Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NLT
This passage is known as the Great Commission. King Jesus, having defeated sin, death, and the grave, when He rose, alive, from the dead, established Himself as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and now presents, if you will, His inaugural address to His followers. And like a president in the modern day, Jesus sets forth the agenda of His kingship.
Jesus uses four verbs; go, make, baptize, and teach. These are action words that inspire commitment, focus, and dedication.
- Go means a change of location. It infers getting up and moving from where you are to another place. Near or far, go is a change of location. You can’t “go” while remaining where you are. When God called Abraham, His first charge was, similarly, to go: “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1 NLT. In this regard, Abraham is the first example of a missionary of God, that is, one who is called to go. For you, to go might mean a radical change, like Abraham, or it might mean something different, to go to your neighbor, or cousin. But, in simplest terms, go means go.
- Make disciples is the second verb, and it is here that the weight of the Great Commission starts to hit home. Jesus is setting the agenda for the church, and the church is comprised of every Christian, not just the leaders. The charge to make disciples is your charge and mine, it is part of what Jesus is calling each of us to do as His body, the church. A disciple is someone who observes, learns, and then, puts into practice what he or she has learned. Like a student or apprentice, a disciple is a learner and a doer. In this sense each of us is a disciple of Christ. We read His story, we cultivate relationship with Him through prayer, through the Word, and through being present and attentive with Him. Then, we “learners and doers” are to replicate ourselves in others who seek to follow Christ.
- Third, we are to baptize these new disciples into kingdom life, into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for the remissions of sins, in the name (singular) of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is a beautiful reference to the Trinity of God. One God in three distinct persons. In many traditions baptism is left up to the priest or leadership, but the commission is to us all and if a situation ever presents itself, like Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, use your own judgement—in this case, they went for it! “and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. Acts 8:37-38 ESV
- Lastly, the commission is to teach the newly baptized disciples to obey the things Christ has commanded—chiefly, to love God and to love their neighbor, but also the rest of the commands and directives Jesus taught during His earthly ministry as well. But the primary objective is not just to know, or to learn, it is to obey, to surrender our personal will and agenda in deference and obedience to God’s will. Knowing and obeying the commands of Christ is to voluntarily cooperate and personally embrace what God is doing, in loving partnership with His will.
Some people see a list like this and say, “Alright, a plan! Let’s go!” While others see a challenging “to-do list” and are overwhelmed by the very thought of the commission. Each of us probably fall somewhere between the two. But note, Jesus did not tell any of us to go it alone, He promised to lead, to be with us, forever. Like the Kings of old, He will lead the army of God. We “go” where He leads. We “make disciples” of those the Holy Spirit has awakened. We “baptize” those who want true life-change. And we “teach” the commands to people who desire to walk in obedience to Christ. Jesus is involved and leading every step of the way. Every relationship, every conversation, every move we make, we make in Him.
How? How do we do it? What does the process look like? In practice it is organic and natural. When you deny yourself, embrace the presence of Jesus daily in every moment, and love your neighbor without judgement, it happens. You find yourself walking in the commission. For in denying your selfish desires, you can see more clearly what Jesus is doing, where He is leading, what He is saying. And, likely, He is leading you to love as He loves, considering others as highly valued and precious, created in the image of God, your brothers and sisters.
As we begin to honor and value every person, our conversations will be less about ourselves and more about them, about their story, and about God’s love. People long to know they are loved and valued. Hearing these things from you will confirm what the Holy Spirit has been whispering to them, maybe for years, and they will, often, open their hearts to Jesus. Not always, but often enough that you will realize the Great Commission is no burden, it is the blessed, natural result of living in God’s peace.
“Find inner peace and thousands around you will find their salvation.” St. Seraphim of Sarov