God came down to live among us in the person of Yeshua (Hebrew name of Jesus). Both fully man and fully God, He demonstrated a perfect sinless life of devotion and submission to the Father. He set a perfect example for us to learn from and replicate. Then Yeshua fulfilled the purpose for which He came through His suffering, death, and resurrection… providing a path for those of us who accept Him as Lord to be reconciled with our Father regarding the punishment of our sins.
After His resurrection, Yeshua gave a clear command to His disciples regarding what He wanted them to do. We should study this command and obey it as well. It not only applies to the disciples who walked with Yeshua during His earthly ministry, but to all who truly submit to Yeshua as Messiah and therefore commit to do His work and obey His will and honor His kingdom. The command may not be easy to follow, but neither was dying on the cross easy. Yeshua’s command should be very important to each of us that declare Him “Lord”.
16But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18And Jesus came up 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 the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Those of us who serve Christ have our marching orders, a mission if you will. Yeshua did not say… “Live comfortably and according to your own desires. When you feel like it and when it is convenient and easy, please consider telling others about me.” Not at all. Quite the opposite. Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all the world! Do not think that this was easy for the disciples either, but rather it was a challenging task. Let’s examine the command a little more closely as we begin.
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
This statement clearly confirms to us that Yeshua has the full authority to speak for God. Yeshua’s tone is different now from earlier in His earthly ministry when He consistently said He could do only His Father’s will. He absolutely has authority over us and to refuse to obey His command is to rebel. You either obey or rebel. There is no “comfortable” middle ground where we sort of obey, but not fully.
But what is He asking us to do when He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”
“Go” certainly seems clear. It is an action very different from “wait”. We should take action to fulfill the request, not wait for people to come to us and ask about Yeshua.
“Therefore” refers to the sentence preceding… because Yeshua has all authority, He has authority over us and He is commanding us to perform this mission. We either obey or rebel. There is no comfortable and convenient middle ground.
“…and make disciples…”
To make “disciples” is to make “learners”, people who can learn about Yahweh and then, once ready, teach others. We are not commanded to make “converts”, who accept Yeshua, but then require constant care and feeding (spiritually) from a pastor or other members of the body of Christ. We are to first lead them to conversion and then prepare the new followers of Christ to be able to “feed” themselves, growing in their relationship with the Lord for the rest of their lives. This obviously implies that we, too, must learn first how to feed ourselves and become mature disciples of Yeshua, seeking and submitting to the Father and obeying His word while constantly learning to know Him more intimately.
“…of all the nations…”
Of whom are we to make disciples? Just those like us? Just those nearby or just those far away? No. We are to make disciples of “all the nations”. To accomplish this we will clearly have to work together as the body of Christ, united in one mission… one purpose… each using the gifts and abilities Yahweh has given us to fulfill this great commission. Everyone must participate; no one can sit on the sidelines just watching and letting others complete the mission. Notice He does not command us to make disciples of all the people… as many will reject Him and we can not force someone to accept Yeshua. But we are to bring the message around the world so all can hear the good news of the gospel.
“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”
Baptism is important because it represents a public proclamation of submission to our Creator. Yeshua commands us to publicly acknowledge Him before others. There is no such thing as a private or secret faith. Such faith is not faith at all. Many ask if the name of Yahweh matters… YES, the name matters. God revealed through Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is very different than other false gods and false representations of God. God revealed through Father, Son, ands Holy Spirit is, by definition, different than even the incorrect Jewish belief that worships the God of the Old Testament (which is correct), but rejects Yeshua as God (incorrect). All religions are not equal. Only one is correct. This is not opinion. They contradict one another. Those who accept Yeshua will have eternal life with Yahweh, those who follow other gods will be separated from Him for eternity in hell… as a result of their own choice to reject Him. If this is a hard teaching and you want to reject it, your argument is not with me, but with our Father, Himself.
“…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…”
How can we teach others if we do not first learn ourselves? We must study and seek Yahweh consistently and for a lifetime. Do not only read the Bible in a year. Read it over and over for a lifetime. Focus on understanding and applying rather than just reading a target number of pages in an arbitrary timeline such as a year. Reading scripture was not helpful to the Pharisees and religious leaders as they were not truly applying it correctly. They read it, and memorized it, but did not fully understand and apply it correctly. Truly there was more rejoicing in heaven for the sinners who repented and sought forgiveness in Yeshua, despite not knowing the scriptures well, than for all the “learned” and “well read” scholars that refused to submit to Yahweh. That said, when we submit to Yeshua, we must take on the serious work of reading scripture and understanding it and applying it in our lives.
Note also that Yeshua commands us to obey and teach others to obey “all that I commanded you”. All means all. Those truly submitted to Christ do not get to pick and choose which of His teachings they want to follow and which they reject because they do not like them or understand them or because they are unpopular. Righteousness is unpopular. So is holiness. So was Yeshua. Seek to please the Father rather than men. Obey and teach all that Yeshua commanded.
Just for clarity, this includes observing the laws given by Yahweh through Moses in the Torah, or first 5 books of the Bible, to the extent they have not been fulfilled by Yeshua. (We should be careful in studying what has been fulfilled and what has not. Yeshua clearly states he did not come to abolish the law.)
17“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
The earthly ministry of Yeshua did not change right and wrong so as to lead us away from following Yahweh’s law or “set us free” from Yahweh’s law. Rather Yeshua constantly lived the example of honoring the law including things like honoring Sabbath and celebrating Passover, which have been incorrectly tossed aside by mainstream Christianity today. For more on this subject, read our teaching on Understanding The Law – What Does It Mean For Us Today?
“… and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
It is amazing and at times overwhelming how much significance is contained inside this command from Yeshua, commonly called the Great Commission. To obey such a command may seem a daunting or intimidating task. So, too, it must have seemed to the disciples when Yeshua first commanded them. That is why He finishes by assuring them that He will be with them throughout this mission and beyond.
We now have the benefit of seeing the successes and failures of God’s people in living out the Great Commission 2000 years later. While individuals and groups of people often fail, God has none the less used many courageous servants to spread the good news of the gospel across the world. (For more on the gospel, read our teaching The Message Of The Cross – Salvation.)
But there is much more work to be done. The mission is not complete. Now it is our turn!
How do we begin such a task? Study and follow the example of Jesus Christ. Likewise, we can study how others, like Paul or Moses or Elijah practiced discipleship to share God’s word. We explore this in more detail in our teaching, The Great Commission – Personal Discipleship Plan.
I invite you to pray with me:
Father help draw me near to You and open my eyes to Your wonderful ways. Let me not live for men or for myself, but rather for You. Help show me how to live out the great commission consistent with Your calling for me. Amen.
Teaching by John in service to Christ