The Great Commission passages in Scripture (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 22:44-49; John 20:2; Acts 1:8) are powerful reminders from our Lord and Savior about the importance of sharing the gospel and discipling those who come to faith. Taken individually, they may at first glance appear to highlight a different aspect of evangelism. But the emphasis of each is the same: Preach the gospel!
Matthew 28:18-20 records Jesus as having said: “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.” This charge from our Lord reminds us of a few essential truths.
1. Jesus has all authority.
Not one thing is outside of Jesus’ control. All authority has been given to him by the Father, including authority on earth and in Heaven. Everything must bow to Christ and, ultimately, acquiesce to His sovereignty. Even Satan is bound by Christ’s supreme authority and cannot go beyond what Christ himself allows.
This encourages the saint to know that our success in evangelism depends on His power rather than our own. Success for us is simply being faithful to the gospel message and allowing Christ, in His sovereignty, to take care of the rest.
2. Jesus authoritatively charges us to go and make disciples of people from all nations.
The charge Jesus gives is for us to “go” and “make disciples.” He does not tell us to go and share the gospel with only particular people or only focus our time on certain persons. He commands that we “go” and “make disciples” of all nations. This He commands in His total authority, which has been given to him by the Father.
As the disciples of Christ, we are also called friends and slaves of Christ (John 15:14). Our joy is made complete when we keep his commandments (John 15:10-11). Not only is there no greater joy than sharing the gospel and making disciples, but this is a direct commandment that Christ has given, and we must obey.
3. We are to baptize those who are saved in the Triune name of God.
One of the first things a saved sinner should do is make a public profession of their faith in Christ (Rom. 10:13). There is no greater way to do this than through the physical act of baptism, wherein a disciple of Christ is publicly declaring, “I have died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and have risen to new life in Christ.”
Lest we forget that salvation is a Trinitarian work, Jesus reminds us that baptism is to be done, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The Father has planned salvation from before the foundations of the earth (Eph. 1:4), the Son purchased salvation during His Incarnation (1 Cor. 6:19-20), and the Holy Spirit now applies salvation (John 16:13-15).
4. We are to teach disciples the Word of God to become obedient to Christ.
Not only does the power of salvation lie in the preaching of God’s word, but the effects of discipleship are also wrought by Scripture. Jesus does not desire rebellious children but obedient disciples. As the Lord of all, he has revealed within His word what is required of us. In a simplified way, the commandments are summarized by loving God and neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40). But a true disciple must be taught what the Master has said so that obedience to the Master can be kept.
5. Jesus will always be with us, even as we are sent forth.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember, and one of the greatest promises of Scripture, is that Jesus has promised to always be with us. As we go forth and share the gospel, baptize converts, and train obedient disciples, we will encounter many trials and difficulties. But our victorious and authoritative King has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). The picture of evangelism painted in Scripture is that of soldiers led into battle by their conquering King, bringing all things under the subjection of His own power.
These verses remind us of the compelling truth that Christ has all authority in Heaven and on earth, has commissioned us to go forth and preach the gospel to all. Those who receive Jesus by faith (ultimately, due to the efficacious work of the Holy Spirit and the sovereign plan of the Father) are to be taught to be obedient to what the Lord has commanded. This means that the Church trains disciples to train more disciples. New disciples, after being trained, then go forth and declare the gospel to others.
The truth is, Jesus has been promised a certain number of people from the Father, and He will have His gift in full (John 6:37). Jesus is building His Church, His Kingdom, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against Him. The vision of Revelation 7:9 will be fulfilled: Christ will have a people from every tribe, nation, language, and people. Our mission is to go forth and declare the gospel with this confidence in mind.
Jacob Tanner is a husband, father, and pastor, living in Pennsylvania. Holding to the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, Jacob is focused on both evangelism and reformation. He is the founder of the Sound of Truth Ministries, where they have regular podcasts and preaches whenever the opportunity arises. His passion and motto are, “To know Christ and make Him known because He has made us His own.” He can be found spending time with his family or with a book in his hands in his free time.