What’s So Great about the Great Commission?
Don’t give me credit for the following insight. The main idea I heard for the first time last month, in a preparatory meeting for the Eleuthera Mission Trip. It was insightful to me, and I wanted to share it with you.
How many of you can recite the “Great Commission”? Most of you, I’m sure, know it from Matthew 28:18-20:
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
A few things to point out (things I’ve learned over the last 19 years or so):
- The basis of Jesus commands is rooted in His authority. Don’t leave off verse 18. All that we do must come back to the headship of Jesus Christ.
- In the Greek, there is one action verb in Jesus’ command. It is “make disciples.” Go, baptize, and teach are participles, which describe the directive to make disciples.
- No matter how things go, we are encouraged and empowered by the fact that Jesus will always be with us.
This passage tends to be the basis for missions and missionaries. Make disciples! Go! Baptize! Teach! It’s the Great Commission.
But do you notice something about this passage? (I didn’t until a pastor pointed this out 6 weeks ago.) Jesus never calls this the Great Commission. We came up with that idea, not Jesus.
So what commandment does Jesus call great? See Matthew 22:36-40:
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus says two commandments are great: first, to love the Lord, and second, to love others.
Have we gotten this all wrong? Has the church focused more on “missions” instead of worship and service? Have we put the missions cart ahead of the worship horse?
In Let the Nations Be Glad!, John Piper writes:
“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate.”
As I look back on our time in Allendale, and a lot of the mistakes I’ve made, this idea has been encouraging. Sometimes I get frustrated that I haven’t been an evangelist. Of course, I need to not neglect that duty to spread the Gospel, but I need to remember that I can’t forget that Jesus greatest commandment is to worship God.
If I worship God and love others, the “missions” part will take care of itself. It will be a natural outflow to what we do. So let us focus less on our Great Commission, and more on Jesus’ Great Commandments.