The Great Commission (Matthew Sermon 151 of 151)
October 06, 2013 | Andy Davis
The Gospel, Evangelism, Missions, Judgement Day, The Kingdom of Christ
God has set before each individual Christian and each Christian church two infinite journeys. The internal journey of sanctification or growth in holiness and godliness, little by little becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ, imitating him in every way. The external journey of worldwide gospel advance, of making disciples to the ends of the earth. We are to glorify God by making progress in each of these journeys until the day the Lord takes us out of this world. This is what we are to do, this is what the Lord left us in this place to do.
And you see both of these infinite journeys in the text, this famous text that we're looking at today. The internal journey is in the words “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Any of you that knows how comprehensive are those commands, you know that that's an infinite journey of growing more and more conformed to Christ in the pattern of his laws, in the pattern of his commands. We'll be doing that until the day we die. And then the external journey is in this Great Commission of going to the ends of the earth and preaching the gospel and making disciples of all nations. Now, you've heard all that before, you're gonna hear it again from this pulpit and from other forms of ministry in this church. This is what we are to do.
For me personally, this is an exciting morning, this is my 152nd sermon in the gospel of Matthew. I wouldn't know that except that Tom Knight told me that. So thank you, Tom, for doing that calculation for me. Praise God for that. I am grateful for the journey. I began preaching in the Gospel of Matthew December 20th, 1998. Now, those of you that are newcomers to the church, no, that's not all I've been doing for the last 15 years from the pulpit. In which case, you would all be rejoicing 10 times as much that this was my last sermon in the gospel of Matthew, and excited about another biblical text coming up. But it's been an incredible journey as we have looked at this, and I think what a fitting end to this glorious gospel, ending in, I think, probably the most famous verses in the gospel of Matthew, although the Lord's Prayer is probably close, maybe better known, but certainly the most influential of all of the verses that Matthew penned, the Great Commission.
All of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, end in some version of the Great Commission. The book of Acts begins with a version of the Great Commission. The Lord intends to send us, to send his church, to the ends of the earth, empowering us with his Spirit, making disciples until the end of time. And that's what we have in front of us today.
My desire is to use just a careful going through this text to unleash individuals into patterns of service that the Lord has prepared for them to do. For we are his workmanship and we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance that we should walk in them. And I want this church, FBC, to be a launching pad for world missions. I want us to be active, aggressively active, in challenging the boundaries of Satan's dark kingdom and seeing the advancement of the kingdom of the beloved Son, and I want each of us to be involved in that. I don't want any of us to have any regrets concerning the Great Commission on Judgment Day when at last we give an account for our lives. And so may God use this sermon, may God use again these incredible verses, to unleash us into patterns of ministry for his name's sake.
The Foundation for the Commission: The Finished Work of Christ (vs. 16-17)
Overarching Theme: The King of the Kingdom of Heaven
And we begin by looking at the foundation for the Great Commission, the finished work of Christ, and we come to the end of the Gospel of Matthew. And I wanna give you a bit of an overview of the Gospel as a whole, as I generally do when I come to the end. The overarching theme of the gospel of Matthew is the King of the kingdom of heaven. We focus on Jesus, it's about Jesus, but it's also about this recurring idea of the kingdom of heaven that we have again and again. Jesus is the King of the kingdom of heaven. And so, the beginning of Jesus' preaching ministry in Matthew 4:17, it says, “From that time on, Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” And so the kingdom comes with a claim on us as human beings, as sinners, calling on us to repent and to believe the good news.
The Purpose Statements
The Gospel gives us, the Gospel of Matthew gives us the purpose statement for Jesus coming into the world. In Matthew 1:21, Joseph was told this by the angel: “She, Mary, will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” That's why Jesus came into the world, to save his people from their sins. Much later in Matthew, in Matthew 20:28, Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The Finished Work of Jesus Christ
And so as the gospel unfolds more and more, we see Jesus Christ presented as the King of the kingdom of heaven. It begins with the shortest genealogy in the Bible. In Matthew 1:1, it says, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” And so right away, Jesus is presented as the fulfillment of the Davidic promises, that he is the King in the Davidic pattern, he is the fulfillment of all the promises made to David. He is the King of David's throne. He's also a son of Abraham, he is the fulfillment of all that God was doing in the Jewish people, and so he's presented that way. After that comes a longer genealogy with 42 names, not as long as Luke's genealogy, which has 76 names, but all of that's establishing the right to rule. Jesus has the right to be the King.
