Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

The Great Commission of Matthew 28 (2)

The biggest problem which I have found with the Great Commission, is that, for many Christians, it becomes the Great Burden! They know that they should be witnessing for the Lord, but it all seems just too much of an effort and far too difficult. And then they start feeling guilty because they have not done enough for the Lord but at the same time they also don’t know how to change their attitude. The secret is to see Matthew 28:19 as an integral part of verses 18 and 20.
Verses 18 and 20b are like two slices of bread, which, together with the filling (verse 19 & 20a) makes a sandwich. Let’s have a look at these two verses: The Great Commission starts with a promise from God: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. When we become a witness, this is a promise we need to cling to. I find it surprising that Christians still feel that they need to go out and “claim” a certain area for God as if that area doesn’t belong to Him until they have gone through that process. In the light of Psalm 24:1 which says: The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it, as well as many other similar parts of Scripture, this does not make sense to me. And in essence this is what Jesus is also saying in Matthew 28:19. All authority already belongs to Him. And because this is true, He can send us out with His authority – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… God’s authority is the ground on which we are sent out into the world.
But the promise does not end there. The second part of verse 20 says: And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. As we are witnessing in the world, making disciples of all nations, it may sometimes feel as if we are working in vain. Or it may feel as if we are all on our own. On Tuesday I was speaking to someone who had committed herself to work in Swaziland for a year at an orphanage, but I can sense that she is really feeling desperately lonely. I wrote about her some time ago under the topic of culture shock. I couldn’t spend much time with her, but I really feel that she needs to understand that the Great Commission doesn’t stop at the first part of verse 20. There’s also a verse 20b which she really has to experience.
I have seen many people who read Matthew 28, realised that God is commissioning them for service, but then falter when they realise the enormity of the task. And therefore we have to read the words immediately before and immediately after the Great Commission in order to know that the task is manageable, because we’re not going into the world to conquer the heathens. We are going out into a world which already fully belongs to God to tell those living there who the real King is. And if we feel afraid of the task, then we can take comfort in the fact that we’re not on our own. God is going with us.
Then the Great Commission changes into a Great Promise of God!


Friday, September 21, 2007 - Posted by | Culture Shock, Evangelism, Hope, Mission, Swaziland, Theology


  1. Announcing a Kingdom that already exists? That makes sense. THe moment when you divorce missions from the Kingdom of God, you get biiiiig trouble 🙂

    Comment by Piet Steyn | Saturday, September 22, 2007 | Reply

  2. I have been a missionary 30 years.

    Each time I read about missions or mission organizations, I want to visit and look at the books. Unfortunately mission organizations and missionaries often talk a good story but they actually live very well and make a living off the poor. I wonder where the deny yourself comes in for missions and missionaries.

    Returning from Vietnam, I attended a conference where a million dollars was spent by the conference holders and atendees. I imagned Jesus standing on a hillside inmparison and then talked with the folks in Vietnam that were going to jail for Jesus. Imagine, if you will, being poor and hearing about this or that conference where people “fly” in from around the world to talk about helping people who receive no help from the endless meetings.

    Having traveled much of the world, I wonder if it would not be better for someone to give rather than conference, to walk rather than talk and to actually go, instead of having people attend an endless number of conferences.

    I have worked with many missionaries and mission organizations and am amazed that the amount of money spent on missions that never gets to the field could end world hunger.


    Comment by Dad | Saturday, November 8, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hi Bobby, you are absolutely right of course. I sense the same thing which you mention. Obviously, not all mission conferences are the same and not all people attending mission conferences are the same. I’ve attended conferences where I left with a new enthusiasm to do my work, where I have been able to establish new partnerships and where I just knew that the money spent on the conference was worthwhile. But I have also had the experience you describe, where you leave feeling that it was a waste of time and money.
    By the way, I just read something this morning, that the money spent in the USA on ice cream each year could solve the ENTIRE world’s water problem! Sometimes it would be better to give rather than going to a conference, but unfortunately, in most cases, that money will never reach any mission organisations.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Saturday, November 8, 2008 | Reply

  4. […] we should understand the great commission in Matthew 28: The Great Commission of Matthew 28 (1) and The Great Commission of Matthew 28 (2). What I wrote there was essentially how Bosch explains the Great Commission. What I would like to […]

    Pingback by Transforming Mission - Chapter 2 « Mission Issues | Friday, March 27, 2009 | Reply

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