Summary: As Christians, we derive our authority directly from Jesus Christ, the universe's highest, sovereign power, and as such, he's charging us to reaffirm our commission to fulfill our duties and responsibilities to go out and make disciples of all nations.
In just a bit, we’re going turn in our bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew 28, and look at VV 16–20. Specifically, we’re going to see why this portion of scripture is called “The Great Commission,” what that meant for the disciples, and what that means for us today.
When I hear the word commission, the first thing that comes to my mind is the commission military officers receive when they enter into service. Commissioned officers derive their authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position.
Now, as most of you know, like many within our congregation, I was enlisted. However, a few of our members served as commissioned officers. Both the enlisted and officers affirm their service by reciting similar oaths. They both begin with: I, [and then we state our name ], do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [and] that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Now, from that point, the oaths differ a little bit.
The Enlisted then affirm: I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” Officers, however finish their oath by stating: “I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will, well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God”
Let’s see how this ties into the Gospel. Please turn in your bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew 28:16–20. Let’s start off our time by concentrating on V.18.
ALL AUTHORITY GIVEN TO JESUS
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” There’s two questions we need to ask. What is this authority mean; and from whom was Jesus given this authority? We’re going get to the answers, but it’s gonna be a roundabout way.
Now, you’ll notice nowhere in this passage is word the commission ever used — for the exception of the header, which is only put there by the publisher anyway. In all reality, there’s only passage in the entire bible that uses the word commission — that’s Acts 26:12. In this passage, the Apostle Paul was standing trial before King Agrippa with the charge of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, Paul’s standing before the King, and Agrippa gives permission to Paul to plead his case. Paul starts telling his story of how at one time he great Pharisee and how he persecuted the Christians. Then, Paul recounts the time when he journeyed to Damascus in order to “take care of the Christians”, under the authority and commission of the chief priests — that last phrase being the exact verbiage used in V12.