He is presented by the angel, predicted by the angel, to Joseph. His purpose is given, as I've already given to you, then he's presented to the Magi as the King, they came to worship him as the King of the Jews, and they gave him those gifts. And then he is persecuted by Herod, as Herod unleashes the power of the state, the power of his soldiers to try to kill him, and God protects him, but many suffer and die as a result of the birth of Jesus at that time. And then he's presented and proclaimed by John the Baptist as John came baptizing and proclaiming the kingdom of heaven from the desert and getting ready for the coming of Jesus.
And then he is predicted by the prophets as one prediction after another is lifted up for us again and again in Matthew's gospel. The life in the ministry of Jesus is lined up against scriptures, and it's saying, “This happened to fulfill the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah,” etcetera. Again and again, the predictions of the Old Testament. Jesus is the one that fulfills all prophecy, everything pointing toward Christ.
And then he is proved by his miracles and by his teaching, the signs and wonders, a river of signs and wonders done establishing the credentials of Jesus as the King of the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 4:23 and following, it says, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, the epileptics and the paralytics, and he healed them all.” We have these summary statements of huge populations coming to Jesus and he healed them all. There has never been a wonder worker, a miracle worker like Jesus. A river of miracles, signs and wonders pointing to the coming of the kingdom of heaven.
And then we have his amazing teachings. Just no one ever taught like this man. I love it in another gospel where they send some men to arrest Jesus and they come back starstruck and dumbfounded and empty-handed. Do you remember? And his enemies said, “Where is he? Didn't you go to arrest him?” And they said, “No one ever spoke like this man.” And they're so frustrated. “What? Has he captivated you too?” “Yeah, he has, he's captivated us by his incredible teachings.” He taught them as one who had authority and not as the teachers of the law. We have the magnificent Sermon on the Mount, beginning with the Beatitudes. Most important one, right from the beginning, “Blessed are the spiritual beggars, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You want the kingdom of heaven? Then just be a spiritual beggar. Know yourself to be destitute. You have nothing to offer. You are poor and destitute because of your sins, and God is willing to give it to you free. He's willing to give you the kingdom for free. If you'll just beg him for it, he will give it to you.
And then from there, he unfolds the magnificent teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, and then we have later in the gospel the parables that Jesus taught. The parables of the kingdom, the kingdom of heaven is like, the kingdom of heaven is like... It's a man who went out to sow seed, or it's like a great net that was let down into the lake, or it's about a woman that mixes flour into a large amount of dough, all these marvelous parables that end up dividing people. Some people think he's insane, they don't make any sense of it. But others, they get it, they get the insights because God has granted it to them to understand what he is saying. Magnificent teachings.
And then he began to prepare his disciples. He began to get them ready and to shape them and mold them and send them out, calling disciples to follow him. Twelve he designated to be apostles, and he trained them to preach and to heal and to drive out demons and to raise the dead. And he sent them out in Matthew 10, and they go out and they preach and they begin to advance the gospel, and they come back and he trains them and shapes them and gets them ready. And he reveals himself to them fully and they understand in the words of Peter, Simon Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
And then he prepares them for suffering. If they're gonna advance the Gospel, they need to be willing to suffer. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” What would it profit someone to gain the whole world and lose their soul? Or what would someone give in exchange for his soul? And so he gets them ready, and he gets them ready for the end of the world. In Matthew 24 and 25, he gets them ready for the second coming of Christ and for Judgment Day. In Matthew 25, it says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory and all the nations will be gathered before him. And he will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he's gonna put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. And in the end, he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ He will say to those on his right, to the sheep, ‘Welcome, you who are blessed, into the eternal kingdom prepared since the foundation of the world by your Father.” And so he gets them ready for Judgment Day and for all of these things.
