Why the social prejudice in 21st century America against and toward talking about religion? There’s a fear of proselytizing—of converting someone to your religion— that runs deep in today’s society and media. It seems dangerous to a lot of people.
As Christians, shouldn’t we just omit certain things in the interest of “social harmony”? Why don’t we just keep quiet?
I mean, seriously, are Christians dumb? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier?
The most important passport we can ever have we get in Matthew 28:16-20. It gets us into all nations. And there are only three responses one may have to the Great Commission: go, send or disobey.
In these verses, we can see four false versions of Christianity that these words of Jesus speak against.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
1. Christ-less Christianity (28:17)
At the heart of any Christianity must be an understanding of Christ Himself (Matt. 28:17).
Notice that the disciples worshipped Him. It’s not just a matter of the head (knowing about Christ), but the heart as well (knowing Christ).
Notice also Matthew says “some doubted” in verse 17. This is a strange thing to include at the end of the book. Why did he say this?
Matthew is realistic to the end—he put it down as the fact it was. Jesus wasn’t deflected by these doubters. They didn’t change His commands or purposes for the disciples. The same goes for us. Some doubted but the disciples worshipped. They bowed their bodies and gave their lives to His service.
Further, notice the totality of Jesus’ words: all authority, all nations, all His teaching, always, all times.
Jesus was claiming to possess the omnipotence of God, and that with His power and His presence, He would be with His disciples. Who else could claim omnipresence?
Though the Trinity (one God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Bible, the idea is certainly there. Jesus understood Himself to be fully God—one in purpose and being with the Spirit and the Father.
It’s amazing that these 1st-century Jewish monotheists were worshipping as God someone they had known. But they did, and they were right to do it.
This Christ-centered Christianity isn’t the kind some people want. People today want morality, respectability, cultural advantages…but not Christ Himself. True obedience to the Great Commission depends on worship of Christ Himself.
2. Selfish Christianity (28:18)
Christ’s words in His exalted state bear the same loving character as His words on the cross. Jesus wants those who become His disciples to love others (John 13:34-35).
This is the basic imperative: not just be disciples but make disciples. God wants us to figure out how to care for others and make disciples.
What does this have to do with us? With all the people we work with? With all the people we’ve never met? Does all your Christianity have to do with yourself?
Within this command to make disciples, Jesus also clearly has a concern for what we would call missions. Jesus is assuming they will—and probably commanding them to—go to all nations.
Remember, the Great Commission would accomplish nothing if not for the fact that Christ has ‘all authority in heaven and on earth
People have had differing interpretations of what this means, but it seems that what Jesus meant by “nations” was language units and people groups. His view is extended beyond Israel.
This is not a new thing. The beginning of Matthew’s gospel goes back to Abraham, to whom God says in Genesis 12:1-3 that all nations will be blessed through you. These witnesses in the gospel now have seen how this plan of God’s was to be accomplished, that is, through their telling the Gospel to all nations.
Why does Jesus, with all that power, take that initiative? People with power usually have other people seeking them out. But God is seeking us. When we seek out others with the Gospel, we are a picture with our lives of God’s love.
This command is still in effect. Billions of people still have not heard the biblical Gospel. So many in cities in other countries.
Pray that God would give you a heart to make His word known in one of these cities—in your city. God wants us to radically care about others, andto give our lives to know them so that they will come to know Christ. You may pray (and you should); you may give (and you should); and you may also go.
Lastly, in Jesus’ words we can infer a special concern for children. The Great Commission is to take effect, not only over space but over time. And not only to all nations but to all generations.
Part of making disciples is having concern for the younger ones who will go someplace we can’t—the future. Parents should think if they are doing this in their own homes.
Parents, carefully consider this: it is not in the first place the church’s responsibility to train children—it is yours. God has given parents and families the fundamental responsibility to train children in the truth of the gospel. Sunday School or small groups are a wonderful assist, but it is only that. As a church, we have to understand the importance of children and youth and seek to disciple them.
3. Careless Christianity (28:19)
Many evangelical Christians find it strange that baptism is inserted here as something basic if we see it as being non-essential for salvation (28:19). However, we can conclude from this verse that God commands baptism, and so we should practice it.
We have no authority to edit Jesus. He’s not just talking about intentions. If Jesus says we are to be baptized, we are to be baptized, and we can see in Acts that it’s a water baptism by immersion (Acts 8:36-39, etc.). We can’t regard it as optional.
Who should be baptized? All true disciples of true God who believe His true Gospel and none other.
4. Casual Christianity (28:20)
Jesus is concerned with real evangelism. He didn’t say “teaching them everything” but teaching them “to obey” everything.
Jesus wants disciples, not just opinions. Truly becoming a Christian may happen in a moment, but its effects last a lifetime. It may take time for someone to sort out what following Jesus means in their lives, and that’s okay. We should not be quick to count those “won,” as evangelical churches historically have been.
When you become a Christian, your life doesn’t immediately become perfect, but it does become different (read the whole book of 1 John!). Only disciples are to be baptized.
What are our reasons for not fulfilling the Great Commission?
We may fear social rejection, or being a poor witness. But our silence can’t obey Christ’s commands here. We must pray for people; we must verbally proselytize, evangelize, and witness (Romans 10:13-17). A people who does this will be a outsider in this world. Because we follow the Risen One who has sent us, we will be despised for proselytizing.
The Gospel of Christ hasn’t ceased to go out, yet the Great Commission won’t be revoked. Real Christianity is Christ-centered, costly, and committed to obeying these words. To that end, He will be with us until the end of the age.
Will you accept this Great Commission to be His disciple?