Matthew 28.18-20



1.   In Matthew 28.18-20, we find the most well known version of what is typically called the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Find that passage in your Bible and stand for the reading of God’s Word:

18     And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19     Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20    Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. 

2.   It may surprise you to observe that in Matthew’s version of the Great Commission, we see the risen Christ commanding His disciples what they are to go forth and do, and a general plan for doing it.  They are to make disciples by going, by baptizing, and then by teaching to observe all things whatsoever He commanded.

3.   But notice what is missing from this version of the Great Commission.  There is no mention in these three verses of what is to be taught.  If you want to know what is to be communicated, and how that truth is to be communicated, you have to go elsewhere.

4.   At this time, turn to Mark’s version of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Great Commission, Mark 16.15-16:

15     And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16     He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 

5.   This version of the Great Commission makes no mention of making disciples, but is more specific about what message is to be communicated, and how it is to be communicated.  The gospel is to be preached.  As well, specific mention is made of the destiny of individuals being tied to their response to the gospel that is preached to them. 

6.   It is fitting that the version found in Mark, a gospel thought to be written to benefit a Gentile target audience, would make mention of preaching the gospel to every creature, while Matthew’s gospel, thought to be written to a Jewish audience, makes mention of “all nations.”

7.   A comment is needed to clarify this phrase in Matthew’s gospel, “all nations.”  In the 20th and 21st centuries, the concept of a nation is quite different than it used to be, with nations all over the world now being populated by different people groups with different ethnic identities.  But the Greek word found in Matthew 28.19, that is translated “nations,” is the Greek word eqnoV, which refers to people united by kinship, culture, and common traditions.[1]  Our word “ethnic” comes directly from this Greek word.

8.   So, though it is thought these days by English speaking people that the Lord Jesus Christ was directing His followers to make disciples in every country, He was actually directing His followers to make disciples among every ethnic group.  Thus, there has always been in the Bible a directive to reach people who do not share your ethnic background, who do not look like you and who do not talk like you.

9.   What this means is, you cannot claim obedience to the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ by sending missionaries to foreign countries, all the while making no effort to reach those in your same city who grow up speaking a different language than you and eating different food than you are used to eating.

10. Thus, what is not so obvious in Matthew is very obvious in Mark, where the words Jesus spoke are, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”  Everyone is to be preached to.  Every ethnic group is to be evangelized.

11. A third version of the Great Commission is found in Luke 24, where the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to the two men He encountered on the road to Emmaus following His resurrection.  Read Luke 24.45-48:

45     Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

46     And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

47     And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

48     And ye are witnesses of these things. 

12. In this version of the Great Commission we see that the Lord Jesus Christ’s desire is that repentance be an integral part of gospel preaching, something which is not so obvious from Matthew’s and Mark’s gospel.  And while the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is specifically noted in this account of the Great Commission, baptism and the training of new disciples is not mentioned, even in passing.

13. A fourth version of the Great Commission is found in Acts 1.8.  The Lord Jesus Christ uttered these words to His disciples moments before He ascended into heaven to His Father’s right hand, where He remains until His second coming:  “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

14. This version, too, says nothing about baptism and indoctrination of new converts.  But it does clearly show that the entire world was the simultaneous mission field of those disciples.  It is very clear from a comparison of the different versions of the Great Commission that are recorded in the New Testament that a certain thing is to be done a certain way to a certain audience, and that full compliance with Christ’s will requires that all of the versions of the Great Commission be studied and implemented.

15. From Matthew’s gospel we see that the Great Commission is a command to make disciples, something that does not show up nearly as strongly in English as it does in the Greek New Testament.  Furthermore, the Great Commission in Matthew shows the particular sequence that is to be employed to make a disciple, as well as emphasizing that every ethnic group is to be evangelized.

16. From Mark’s gospel, we see an emphasis on preaching, on preaching to every creature, on preaching the gospel, on baptism for those who believe, and the destiny of those who believe and those who do not believe.

17. From Luke’s gospel we see that repentance is an integral part of genuine evangelistic preaching, something rarely emphasized these days.  And in the other New Testament book that Luke wrote, the book of Acts, we observe what we have seen in the other gospel accounts of the Great Commission, that all of mankind is the mission field, and that the Lord Jesus Christ’s directive is to take the good news to everyone.

18. With that background review of the Great Commission concluded, brother Isenberger comes at this time to lead us in a song before this morning’s sermon, “Our Great Commission.” 


1.   My text for this morning is Matthew 28.18-20.  Please stand and read that passage once again with me:

18     And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19     Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20     Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. 

2.   The Lord Jesus Christ trained His men with repetition.  Again and again and again He would teach a truth.  First this way, and then that way, and then another way.  Over and over and over again until those men thoroughly understood not only the truth, but also the implications of that truth.

