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The Christian Mission

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 commission given to Adam and Eve to take dominion over the earth 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 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 the nations of the world. He is now the rightful ruler of all peoples and all nations.

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. His majesty is over all things, both spiritual and physical. 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 but there are two tasks:

  1. Make disciples (learners) of all the nations and baptize them in the name of the Tirune God.
  2. Teach the nations, His nations, the nations now under His rule and authority, that His word is the law above all laws and that He requires that their laws be brought into conformity with His commandments (as expressed in God’s Law—Matt. 5: 17-18).

The first task is simply the truncated gospel of God’s gracious forgiveness. It recruits God’s elect and builds the body of Christ.

But what is this second task? Is it limited to expounding the law so that all can know God’s requirements? Is it just to warn the nations of the consequences of disobedience? No, just as a tutor of children is expected to continue 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 and obey all Christ’s commandments! The charge to all God’s people in this commission is to bring the laws of the nations into conformity to every detail of God’s law. This is nothing less than a requirement to make the nations of the world Christian nations and to make the world a Christian world.

We see here that King Jesus brings with Him a complete salvation, one that encompasses both heaven and earth. It isn’t just a rescue operation that saves a few from a perishing world. This is exactly what God commanded Adam and Eve to do and what they failed to do because of sin (Gen. 1:28). God’s intentions, though, are never frustrated; He sent His Son, the second Adam, into the world to do what the first Adam failed to do. This Christ did on the Cross by paying the sin-debt of every believer and thereby creating His body, the new Eve. Here, in this commission, Christ commands His Bride, all the faithful, to give birth to a wholly new world, the very world Adam and Eve failed to produce. Christ succeeds where Adam failed, producing a world that glorifies God. God’s people are charged, not just to communicate a message, they are charged with the task of rebuilding the world.

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 the Seed of the Woman and God’s servants. God’s Law awakens and teaches the nations how they must rule as Christ’s subordinates.

The Audience

An important question here is: to whom are these words addressed? It cannot be limited to the eleven disciples that were physically present for a) they would not be here to the end of the age and b) they were clearly incapable of teaching all the nations in their lifetimes. Some say it is only directed to the pastors and missionaries that have undergone specific training in the presentation of the Gospel message. This, however, is not supported in Scripture, nor does it begin to address the second requirement of teaching the nations to obey God’s law, a societal and political task involving every aspect of life. It can only be a command to undo the damage Satan introduced and do what Adam failed to do, make this world a Christian world. This is a task requiring the full effort of Christians in every walk of life. Clearly, it is every true, born-again believer that Jesus speaks to in this Great Commission. Only they, working as the salt of the earth and the light of the world, are adequate to fulfill this commission (Matt. 5:13-16).

Christ promises to be with His chosen people continually, until the end of the world. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, so this presence is not in bodily form but is the presence of the Holy Spirit that indwells all believers. This factor should not be trivialized; the presence of the third Person of the Holy Trinity within the believer is a source of power that can overcome every obstacle. It can make giants of the lowest and weakest of men and can empower them to conquer every enemy that attempts to impede this commission.

The Goal

Christ came to undo the damage caused by the Fall; He came to save the world, the entire world, not just a few sinners:

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;  but that the world through him might be saved (John 3: 17).

The Great Commission is His command to put into effect the consequences of the victory He won at the Cross. It cannot be limited in any way, such as by reducing it to a call to evangelism. Every aspect of man’s existence on earth is affected. Jesus instructs us to baptize the nations, not just the people of the nations. How, though, is a nation to be baptized? It can’t be dipped in water, can it? No, but baptism is a symbol of cleansing and a nation is baptized by cleansing its laws and its culture. God is a holy God and cannot abide sin in any form. Every aspect of man’s life on earth must be cleansed of every trace of sin and all must gleam in perfect shining whiteness before He will be satisfied.

God created man in His image and expects much from him. He has placed on him the responsibility for his own future. Adam and Eve were told that their lives depended on their obedience to God’s commandments. This was true for Adam and Eve and is still true today. We see from history that when God’s commandments are obeyed, man has respect for his neighbors, there is peace and prosperity abounds. When God’s laws are cast aside, selfishness reigns and society degenerates into lawless anarchy, inevitably followed by oppressive totalitarian rule. We have never seen the extremes but the end points of these two alternatives are life and death, respectively. Man is given a choice: he can obey God and live or disobey and die. It’s as simple as that but without Christ he is unable to make the right choice. He, in Satan’s bondage, blindly insists on being his own master and living according to his own wishes. It is only the true Christian that can obey God and God can use to bring the nations of the world into obedience. Their involvement is critical to the work of the Great Commission.

This is the task Christ has set before His chosen followers, one that needs to be taken seriously. The goal is nothing less than perfection. It may seem impossible! How can sinful man ever realize such a lofty goal? On his own he cannot but he is not alone; the Holy Spirit is within and for Him nothing is impossible. We must put aside our fears and stop worrying about our inadequacies. We are not alone; God is with us and will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5)

The law aspect of the commission, which is vital to the growth and vigor of the faith, has been grossly neglected in recent history. This has led to a truncated commission, restated as:

“And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, but I am not going to exercise much of it for a long time.  For now, therefore, just go and make a few disciples of each nationality, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe a select few of the things I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you, kind of, until to the end of the age, when I shall come back, and do it all myself.” [1]

We can see how detrimental to progress this has been.  Europe, once known as “Christendom,” has essentially left the faith. America still has many Christians but its laws, its schools and its culture have been stripped of their formerly Christian character; it is no longer a Christian nation. Why is this so? How did this once solidly Christian nation fall so low? It is because the law aspect of the Great Commission has been neglected and unbelief has been permitted to fester. At first it was hidden in the shadows but gradually it grew and gained in numbers, power and influence, until now it commands the national government, its schools and every aspect of public life. These are the consequences of partial obedience (which is disobedience) to God.

[1]  By Joel McDurmon as cited by Sye ten Bruggencate at: