The basic gist of The Great Commission is this portion of Matthew 28:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
There are a number of mangled applications of The Great Commission. Here are a few I’d like to briefly address:
- The Missions Mangle
I appreciate and respect what missionaries do. Going to foreign lands and proclaiming the Gospel is awesome. But I’ve also heard missionaries guilt people that they too need to go to a foreign land to do missions. This isn’t true. All you have to do is go and teach. Sometimes that starts in your own house. I’m not trying to talk anyone out of doing foreign missions, but I am making sure The Great Commission isn’t just something for missionaries in foreign lands.
- Get Em Saved Mangle
Too often the Church has taught that evangelism is getting people to Say The Prayer. Close the deal. Get them saved. The Great Commission doesn’t even mention the Gospel, let alone getting people saved. The Great Commission tells us to teach people to do the commandments of Jesus Christ. Evangelism isn’t just about getting people to Say The Prayer; it’s about discipleship, teaching a new way of life that revolves around the person of Jesus Christ.
- The Baptism Mangle
Baptism has been a divisive issue throughout Church History. To circumvent the division, some leave baptism out of it. Others demand adherence to their denomination’s particular baptism ideas. In reality, baptism is the dawning of the understanding of new life in Christ. It represents new birth, a washing, a unity with Christ’s death and resurrection, and a joining into a larger body of believers. Baptism is not the whole thing, nor is it nothing. It’s a part of what The Great Commission is. (By the way, YOU can baptize people! Jesus just said so. There’s nothing in the Bible talking about official church rites or having certified practitioners do the baptizing. You can baptize people. Do it some time. It’s cool.)
- The Commandment Mangle
Teaching people to do Christ’s commandments is huge in The Great Commission. Obeying Christ’s demands is the goal. This freaks people out. “We’re not under Law; we’re under grace! We don’t have to do any commandments today!” There are intricate theological systems invented to prove this point, but if words mean anything, we’re not only supposed to do Christ’s commands, we’re supposed to teach others to do them too.
- The “It Aint Me” Mangle
Some people don’t think The Great Commission has anything to do with us. Some think it’s for the disciples, or the early Church. The “I am with you til the end of the world” thing ends these theories. Yes the disciples and Early Church followed the Commission. Acts does a wonderful job of showing it in action. To think that the job is done now, we don’t have to do anything, is merely grinding logic in the garbage disposal.
- There’s No Gospel Mangle
As I said earlier, The Great Commission doesn’t even mention the Gospel, only the commandments of Jesus Christ. Some have used this to play games about when did the Church know there was a Gospel. That is unnecessary. Part of the Commandments of Jesus Christ is the Gospel, it’s who He is, what He did, and the demands the Gospel brings into the life of the believer. It’s teaching people everything there is to know about Jesus Christ. Obviously this includes the Gospel. But again, it doesn’t stop with The Gospel, as in, it’s more than just “getting people saved.” It’s teaching them to bring their lives into alignment with the Gospel and with Jesus Christ.
- I’m Lazy Mangle
People in this camp think, “Whatever Jesus is talking about, He’s not telling me to do anything. Others can, I don’t have to.” Most of the manglings above are merely attempts for people to justify their laziness in teaching others about Jesus Christ. Don’t do that.
If you know Christ and are taught by Him, telling others who He is will become natural. At the same time, Jesus did have to tell His people to do this.
Seeing the silliness people apply to these simple, straightforward, and encouraging words lets you know why He had to tell us to do this.
Even when He tells us specifically what to do, we get busy explaining why we don’t have to. Imagine how little we’d do if He never told us to do anything?!
The Great Commission is great. Not only is there a command here, there is a promise here. There is unbelievable joy here, the joy of bringing others to Christ, seeing lives changed by Him.
If Christ is with us to the end, we should be talking about Him to the end. Go and do so!