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." (Matt. 28:19-20 ESV)
In the passage that is often referred to as “The Great Commission” (Matt 28:19-20), many think the command is to “go,” to go into the world and make disciples or to go to other countries as missionaries. However, when Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples,” the imperative, the word that is in the command form, is actually the word “make”. That’s the command--to make disciples. The word “go” is a participle, which could be translated from the Greek, “while you are going, make disciples of all nations.” Thus, the command by Jesus is not really to go anywhere, but rather what he is saying to his disciples is “while you are going about your life or wherever you are going, make disciples of all nations.” Christians are commanded to make disciples. The problem is that too many Christians think this is a command to the Church in general. The Church is commanded to make disciples, not me. So as long as my church does some sort of evangelism ministry or sends out or supports missionaries or so long as the elders of my church are evangelizing people, then I’m good. I am fulfilling Jesus’ command by being a part of the Church. Wrong! And we know this because the apostles repeat this command in their letters in various ways. Paul writes in Rom. 10:13-15, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” His point is that no one is going to get saved unless we go out there and proclaim the gospel to people. All Christians have a duty to do that. He will say to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word.” Paul understands that if faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ, then no one will be saved without the preaching of the word (Rom. 10:17). Peter will write in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, so that you may proclaim [verbalize] the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” According to Peter, if you are a believer, God saved you so that you might proclaim the gospel to the world. The Great Commission was not given to angels—it was given to believers.
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