Missiological passages of scripture that I’m working through:
v.18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Many reasons have been given for why believers should participate in misisons. Some of them are true, some are not. Most of them use guilt as a motivator, but that’s another post. Perhaps you’ve heard a few of these:
“We’ve been blessed, so we need to be a blessing.”
“Jesus will not return until we finish the task.”
“There is such great lostness.”
“You may be the only Jesus they ever meet.”
For me, the only motivation for mission obedience. I think it’s important that here, as He gives His final instructions to His disciples, Jesus doesn’t say, “Since there is great need…” or “Because it all depends on you…” Instead, He asserts His authority. By His authority, He sent the original disciples, and sent me.
v.19 “Therefore go and make disciples…”
It is often overlooked that Jesus gave his disciples some specific direction. As IMB representatives, we are all church planters. But the commission Jesus gives here is to make disciples. It seems clear enough, but why then, do we tend to focus on evangelism and church planting? I don’t mean to say that they are exclusive of one another, but Jesus didn’t say: “Therefore go and reach” anybody.
Another observation is that whil discipleship depends to a large extent on our obedience to God, He is the one who does the saving and the church planting. It’s good that we count things like baptisms and churches started, but let’s not measure our sucess by something God does in His timing. Those things are evidence not of our obedience, but of God working.
“of all nations,”
The greek scholars will tell you that “all nations” is translated from the greek word “ethnos.” Today, we use the term “people groups.” I like this understanding of the passage, but only in the sense that it helps us recognize that different groups have different cultural contexts. I don’t think Jesus’ use of “all” here means that we should catalogue and classify every people group in the world so that we can have well-defined “to do” list.
“baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
It’s funny that there is a controversary amongst baptists concerning baptism. While I believe that baptism is an ordinance of the church, I don’t see biblical support for linking baptism to a local body of believers. The only biblical link between baptism and a local church are the cases of “oikos” church plants, where every member of a household is baptized upon their salvation.
v.20 “…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
In church planting, we’ve long asked: “what is the minimum a person needs to know in order to grow in his/her faith?” Not because we want to get by with doing as little as possible, but because we often cross paths with nationals who, though they call themselves believers, aren’t even aware of some important doctrines. I think Jesus speaks to this here, essentially saying, “What they need to know is what I’ve commanded you, and that their part is obedience.” Oddly enough, I can’t seem to find where in the Bible Jesus commands us to abstain from alcohol…
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this verse brings me back to the necessity of a right relationship with the Holy Spirit. I think Jesus ends with this as a reminder that because He goes with us, we should follow Him step-by-step to whatever He has for us. This, I think, is where we tend to go wrong; mistaking direction for destination, and getting “ahead” of God by making plans and asking Him to bless them. If He tells us to go to a place that is “reached,” we should go. If He leads us into physical danger, He is with us.
My favorite part about Him going with us is that He gives us the supernatural “upper hand.” When sharing our faith, He knows our audience; what they need, what they think. If we stay in tune with Him, we’ll be led by His strategy. It kind of takes the pressure off of us, don’t you think?