The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 

20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Mark 16:15-16 (NKV)

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 

16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 1:6-9 (KJV)

6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 

And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 

8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations

Philip and the Eunuch

Philip had been with Jesus the day he ascended up into heaven. He was there when Jesus commissioned all his disciples with a great mission to fulfill. Jesus instructed them to share the gospel and to make disciples of the people of all the nations. Philip heard Christ’s command and went out to do his part in fulfilling the great commission.

One day Phillip was led by the Holy Spirit to travel to southern Israel, to the edge of the desert. As he traveled, an important official from the government of Ethiopia passed by traveling in a carriage. As Phillip approached the man, he heard him reading from the book of Isaiah chapter 53.

The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

Acts 8:21-24 KJV

Phillip asked the man, “do you understand what you are reading?” The Eunuch replied,
“How can I understand unless someone guides me?” He invited Phillip to sit in his carriage and began to ask him questions about the passage of scripture he had read.

Phillip used the opportunity to tell the Eunuch the plan of salvation, how Jesus Christ had died for the sins of the world, to set all men free. As Phillip finished his explanation, the man asked to be baptized. Pulling the carriage over, Phillip took the man into a pool of water and baptized him with water and a new soul joined the church.

Christ’s Authority

The story of Phillip and the Eunuch provides us with an example of how the early church shared the gospel and fulfilled the great commission. That mission still goes on today. Just like Phillip, all of Christ’s disciples have a special commission to be witnesses of the gospel.

When Christ commissioned his disciples to share the gospel and make new disciples, he first explained that he had been given all power in heaven and earth. He wanted his disciples to understand that it was by his power and authority they were to go forth and fulfill his commission.

When we understand that it is the King of Glory who has empowered us to share the gospel, and that we are on a divine mission, it gives us great strength and resolve to carry out the great commission. We are ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, (2 Cor 5:20) members of the Royal Family (1 Peter 2:19), sharing a divine message from God himself.

Speaking the Truth in Love

Sharing the gospel, whether as preachers or as individuals, is something to be done in humility and meekness. (1 Peter 3:15) We should use our testimony to point people to Jesus, and never use evangelism as a means to seek our own glory. (John 7:18)

Paul explained that speaking the truth in love is the way to get results. (Eph 4:15)

Peter told his readers to always be ready with an answer to anyone who asks about our faith and hope in Christ. Like Philip, we should not shy away from an opportunity to share the gospel with anyone who seeks to hear the truth about Jesus. (1 Peter 3:15)

Preach The Gospel To Every Creature

Jesus’s commission to the disciples included a command to go to all nations and peoples. This includes speakers of every language and people of every nationality. No one is excluded. The message of the great commission is to those who have never heard the gospel before, and also those who have.

The question the Eunuch asked Phillip is very insightful, he asked, “how can I know unless someone guides me?” How will the lost hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14) Christ’s disciples have an important role to play in sharing the gospel. Our mission is to share the gospel so the world may know the love that God has showed the world through Jesus Christ. (John 17:18-23)

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Matthew 24:14 KJV

Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, his disciples questioned him one last time to know when he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. They had a desire for Jesus to soon bring to pass the prophecies of the coming millennial kingdom. Jesus, however, once again told them their focus should not be on determining when the millennial kingdom was coming, but rather on spreading the gospel.

Jesus was careful to make sure the disciples understood that they should not become a closed off group solely preoccupied with his second coming. In fact, Jesus carefully explained to the disciples that he was not going to return until the great commission was fulfilled and completed.

The fulfillment of the great commission and the return of Christ are closely linked. Any Christian who has a true desire to seen the soon return of Christ will act on that desire by sharing the gospel with the lost.

Make Disciples of All Nations

Christ’s command in the great commission went even further than just preaching the gospel to all nations. It extended to a command to make disciples from each group. Each nation and group would not only hear the gospel, but some of each nation and people will hear the gospel and become disciples of Christ. (Revelation 7:9)

Making disciples requires more than just preaching to people, holding a revival, or handing out tracts. It requires more than just getting people to come to church regularly, or imparting an understanding of certain doctrines of the scripture. Making disciples requires living in community with others, demonstrating Christ-likeness with your own life, and living out the very gospel you are sharing.

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:2-5 KJV

True Discipleship requires putting the word of God into action. It involved walking worthy of gospel, living a fruitful life, and exemplifying Christ in our lives. For others to become disciples of Christ, they also have to put the gospel into action in their lives too.

Jesus personally demonstrated how to make disciples in the days of his ministry. He taught the gospel, he taught the scripture, and he lived in community with his disciples showing them his example and encouraging them in their walk with him. Paul took a similar approach on his missionary journeys, and shared the gospel not only in word, but also through demonstration of the life he lived among those he preached to. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Discipleship Includes Baptism

Believing on Christ is our first step in being his disciple. Baptism was the first things Jesus told his disciples to do to those who believed. Phillip demonstrated the pattern with the Eunuch. They stopped the carriage and baptized the Eunuch as soon as he believed on Christ.

Baptism is for the remission of sins and it is representative of a fresh start and a new birth. Baptism is an important step in our discipleship. (Acts 2:38, John 3:5, Galatians 3:27, Titus 3:5)

Baptism is also an important milestone in learning about God. In baptism we learn that God is one. When Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize, he made it clear there was only one name to be baptized in – not three. And as Peter demonstrated on the day of Pentecost, that name is Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38)

The Word of God In Action

Wherever we find ourselves, we should always be ready to share the gospel. It is important to recognize that, while God has given some individuals special gifts of evangelism, each of us has a capacity to be a witness of the gospel to others. As we go about our daily lives, exemplifying Christ, opportunities may present themselves to us, just the opportunity Phillip had to share the gospel with the Eunuch. We need not look far for people to evangelize to. If you are raising a family in your home, you can live a life before them that exemplifies Christ and shows a testimony that will stick with your children for their entire life. (Proverbs 22:6) When you go to work, you can be the most faithful employee around, and exemplify Christ to your co-workers. When you interact with your community, you can show your testimony by being a good citizen and a dependable neighbor. (Colossians 3:23-24) Don’t be surprised to find that living that kind of life will start to open up doors and opportunities where you can share your love of Jesus with those around you.

God’s Cause: A Prayer of the Puritans 

Sovereign God,  

Thy cause, not my own, engage my heart,

   and I appeal to thee with greatest freedom

   to set up thy kingdom in every place

      where Satan reigns;

Glorify thyself and I shall rejoice,

   for to bring honor and glory to thy name is my sole desire.

I adore thee that art God,

    and long that others should know it, feel it, and rejoice in it.

O that all men might love and praise thee,

   that thou mightest have all glory

   from the intelligent world!

Let sinners be brought to thee for thy dear name!

   To the eye of reason everything respecting

   the conversation of others is dark as midnight

But thou canst accomplish great things!

The cause is thine

   and it is to thy glory that men should be saved.

Lord, use me as thou wilt,

   do with me what thou wilt,

   but, O, promote thy cause,

   let they kingdom come,

   let they blessed interest be advanced in this world!

O do thou bring in great numbers to Jesus!

   let me see that glorious day,

   and give me to grasp for multitutes of souls;

   let me willing to die to that end;

   and while I live let me labor for thee

   to the utmost of my strength

   spending time profitable in this work,

   both in health and in weakness.

It is thy cause and kingdom I long for,

   not my own

O, answer thou my request.

The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975 

Study Questions

  1. Can you share how you first heard about the gospel? How did it happen?
  2. If someone asked you about why you believe on Christ, how would you answer them?
  3. What is the difference between going to church and being a disciple of Jesus?