Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 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.”
(Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)
Today we finish up our study of the gospel of Matthew, which we began 320 days ago, with Jesus’ command to His disciples known as The Great Commission.
Notice that before He gives the command He establishes that He has the authority to give it. God has given Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth. Because of this (therefore), Jesus’ followers, which includes Christians living today, are to go make disciples of all nations.
The word disciple means “student; learner”. Those of us who are followers of Christ are to go out into the world teaching others about Him so that they too can believe, learn, and make more disciples themselves. The implication here is that disciples are made (not born) and they are made through teaching.
Those who are true Christ followers are “fishers of men” [Matthew 4:19; Acts 14:21]. Anyone who claims to be a Christian but does not share his/her knowledge of God’s saving grace with others is not a true follower of Jesus. We are to do more than convert people. We are to teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded. We are then to baptize these new believers.
The term baptize means to “immerse in water”. Baptism, as defined in the Bible, is not a sprinkling of water over someone’s head. Rather it is dunking someone into water, completely submerging them and then raising them out again. This simple act symbolically represents a person dying to self by being “buried” and “resurrected” as Jesus was [Romans 6:3-4].
Despite what Catholics believe, baptism itself does not save anyone (CCC 1213 et. al). It is a post-salvation ritual commanded by God to all new believers as an outward display of an inward change that has already taken place. Baptism is for people who are already going to heaven. It doesn’t send anyone there.
We are to baptize people in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When we do something in someone’s name we do it with their full authority as if they were doing it themselves. When we baptize someone in the name of God we are recognizing the work that God has already done for that person – He has raised them from death into life [John 5:24].
Notice that Jesus says “in the name of” (singular) not “in the names of” (plural). There is one God who has manifested Himself to mankind in three ways: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three are not separate entities with their own names (identities). They are one being commonly referred to as the Trinity. Notice also, therefore, that Jesus is again stating that He and God are one in the same.
When Jesus commands us to go into the world to tell others how they, too, can have their sins forgiven and have eternal life in heaven He doesn’t send us on our own. He promises to be with us always, until the end of the age.
As we previously learned, we must be available to God in order to carry out this mission. We must also worship Jesus. But even so, we don’t have the power to do this on our own. We still need His power to fulfill the Great Commission. This comes in the form of the Holy Spirit who resides in every believer [Ezekiel 36:27; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14 et. al].
There is no power in us to turn people into disciples. All we can do is plant seeds. Only God can make someone’s faith germinate and grow [1 Corinthians 3:6-7].
This brings us to the end of the Gospel of Matthew. But more than an end, it is a beginning. This passage is the beginning of the current church age in which the entire world is being exposed to the saving message of the gospel. And it is every believer’s job to teach it to others.
The only reason I heard the truth about Jesus and believed it is because someone told me. And the only reason the person who told me heard and believed is because someone told him. And so on. God invites all of us to participate with Him in increasing His eternal kingdom by sharing the good news of His desire to see all people saved from the penalty of their sins [1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9].
If you missed any of our study of Matthew or wish to revisit portions of it again, you can find the entire study here.
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