The Great Commission: There’s More to it Than You Think

by Jun 16, 2023Christian Living

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”   Matthew 28:18-20

When believers think, “The Great Commission”, some gravitate towards one of two extremes. On one hand, there are those who think that the Great Commission involves ONLY evangelism. They equate it to “get up, go out, and share the gospel with someone. There are others who downplay the role of evangelism in the Great Commission saying that it is ONE of many things involved. 

When we take a closer look at the various components of the Great Commission, we see that while the command involves more than just evangelism, evangelism is weaved throughout each part. 

make disciples

This is the core of the Great Commission. The word “disciple” means a learner and follower who strives to become like the one they are following. Because the verb make is a command, Jesus is ordering His disciples to replicate themselves. This would result in more followers of Jesus who endeavor to become more like Him and who will, in turn, make more disciples.

Evangelism is a vital part of making disciples. Before someone can follow Christ as His disciple, they need to trust Him as their Savior. Evangelism is the process where we invite them to that.

of all nations

By adding this phrase, Jesus was declaring that the scope of the mission. The term “nations” refers to “people groups” made up of all races and national origins.

As we look at how Jesus and the disciples reached those from other cultures, we see them leading with evangelism. It is how Jesus initiated the conversation with the Samaritan woman and how Peter reached people from various countries on the day of Pentecost. The gospel is what empowered Philip to reach the Ethiopian Eunuch and was the starting place for Paul to reach people from a multitude of countries.

Go therefore

This is the first of three phrases (participles) that surround the central command, “make disciples”. Some teach that because “go” is not a verb in the original language, it means to make disciples “as you go” through your normal patterns in life. However, because “go” precedes the verb “make disciples” and is the same tense, it should be treated as an accompanying action. [1] This means that “go” is just as much a part of the command as “make disciples”.

The emphasis of “go” here is that we are not to wait for the world to come to us, but we are to “go” to them. As Tony Evans puts it, “To make disciples, then, you must go; leave your holy huddle, take your witness with you into the world, and share the gospel.”

baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

This is the first of two clauses that tell HOW we are to make disciples. The word for “baptizing” here is more than just a physical act of immersing someone under water. It involves a change of identity.

When we share the gospel with someone and they trust Christ, they move from being God’s enemy to God’s child. Water baptism is the outward sign of the new inward reality. It announces to others that that person identifies with all three persons of the trinity: chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and set apart and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you

Teaching” is the second means by which “making disciples” takes place. This teaching not only involves instruction, but also training them how to obey through modeling. Therefore, to “make disciples” we need to be disciples who teach and model what Jesus taught and modeled for us.  

This includes evangelism. If our goal is to become like Jesus and train others to become like Jesus, we need to teach and model everything Jesus did, including His outreach to others.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

This is the first of two promises surrounding the command. By saying this, Jesus is announcing, “I’m large and in charge.” It is Jesus’s authority that makes possible His mission.  

Sharing the gospel in today’s culture can be intimidating. We are opposed by many enemies. However, Jesus has authority over them all and will empower us to accomplish what He calls us to do no matter the odds or opposition.  

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age

Jesus ends the Great Commission with another promise. The disciples knew that without Jesus, they could do nothing. (John 15:5). Jesus promises that as we pursue His mission, we will experience His presence through the Holy Spirit. He not only gives us orders but will be with us to help us carry them out.

What a great relief knowing that we are partnering with Jesus in the Great Commission. Wherever He calls us to share the gospel, we can be confident that He has gone before to prepare hearts, that He will be with us as we share, and that He will remain after us continuing to draw the person to Himself and send additional witnesses to them.

Bottom line:  A common thread throughout the Great Commission is telling others about our great Savior!


[1] Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 645.