We should avoid seeing Matthew 28:18-20 as the standalone passage for the Great Commission. There are other instances in the Bible in which Jesus gives His commission to us to preach the Gospel to the world.
Peering into the other “Great Commission” passages can help us get a more comprehensive understanding of what the Great Commission actually entails.
Let’s look at some of the passages and what they can tell us about the Great Commission.
Matthew 28:18-20 – Tells us to teach
Belief requires practice. Contrary to some Christian movements in the world, Jesus commanded his disciples not only to help bring unbelievers to faith in God and His message, but also to continue to teach them to be disciples. Teaching requires compassion and patience (perhaps this is one of the many reasons why Paul encouraged the disciples to bear with one another). This passage places on disciples the responsibility to help new believers to mature in their faith and to strive to present everyone complete before God. This means that evangelistic rallies and revivals don’t completely fulfil what Jesus commands us to do, nor is simply inviting people to church.
Luke 24:46-48 – Tells us to proclaim
What is an important activity in making disciples? Proclaiming the gospel. The Greek word for proclaim gives a sense of heralding official news. In many senses, as disciples, this is what we do. We have a King who has won the war against sin and death. As his disciples we are meant to proclaim this good news to the world.
A herald cannot force people to accept the message he proclaims, and yet if he does not proclaim people will not hear his message. This is what is invigorating about the Great Commission found in Luke. While in some senses we are powerless to transform people’s hearts to believe and follow Jesus, in some senses the job can’t be done without us! The scriptures say that with God all things are possible, but how privileged are we that God chose to do his wonders with him.
Acts 1:8 – Tells us to reach the ends of the earth
Some take this passage and apply it to themselves incompletely. They think this passage is only a trajectory plan for the proclamation of the Gospel message. They take Jerusalem to be their hometown, Judea and Samaria to be the next city and then maybe the state. But we can get the full force of what Jesus means if we put ourselves in the disciples’ shoes. When Jesus says this to the disciples its important to understand that they are the only one’s who’ve heard Jesus’ message at that point. How would have the disciples heard Jesus’ command? They would have heard Jesus tell them to tell everyone, to tell all who have not heard. The disciples would have understood that Jesus was commanding them to preach to all peoples: not only those who were seen as half-bloods by the Jews (the Samaritans) but those who were seen as barbarians (the Gentiles — that’s us!).