What is the Great Commission?

The religious research institution, The Barna Group, asked 1004 churchgoers if they have simply heard of The Great Commission and the results were absolutely terrifying. Barna found out there were more people in this group of churchgoers who had never even heard the Great Commission than those who could correctly identify it and its meaning.

What is the Great Commission?

The Great Commission is actually made manifest in all four gospel accounts. While they do not all have the same verbiage, they do convey the same message from Christ Jesus and are as follows:

“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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

“Then he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).

“He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21).

There are two common elements in every gospel account of the Great Commission: 1) A combined effort, and 2) a personal action.

A Combined Effort

It is a rather interesting concept, this thing of the Great Commission. This sending from Christ to his apostles can be mind-boggling and a bit counter-intuitive. Here is how: Christ is God in the flesh and God is a missional God who is sovereign and reigns over all the earth. This means God does and can do what He wills and wants because of his sovereignty.

The question still demands an answer: If God is sovereign, why does Christ command us to be agents in advancing the Kingdom of God? The short answer is that God doesn’t need our help in advancing his Kingdom. But, the complication to this answer is that he commands us to make disciples in the Great Commission. Jesus told the disciples that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him” (Matt. 28:18). This means that God’s sovereignty is not only made manifest in Christ, but is the embodiment of it.

Simply put, the Kingdom of God is the theme of Scripture. When you realize that the covenants of the Old Testament were actually put in place for the institution of the Kingdom of God, it then becomes an entirely different perspective in your mind. No longer is the Kingdom of God an inanimate object, but it now becomes a reality in your life and your identity. You are a citizen of the Kingdom of God (thanks to the New Covenant instituted by Christ). Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum proffer that for covenantal theology to be properly understood, we must first understand how God has dealt with humanity throughout history. This means that we cannot accurately understand the nature of covenants and the Kingdom of God without understanding God, as manifested in Christ Jesus.[1]

But the main element of this idea is that it is covenantal! Covenants are made between two parties. Tom Schreiner defines a biblical covenant as a “relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other.”[2] So, this is more than sovereignty in the sense that God is in complete control and is the only one responsible for taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. There is a job for each and every believer to do because they are citizens of the kingdom of God – to take part in God’s mission in this world to proclaim Christ crucified to a world dying without hope.

There is a job for each and every believer to do because they are citizens of the kingdom of God – to take part in God’s mission in this world to proclaim Christ crucified to a world dying without hope.

A Personal Action

This personal action comes in the form of your normal, everyday Christian life. It seems a bit counterintuitive to say, but the Great Commission should be the goal of each and every believer’s existence. However, the reality is that this identity is not prevalent among evangelicals today. Instead, because of our individualistic culture, we now employ a social construct redefining what it means to be a Christian. And because of our postmodern influence, now there is no basis for absolutes within moral instruction.

But the Christian life is different.

Rather than aiming to live the Christian life alone, it is to be lived in community and covenant with the body of Christ (yes, that even includes a local church). This means that not only is our combined effort toward the Great Commission with Christ, but also with other believers. Moreover, those who disagree (to an extent) theologically can work together to spread the good news of Christ. Those from different denominations (within limits) can work together toward the same goal of being witnesses for Christ around the world.

However, the Great Commission does not begin with a community of people. It begins with you and me. It starts in the everyday life of a believer being a disciple of Christ and then discipling others to salvation and spiritual maturity in holiness.

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Bibliography:

[1] Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum. God’s Kingdom Through God’s Covenants (Wheaton:Crossway, 2015), 5.

[2] Thomas R. Schreiner, “10 Things You Should Know About the Biblical Covenants,” The Gospel Coalition, accessed July 24, 2019, https://www.thegospelcoation.com/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-biblical-covenants/.

Ben Campbell