The Great Commission is the term given to the command that Jesus gave to His disciples just before He ascended to heaven.
We find this in Matthew 28:19-20, where Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
When reading the Bible, it’s critical to understand the context surrounding the passage you’re reading. Jesus had been crucified and buried, and then God raised Him from the dead. He appeared to hundreds of people over several weeks, but then it was time to return to the Father. Jesus had an important message – important instructions – for His disciples before He departed. These were the last words He spoke to them.
Go Make Disciples of all Nations
Jesus gave instructions to His disciples how to build His church. First, they were to go. They weren’t to keep this to themselves; they were to share this good news of the Kingdom of God with everyone.
Second, they were to make disciples. Disciples of Christ are devoted followers of Christ who adhere to His ways and His teachings. Since Jesus’s disciples had walked and talked with Him, who better to teach others how to follow Him?
Third, ALL nations were to be preached the gospel. This good news wasn’t just for the Jewish nation but for ALL nations – ALL people groups. God wanted every nation to hear about Jesus and His Kingdom, and it was the disciples’ job to make this happen.
Jesus wanted His disciples to baptize followers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a symbol of our “old self” dying and being buried and our “new self” being raised to life in Christ. New believers needed to experience new life in Christ through water baptism.
Additionally, baptism symbolized a serious commitment. When someone was baptized, they were forsaking all other religions and beliefs and adhering to following Jesus Christ only.
The disciples were also supposed to teach new believers to obey everything that Jesus commanded. Again, how convenient that the disciples had been eating, drinking, praying, and ministering with Jesus for years, right? They were well-equipped to help others learn how to follow Jesus and how to obey Him.
As Jesus was leaving the disciples on their own, they probably were experiencing some panic. He assured them that He would always be with them, and that neither time nor distance would separate them from Him. He didn’t want them to worry or be afraid but to boldly go and tell others His good news.
Mark’s Great Commission
In the book of Mark (16:15-18), we have a more detailed version of The Great Commission:
“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’”
Mark included some details that Matthew did not. Jesus promised His disciples that if they believed, then signs would follow them. They would cast out demons, heal the sick, and speak in new tongues. Jesus wanted them to know that even though He wouldn’t physically be with them anymore that His power would still be with them.
In fact, Jesus said in John 14:12, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
I’m sure the disciples were thinking of this promise as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven to His Father. They had watched Jesus perform miracle after miracle, and now it was their turn to do the same in His name. (See Acts 2 for the account of when the Holy Spirit came to empower the disciples.)
The Great Commission Today
Jesus’s command wasn’t just for His disciples back then but it’s also for us today. We are His disciples too, and this command still stands. Churches and individuals must remember to go, to make disciples, to baptize and to instruct.
We must obey everything Jesus said and help others to do the same. This is how His Church and His Kingdom advance, and it’s up to each of us to do our part.
~ Jennell Houts