And then, and then he goes and pays for it. He goes up to Jerusalem and he suffers many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and then he's turned over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. And in this way, he gives his life, as we've already said, as a ransom for many. He laid down his life; he suffered in our place. As we've studied very carefully, while Jesus was up on the cross, he cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” And Jesus stood in our place and he took our penalty, he took our punishment because of that great exchange that the Apostle Paul made so clear later on. God made him, Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And so he suffered and died under the wrath of God. And at the moment that he died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
And the book of Hebrews makes it plain that by that, we have a new and living way opened up for us into the presence of a holy God. And we have a holy God now saying, “Come and draw near to me to the throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And so as a result of his death, we now have an open way into the presence of a holy God.
But God did not leave him dead, he didn't leave him in the grave. On the third day, God raised him from the dead, and we've been celebrating that in the last few weeks, the resurrection accounts. The women go early on the first day, long before it's dawn, to prepare a corpse, but they don't find a corpse. Instead an angel comes down from heaven, radiant, bright-shining like lightning, and he goes to the tomb, and he moves this boulder completely away, and he sits on it, and the guards shook with fear and became like dead men. And then he says to the women, “Fear not, for I know that you're looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; he is risen, just as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen.”
And as they're on their way, they have the greatest evidence of the resurrection, a personal encounter with the living Christ. And they see him and they run up and they grab hold of him. I picture them falling on the ground and grabbing hold of his feet. And he says to them, “Greetings.” Good morning, how are you? It's so good to see you. Hello. Greetings. And then he says, “Fear not, but go and tell my brothers to go ahead of me into Galilee. There they will see me.” That's the review. I would have done more, but you can listen to the 152 sermons if you'd like, they're online.
The Eleven Disciples: Humanly Speaking, the Foundation of the Church
But we come now to the actual final words in this gospel. “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. And when they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.” So we have the eleven apostles. Now, of course, Judas has committed suicide, so he is dead. The eleven that are left obey and they go to Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. They are, humanly speaking, going to be the foundation of the church that Jesus Christ will build. As it says in Ephesians 20, “The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
The Trip to Galilee
And so they make the trip up to Galilee, it's the very thing that Jesus had predicted would happen in Matthew 26 the night before he was crucified. He said, “This very night, you will all fall away on account of me. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” It's the very thing he had predicted he would do, and it's the very thing the angel told them to do. “Go to Galilee,” and there they will see Jesus.
That was their home base where they were from, it's where they first met Jesus, they had their first encounters with him there. As they were fishing by the Sea of Galilee, four of them, Peter, John, James, and Andrew, and they were casting nets into the lake, for they were fishermen, and Jesus passing by said, “Follow me and I will make you to become fishers of men.” And so now the time has come, they've had their training, they've had their preparation, their sins have been paid for, they have resurrection power, they're going to receive the power of the Holy Spirit poured out on them.
And now he's gonna give them his commission to do precisely that, to be fishers of men to the ends of the earth. And that's what it is.
Their Encounter With Jesus: Worship Mingled with Doubt
But the fundamental issue here is worship. It says, “When they saw him, they worshipped him.” And so again, they're just on their faces, they're just in awe of Jesus. And frankly, isn't that the whole point of everything anyway? It is that we can be instruments of the living God to seek true worshippers who will worship the Lord in spirit and truth, for they are the kind the Father is seeking, John 4. The Father is actively seeking people to worship him. He sent his Son into the world to seek and to save the lost, and the essence of their salvation is that they've turned away from sin and self to the living God to worship him forever. And so the purpose of the Great Commission is worship, as John Piper made it very plain in Let The Nations Be Glad. The ultimate end is not missions; it's worship. When all of God's people are worshipping up in heaven, missions will be done, we won't need it anymore, but worship is eternal.
And so the point is just an advancing kingdom of worshippers, worshippers, more and more worshipers. So they go to the mountain and let's just worship now, amen, and so they worship the resurrected Christ, they worship him. And yet some doubted. Isn't that amazing? “When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.” I'm not trying to be disrespectful to us when I say this, what poor building materials the Lord uses to build his church. Amen. Poor building materials, low quality. We are the bruised reeds that he will not break, we are the smoldering wicks he will not snuff out, and yet they're there and they're worshipping and they're doubting, and they're not sure what they see. Luke's gospel speaks more about these doubts. It says, “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And they were startled and frightened thinking they saw a ghost. And Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise up in your minds?’” You're doubting the evidence of your own eyes.
