The Great Commission of Matthew 28 (1)
Usually when I do evangelism training I have a time when I discuss the Great Commission as we find it in Matthew 28:18-20. After reading the verses, I explain to them that the Greek language in which the New Testament was written has different types of verbs. This helps us to distinguish between the main verb and auxiliary verbs. In Matthew 28:19, which we know as the Great Commission, we find four verbs, namely:
- Make disciples
Then I ask them to tell me which one of these they consider to be the main verb. (Before you continue reading, what do you think?) In the majority of cases people consider the first verb, Go, as the main verb, but usually there are some who would guess the second or the fourth. (Very seldom do people consider Baptise as the main verb). However, the correct answer is the second verb, Make disciples. The implication of this is that the main task of the church, according to the Great Commission, should be to create disciples (devoted followers) of Jesus Christ. What’s so amazing about this?
Traditionally it was seen that to go was the real issue. Therefore people were really only considered to be missionaries if they went somewhere, preferably as far as possible from home. But we don’t need to go away from our home country before we can be missionaries. Wherever we are, God wants us to be in the process of making disciples. Which is pretty much what Bob Roberts also says. I heard this interpretation of the Great Commission for the first time from David Bosch and after studying the Greek text I realised that he was right and suddenly this part made so much more sense to me. Of course, some people will still be called to leave their home countries on a permanent base in order to become a missionary. Others will leave their home countries for short-term outreaches. All of these are still valid, but being a missionary now becomes a daily commission for each and every Christian.
A better way to translate this verse to illustrate the true meaning, may be something like: Therefore, wherever you are going (or: as you are going along your daily life), make disciples of all nations, baptising and teaching them as well. This means that God calls us to be missionaries wherever we are: at home, at work, at school, at a sports club. Wherever we go, we need to keep our eyes open for opportunities to help others to become devoted followers of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
If we understand this verse correctly, our Christian faith gets a whole new meaning. For sure there are people who are called by God to be full-time missionaries, but if all Christians could start looking for opportunities to share Christ with others (regardless of which method they use do it), what a different place this world could be! The fact is that all Christians are in trusting relationships with people who are not Christians as well as with others who are not disciples of Christ. I believe that God wants us to keep our eyes open for opportunities which may come our way during our daily lives when we can witness to such people about our faith. People may differ about the method used. People may feel that we need to do this differently in the post-modern world which we find mostly in Western countries. All this is beside the point. In whatever way works the best for me and for the people whom I socialise with, I should be busy making disciples. This is the principle given to us as the Great Commission.
Once Christians agree on that, they can look for the best way to do it.