Jesus had risen from the dead. Over the next 40 days, Jesus taught his disciples about the Kingdom, giving them instruction on how to proceed with the mission he had taught them to live out. He was now standing on a hill giving his final Kingdom instructions to his disciples. We pick up the story in Matthew 28:18-20:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
Many Christians, including Bible scholars, mission leaders and pastors know this verse as the “Great Commission.” There may even be a subheading in your bible with that reference.
But is this where the Great Commission gets started, with Jesus’ call to “Go…?” This passage has been taught as such but is it when the Great Commission actually got launched for “all nations?”
Let me suggest to you that this idea needs rethinking and for a very important reason.
Taking Matthew 28:18-20 as the start of the Great Commission can lead us to miss the grand narrative of Scripture and keep us from embracing the full story the Bible communicates.
This famous Matthew 28 passage is vitally important to God’s global mission enterprise. All that Jesus taught and commanded requires our “utmost for his highest.” And, we don’t want to
miss the two important bookends – his authority and presence – which makes the mission possible.
This passage is important because it is our promise from the risen Lord of how the mission would proceed and be fulfilled - through, with and in the power and presence of Christ.
But it is not where the Great Commission of “making discipling of all nations” got started.
What Jesus came to do, 'missionally', was advance and empower God’s mission to “all nations.” That is the mission that God has undertaken from the beginning of human history. The cross restored our relationship with God to make Jesus-shaped mission possible and the resurrection prodived Jesus-powered mission to go forward but the Great Commission was God’s plan from the time he created humankind (Genesis 1:28).
Our great God has always chosen to co-mission his people for his mission.
Of course, we know that the Fall affected those plans. Genesis 1-11 demonstrates the unwillingness of mankind to partner with God in his mission, as they instead sought to define life on their own terms and make a name for themselves. But God’s plan kept moving forward in spite of our human tendencies to go in our own direction, except for a people of faith who would carry the mission mandate forward.
Abraham was the first to say, “Yes, Lord I will go for you” after God gave him a great commission to bless all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3). Moses, after some debating with God, also responded to his calling and God gave a great commission to a bunch of Hebrew refugees to make them into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6) so that God would be known among the nations.
The lessons from ancient Israel demonstrate mankind’s inability to live as commanded, even with God on their side. The solution to this problem? Christ who would come to move God's mission forward until all nations had heard the Good News.
It is important we recapture the mission as outlined in the Old Testament, so that we better understand the New Testament commission and see the Bible as the complete mission plan that it is - for the "all nations."
Walter C. Kaiser in an article entitled, “The Great Commission in the Old Testament?” makes the point that, “Rightly understood the O.T. is a mission book par excellence because world mission to all peoples is its central purpose. It is also the key that unlocks true understanding of its message as well as for the whole Bible.”
Christopher Wright in his excellent book, “The Mission of God – Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative” begins with this great truth: “Missions is what the Bible is all about.”
The Great Commission when understood from Genesis to Revelation tells us an amazing story of how God has continued to develop his plan for “every nation, tribe and tongue” to worship him. The Great Commission takes on its fullest meaning in response to God’s plan of the ages. We would do well to understand it.
NEW BOOK COMING SOON
Dealing with this subject in detail is beyond the scope of this brief post so I recommend you sign-up to get my new book, “God INC – Finding Your Place in the Family Business” where I unpack this further. “God INC” will be available soon as a free download or by print copy. Here is what leaders are already saying:
"God INC is a must read for any follower of Christ living during what many believe to be the most exciting time in human history." Pat Murdock - Executive Director - Issachar Initiative
“Brian’s passion, heart and zeal shine through his words inspiring us to live lives that matter eternally as we get about God’s business.” Bruce B. Miller, Senior Pastor, Christ Fellowship
“This book will leave you inspired and empowered to make the Great Commission your life’s work no matter your vocation.” Dr. Kurt Nelson, President & CEO, East-West Ministries
“Every Christian man, woman, and teenager will profit from this book. They will learn to see with new eyes as they view their families, their churches, their communities, and their world.” David Bowman (D.Min) – Executive Director – Tarrant Baptist Association
"I have not read a stronger narrative that so speaks to the relational bridge built to unite the pastoral and businessmen’s heart to reach the most unreached in our world today. This is a must read for every pastor and business leader." Steve Sharp - President/CEO - Global Heart Ministries
Click here and I'll let you know when God INC is available later this Fall.
What would it mean if more Christians understood God’s mission, as well as held a missions view of their Bible, toward completion of the Great Commission, which has always been God’s plan for his people to live out? The answer is worth exploring.
Another question that every Christian must answer is, "When will the Great Commission get started for me?" Do you know the answer?