And so he has to give them many convincing proofs that he's alive. As it says in Acts 1:3, he saw them over a period of 40 days and gave them many, I like the translation, “infallible proofs.” Convincing proofs. Like this one in Luke 24, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see. A ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. And when he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it for joy and amazement... “ That's the quintessential, it's-too-good-to-be-true moment in the Bible. It's just too good to be true that Jesus could have defeated death, and so they couldn't believe because of joy and amazement.
And while they're struggling with that, he says, “Do you have anything here to eat?” And the best they can do is broiled fish. How much better it's going to be in the kingdom of heaven. Come and talk to me about that privately afterwards. But he takes it and he eats it, proving he has an actual physical body. Many infallible proofs. Who was there at that time? I don't know. But could it be that this is the time where 500 people saw him like Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15? Five hundred eyewitnesses. So I don't think it's just the 11 that are there, I think there might have been a mountain of people seeing him, 500 people with the evidence, and this is the foundation. This is the foundation of the Great Commission, the finished work of Jesus Christ, the death and resurrection of Christ, that is the mission.
The Authority for the Commission: Overcoming All Obstacles (vs. 18)
So now let's talk about the authority for the commission, overcoming all obstacles. Look at verse 18. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” Now, what is authority? Authority is the right, the God-given right, to command. All true authority comes from God, as Romans 13 teaches us. So it is the right to command, that's what authority is. Now in our day and age, and frankly in every day and age, we sinners struggle against authority. We don't like it. But the fact is, it's the best news there has ever been. We are entering a kingdom and there is a King, and his laws are good, and he is good, and he is our provider and our protector, our benefactor. And it is a good thing that we are entering, we are living in a kingdom.
And so he has this authority. Now, this initial message of authority should be understood in two lights. First, the overarching theme of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus is the King of the kingdom of heaven. And so we should understand that as his right to rule. More on that in a moment. He is not a usurper, he has the right to rule. Secondly, we should understand the authority of Jesus as necessary to overcome all the obstacles to the spread of his kingdom. So he has all authority to advance his kingdom. And we're going to need it. We'll talk more about that in a moment. I wanna talk briefly about five facets of Christ's authority that flow from this text.
A Submissive Authority
First, it is a submissive authority. It is a submissive authority. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Do you see it? So Jesus doesn't speak as one who has independent authority from God the Father. There is no such thing. He received his authority from his Heavenly Father. As we saw in Gethsemane, Jesus is perfectly submissive to the will of the Father. Perfectly submissive. He said in Matthew 26, 39, “My Father, if it is possible for this cup to be taken away, may it be removed. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” That is a submissive man. He is perfectly submissive to the will of his Father.
So now also Jesus' authority is a submissive authority, he is submissive to the King of the universe who is Almighty God his Father. And so he has received this authority from the Father and he's going to use it to bring everything back to the Father and make it submissive to the Father. As Paul teaches in I Corinthians 15:24-28. Paul writes this, “Then the end will come when he, Jesus, hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed all dominion authority and power. For he, Jesus, must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now, when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, Jesus, it is clear this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When Jesus, he, Jesus has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”
So since the fall, since Satan's rebellion and human rebellion, the universe has been like a fragmentation grenade blown out, scattered away from the Father. Jesus is bringing everything back under the authority of the Father so that God may be all in all. So this is a submissive authority that he has, he's on mission from the Father.
An Absolute Authority Over Creation
Secondly, it's an absolute authority over all of creation, “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” That's everything, friends. That's everything. Every created being is under Jesus. How awesome is that? Meditate on that. “All authority in heaven and earth…” That reminds me of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Reminds me also of Colossians 1:15-16, speaking of Jesus, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by him, and for him. He is before all things.” So this is comprehensive authority Jesus has.
So Jesus, especially, rules over spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. He rules over Satan and his demons. He's in authority over them. Satan is called “the ruler of this age” or “the god of this world.” These kinds of titles that scripture gives to him. He has tremendous power over his slaves who are slaving him or serving him in sin and death. But by dying and rising again, Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus has destroyed him, Satan, who held the power of death. And has freed those who, all their lives, were held in slavery by their fear of death. He set us free, and he has destroyed the king of that dark realm.