3.   Methinks pastors, including me, do a disservice to church members by teaching too much new truth and not spending enough time inculcating old truths into people until it becomes a part of their lives, until it is absorbed into the deep recesses of their minds, until it becomes a part of their view of the world around them.  The Lord Jesus Christ was not guilty of that error.

4.   Whether it be the Great Commission or some other truth, the Savior’s approach was based upon His understanding that “. . .  precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”[2]  That is why there are so many versions of the Great Commission.

5.   But the Great Commission was given 2,000 years ago to a small group of men who lived 8,500 miles from here.  What does it really have to do with you and me?  That is why the title of my message this morning is “Our Great Commission.”  By the time I have concluded I want you to buy into the Great Commission as not only the Great Commission given by our Lord Jesus Christ, but also the Great Commission as given to you and me.

6.   Consider the title of this message as the focus of three ideas I want you to consider: 


1B.    It is possible that something can, at one and the same time, be possessed by one and also by another.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with me reckoning that the house I live in being mine, while at the same time my wife and my daughter can also think of it as theirs.  Thus, while we own up to the fact that the Great Commission is the Lord Jesus Christ’s in that He authored it, He verbalized it, He issued it, it is also ours in that we are the intended recipients of Christ’s directive.

2B.    But at this point there is a question raised in the minds of some:  “How can the Great Commission be mine when it was issued so long ago to some men so far away?”  Please look carefully to the last half of Matthew 28.20 for the answer to that curious question:  “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  Amen.”

3B.      How very comforting were these words from the risen Savior to His disciples.  What profound assurance they derived from this One Who had conquered death that He would be with them as they faced persecution and, yes, even death.  But do not fail to notice that the Savior’s words of comfort were not directed only to the men who faced Him on that occasion.  “. . . even unto the end of the world” reveals that this promise of comfort and consolation was guaranteed to Christ’s followers long after those few men were dead and buried.

4B.      You see, the word translated “world” in Matthew 28.20 is the Greek word aiwnoV, which has so broad a range of meanings that it can mean the world as a geographical region, a long period of time without reference to beginning or end, or an age or era of history.[3]  In this context, the word translated “world” clearly refers to an era of human history.

5B.    So you see, what the Lord Jesus Christ said to those few men so long ago and so far away, is as applicable to you and me here today in Calvary Road Baptist Church as it was to them, because this process of making disciples, who will then make disciples, who will then make disciples, was intended by our Lord Jesus Christ to be an age long process, ending only with the Rapture of the church.  So, you can take the Great Commission as being just as much yours as it was John’s, just as much as it was Peter’s, just as much was it was Andrew’s, and so on.

6B.    But is it legitimate to own the Great Commission as our commission?  Consider the parallel of the gospel.  In Romans 1.1, the apostle Paul identifies the gospel as “the gospel of God,” God’s gospel.  In Romans 1.9, Paul identifies the gospel as “the gospel of his Son,” as essentially Christ’s gospel.  But in Romans 2.16, he strongly asserts that the gospel is “my gospel,” Paul’s gospel.  He does it again in Romans 16.25.  Finally, in Second Corinthians 4.3, he refers to the gospel as the possession of both himself and his co-laborers, when he writes, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.”

7B.    I submit to you that if Paul was able to own the gospel as his, by virtue of the fact that he embraced it, by virtue of the fact that he believed it, and by virtue of the fact that he preached it, the same thing should be true of you and me, insofar as the Great Commission is concerned.  Do you embrace the Great Commission of my Lord Jesus Christ?  Do you agree with the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ?  Are you given over to obeying the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ?  Then you and I and the rest of us here in this church who have believed the gospel, who have been baptized and are members in good standing, and who are being taught to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, can own the Great Commission as ours just as surely as the apostles of Jesus Christ did. 


1B.    Do we not have a great God?  Is not our Lord and Savior a great lord and a great savior?  Is His not a great salvation?  The writer to the Hebrews asked, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?”[4]

2B.    So, our God is great, our Savior is great, and our salvation is great.  What about the gospel?  Would the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the good news, “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” not be considered a great gospel?[5]

3B.    My friends, how can our commission not be a Great Commission?  A great salvation conceived in the throne room of heaven by our great God, secured for sinners at great cost by the great sacrifice of our great Savior, there is no other way to describe our commission.  It is great.  It is a great strategy for taking the great gospel to the expanse of mankind so that sinners might be a partakers of a great salvation, whereby they might come to the great Savior and be reconciled to the great God Almighty.

4B.    Our Great Commission is great because it is a great challenge for a great cause.  It is a great enterprise for a people made great by the grace of God.  And the results are also great.  There is great grace for those who respond, that they might be reconciled to God and someday enjoy the great delight of heavenly bliss, and there is great tragedy and heartache for those great fools who dallied and dithered, who waited and wasted time.

5B.   Yes, everything about our Great Commission is great, and nothing about our Great Commission is not great.  It has been well named. 


