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. Matthew 28:19–20 (NIV)
Jesus spoke these words just before His ascension to describe the church’s primary mission. Mark’s gospel is a little different: He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 (NIV). Finally, in both his gospel and Acts, Luke emphasized waiting “until receiving the gift of the Father.”
Either way, we have a job to do and the resources to make it happen. It seems simple enough, but there are many distractions. We believe that we are to be engaged in this world for the cause of the gospel to bring praise, glory, and honor to God.
The Great Commission should be a familiar concept in the Christian community, if not ignored in practice. To shed more light on what it is, let us use the five tools of journalistic investigation: who, what, where, when, and why. I am not sure that they still teach reporters to ask these basic questions, but it should be revealing for us.
Jesus was addressing his disciples on the mountain before he ascended into heaven. Some people say that the commission was directed at the twelve apostles. Historian Herbert Kane “argues that the Reformers believed that the Great Commission had been achieved by the apostles by taking the good news to the ends of the world as it was known at that time. Consequently, there was no longer any need to send out missionaries to faraway countries.”
If the commission was only for the original twelve Apostles, why are we still here? That day, Jesus concluded with his remarks by saying, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” If there are still unreached people groups today, how can anyone presume the commission is no longer in force? Indeed, not everyone is called to a foreign land, but as church members, Jesus’ command is still valid today.
Matthew gives us three directives; “go and make disciples of all nations,” “baptize them,” and “teach them to obey everything that Jesus commanded.” Mark says, “preach the gospel.” Apart from baptism, the others are repetitive processes.
Conversions and decisions for Christ are essential, but Jesus omitted them from this commission. Our charge is to preach, baptize and make disciples. God may use preaching, or should we say, “the foolishness of preaching,” to make people aware of their need to be born again, but conversion is God’s work.
We have the responsibility of molding and shaping God’s people into disciples. Our task includes imparting to them those things Christ commanded so that they may be obedient. Our work is an ongoing responsibility from generation to generation: And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)
All the world. What exactly does it mean? When some people hear “go into all the world,” they think in terms of geography. Faraway and distant lands await those who answer the call. Jesus indeed said, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NIV).
A closer examination of the Greek word that we translate world reveals a broader meaning. The word also denotes the systems, institutions, and even people. Jesus said: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. John 17:15–16 (NIV)
To bring the gospel into all the world goes beyond lands and faraway places. I believe that when Jesus said to go, he meant into every facet of society, business, government, the arts and entertainment, and education. Wherever we are is an excellent place to let our light shine.
We must wait and then hurry up. Before a credit card company coined the phrase “do not leave home without it,” Jesus was telling his disciples to “wait until they receive power from above.”
The thought of going out in our own strength before receiving his power should be absurd, but the Holy Spirit changes everything. Our assignment is to: always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV).
Sometimes we will receive specific assignments, but generally, opportunities will present themselves to “let our light shine before others.” Remember, the great commission is about being engaged in this world for the cause of the gospel.
This one may be the easiest of all. We go because He commands us to go. We should never be asking why we go, but only how far does he want us to go? We like to say that there is no point in being Empowered, Encouraged, and Equipped unless we are willing to be Engaged in fulfilling our Lord’s Great Commission.
We go because our Lord does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV). We go because he has forgiven us of our sins and has brought us into his family.
We go because he has promised to go with us. And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs. Mark 16:20 (NLT)
How exciting it is to be used by God for his purposes. We have been commissioned to be His ambassadors. We represent the King of kings and Lord of lords wherever we go.
 Kane, A Concise History Of The Christian World Mission, 74