The Church's Mission
Matthew 28:18-20 is often called “The Great Commission” because it contains Jesus’ final command to his disciples. It’s a popular passage regarding global missions (for good reason!), but its importance extends beyond global missions and straight to the heart of the Church’s identity and mission. This Sunday, we will break it down as simple as one, two, three.
One Command. Jesus gave the disciples one command: “make disciples of all nations.” In the Greek, this is the only verb in the sentence. This is the primary mission Jesus gave to the disciples. If we are not first and foremost making disciples then we have disregarded the mission Jesus gave the Church. Discipleship is more than education or a transfer of information; it’s about following Jesus and becoming more like him. This is our mission, to call those who are far from God to know, love, and obey Jesus Christ.
Two Promises. Jesus gave two promises: that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to him, and that he would be with us to the very end of the age. These promises are the foundation upon which the Church fulfills the Great Commission. We do not pursue the Great Commission on our own power. There are indeed great obstacles of many kinds to overcome in fulfilling the Great Commission… but if God is with us, whom shall we fear?
Three Pathways. Sometimes people say that Jesus never gave instructions for the Church’s discipleship plan. But the Great Commission presents three essential (and biblical!) pathways for disciple-making. First, we are instructed to go. If we don’t go, then we can’t make disciples of all nations. The Church is a mission, not an attraction. “If you build it, they will come” may be fine for baseball parks, but not for the church. Christians grow as disciples in order to be sent out into the world. Second, we are told to “baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is the ordinance whereby someone who was not a Christian publicly confesses their faith in Jesus Christ. Being baptized in the name of the Trinity shows they have not only been instructed in the gospel, but also taught essential truths about who God is and what he has done, and then new believers are called to demonstrate their repentance from sin through the waters of baptism. Third, new believers are taught to “observe everything I have commanded you.” Simply put, they’re taught how to live as a Christian because God is renewing them into the image of his Son. Discipleship is not merely intellectual, but is extremely practical because it helps the Christian know, love, and obey God.
This is our mission: make disciples of all nations. Some of us are called to go oversees to those who have no opportunity to hear the gospel, but every Christian lives with a missionary’s calling: at school, at work, at home, in your neighborhood, and online. May Emmanuel increasingly be a church of disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples….