If I were to ask you “what is the Greatest Commandment,” hopefully you would answer: to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself.
If I were to ask you “what is the Great Commission,” hopefully you would answer: go and make disciples of all nations, teaching and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And you would be right, both times. However, what if there was more to the great commission then what we currently say or acknowledge? What if, just as the Great Commandant is one commandment but two parts, the Great Commission was one commission with two parts?
Missionary, Hudson Taylor, said, “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” In Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus isn’t found asking the disciples to go throughout the whole world making, teaching, and baptizing new disciples. He commanded them. “Go!”, He said. And they went out into every known country, proclaiming the glory of Christ. It was a movement; a tough and costly one, which grew in passion and sacrifice by the thousands.
Anymore it seems, that the Great Commission in Matthew 28 has been reduced to missionaries, a line item in the budget, or a yearly fund-raiser. We have forgotten that the command from Christ to “Go!” extends to every person that calls themselves Christians. It extends to every local church body as the main reason of their existence. The Great Commission is more than a budget item and a yearly fund-raiser. It is more than sending off missionaries to foreign lands, or writing a check for someone else to do the very thing you are called to do in your own “village” – house, work, school, neighborhood, etc.
The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is a core DNA of what it means to be the Church of Christ and followers of the Messiah. We are to “Go!” to the nations – every people group – without hesitation, for the sole purpose of making God known to them through the gospel and His Spirit.
This isn’t an option. It’s a command; more, it’s a commission.
In saying this, I believe there’s another part to Matthew 28. It’s found in Isaiah 61:1-2 –
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn …
Just as in the Great Commandment, it is assumed that if you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you are going to naturally love others, too. However, in our forgetfulness, Christ reminds us nonetheless to love our neighbors. I think it’s the same way with Matthew 28 and Isaiah 61. It is assumed that when we go with the message of Christ, that we wouldn’t only take it to places “over there” but that we would take it to places “right here”, too. It’s assumed that not only would we plant churches and make disciples, but that we would bring good news to the poor and proclaim liberty to those in captivity, too. And just in case we’ve forgotten about these things, Christ reminds us in what I call “The Great Commission part B.”
We are to do Part A – teaching and baptizing disciples of all nations, while doing Part B – bringing good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty and opening prison doors to those who are bound, comforting those mourning, and proclaiming God’s favor to all people. Why? Two reason: the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon us, and Jesus lived with such purpose and passion. If we are to be devoted worshippers of Him, then we also must be devoted to following His ways?
So what does this look like exactly. Here are some quick thoughts.
- Just as we are to go world-wide, we are to go local too. We are to “Go!” down the street and across the fields to our friends and neighbors who do not know Christ. We are to take Christ to the inner cities, the homeless downtown, the coffee shop on the corner, our work place, our family reunions, and the neighborhood block parties. “As we go” about life we are to take Christ.
- We are to be the type of authentic community that bound people go to in order to find freedom. Just as Jesus asked the friends and neighbors of Lazarus to unbind him from the grave-clothes, so I believe Christ asks us to unbind those around us who are in grave-clothes (John 11:44).
- We are to be Christians (and leaders) who are servants before we are teachers. Just as Christ washed His disciples feet in humility, showing them how to love, serve, and minister to people, so Christians are to “wash the feet” of those we come in contact with – inside and outside the church (John 13).
- In reality, all Christians have been called to be ministers and missionaries. Some serve in a church, some serve in the community, and some serve in the workplace. Some serve overseas, while others serve downtown. Some preach, some write, some create, some teach, some care for others, and some care for machines, but all of us are called to serve others. Whoever we are, wherever we may be, whatever we may be doing, we are called to be ministers and missionaries of Christ Jesus. This isn’t an option we can check out of, but a command we have been commissioned with.