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The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20

Matthew 28:18–20 states, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV).

Of all the passages that involve the Great Commission (cf. Mark 16:15–16; Luke 24:44–49; John 15:16; Acts 1:8), Matthew 28:18–20 is more well-known than others. From this passage, we see that the Great Commission involves a mandate to make disciples (28:18–19a) and the means of making disciples (28:19–20). First, consider a couple of points about the mandate to make disciples.

  • All Christians must make disciples. This mandate cannot be denied. It came from the just-risen Jesus Christ who claims universal authority. He states, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
  • Making disciples begins by giving the gospel. This fact is illustrated by how Luke uses the same word for “make disciples” in Acts 14:21: “they had preached the gospel to that city [Derbe] and had mademany disciples.”

Second, consider four means of how we make disciples. Three of these means are indicated by the verbs in 28:19–20 that are subordinate to the primary command of making disciples. These verbs are gobaptizing, and teaching. However, though they are subordinate, they carry the force of a command by being linked to the command of making disciples.

  • Go – This verb could be literally translated, “having gone.” Jesus assumes that disciples will go to the whole world because the target of making disciples involves “all nations.”
  • Baptizing – Those who profess Christ to be Savior are baptized by immersion into water. The going in and coming out of the water symbolizes the burial and resurrection of our Lord, as well as our spiritual union to Him. A Christian has died to sin and is a new man in Christ (Rom 6:3–6).
  • Teaching – We teachall that Christ has commanded, and we teach disciples to observe all that He has commanded.

The fourth means of making disciples is to make disciples with the help of Jesus Christ. He states, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And how is He with us? He sent the Spirit to give us boldness to share the gospel and make disciples (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).

So how do we make disciples? At the least, going to the nations, we give the gospel with the help of Christ, baptize those who believe, and teach them to observe all of Christ’s commandments.  May God help us as we honor Him in this Great Commission!

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.