The Great Commission – Christ’s Authority & Our Faithful Response

Topical

John Carter – April 7, 2013 – Matthew 28:16-20 – Topical
 The Great Commission – Christ’s Authority & Our Faithful Response

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In The Beginning
In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth; and God had all authority over the heavens and the earth. On the Earth God made a Garden called Eden. It was in this garden that God placed newly formed Adam. Adam was given commands: rule, subdue, don’t eat from one particular tree. Adam was then given a wife with whom he was to be fruitful and multiply. Implicitly, Adam was also to teach the commands of God to all those who he was responsible for. First Eve and then all of his children. But with the fall of Man, through his rebellion, this order was distorted and in many ways destroyed. It is through the Gospel that the rebellion finds its demise. And so it would be appropriate to see this order reestablished.

In Matthew 28:16-20 we find that order reestablished. Here we find that all authority has been given to Jesus who is then commanding His disciples to go into the land (the nations), to be fruitful and multiply (make disciples), stamp his image on them (baptize them), and teach them the Commands of Christ (teach them). Matthew 28:16-20 is a recapitulation of what happened in the beginning in the Garden of Eden between Adam & Eve and God.

1. Jesus Meets His Disciples on the Mountain
28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

At the beginning of our passage v 16-17 we find ourselves looking at what is happening on the Mountain in Galilee where the disciples are gathering together in obedience to Christ (Matt 13:39, 28:7, 10) to wait for him. This is going to be the final encounter the disciples are going to have with Jesus after his resurrection but before his ascension to the right hand of God (Acts 8:56). It is startling and yet comforting to know that as the disciples began to worship Jesus as they saw Him approach some doubted. These few men who had no reason to doubt still found room for doubt. Yet we find no rebuke for their doubt in this passage like Thomas received in John 20:27-29. Doubt is not a deadly, denial is (2 Tim 2:11-13).  But this is not the heart of the passage rather this passage is this recasting of the creation narrative found in Genesis 1-2.

2. All Authority in Heaven and on Earth Belong to Jesus; who is God in the Flesh
28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

First and foremost our attention must be directed to the assertion of Christ regarding his authority. Authority not just over His Church or a localized authority but instead an authority over both Heaven and Earth. This authority must be compared to the implicit authority found in Genesis 1:1 where “in the beginning God made the Heavens and the Earth.” This premise of God’s authority is either magnified or challenged in Matt 28:18 when Jesus claims to have all authority in Heaven and Earth. If Jesus is not fully God then he cannot have this authority. Most every doctrine of the Bible is connected to the fact that because God created everything He retain the authority over everything He created.

3. Because Jesus has All Authority we are obligated to submit to His Authority
28:19 therefore

Just like in Genesis 1 this stating of Christ’s authority over heaven and earth is what gives Christ the right to demand a certain response from those whom claim to be his disciples. That is why there is the use of the word ‘therefore’ which directly ties the stamen to follow with what preceded. Simply stated, Christ has all authority therefore we must make disciples.

Indicative – Imperative

4. We Go-Make Disciples to Be Fruitful and Multiply
28:19 
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth

When reading through the Old Testament there is a theme that emerges. This theme seems also to show up after God has displayed his authority. Adam & Eve are told to ‘be fruitful & multiply’ (Gen 1:28), later Noah after being redeemed from the flood (9:1), Jacob (Israel) (Gen 28:3, 35:11, 48:4), the Nation of Israel (26:9), and finally as a sign of promise to the remnant

(Jer 23:3, Ezk 36:11). Be fruitful and multiplying is not just a hopeful ideal. It is our privilege to take part in this promise and command.

Right now the Church’s greatest task is to go make disciples. The idea of ‘going’ and ‘making’ is a synonymous task. We could easily say “make disciple, while you are going”. However this active making should be not be confused with just making converts or with only making people more informed of the Gospel. The Church is to seek out people of all nations (everyone) to make them students of Christ. After three years with Jesus the disciples were still called disciples. This should lead us to believe that making a disciple should never be relegated to an 8 week course. Moreover, Jesus began discipling people before they were officially his disciples. Our task of discipling does not began at conversion, rather it begins pre-conversion. Making a disciple of Christ contains two major elements: baptizing and teaching. It is at conversion that we baptize new converts. And after conversion we and the new convert become more engaged in their learning of the commands of Christ.

5. Baptism is Publicly recognizing that we are Image Bearers of  the Triune God Head
28:19 baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Baptism is not optional for the believer. Here we see in verse 19 Jesus explicitly command that all those who are his disciples are to be baptized. But why is baptism so important? On the surface level baptism is the submerging of a believer into water and bringing them out again to show the world that they have died to their flesh and are now born into their new life as a disciple of Christ. But more important than simply stating our new life in Christ, when we are baptized we are reestablishing our status as an image bear of the Triune God. It is true that all humanity is created in the image of God. But through Baptism believers are displaying an association with this truth. There is a difference between liking a sports team and being on the team. There is a difference between liking jewelry and owning it. There is a difference between liking children and raising them. We may or may not like the idea of being made in the image of God, but there is a monumental difference between like and commitment.

