Matthew 28:18-20 (International Standard Version)
Then Jesus approached them and told them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age.’
When stating the great commission, so many people leave out verse 18. In my opinion, this verse is the most important verse of the entire passage. When we leave this verse off, it changes the context of the passage. Let me explain…
There is a debate in today’s Christian world about what the word “go” means in this text. According to what I’ve heard, the translation of “go” in the Greek can be better understood as “as you go”. I think that is a beautiful translation to help break down the unhealthy divide between missionaries and the everyday Christian. It is definitely true that you do not have to go to Africa to make disciples, you can do it right in your own neighborhood, at the grocery store, etc! But I think tragically the word “go” or “as you go” has become too passive, thus forcing this divide back in place.
Now, here is the reason that I think verse 18 MUST be a part of the Great Commission: we must trust Jesus’ deity, his oneness with the Father, “having all authority in heaven and on earth”. God is the author of Salvation (Rom. 5:9) and He is the one who draws people to salvation (John 6:44). So without that verse, it puts the emphasis on us going rather than on Christ who is in control of all. When we realize that the weight of salvation is off our shoulders and we can rest in the sovereignty of God, then GO-ing just becomes allowing God to work through us to draw people to Salvation, to produce fruit, wherever we are.
That fact allows us to live in freedom, but we still must be intentional. In Douglas Sean O’Donnell’s commentary on Matthew, he says:
“There must be movement to our mission. And the movement in our text (Matthew 18) is not the movement from sitting in our pews to standing to sing. Neither is the movement from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall. Rather, it is the movement out the front door to take the gospel to lost people. This going (how can I say this strongly) is why the church exists.” (Hughes pg. 914)
We must move, and we must proclaim! We MUST make disciples! Let’s not do it out of obligation or legalism, let’s do it out of a response to the way that Christ saved us and out of the freedom that Christ controls all things!
Lastly, the Great Commission is just that…great! There is an article written by Steven C. Hawthorne called “Mandate of the Mountain” from Perspectives for the World Christian Movement book that sums up the great commission this way:
All the Peoples
All of the Commands
All of the Days
While the commission’s totality is overwhelming and scary at times, we remember the second half of the last verse of the great commission that seals it all together- Matthew 28:20: “And REMEMBER, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age.” So AS WE GO we rest in the fact that the God of the Universe is with us and beside us all the time.