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Catechism Class – LD7c Q22.

10/06/2021

The Greatest Commission

Matthew 28:16-20, H/C Q/A  22-23 

Heidelberg Q/A 22. What, then, is necessary for a Christian to believe?  All that is promised us in the Gospel, which the articles of our catholic, undoubted Christian faith teach us in summary.

What is the Gospel, and how is it to be proclaimed? Our ‘mission statement’ has been given to us by Jesus!  It is found in the closing words of the Gospel of Matthew.  It’s often known as ‘The Great Commission.’  Let’s look at these verses together.

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1. A Great Claim! All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

The disciples were in a special place that day.  They had been told by Jesus to be at this place, in v10, to go to Galilee, where he would meet with them.. So here they are, on a mountain, in obedience to the Lord.   When Jesus met them that day, he began by making a amazing claim.  “All power is given unto me!’  Note:-

  • This power is complete and comprehensive!  We cannot comprehend the greatness of the power of God – that simply spoke and created the universe out of nothing!  We cannot understand how God took a handful of dust and breathed life into it and it became a living human being.  We cannot understand the power of God in preservation, the power of God in the coming judgement.    (Eph. 3:20,21).  
  • This power is concentrated in Christ!  All that power has been ‘given unto him’. It is his.  It is seen also in Paul’s great hymn in Philippians 2, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord!
  • It is both temporal and eternal, spiritual and earthly.
  • It relates to his church.  It is because of this great statement if Christ’s that we are required and equipped to carry out his command!  Thus the deliberate inclusion of the word THEREFORE in v19.  Now, why is Jesus asserting his authority in heaven and earth before he delivers this charge to his disciples?  Because they will need to know that when they go forth in his name, they also carry his divine warrant – his authority.  

Jesus has given us a warrant – to go and spread the good news, and we do so with his authority.  

2. A Global CommandGo ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:

Now, with all that authority and power backing us up, what does Jesus command us to do with it?   We are to:-

  • Go!  Well this is self explanatory!   We are not to sit here and hope that sinners will just drop in, – even though that does happen from time to time.  We are to be pro-active in evangelism.  We are to GO!
  • Make Disciples!  The AV here reads “teach’ – and that is a perfectly understandable translation, particularly in light of the command in verse 20 to teach them all things.  But it is not a LITERAL rendition of the TR.  The NKJV is more accurate, when it translates the word as ‘make disciples’  Greek is μαθηταὶ – whereas v 20 the word teach is διδάσκοντες, and so accurately translated.  Now, what we have got to ask ourselves is ‘If Jesus’s command was to ‘make disciples’ – how are we doing with that?  
    • Consider the modern evangelistic methods used in the church nowadays. The legacy of Charles Finney.  How many people have been through the modern ‘decision based’ evangelism experience, and been totally hardened against Christianity?  How many have said, “I tried it and it didn’t work when in fact what they had tried was just an emotional experience, not biblical Christianity.   
    • Consider modern church structures. The old biblical church structures of deacons and elders have been largely discarded, in favour of a structure designed to promote church growth.  
    • Consider what we are being commanded by Christ.  We are to make pupils, who will spend a lifetime learning and researching into the ways of The Lord, reading his word, and seeking his will, and walking in his footsteps.  We are to FEED THEIR MINDS with the Word of God, so that they learn, and the more they learn, the more they will want to learn.
  • Administer the Sacraments!  This is interesting isn’t it!  Word and sacrament are inextricably linked.  
    • Note the importance of baptism. Baptism does not in any way bring a person into a saving relationship with Christ. Yet, in Romans 4:11 it is linked with circumcision, – a sign and seal of of the righteousness of Christ, accepted by faith.  And in Colossians 2:11-12, Paul argues that baptism has replaced circumcision.   So baptism is to be regarded as a sign and a seal of the righteousness of Christ, accepted by faith.  It is so important that Christ singles it out as part of the church’s mission.
    • Note the Trinitarian Formula.  We cannot pass this without making some simple comment on the formula given by Christ for baptism. 
      • There is One Name. the name.  To be baptised ‘into the name’ would imply being identified with that name, taking that name and all that it stands for upon oneself.  Not three names – the word name is singular, for God is one God – YET…
      • There are three persons.  the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:   And that is a great illustration of the Trinity.  In the exercise of the Great Commission, even in evangelism, Christian Truth cannot be neglected.  Here is Jesus, commissioning his church, and being dogmatic about the Trinity!
  • Practice Church Discipline!  Part of our teaching must include urging the Christian to walk in the ways of Christ, to obey him,  to keep his commandments.  Not, as we have previously learned, as a saving ordinance, but as a response to Christ’s love for us.   Part of our commission is to build up the church, to edify the believers, to bring them to ‘perfection’ – so that they are being prepared for glory.  That will involve practical discipline. Ephesians 4:11-15 

So we have this multi-faced command and commission.  It is not a suggestion, or a debating matter. It is a direct order.  We are to go into all the world we are to make disciples, we are to observe the sacraments, and given by our Saviour, we are to train believers for heaven.  That is is the church’s task – that and nothing more, and nothing less.  It’s all about TEACHING, and illustrating what we teach in the sacraments.  

3. A Constant Certaintyand, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

In this commission that Jesus has given us, we have a great comfort.  We are not alone!  He tells us to look!  ἰδοὺ.  It’s the same idea as conveyed when John the Baptiser cried, ‘Behold the Lamb of God.’  Think of it as ‘behold I am with you!  It’s emphatic.  It’s not a promise.  It’s a fact.  He is here.

© Bob McEvoy June 2021

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