Jesus also rules, not only over all heavenly forces, but he rules over all earthly forces as well. That's every government, every human institution. Jesus rules over them all. He's sovereign over every one of them. There is not a political or military or religious or educational power on earth that can stop the spread of the gospel. I love what Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘mine!’” he owns it all. It's his by right. So we should keep in mind that every part of this planet belongs to Jesus Christ. He is not the usurper, Satan is. And his satanic puppets, sitting on thrones in communist countries or Muslim countries or atheistic countries that use their power and authority to forbid the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ and make it illegal, they are the ones who are illegal. Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth, and he will take over everything. So when Saudi rulers make Christianity, the spread of Christianity, illegal in Riyadh or in Mecca or Medina, it is not Jesus who is the usurper there. We should not have any pangs of conscience about these things. Now, there's obviously a lot of suffering that has to go in reclaiming some of these dark places, but we are not the usurpers. When a communist government in Asia makes house churches illegal, we should have no pangs of conscience concerning this. The usurpers are those who would stop the spread of the gospel, they are the puppets.
We should not say, “Well, it's their country. They can make the rules.” When an educational institution sets up policies and threatens lawsuits and makes it difficult for Christian workers to spread the gospel on their campus, it's not Christianity that's the usurper, they are the usurpers. Oddly enough, most of those institutions were begun as seminaries. So who's the usurper there? Just know history friends. Just look them up. Go and find out why Harvard was started, or Yale was started, or Princeton was started, or Duke was started. Just find out why and you'll know. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me,” said Jesus.
Reasons for Obedience
Number three, this gives us as Christians reason for obedience concerning this Great Commission. The authority of Jesus overcomes the obstacles of the church. Psalm 110 says, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Verse 2, “The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, you will rule in the midst of your enemies... “ Listen to Psalm 110:3, “Your troops will be willing in the day of your battle.” Are we? Are we willing in the day of Jesus' battle? Are we willing to take part in the advance of his kingdom, the spread of his scepter from Zion out?
Two things we should keep in mind when we come to the Great Commission. Jesus has the right to tell us what to do with our lives. And Jesus has made a promise to be with us every step of the way. And so your stuff isn't your stuff, your life isn't your life, your money isn't your money, your education isn't yours to do with as you please. Jesus has the right to command you. So look at the link. Look at it. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Because of that authority.
The Center of the Message
Insight number four on authority: the center of the message. The center of the message is the authority of Jesus. That's the message we're bringing. We're preaching Christ as King. It's the essence of the gospel that we're preaching. And so at the core of it comes a different, perhaps slightly different, understanding of a beautiful invitation verse in Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” What's the next part? “Take my yoke upon you.” Take my yoke upon you. What is that yoke? It is submission to his kingly authority. He has the right to command you. He's saying, stop fighting me, stop rebelling against me, stop being stiff-necked. Take that neck and yield to my yoke. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
John said the same thing in I John, “His commands are not burdensome, they are delightful.” His commands are wonderful. Love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, those are his commands. They are delightful. So take his kingly yoke upon you. That's the message we're taking to the ends of the earth.
Guarantee of Worldwide Success
And then fifthly, we have a guarantee, with this statement, “all authority in heaven and earth,” we have a guarantee of ultimate success. And we'll need it too, won't we? It's a difficult journey that's still ahead of us but we have a guarantee of worldwide success. Because all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus, this Great Commission cannot possibly fail. Isaiah 14:26-27 says, “This is the plan determined for the whole world, this is the hand stretched out over all nations. For the Lord Almighty has purposed and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out and who can turn it back?”
There's not a single elect person, chosen by God before the foundation of the world, who will fail to hear the gospel with faith, repent, believe, and enter the kingdom, not one. They're all going to hear, and they're all going to repent, and they're all going to come and Jesus is gonna raise them up on the last day. For he says in John Chapter 6:37-39, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.” We're gonna succeed. We're on the winning team. We're gonna win, we're gonna win. I think that's awesome.