If on June 16, 2002 I got down on one knee and looked Katie in the eyes while holding a ring and told her, “ I love liking you, and I love you liking me. Let’s like each other forever.” But I never marry her, there is no commitment. There is no real association in that. There would be a semi-association between us two. But that is not lasting. The lasting element is to go get married.

For a professing believer there is no biblical argument to not take part in baptism. And historically speaking a believer is not even to participate in the communion unless they are baptized. Because taking part in communion is to profess Christ’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26).

At conversion the new believer is committing themselves to being a disciple of Christ. So to follow in the steps of Christ they should go be baptized publicly to confess their allegiance to Christ. Baptism doesn’t need to take place in a church building. Nor does it need to be done by an ordained minister. It just needs to be done in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

6. Christ’s Commands are God’s Word’s
28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

But after baptism now what? After we baptize new believers we are responsible to teach these new disciples; whether through 1:1 discipleship, or through small groups, or through the public preaching of the Gospel. Just like Adam was responsible to teach Eve and all his offspring about the Creator of the universe and His commands we too are to teach the commands of Christ which could be summed up into two commands: Love God & Love Others.

It is in interesting study to look and see what it means for God to use speech to communicate his commands. God’s word spoke into creation, God’s word spoke his commands, God’s word became flesh. When we speak the commands of Christ we are not to dwell on legalistic laws. We are to dwell on the word that became flesh.  We are to teach Christ born, crucified, raised, ascended, and soon to come again! Until Christ comes the Church should be consumed with nothing less than making disciples of all people, baptizing them, and teaching them.

If there is no active disciple making in your life and you are a professing believer you are in living in disobedience to Christ’s command. Disciple making involves baptizing and teaching. This is done by personally investing ourselves in the lives of others. Whether this is done by  a mother with her children as she teaches her little ones about the Gospel. Or through the 1:1 time men spend with spiritually younger believers to  show them how to live godly lives and to steer them towards God’s word. And especially preaching in a corporate context. Each week that I teach you the word of God I am discipling you. Another way to speak of discipling someone is to simply say teaching someone. I am teaching, you are learning (hopefully on both counts). To be a disciple is to be a student.  We are to be tutors of the Greatest teacher taking part in the teaching of other students.

7. Christ is Immanuel
28:20 And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone;

Up to this point we have begun to feel the weight of the enormity of the task ahead of us. Especially when we consider that right after Christ gave us this responsibility of disciple making he then left. And as we learned in Gen 2:18 “it is not good for man to be alone.” Yes this was speaking about the relationship between a Husband and a Wife, but the thought is still true in relation to the true Bride (the Church) and the true groom (Jesus the Christ). So where do we find comfort in the midst of Christ’s leaving? We have hope in his eminent return, but where is our comfort now?

It is strange to feel lonely as a Christian. And in the American culture it is especially strange to want to lament as a Christian. Not because these are wrong feelings to have. But because they are feelings that wrongly handled can eclipse the power of the Gospel. How do we find strength in these moments? Where is our hope? Is it in people, in music, organized activities? Our Hope is in the name of Jesus, which is Immanuel, which means, ‘God With Us.’

It is easy to associate the time that Christ was on the earth as the time that God was with us. But if we disassociate his nearness in our present situation we are neglecting a foundational truth about who God is. Yes, Jesus is transcendent. He is far above and beyond us. But he is also imminent. Is very near. This is not just a symbolic presence. Having a picture of our loved ones on our phones is just a symbolic presence. Rather Jesus is spiritually present with us. This truth is told to us earlier in Matthew 18:20 where Jesus states he will be in the presence of those who are gathering in His Name. Yes, Jesus is at the right hand of God, yet at the same time when we pray our words are not traveling through time and space to reach His ears. We will not be left as orphans (John14:18). Jesus is God with us, and Jesus is Coming soon!

Conclusion – God is Sovereign But We Are Responsible
2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

When God made the heavens and the earth he knew the end from the beginning. His intention has always been His glory. The rebellion was not a surprise nor was the cross Plan B.  When we look at this passage in Matthew we should be confronted with the reality that the Gospel was present in the Garden of Eden but is only visible through the work of the cross. Matthew 28 is not a new command. Matthew 28 is another nail in the coffin of the rebellion.

Because Jesus has all authority the Church’s greatest responsibility, our greatest responsibility, until Christ returns is to make disciples of Christ and that is how it has been from the very beginning. God is Sovereign but we are responsible.

Matthew 28:16-20 (A) & Genesis 1-2 (Various Passages) (B)

 Person A:
28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Person B:
1:1 
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Person A:
28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

Person B:
1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth

Person A:
28:19 baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Person B:
1:26 
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Person A:
28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Person B:
1:28 
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

 2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Person A:
28:20 And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Person B:
2:18 
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone;

2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.