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The Great Commission

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)

This passage and others as well (Isa. 11:4; Ps. 2:9; Micah 4:2; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; 2 Thess. 1:9) tell us that Christ has been given and now has “All power … in heaven and in earth.” He is now the Ruler and King over all things. His word is Law, the Law Word that all are commanded to obey.

Much of the world today, though, is in rebellion against their King and does not obey Him. This must be corrected but how and by whom? Jesus here assigns two tasks to all His disciples, not just the eleven that were present as He spoke these words. He speaks to all that have been blessed with the greatest gift anyone could receive, the gift of faith. If you have this gift and truly belong to Him, He speaks to you!

There are two commandments here that Jesus gives to His disciples. First, we are told to teach the Gospel, baptizing all that believe. Second, we are told to teach (!) the nations to obey all His commandments.

The key word in this passage is the word that is mis-translated “teach” in our English language Bibles, the Greek: mathetuesate. The correct translation of this Greek word is “make disciples of.” God tells us here that the nations are to be made disciples of Christ.[1] This is a far greater and more time-consuming task than just teaching.

All Christ’s disciples, His followers, those that have been born again, are told here that there are two tasks to be done. In addition to spreading the Gospel message, the nations are to, not just be taught but be made disciples of Christ. Jesus spoke these words to His eleven disciples telling them that their responsibility was, not just to teach and make converts but to make more disciples. They were being told that they couldn’t just teach, they needed to make teachers.

There is a significant difference between teaching and making teachers; one leads to linear growth and the other leads to the far more rapid, exponential growth. The latter is a much more difficult and time-consuming task, one that may seem to be less effective in the short term. In the longer term, though, as the number of teachers increases, it catches up and eventually far surpasses the former approach.


  1. The growth of the Christian faith is far more rapid when more Christians spend the additional time needed to make teachers of their students.
  2. Making teachers should be a priority for all Christians.
  3. All Christians should be teachers of teachers. (Christ spoke to all when He spoke to the Eleven)

In reflecting on this passage, Professor Jerald Plitzuweit explains: “The word all plays a key role in all three verses of this text under our consideration.

Jesus has been given all power; He commands us to:

  1. Baptize all nations
  2. Make disciples of all nations;
  3. Teach them to observe all things He has commanded us.”[2]

These are the tasks that lie before us. All, all, all: God is not satisfied with partial obedience. All nations, the entire world is to be converted to faith in Christ.

We know that God does not use words lightly and this repetition here of the word all, has significance. His command is nothing less than to make this world a Christian world. Even more it is a command to make every person in the world a Christian. This might seem excessive but it is in keeping with God’s character; He is perfect and requires perfection. (We are made perfect in Christ.) This is not universalism but an endpoint that is realized only after all unbelievers have died off.

[1] Lenski (1943): “The heart of the commission is in the one word μαθητεύσατε. This imperative, of course, means, ‘to turn into disciples,’ and its aorist form conveys the thought that this is actually to be done. The verb itself does not indicate how disciples are to be made, it designates only an activity that will result in disciples. It connotes results not methods and ways. The translation ‘teach’ is, therefore, unfortunate and even misleading to those who are not able to examine the original.”

[2] For a more thorough discussion of the translation of μαθητεύσατε, refer to a paper by Prof. Jerald Plitzuweit presented at the Northern Wisconsin District Convention (WELS), Appleton, WI, June 18, 1996, concerning the topic: The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19,20) with special reference to μαθητεύσατε and the translation, “make disciples.”