"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, 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" (Matthew 28:18-20).
We want to consider the "commission" which Jesus has given to the eleven disciples there in the mountain of Galilee, and through them to the Church.
Before beginning, however, let us look at two things in the text which have a direct effect on our success in this commission.
First of all, notice in verse 18 the declaration of Jesus, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." He has the authority or power or right in heaven to send down the Holy Spirit to his followers empowering them or really authorizing them to act as his representative on earth. Authority or power on earth through those Spirit-filled disciples to convert sinners, sanctifying, protecting, and perfecting his Church, subduing all nations to himself, and finally to judge all mankind.
Secondly, in verse 20 notice the duration of this authority as well, "Even unto the end of the world." Notice this especially: the charge to the Church is to last until the end of the world!
Again, the success of our commission rests upon a correct view of these two points. More will be discussed later on these points.
First the, the commission as it relates to our fellowman. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." All then are in need of one to deliver them from their sins. "God is not willing that any perish, but that all should come to repentance." Neither did he "send his Son to the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."
"Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
In verse 19 of our text, the word "teach" in the original Greek means "to make disciples," or Christians of all nations. It might be asked is this possible? Undoubtedly so, for the Church has been given all the resources it needs to accomplish this for "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
Timothy was instructed by Paul to "take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them, for doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."
Before sinful man can become a Christian, he must be taught to know himself, to be awakened to the fact of his sinfulness, to feel his need of deliverance. He must be convinced or convicted by the Holy Spirit of his hopeless and helpless condition until he cries out, "Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
A world about us rushes on toward eternity without God and there is much to be done yet. The Church has a tremendous responsibility as well as a glorious privilege to share the gospel to a lost world. We have not bee called to separate the tares from the wheat, but rather to "go unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." How can we go from day to day with an apparent lack of concern that many are yet to be reached with the gospel?
Next let us consider the commission as it relates to the individual Christian. Not all Christians are called to preach the gospel. Even though this is true, none who are disciples of Christ or Christians are exempt from the charge Jesus has made to teach or make disciples of the nations. 1 Peter 3:1-2 indicates that wives who have husbands who obey not the word may without word be won by the chaste conversation (manner of living) of the wife.
In view of this, we would be safe in saying that the salvation of our immediate family rests largely upon our faithfulness to obey the commission of Jesus. To fail would most likely bring a certainty to their damnation. This is a very sobering consideration and should not be passed over lightly. Bear in mind the fact that it is our actions, more than our words, which are involved.
If our lives have an influence on our family so as to bring them to salvation, we can be assured that we will have the same or better influence upon others not related to us.
To fail to keep the charge which Jesus has given will cost us the souls of all those we could have reached and quite probably in the end we will lose our own soul for our sin of omission. Read Matthew 25:31-46 where those being judged were not condemned for the wicked deeds committed, but rather for failing to do the good that they could have done!
We want to consider next our duty to God and to the Church as it relates to the commission given by Jesus. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them: and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." Out of gratitude to our Creator for extending mercy to us, we should share the gospel with those who are yet in their sins.
"God is love." "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." Is there any way we can show God's love other than showing love for fallen man in such a way as to influence him to God?
We may not be able to snatch souls from sin by our outward labors in every instance, but we can wage an effective warfare against the powers of darkness in our closets, with secret prayers and tears.
We are "partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust." And therefore as "God is love," so we are make a partaker of divine love. We have within us the capacity for loving God and also the works of God. This extends to the souls of man, which have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, though they may still be in sin, unaware of the mercy God wishes to show them.
We are "constrained by the love of Christ" then to manifest God's love to the unsaved about us as well as to those who have passed from death unto life.
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." A true love for God will make itself known by obedience to God, not from an attitude of "do I have to," but an attitude of "here am I, send me."
The charge given by Jesus was to make disciples of all nations. It is not enough that we labor for the conversion of sinner, but also we must see to their growth, laboring to "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus," "striving according to his working," which [will] work in us mightily.
In conclusion let us go back to the two point mentioned in the beginning and examine them in more detail. As was already mentioned, our success in this commission can be determined by what we believe abut these two things.
Notice that Jesus has stated "all power is given unto me." The prophet Daniel foretold of a time when the "Son of man" would receive the kingdom which would not be destroyed, which would be unto the end and "that all people, nations, and languages should serve him."
The Apostle Paul says of Christ that he is "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet and gave him to be head over all things to the church."
Christ has redeemed all nations unto God through his blood, therefore he has authority to claim the subjection of the world to his dominion. As a result of his death on the cross he has been given "a name above every other name," that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Peter in his Acts 2 message, referring to Psalm 110, undoubtedly understood that Jesus was seated at the right hand of God, reigning on "the throne of David" or reigning over the kingdom of heaven.
The duration of this reign from the right hand of God is found in 1 Corinthians 15:23, "at his coming." "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power." "For he mist reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet." "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." Since the last enemy to be destroyed (by Christ) is death, and death can only be destroyed by a general resurrection, the duration of our commission must extend until the end of the world, when time shall be no more.
It is evident that not all people, nations, nor languages serve Christ. The nation of Israel has not been "grafted" in, as foretold by Paul in Romans 11. This "grafting" in, or conversion, seems to depend on the "fullness of the Gentiles," or the Gentile nations having been filled with Christianity.
We conclude from this, that there is much to be done, therefore let us examine our priorities, take new courage and begin waging an effective warfare against the powers of darkness. We are assured of victory if we will follow our king, maintaining a pure faith in him, a faith which works by love.