And what it means is that Jesus, he, Revelation 3, he's one who holds the keys in his hand. And what he opens, no one can shut. What he shuts, no one can open. So when he opens the door for ministry, no one can shut it. He has that kind of power. So what does that mean? It means, it could be a town, it could be an institution of higher learning, a college, could be a university, could be a country, a closed country. The king's heart is like a watercourse in the hands of the Lord. He directs it whichever way he pleases. And so the king is gonna make decisions that will help the gospel, even though they hate the gospel.
Now, you may scratch your head and say, “How could that be?” It just is, it's been going on for centuries. And he is just turning hearts whatever way he chooses to advance his gospel. We're going to win friends, we're going to win. Now, the key question is, for the church, see the kings, those hate-filled opposers of Christianity, God is turning them against their will to help Christianity. We should love and embrace this commission and do it out of joy and delight not out of obligation. Jesus said, “If you love me you'll obey what I command.”
The Goal of the Commission: Make Disciples of Jesus (vs. 19-20)
What is the Goal of the Great Commission?
And what is the goal of the commission? It is to make disciples for Jesus. “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.” So the goal of the Great Commission is to make disciples. A disciple is a dedicated follower or learner of a master.
The Beginning of Discipleship: Repentance and Faith
The beginning of that relationship is repentance and faith. As they repent and believe the good news, they become disciples of Jesus. And that discipleship relationship is deep and rich and full, it's more than being a pupil in a class. It's a whole life transformation. It's people leaving the tax collector's booth or the fishing nets and following Jesus and having no place to lay their head and just saying, “I wanna be like you.” And being just totally transformed by Jesus.
The Command is Plain: Go Into All the World and Preach this Message of Life
The command is plain for us, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” Now, the central verb here is “make disciples,” the “going” is the participle that supports it. So as you are going, make disciples. So everyday life you could be making disciples. Everyday life disciple-making is generally called evangelism. There's no cultural barrier you have to cross, there's no language you have to learn, you just have to have the courage to share your faith with other people that are of your same language and culture. And there'll always be more of that to do. And that's vital, evangelism.
But there's also implied, go into all the earth: missions. And that has to do with something else. That has to do with crossing cultural barriers. Learning languages. Taking the gospel across those barriers to people who cannot understand any other way. That's what we call mission. Usually, not always, but usually you have to get on a plane to do it or some transportation to bring you to a distant place. So we have a distant vision, to the ends of the earth, for making disciples. And that's what we call missions.
The Discipleship is Church-based
And notice that this discipleship is church-based. I say that as a church pastor, but I think baptism implies that. Most parachurch groups do not baptize. We understand this is a church ordinance, this is how you become a member of a local church. So you make disciples and you baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And so I think parachurch ministries are phenomenal. I was brought to faith in Christ through Campus Crusade for Christ. But they didn't baptize me, a church did. And so that's something that we, I think, embrace. The International Mission Board of Southern Baptists embrace church planting. We're not just trying to make converts, we're not just trying to make people who pray a sinner's prayer or something like that. We're trying to plant churches and establish those churches in the ordinances like baptism and the Lord's supper.
Notice, also, I think the Baptistic conviction of a certain chronological sequencing here, you make disciples, baptizing them, and then teaching them to obey everything. And so first they become disciples of Jesus, then they get water baptism, and then they get comprehensive life training. So we would not reverse the order, we wouldn't have baptism first and then later they become disciples of Christ. So I think first, they become believers and then they are baptized.
The Discipleship Extends to the End of their Lives
And then this discipleship is comprehensive. It is wrong for any mission agency to say, “We do not have time for careful meticulous Bible teaching. There are souls being lost every day.” You hear this kind of thing. You run around mission circles enough, you hear this kind of thing, “We don't have time for that. For the precision and the minutiae of doctrine. We need to save people.” Friends, they need to go back and read the Great Commission. Because part of it is a meticulous teaching of a whole life observation of everything Christ has commanded.
So what all has Christ commanded? How long do you have? Is it true that all of the commands, the times that the apostle Paul or apostle Peter urges something on their readers, that Christ is commanding us? Is it Christ that's commanding us in Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love”? I think so; Paul would say so. So we've got comprehensive learning to do.
