The Great Commission
“And Jesus came up 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 the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'” (Mt.28:18-20)
The first thing worth noting in this passage is that Jesus has the authority to command and instruct His followers. We understand this is always motivated by love, not an expression of egotistical, control-oriented “leadership,” all too often characteristic of human beings who assume positions of authority.
It is common for people to say that Jesus commands us to go. However, “go therefore,” in this passage is in a grammatical form that could be translated, “while you are going.” This would be characteristic of one who has denied self-supremacy, taken up their cross and are following Jesus (Mt.16:24 & 25). While we are in the process of following Him, He commands us to “make disciples.”
To “make disciples” involves convincing people who are not followers (learners) of Jesus to become followers of Jesus. This is associated with the evangelistic process. It might involve a lot of different efforts to lead a person in this direction, but the core of this is helping people see the value of God, and His provisions in Christ to reconcile all things unto Himself. Though there is a definite individual component to this big picture, the goal is to “make disciples of all the nations.”
God is interested in, both, proper individual behavior but also in having corporate structures, people groups, communities, societies, institutions and nations function in a proper, fruitful fashion. In order for this to happen, we have the responsibility of understanding and practicing such things as well as “teaching them to observe (obey)” the commands, truths, principles, ordinances and precepts of God’s Word.
Some might assume we are to return to the specific instructions of the Old Testament. I do not believe that is the intention of this statement. We are to understand the principles present in the Word of God and apply the proper principle to life and relationships in a dynamic world. God has provided insight that is for our good (Dt.5:29).
This is a huge task we have before us. It will not happen if we simply “play church.” To impact all of society is complex and requires people with vision, equipped to make a difference in a particular area of society.
As Jesus declares, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” we can think of a previous statement made to His disciples when asked about the end of the age (Mt.24:3). “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
We have the task of declaring a viable representation of the kingdom of God, how things operate when consistent with His design for life on earth, in all the nations. Having done so, the end will come. I have heard people state that Christ might return any moment and yet, if the aforementioned task is not complete, if the conditions have not been met, we have no reason to anticipate His return as though it is a date marked on an eternal calendar.