What Is the Great Commission?

Understand Why Jesus' Great Commission Is Still Important Today

The Great Commission
Image Courtesy of Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg

After Jesus Christ's death on the cross, he was buried and then resurrected on the third day. Before he ascended into heaven, he appeared to his disciples in Galilee and gave them these instructions:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)

This section of Scripture is known as the Great Commission. It was the last recorded personal directive of the Savior to his disciples, and it holds great significance to all followers of Christ.

The Great Commission

  • The Great Commission is the foundation for evangelism and cross-cultural missions work in Christian theology.
  • The Great Commission appears in Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15–18; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:19-23; and Acts 1:8.
  • Springing from the heart of God, the Great Commission calls Christ's disciples to carry out the work God started by sending his Son into the world to die for lost sinners.

Because the Lord gave final instructions for his followers to go to all nations and that he would be with them even until the very end of the age, Christians of all generations have embraced this command. As often it has been said, it was not "The Great Suggestion." No, the Lord commanded his followers from every generation to put their faith into action and to go make disciples.

The Great Commission in the Gospels

The full text of the most familiar version of the Great Commission is recorded in Matthew 28:16-20 (cited above). But it is also found in each of the Gospel texts.

Although each version varies, these passages record an encounter of Jesus with his disciples after the resurrection. In each instance, Jesus sends his followers out with specific instructions. He uses commands such as "go, teach, baptize, forgive, and make."

The Gospel of Mark 16:15-18 reads:

He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." (NIV)

The Gospel of Luke 24:44-49 says:

He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (NIV)

The Gospel of John 20:19-23 states:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (NIV)

This verse in the book of Acts 1:8 is also part of the Great Commission:

[Jesus said,] "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (NIV)

How to Go Make Disciples

The Great Commission spells out the central purpose of all believers. After salvation, our lives belong to Jesus Christ who died to purchase our freedom from sin and death. He redeemed us so that we might become useful in his Kingdom.

Fulfillment of the Great Commission happens when believers witness or share their testimony (Acts 1:8), preach the gospel (Mark 16:15), baptize new converts, and teach the Word of God (Matthew 28:20). Christians are to replicate themselves (make disciples) in the lives of those who respond to the message of Christ's salvation.

Christians do not have to strive to fulfill the Great Commission. The Holy Spirit is the One who empowers believers to carry out the Great Commission and the One who convicts people of their need for a Savior (John 16:8–11). The success of the mission depends on Jesus Christ, who promised to always be with HIs disciples as they carry out their assignment (Matthew 28:20). Both his presence and his authority will accompany us to accomplish his disciple-making mission.

Sources

  • Schaefer, G. E. The Great Commission. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (electronic ed., p. 317). Baker Book House.
  • What is the Great Commission? Got Questions Ministries.
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Fairchild, Mary. "What Is the Great Commission?" Learn Religions, Jan. 3, 2022, learnreligions.com/what-is-the-great-commission-700702. Fairchild, Mary. (2022, January 3). What Is the Great Commission? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-great-commission-700702 Fairchild, Mary. "What Is the Great Commission?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-great-commission-700702 (accessed May 24, 2022).