Therefore, every healthy church must have a comprehensive teaching ministry. Careful preaching from the word, careful teaching of disciples, we do not shrink away from proclaiming anything that's true and helpful and Biblical. We know there are central doctrines and lesser doctrines, we understand that. So we'll preach the central ones as pillar doctrines, but we're gonna try to teach everything the Bible says.
Teaching Must Be Life Transformational
And notice that we're not just trying to teach for an information dump. What we wanna do is we're teaching for life transformation. We want people to obey everything Christ has commanded. And so elders must shepherd toward obedience, shepherd toward life transformation. It's not enough just that we dump the information. People need to have their lives changed or transformed. This is where I would try to maybe shrink away from the verb, “observe,” “teaching them to observe everything commanded.” English has changed some since the KJV era. “Observe” means, “I'm aware of it.” That's what it means now for us. It wasn't that way back in the 17th century, but for us, I like “obey.” “Teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded.”
The Extent of the Commission: To the End of the Earth, and the End of the Age (vs. 19-20)
The Geographical Extent: All Nations … To the Ends of the Earth
And what is the extent of the commission? Well we're going to the ends of the earth, and we're going to the end of the age. “Go and make disciples of all nations … and surely I will be with you always, even to the very end of the age.” Now, what I have here are three pages of Old Testament verses that talked about how God always intended to save the entire world. There you go. Come afterwards and talk to me and I'll share with you some of those things. How from the very beginning, God intended this gospel to bless all families of nations on earth. He called Abraham in Genesis 12:3, to that, he said to Jesus in Isaiah, “It is too small a thing for you to save the Jews only. I will make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” This has always been what God intended.
The Chronological Extent: To the End of the Age
And it's going to go to the end of time, because he says, “Surely I'll be with you always, even to the very end of the age.” This isn't just for the apostles, this is for all of us.
The Power for the Commission: “I Will Be With You” (vs. 20)
Linked to the Power of the Holy Spirit
And what is the power of the commission? This one statement, “And surely, I will be with you. I am with you. I'll be with you every step of the way.” This is, it must certainly be linked with Acts 1:8, “You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” He is the Spirit of Christ. And by the Spirit of Christ, Jesus is with us to the end of the age.
The Promise Given to Moses in His Fear
It's the very promise that God gave to Moses when Moses didn't wanna go to Pharaoh, remember? Kept saying, “Oh, please send someone else.” I love it when he says, “Oh Lord, send the one you choose.” That's a Hebraism for “Someone else, not me.” Alright? I have chosen you. And he says to him, “I will be with you.” And it's a fascinating exchange there. Remember how he says, “Who am I? Who am I that I should go and speak to Pharaoh?” And the answer is, “I will be with you,” which, if you really think about it carefully, he didn't answer the question. Who is Moses that he should go to Pharaoh? Oh, he answered the question; it doesn't matter who you are. It's never mattered who you are, what matters is who I am. And I am the I am. And I will be with you.
And Jesus says the same thing to us. You can look inward and say, “I can't go to a closed country, I can't go to a Muslim nation in the 10/40 window, I can't go to some hostile people group in India or in China. I can't go, I mean, who am I?” It's never been about who you are, it's been about this one thing, surely I will be with you always by the power of the Holy Spirit. So let me say something that I said to my Sunday School class, Bible for Life class.
The two infinite journeys are linked, they're just, they're linked. You wanna make progress in the internal journey? Embrace the external journey. If you detach yourself from evangelism and missions, you'll stop growing very much. If you wanna really know Christ, then step up into the suffering and the labor and the sacrifice that the Great Commission calls for.
The Encouragement to Paul in His Suffering
Philippians Chapter 3, the apostle Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Could it be that the reason we know him so little, in his resurrection power, is that we risk so little of his death on the cross? Could it be we don't know him like Paul did because we're shrinking back from suffering?
The Status of the Commission: Where Do We Stand?
And what is the status of the Great Commission? Where do we stand? Well, I got a bunch of statistics here, I'm gonna go to my favorite one. According to the IMB's research wing, there are 3,100 unengaged people groups. Now, a people group is defined, generally, by language, somewhat, by culture, it's the biggest group that the gospel can travel without hitting a significant barrier or a boundary, linguistically and culturally. That's a people group. There are about, either, between 11,000 and 16,000 of them in the world. There are only 3,100 un-engaged. There's nothing going on amongst them, no church being planted, no mission agency working with them, 3100.