1B.    To get a handle on what a commission is, consider the United States military.  Among the ranks of enlisted personnel in the military there are those of superior rank called noncommissioned officers.  Noncommissioned officers hold such ranks as corporal and sergeant.  There are different grades of corporal and different grades of sergeant (or their equivalent in the Navy), but all corporals and all sergeants in the United States military are noncommissioned officers.

2B.   Of higher rank in the United States military are commissioned officers.  And to illustrate the distinction between the two, between noncommissioned and commissioned officers, it is required that a noncommissioned officer actually be discharged from active duty, so that he in effect is a civilian, before he can receive a commission as an officer.  Thus, when an Army sergeant is promoted to second lieutenant, he is first discharged from the Army as a noncommissioned officer (and he has to sign all the proper discharge papers) and then he receives a commission in the officer corps of the Army.

3B.    Why are our officers thus specifically commissioned, while our enlisted personnel are not commissioned?  Because a commission in the United States military is actually a presidential authorization to act on behalf of the United States government, enabling that commissioned officer to assume certain duties, obligating that commissioned officer to discharge certain obligations, and assigning both responsibility and accountability.[6]

4B.    Take note of the four versions of the Great Commission that we have looked at this morning.  Does our Great Commission authorize us to act?  Jesus did say, “All power (or authority) is given unto me,” did He not?  He was thus stating that He had the authority to commission, as the president of the United States had been granted authority by Congress to commission officers.  Think about it, church member.  You have been commissioned by the highest authority in existence anywhere in the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, to act on His behalf, to discharge assigned duties, to fulfill assigned responsibilities, and you will be held accountable.

5B.    But understand that this Great Commission of ours is not assigned to individuals like commissions in the Army or Navy are assigned.  Our Great Commission is delegated to our church, to Calvary Road Baptist Church.  How do I know?  Look at Matthew 28.19:  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”  Only churches have the authority to baptize.  So, for our Great Commission to invest with the authority to make disciples by going, and then by baptizing, it must be a commission that invests churches with authority . . . not individuals.

6B.    Thus, Our Great Commission is not my Great Commission.  Neither is Our Great Commission your Great Commission.  It truly is Our Great Commission, just as certainly as those of us who are church members can say that Calvary Road Baptist Church is our church.  Yes, it is Christ’s church.  Yes, He is the church’s head.  But for those of us who are members here, this is our church, invested with authority by the Lord Jesus Christ, making it Our Great Commission. 


1.   In two weeks we will begin what might be the most important month in our church’s almost thirty year history.  Two weeks from today is our Paycheck Sunday, and my check is already made out in anticipation of giving what I think is the largest single offering I have ever made to the cause of Christ.

2.   Why am I doing this?  Am I doing this because I am the pastor of this church?  I do not know.  You see, I have been in the gospel ministry for almost thirty years, almost twenty years as the pastor of this church.  I do not know what kind of person I would be if I was not the pastor of this church, called to the ministry.

3.   I do know this.  Before my call to the ministry I was an extremely committed church member.  I wanted my life to count for the cause of Christ.  I was a giver.  I was a goer.  I was a prayer.  I was available.  So, I hope that if I was not the pastor of this church I would be a faithful and committed church member.

4.   But what leads to such commitment?  What leads to such a willingness as so many of our church members exhibit?  Is it their love for God and their desire to exalt Christ?  In part, perhaps, though there are many who profess Christ who count for little along the way.

5.   I am persuaded that one factor that leads to commitment, an ingredient that results in effectiveness in the Christian life, comes from buying in to the Great Commission and owning it as ours.  It occurs when one church member comes to the realization that the church he belongs to is “My church,” and realizes that the Great Commission the Lord Jesus Christ gave to His disciples as representatives of the churches they led is “Our Great Commission.”

6.   You see, I am immersed in something far bigger than me.  I am swallowed up by the cause of Christ.  And the practical and gut level result of being swallowed up by the cause of Christ is seen by a person’s involvement in his local church, as that local church works to fulfill the Great Commission. 

7.   What happens when that Christian, that church member, sees the Great Commission of his Lord Jesus Christ as Our Great Commission, a commission delegated to him and the others in the church he is a member of?  Then you begin to serve God effectively.  Then you are caught up in the realization that you are who God wants you to be, doing what God wants you to do.

8.   Is it easy?  No.  Are there heartaches and setbacks?  Certainly.  Can it become frustrating?  Of course.  But there is nothing in this world that matches the satisfaction of knowing who you are, knowing what you are, and doing what God created you to do.  My desire is that you, too, will get in harness and that you will embrace as your personal marching orders, as a member of this church, Our Great Commission.

[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 276-277.

[2] Isaiah 28.10

[3] Bauer, pages 32-33

[4] Hebrews 2.3

[5] 1 Corinthians 15.3-4

[6] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 364.

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