Mandate to "make disciples of all nations" given by Christ to his disciples following his death and resurrection ( Matt 28:16-20 ; Mark 16:15-18 ; Luke 24:46-49 ; John 20:21-23 ; Acts 1:8 ). Because Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth ( Matt 28:19 ), the Great Commission is to be taken with the utmost seriousness by all of his disciples, "to the very end of the age" ( Matt 28:20 ).
The impetus for the Great Commission springs from the heart of God. He loved us and gave his Son or us ( John 3:16 ). The disciples are sent out to accomplish what God had started in the sending of his Son ( John 20:21 ). The Great Commission is thus linked to God's words to Abraham: that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" ( Gen 12:3 ).
The Great Commission is accomplished through witnessing ( Acts 1:8 ), preaching ( Mark 16:15 ), baptizing, and teaching ( Matt 28:20 ). Jesus' disciples are to replicate themselves in the lives of those who respond to the Good News. The Holy Spirit is the empowering agent for those who witness ( Acts 1:8 ), as well as the one who convicts sinners of their need for Jesus ( John 16:8-11 ). The disciples will have success because Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth, will be with them as they undertake their assignment ( Matt 28:20 ).
The Great Commission necessitates taking the gospel message to "the ends of the earth" ( Acts 1:8 ), to "all nations" ( Matt 28:19 ). The Good News is to be shared with all peoples, for all are sinners, Jews and Gentile alike, and in need of deliverance from sin ( Rom 3 ). All peoples, by faith, can receive God's provision and are baptized into Christ. In Christ, all distinctions between Jew and Gentile disappear ( Rom 10:12-13 ; Gal 3:28 ).
Glenn E. Schaefer
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Great Commission, the'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".