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 the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded. And Surely I am with you 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 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 these passages record words of Christ spoken after His resurrection. Matthew alone, among the four Gospels, uses the word ‘Church’ (ekklesia). In its Christian application, the word ecclesia (ekklesia) is usually translated as’ Church.’ Ekklesia was applied in ordinary Greek usage to the duly constituted gathering of the citizens in a self-governing city. 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 various corpora’s literary, historical, and theological dimensions 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 and 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 give the eleven Apostles the responsibility to reach all nations alone; 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 Outline:

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. 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. Jesus spoke of a resource in the process of commanding His disciples to reach the world. If the disciples should depend on their resources, the job would never be done. 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 are to act and trust Jesus 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.


  •   [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

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