, but with the sense that we have a constant companion who goes with us throughout life. “I am with you.” He will be with us until we draw our last breath. His presence will never be withdrawn. He is with us all the days of our lives until He comes in glory at the Second Coming.
- What would you do for Christ if you knew you could not fail? We cannot fail if we are at the center of God’s will. There is nothing we cannot do if He is doing His work through us His way. I would rather to have dreamed big and failed than to sit and do nothing. We do not go in our own strength. When God calls His servants He equips them and provides all that they need to accomplish His eternal purpose. “God’s work, done in God’s way, will receive God’s supply,” said Hudson Taylor. Or as the apostle Paul stated it, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me… My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
- Are “making disciples” and “being witnesses” the same thing? Or different things? Or different but related things? How? What does it mean to make disciples? What does it mean to be a witness? What are the similarities, differences, relationship? What makes us think this?
- What does it mean to “go?” If it only means “as you are going,” then how can new people be reached in non-Christian areas? Going means more than traveling across geographical borders, although this is part of Jesus’ meaning. The point is that we believers are active; we are not inert. Going means crossing boundaries to make disciples—going across the street, going to dinner with an unbelieving friend, going into the inner city, going beyond one’s comfort zone to make the gospel accessible to the lost. Living life is “going” with a purpose, every day. Going also implies our support of people who are literally going to other cultures. We must support global outreach financially and support the people going emotionally and personally as well as through prayer. We are a part of their team. In all these ways we “go,” in fulfillment of the Great Commission.
1) Mathēteuō (literally means “to make one a disciple”) is the main verb and the central command of verses Matthew 28:19-20, which form the closing sentence of Matthew’s gospel. The root meaning of the term refers to believing and learning. Jesus was not referring simply to believers or simply to learners, or He would have used other words. Mathēteuō carries a beautiful combination of meanings. In this context it relates to those who have a wholehearted commitment to Jesus Christ and follow Him in lives of continual learning and obedience. Christ is their passion. “If you abide in My word,” Jesus said, “then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). It should be noted that some disciples were not true (John 6:66).
2) The specific requirements Jesus gives for making disciples involve three participles: going, baptizing and teaching. The first requirement makes clear that the church is not to wait for the world to come to its doors but that it is to go to the world. The second requirement for making disciples is that of baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. A person is saved by God’s grace alone working through his faith as a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). But by God’s own declaration, the act of baptism is His divinely designated sign of the believer’s identification with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism is a divinely commanded act of faith and obedience. The third requirement for making disciples of all nations is that of teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. The church’s mission is not simply to convert but to teach. The convert is called to a life of obedience to the Lord, and in order to obey Him it is obviously necessary to know what He requires. Therefore, studying, understanding, and obeying “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27) is the lifelong task of every true disciple.
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