How Doable is the Remaining Task
That may seem like a large number, but there are perhaps as many as 700 million evangelical Christians in the world. So that means each unengaged people group could have 250,000 Christians dedicated to reaching them. Or, I like this one: There are 4.5 million Christian congregations in the world. If you divide 4.5 million by 3,100, you get about 1,500 congregations per unreached people group. So all we have to do is go find about 1,500 other like-minded churches in North Carolina and band together to reach the Northern Bai in Central China. What do you say? Now they'll be overwhelmed by our love and interest, I think. Overwhelmed by 1,500 congregations seeking to reach them.
Friends, this is doable. That number's been cut in half in the last 20 years. Now, when we get to the end of the 3,100 and Jesus still hasn't come back yet, let's find another way to define the task and keep going. What do you say? We're gonna keep reaching out until the Lord returns. But I'm telling you, we're making incredible progress and it's exciting.
Come to Christ
Alright, what application? First, what's the point in talking about missions if it could be there's someone here that's lost right now? If there's someone here that's unregenerate? Someone here that knows, you know you're on the outside looking in? I'm just urging you, don't stay that way. Because the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory and he's going to gather everyone in front of him. And someday he's gonna separate everyone and he's gonna separate into two categories and only two, believer in Christ and non-believer. Today is the day of salvation. Flee to Christ, you've heard the gospel today. That Christ, the Son of God, Son of Man, died on the cross in the place of sinners. Repent and believe in him, come to Christ.
FBC Members: Let’s Make FBC A “Launching Pad” for Career Missionaries
For those who are already Christians, members of FBC, let's make FBC a launching pad for missions. Amen? Let's send them out, let's double the number of missionaries sent out and double it again. Those of you that are still young, not quite sure what God's calling you to do, go seriously before the Lord and say, “Lord, are you calling on me to be a career missionary, to reach one of those un-engaged, 3,100 un-engaged people groups?” Of course it's gonna take suffering. In the 10/40 window it's nothing but those Satanic puppets that are saying, “You will not come in here.”
Yes. But Christ is sovereign. Let's make FBC a launching pad. Let's pray more diligently than ever before for unreached people groups. If any of you have smartphones, I would urge you to upload the JoshuaProject.net app, and they'll give you a people group, an unreached people group, to pray for every day. Every day. Many of them are in India and China, day after day, India and China. Not only there, but mostly there.
Let's give to Lottie Moon, it's coming up soon. Let's be generous and let's meet our goal, whatever it's gonna be, 130, 140,000, whatever it is. Every year, it's amazing how faithful God is. But I'm urging you to be sacrificial in giving to missions more than ever. And let's support our career missionaries better than ever before. Each home fellowship has adopted one of those folks I prayed for. Let's enrich those relationships, let's use technology, Skype, other things. Let's use jet travel and go visit and encourage them as they think best. Whatever would be encouraging mostly to them.
Let's realize we have opportunities for practical training. We have a BFL class that Ron Halbrooks is about to start on church planting. Be part of that, learn more about church planting. Matthew Hodges is gonna talk to us about a City Outreach Conference on November 23rd, where you can learn how to reach out to people right here in our surrounding community. That's part of the Great Commission, what we're doing.
We have practical opportunities through our ESL, our burgeoning ESL ministry. We have tons of people coming into our church every Wednesday learning English language, they are maxed out. Not from room, but from laborers. We need more workers. And they're bringing their children with them, and they have a focused need. And so we'd like people that would take on those ESL students’ kids and minister to them and maybe lead some of them to Christ. You have opportunities right here, right now, you don't have to get anywhere. I said usually you have to get on a plane to do cross-cultural missions, but not when it comes to ESL. And so it's happening right here in our church.
Close with me if you would, in prayer. Father, we thank you for the things we've learned from Matthew's gospel as a whole. I thank you for the, just, almost 15 years on and off, that I've had, of walking through this incredible book. I thank you for the culmination here and the Great Commission. I pray that you'd help each of us to be faithful to what you have commanded us to do in Jesus name. Amen.