God’s Mission for the Church: A Look at Matthew 28:18-20

By Mike Pettengill, Feb 8, 2018

The mission of the Christion Church is found in the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18–20 Jesus instructs the corporate body to make disciples of non-believers, baptize them, and teach them God’s ways. Only then will we see more people in fellowship, more people educated in the truth, and more people praising God. When this happens God will receive greater glory.

Christ having authority over peoples and nations was not an original idea and was likely used by Jesus to cause the Jews to think of Daniel 7:13 and its declaration of dominion and glory over “peoples, nations and languages.” Christ had earlier declared authority had been given to Him by the Father (Matt. 11:27), but in the Great Commission the authority to teach is passed from Christ to His disciples for the first time. The disciples and the corporate Church are now endowed with the great authority given to them by Jesus Christ. This gives great boldness and confidence to the Church and the disciples knowing God’s plan will be fulfilled through their actions.

The Church must go out into the world. The Church must travel where the lost reside. Even in this technologically advanced age a disciple can’t be made over the internet or only by phone. The Church must go and must send disciples out into the streets and into the jungles to reach the lost. The going action is presupposed by the making of disciples. Disciples cannot be made unless someone has gone.

Make Disciples
The making of disciples is an active process that the Church must participate in. It is not only a believer or two who disciple for a season, but the entire Church is to continuously participate in making disciples—across the street and around the world. While great glory can come to God by showing a film or handing out tracts, that is not disciple-making. If a person raises their hand, comes to the front of the church or says a prayer, the work has only just begun. Disciple-making is a hard, lengthy, and messy process. Disciples are made, not born. No Christian is given a pass on making disciples and no church exempt from this corporate mandate. Of this verse David Platt preached, “This is huge. Biblically, to be a disciple is to make disciples. Scripture knows nothing of disciples who aren’t making disciples.”

All Nations
Jesus’ earthly ministry took place in Israel. Now, His Bride is called to go outside Israel and disciple the whole world. The central focus for the disciples at the time Jesus spoke was to no longer focus only on Israel, but to include the Gentiles in their mission. This was a shift from Christ’s previous instructions and would have been a great shock to His disciples. As the Church today, we are to disciple all people groups, all languages, and all nations. No people group is to go undiscipled.

Washing and baptizing is a near constant theme throughout all of Scripture. The Church in the wilderness was “baptized into Moses” (1 Cor. 10:2). The post-ascension disciples baptized as they went (Acts 2:38). Paul called for baptism in his epistles (Tim. 3:4–7). Baptism is a rite of washing, in the name of the Trinity, and signifies and seals the covenant of grace. Baptism is the way a new disciple is called to publicly display His relationship with Christ.

Jesus commands the Church to teach new disciples, “all that I have commanded.” That is a staggering volume of information. While showing films, short-term mission trips, and mercy ministry play a part in missions, the reality is teaching God’s ways is a long, very labor-intensive process. The missions ministries of church planting, discipling, and theological education are where this aspect of the Great Commission is to be fulfilled. In relation to the significance this command carries, it is under-represented in global outreach.

End of the Age
When should the Church stop going to the nations and making disciples by teaching and baptizing them? Not until the end of time, or as some have stated, until Jesus returns. Based on this, the Great Commission is something that should keep the Church and its disciples busy for a very long time.

Our Mission
The Great Commission is given under the banner of the authority of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus’ authority is universal, the command must also be thought of as universal. All churches are to go to all people to teach the whole gospel. Charles Spurgeon said of the Great Commission, “This is the perpetual commission of the Church of Christ; and the great seal of the kingdom attached to it, giving the power to execute it, and guaranteeing its success, is the King’s assurance of His continual presence with His faithful followers.”

God’s Great Commission should not be thought of as optional, but compulsory. Not every church is required to reach every nation, but every church must play a part in discipling the nations. The lost soul across the street will go to the same hell as the lost soul in the jungles of Africa.

The Great Commission is a mandate from a merciful God to His faithful Church to disciple the lost by going into the world and baptizing and teaching them to obey His commands. Matthew 28:18–20 requires an obedient church with disciples who are willing to avail themselves for God’s glory. The result is the compassion of God spread to the elect.

Mike Pettengill served in Honduras and Equatorial Guinea, and now serves as the director of the MTW West Coast mobilization center. 


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