Summary: An appeal to take the Great Commission seriously
"The Great Omission!"
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 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."
Matthew 28:18-20 KJV
"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 28:18-20 NIV
This passage in Matthew is one of the last of the recorded sayings of Jesus Christ! The setting is after the resurrection and the disciples have assembled themselves upon a mountain in Galilee for a pre-designated meeting with the Lord. These words comprise, what we have come to know as the "great commission!" Usually a person’s last words are of great importance and significance. The last words of Jesus are of extreme importance in defining the essence of his purpose for coming to earth and the purpose of the church! But, I want to suggest to you on this preaching occasion, that by and large, the church has misunderstood, ignored or otherwise discounted the true essence of this monumental command. Hence, I have entitled this discourse; "the great omission," because, for the most part, we have not done, nor are we seeking to do, what the Lord told us to do! By our negligence, we have turned the great commission into the great omission!
Let us take a closer look at the context in which Christ gave this command. As stated earlier, it was given after Jesus had been raised from the dead and it was given based on the fact that all authority in heaven and in earth had been given unto him. The Bible say in Philippians 2:8-10, "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;" (KJV) Yes! God has highly exalted him and he is the ultimate authority on earth and in heaven! So then, we should view the great commission not as just some idealistic words that Jesus uttered before he ascended up into heaven, but rather as the supreme mandate of the church. All authority in heaven and on earth undergirds the validity of the great commission!
But, I would like to suggest to you, my brothers and sisters, that unfortunately this passage has been the victim of a gross misunderstanding. I believe that perhaps one to the main reasons that the great commission has been misapplied is because of a mis-translation by the King James translators. Grammatically speaking, there is only one imperative verb (command) in the great commission and that is the verb, "mathetes". Unfortunately, the King James translators translated this word as "teach." However, a more proper translation is "to make disciples of" as is reflected in all of the modern translations. In the commission, the words "go," "baptizing," and "teaching," are all participles modifying the imperative verb, "to make disciples." Hence a more proper translation from the Greek text might be rendered thus: "As you go ("go" in the text is an aorist passive participle), make disciples of all nations (ethnic groups), baptizing them (those who believe) in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teaching (this is the Greek word; "didisko", from which we get the English word "didactic") them to observe (be careful to do; obey) all the things that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age!" (Pastor Miller’s translation of Matt. 28: 19-20: Nestle-Aland 26th Edition Greek New Testament)
The stress of the great commission should not be placed upon the passive participle: "go" as many have traditionally done. Any English teacher will tell you that the main thrust of any sentence after the subject is the verb! And the verb in the great commission is the imperative: "make disciples!" Consequently, we can go, baptize and teach, but if we have not made disciples of those we have encountered, baptized and taught, then we have missed the main gist of the great commission! And I want to tell you my brothers and sisters that is where the church, for the most part, is today! We go and preach, but we do not make disciples! We baptize those we preach to; but we do not make disciples of them! We even try to teach them, not realizing that it is impossible to teach spiritual things to those who have not been made disciples of first!