The Great Commission

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  July 18, 2015

The Great Commission of Jesus Christ as recorded in the final words of Matthew’s Gospel serves as an important standard by which Christianity is to be measured.
In this powerful and profound statement, Jesus Christ calls you and me to go out into the world and make disciples. In so doing, Christ will have us baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as well as teach the world everything that Christ has commanded of us. This simple statement is absolutely radical yet, not so much for what it says but for what it does not say. Sometimes it is good if the church would take a step back and a review the Great Commission in light of what the church has become.
Nowhere in the Commission does Jesus say that we are to go out and build a church. In the 16th chapter of Matthew Jesus clearly states that he will build his church. In fact, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus tell us to go out and build churches. Sometimes, we get this confused and spend all of our energy trying to do Jesus’ job and end up neglecting our own. Our job is to make disciples.
The Great Commission never says anything about controlling the world or subjecting the world to Christianity as an authoritarian rule. In the 20th chapter of Matthew Jesus is very critical of those who would use religious authority to control others and offers as the alternative way of faithful living, a life of self-sacrifice and service. Sometimes Christians feel a compelling need to form our world and our nation as some sort of Christian theocracy where everyone conforms to our understanding of the truth. Nothing in the life of Jesus Christ validates such an attitude.
Without a doubt, there are times when faithful Christians must take the difficult stand and resist the evils of the world in which we live. Yet, when doing so, it is vital that we keep the essential teaching of the Great Commission in the forefront of our faithful ministry. We are to teach that which Christ commanded us to do. Aside from the new commandment to love one another as Christ loves us as recorded in John 13, we are also commanded to give a cup of cold water to the least of these, to visit those sick and imprisoned, to clothe the naked, to live in compassion for those who have been pushed out of society and denied full humanity.
Lest we forget, it was the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lepers, and those whom society hated where Jesus spent so much of his time. Far from being a social climber or one who would go out of his way to protect his and his own, Jesus exemplified a vivid ministry of restoring hope where hope had been denied, giving power to the powerless, extending forgiveness to those who deserves none, and being a healing presence that brings wholeness to life.
Throughout much of his brilliant teaching known to us as the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus was very careful to show it is not the letter of the law that matters, but the Godly spirit behind the law that requires our ardent efforts. Similarly, the emphasis of Christ in the fourth fifth and sixth chapters of Matthew places the burden of judgment and responsibility on the believer, not on those whom the believer would seek to convert.
Of all of the great teachers throughout human history, none can measure to the divine significance of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ went to the Cross out of his love for the world that we may not die but have everlasting life. Yet as we faithfully seek to live that life, particularly in this world, it is critical that we stand for Jesus Christ rather than vehemently seek to build a church, control the world, and enforce our understanding of Jesus upon all.