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Two Tasks

After His resurrection, Jesus, speaking to His disciples said:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:  and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.   Amen.  (Matt. 28:18-20)

These words hark back to the mandate given to Adam and Eve to take dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28) and raise up a godly progeny that would fill it to God’s glory (Gen. 1:28). Jesus says that He now has all power in heaven and earth. Heaven and earth here denotes that His power is over men and angels, both spiritual and earthly; it is not limited, as some seem to believe, to the spiritual only. He has been given all power over all people and all the nations of the world.

Christ commissions His divinely empowered delegates to announce the good news, the Gospel message that He is now the King of kings and Lord of lords. All things are subject to Him; all people, all governments and all man’s institutions, both religious and civil, are under Him and must obey Him.

It is one commission and one Gospel in which God’s disciples were given two tasks:

  1. Go and make all the nations disciples (Gr. “matheteusate”) baptizing them in the name of the Triune God.
  2. Teaching (Gr. “didaskontes”) them to obey all my commandments.

In the first task Jesus tells His disciples to go out with the Gospel message, make the nations His disciples, and baptize them into the Christian community. This commandment is echoed in: Mark 16:14–18, Luke 24:44–49, John 20:19–23, and Acts 1:4–8 but with a difference. It differs in that in Mathew it is the kingdom of God that is in view, hence the reference to nations rather than just the people of the nations. In Mathew Jesus says that it is not just the people but the nations as nations that are to become His disciples. Sadly, most of today’s churches do not do justice to the Matthew passage; they have reduced the Great Commission to the proclamation of a message of personal salvation and partial obedience.

But what of this second task that speaks of obedience to all of Jesus’ commandments? He said previously that all power was now His, He is the rightful ruler and lawgiver to all the nations in the world and they must obey and enforce His commandments. The second task for His disciples then is to work toward this end. All the nations are to come to abide by all His commandments; they are to become Christian nations. This is the task Jesus has assigned to all His disciples; it is their life-work (Matt. 6:33).

The true Gospel includes both grace and law. Both are necessary aspects of this commission. God’s grace reaches into the hearts of the people and awakens the elect to their calling as God’s servants. God’s Law teaches them how to live as individuals, as families, and as nations. The two activities work toward a single end result, a world of Christian nations full of Christian people. Both are necessary and work together to take dominion over the earth for Christ. As new disciples are added and they, in obedience to the second task exercise their influence at every level of the society at large, the unbelieving world pays attention and the nations become more Christian. This, in turn, enhances the disciple-making process and the number of the faithful grows more and more rapidly.

Christ did not give us an impossible task; it is well within our capability to perform. All that is needed to realize glorious success is that we work diligently (as unto the Lord) and faithfully follow His directions; when we do so, our obedience will draw in disciples. When we cut corners, as we have done and continue to do, we fail, lose hope and trim Christ’s Commission down to a half-hearted attempt to save a few. Partial obedience (which is disobedience) makes us ungrateful servants. Full obedience, a consequence of true faith, rewards us with the knowledge that we are faithful servants and have done what our Master required of us.

What sort of teaching does Jesus require of us here? Is it a superficial form of teaching limited to expounding the law so that the nations can truly know God’s requirements? Is it just to warn them of the consequences of disobedience? No, just as a tutor of children is expected to continue to teach the children until they actually learn their lessons and cannot cease teaching until they do learn, so the nations are to be taught until they actually come to know, obey and enforce all Christ’s commandments! The charge to all God’s people in this commission is first, to know and obey Christ’s commandments themselves and second to teach, really teach, the nations to do so. It is the salvation of the world that is in view.