by Cody Watson, Associate Director
Jesus’ last charge to His disciples before ascending to heaven includes these words:
“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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).
Surprisingly, a 2018 Barna survey showed many American churchgoers are unfamiliar with this “Great Commission” and its context in scripture. It amazed me to learn so few recognize the passage.
This mandate to go and proclaim the Gospel wasn’t an isolated message. Jesus spoke numerous times to His followers about their calling to be witnesses of His Kingdom to the world (see Mark 16:14–18, Luke 24:44–49, John 20:19–23 and Acts 1:4–8). And beyond these few texts, Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 tie in with the entire arc of scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Matthew 28:18–20 has been an important passage to me since my seminary days, but it wasn’t until years later that I saw how integral it was to the rest of the Bible. When Dr. Ralph Winter connected these words of Jesus to the Abrahamic covenant, especially in Genesis 28:13–15, the lights went on in my mind. In a sense, Jesus didn’t give the Great Commission for the first time. Instead, He was reaffirming what had already been the calling of God’s people since the beginning. God’s ultimate goal was for there to be followers of Jesus from every nation, tribe, people and language.
God wants the whole world to know what He has accomplished through His Son. Yet still nearly two billion people have no understanding of what Jesus accomplished for them through His death and resurrection. And the Center for the Study of Global Christianity reports that 86% of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists don’t even personally know a Christian.
The fulfillment of the Great Commission has been God’s call to the Church throughout many generations. He has given us authority to serve as His ambassadors in the world. He has equipped us through the power of the Holy Spirit and promised to be with us. May God continue to stir me, you and all who follow Him with energy and courage to “go and make disciples of all nations.”