The Great Commission (The Mandate): Matthew 28: 16 – 20: Part One

The Great Commission (The Mandate): Matthew 28: 16 – 20: Part One

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “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.” (NIV).


In Christian tradition, the Great Commission is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to His disciples that they spread the Faith to all the nations of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing Mission Work and Evangelism, and it is the primary basis for Christian missionary activity. The most familiar version of the Great Commission is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew28:16-20: Other versions of the Great Commission are found in Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-8; and John 20:19-23. All passages record words of Christ spoken after His resurrection. 

Matthew, alone among the four Gospels, uses the word ‘Church’ (ekklesia). The word ecclesia (ekklesia) is usually tr in its Christian application. Church was applied in ordinary Greek usage to the duly constituted gathering of the citizens in a self-governing city, and it is also used in the Ephesians’ assembly in Acts 19:39.[1] It is found twice in the New Testament (Acts 7:38; Heb. 2:12).

The early Church was called ‘Jesus Movement. The Church can then be defined as an assembly of believers in Jesus Christ. By AD 60, the word ‘Church’ was widely accepted by all believers in Jesus as a proper name for themselves (I Peter 4:16). Christian Theology is defined in terms of Theos and Logos; the New Testament is Christocentric and Particularistic. [2] 

Colossians 1: 18 affirms the headship of Jesus Christ “And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything He might have the supremacy.” T. Tshibangu describes theology as ‘the science dealing with humanity’s divine destiny. This science, to him, is grounded on God’s revelation in Christ, and it is also based on ‘deep, thoroughgoing knowledge of human beings and the factors that condition their lives. [3]

Our theologizing is principally concerned with the theological message of the passage of Matt 28:18-20. It seeks to understand the text concerning the whole. To achieve this, we must work with the mutual interaction of the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of the various corpora and with these interrelationships within the whole Canon of New Testament Scripture. It will be the theological interpretation of the passage in and for the Church. It will proceed with historical and literary sensitivity and seeks to analyze and synthesize Jesus’ command and His relations to the world on its terms, maintaining sight of the Scripture’s overarching narrative and Christocentric focus.

Our theologizing will best be judged by examining what it produces. The only three eternal things are God, His Word, and the souls of men and women; these three eternal things are best stated for us in a command that Jesus gave to His disciples. [4] Today, we call that command the Great Commission. The Great Commission demands that we disciple men and women of all nations. We disciple by teaching all that Jesus commands, which is found in the Word of God. The best medium is the individual member of the Church of Christ in active participation in Evangelism. The Great Commission is for the evangelicals; those Christians committed to the command of Jesus Christ as their doctrinal rule of Faith and practice. The Great Commission is not being fulfilled; the nations are not being discipled. What exactly is then the task of the Church? Whose responsibility is the Great Commission? We may say that it is the Church’s responsibility; however, when we refer to the Church, it is not the building but the people (the believers). Jesus did not only give the eleven Apostles the responsibility to reach all nations; He also gave them the power and resources necessary to get the job done. That power and resources are still as potent for us Today as it was for the eleven Apostles; all we need to do is harness them for the glory of God.

The Out-Line:

Jesus’ Appearance To The Eleven Disciples (28: 16 – 20):

  1. The Mountain (28:16); They meet on a mountain in Galilee as he had instructed them.
  2. The mixed reaction (28:17); some worship him, while others still doubt.
  3. The mandate (28: 18-20).
  4. Jesus’ Authority – 28:18.
  5. Jesus’ Assignment – 28: 19 – 20a.
  6. Jesus’ Assurance – 28: 20b

The Passage and Interpretation:

Jesus met with His disciples, on top of a mountain, after His resurrection. Matthew indicated that some of the disciples doubted, but Jesus told them, ‘He has all the power in Heaven and on earth. Based on this authority, the disciples were to go and make disciples by teaching others all Jesus had commanded. It is interesting and noteworthy that Jesus started with the Resource (Power) to show the importance of the objective.

The commission from Jesus indicates that His disciples must go, teach, and baptize. Although the command was initially given directly only to Christ’s eleven Apostles, Christian theology has interpreted the commission as a directive to all Christians of every time and place, mainly because it seems to be a restatement of the last part of God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:3. Commentators often contrast the Great Commission with the earlier Limited Commission of Matthew 10:5-42, in which they were to restrict their mission to their fellow Jews, to whom Jesus referred as “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Textual critics note that the portion of Mark 16 which records the commission is not found in two of the oldest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus.[5] The response generally given is that this is immaterial, as essentially the same thing is quoted as having been said by Jesus in at least three other New Testament passages, and most especially the passage in question was regarded as part of the Canon of the Scriptures throughout most of Church history.

The Resources:

All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go- 

The English word “therefore” is a catalyst and a re-winder. When in a sentence, it means to stop and examine the statement before it. What is about to be said will be based on that statement. In commanding the disciples to reach the world, Jesus spoke of a resource. The job would never have been done if the disciples depended on their resources. Jesus affirmed to them that their needs in Heaven or earth to get the job done would be met as He has the authority and the power to give them. Based on this resource, Jesus told the disciples, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. Nations mean the People, the Land, and the Governance. Jesus started with a resource and ended the statement with another resource “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” It indicates the certainty of Jesus’ presence till eternity, so we must act and trust that He is with us to do the task. Jesus’ promise to be with us unto the end of age means He will provide whatever our needs are. The Church is thereby thoroughly equipped to carry out the mandate effectively.

The Objective:

Jesus placed between the two resource statements the objective:

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.

The task given by Jesus Christ is both ‘Evangelism’ and ‘Discipleship.’ Colossians 1:28-29 says, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end, I struggle with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” The word ‘perfect’ in this passage means Spiritual maturity or complete without flaw. The Church’s task is to baptize converts and bring them into spiritual maturity as disciples. Christ’s message is for all Christians; even Paul and Timothy, wherever they went, brought the Good News to all who would listen. This teaching is that Salvation is available through Faith in Christ.

To be saved, the issue of sin must be addressed; it is a reality that must be decided. Baptism means ‘being washed.’ All human sins were washed away and passed onto Jesus Christ through His baptism. Jesus, therefore, employs the disciples after His resurrection to obey this example. And baptize new converts, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, into the new Faith and the new will of God. Apostle Paul states the essence of baptism in the book of Romans 6: 2 – 11 “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Therefore, we were buried with him through baptism into death so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we are united with him in his death, we will certainly be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now, if we die with Christ, we believe we will also live with him. We know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died to sin once and for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” It becomes imperative to baptize the new converts into Christianity as Jesus commanded.

 Jesus said to make disciples; this is the passage’s main idea where the emphasis is focused. “Jesus said, teach them to obey everything I have commanded” the Church’s task is to teach people not just to observe but to obey. To obey is to apply the principle and enable the principle to become a reality. There is a difference between making disciples and making converts. When Peter saw three thousand converts at Pentecost, he knew his job had just started, Acts 2:41; the next verse, 42, says the converts continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine. The Apostles’ doctrine was all the things Jesus had taught them. Every person born into God’s family and a member of the Church of Christ is to multiply. Something is wrong with a Christian not multiplying. A Christian is to lead others to Christ and disciple them. Working for Christ is different from producing for Christ. The devil’s great trick is to stop the gospel’s spread if he can before it gets started or incapacitate a believer of Spiritual reproduction by remaining a spiritual babe.

A Worldwide Ministry:

Jesus Christ wants the Church involved in a worldwide vision as well as a worldwide ministry. Each Christian is to contribute to this worldwide ministry. The ways to execute this include:

  • Going Personally: Missionaries belong to this group; God has called many to labor in foreign fields.
  • Through physical or spiritual children: God may call someone close to us, like our physical or spiritual children, to serve in foreign missions. These people are an extension of our life and members of the Church of Christ.
  • Through Prayers: Prayer is the Master Key; every time we bow our heads and hearts to God, we have the capability of reaching around the world. Our intercessory prayers can enter into the labors of missionaries; therefore, we need to intercede for fellow Christians, especially the missionaries, regularly.
  • Through Finances: Nothing belongs to us. All things come from the Lord, and of His own do we give Him. When we are blessed with material wealth, it is an avenue to invest in spiritual labor; one can enter into the labors of any missionary through generous giving.
  • Through Vocation: Our Skills and Talents were given to us by God to use ourselves and others. There are no Skills possessed by a Christian that is not needed in God’s vineyard and missionary organization; it is then imperative to enter the mission labors through our Vocation.

**To be finalized tomorrow, Sunday, October 23, 2022.


  •   [1] James Hasting, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, (USA: Hendrickson Publishers,2001), p.138
  • [2] Dr. Charles E. Osume in an oral lecture on June 26, 2007
  • [3] John Parratt, (Editor) SPCK International Study Guide 23 (Advanced): A reader in African Christian Theology (Kaduna: Baraka Press and Publishers Ltd., 2004), p.29
  • [4] David L. Dawson, Equipping The Saints Book One-A (Texas: Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers, 1984), p.30
  • [5]

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