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Great Commission

Christian, tell me why do you say that you have a "Great Commission" to spread Christianity? Isn't it arrogant to try to force everyone else to believe like you do?

Because…Jesus commanded us to share the good news about Him. We are to educate — not force — others so that they, too, can have vibrant relationships with God.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

This passage is widely known as the “Great Commission”. These are the very last two verses of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s book is full of descriptions of Jesus fulfilling prophecy, teaching, working miracles, and describing the kingdom of heaven. Then at the end, after telling about His crucifixion and resurrection, Matthew recounts Jesus’ parting words to His disciples.

In Luke’s gospel, he phrased the Commission like this:

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:45-48

Mark was more succinct: “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

Later, writing his history of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke again describes the same event but goes on to document Jesus’ ascension afterward. In that document, he quotes Jesus as saying:

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

Acts 1:8

Imagine that last meeting between Jesus and His followers. After all that they had seen, heard, and learned, Jesus was now telling them what to do with that information. They were to share it with the whole world!

They were instructed to tell others that the Jews’ long-promised Messiah had come, and that God Himself had made a way for everyone to be reconciled to Him. They were told to support that assertion with their own personal testimony of the things they had witnessed while with Jesus. But they weren’t just to make that astounding announcement and then go on their way. Rather, they were to bring the others fully into the kingdom, teaching them to be grounded in how to live that reconciled lifestyle.

Let’s look at this Commission in more detail.

All Authority

“All authority in heaven and earth” is quite a claim! There is a saying in scientific circles that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” If someone is to upset a major entrenched view, and replace it with a new paradigm, they had better have ironclad data to support their claim. Jesus made this statement a month after being crucified, buried, and then rising back to life. Is that good enough?!

Make Disciples

Those who had been Jesus’ students were to gather more. As Jesus once told Peter, they would become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17), actively seeking new followers for Him. “Disciple” simply means student, so Jesus was commissioning His people to lead others to learn from — not just about — Him.

All the Nations

This may have been surprising to Jesus’ original listeners. They knew that the Jews were God’s chosen people, but had lapsed on part of that selection. They had forgotten that they were chosen to be a conduit of God’s blessing to the entire world (Genesis 12:1-3, especially the last phrase). They focussed on God’s command that they remain separate and identifiable, but took it to mean that God didn’t care about anyone else but them. That was never true. Here, Jesus was not giving a new command so much as reiterating an old one: Demonstrate God to all the world.


The Jews of the time used baptism as part of the initiation of a convert into Judaism. Christians expanded on the practice, using baptism as a symbol of faith in Jesus. Note that the command is to baptize “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. That acknowledgement of the three-Person Trinity of God, especially when given by the Son of God, imbued the rite with a significance that it had not had in the past.


The students were now to become the teachers. The training wheels were coming off; they had to stand on their own. What were they to teach? To “observe all that I have commanded you“. What had He commanded? Above all, to love as God loves! (John 13:34-35, John 15:12-17)

Jesus was talking to Jewish believers already steeped in the Old Testament that predicted Jesus’ arrival and His mission. But He was sending them to Gentiles as well as to other Jews, so they would need to be prepared to teach those Scriptures. These believers had been following Jesus for years, hearing His parables and other lessons, so those would be added to the curriculum…hence the writing of the New Testament. They passed all of that before-and-after knowledge on to the new disciples.

I Am With You Always

I said earlier that the followers Jesus was commissioning now had to stand on their own. Although it must have seemed like it at first, that was not really the case. Jesus promised to be with them in their mission. He was telling the truth: The Holy Spirit came in power to live within each believer. All of God’s resources would be available to them whenever needed.

To the End of the Age

How long was the mission to take, and how long would Jesus support them in it? As long as this world lasts! That won’t be forever, because this world will end and God will usher in a new heaven and a new earth. Until then, this Great Commission has continued to be handed down through the generations.

Now it’s our turn!

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture reference links go to, which defaults to another good translation, the New International Version (NIV).  The site has 20 or more translations available for reference.