Title: The Great Commission
Text: Matthew 28:11-20
Readings: Office: Larry Criss Auditorium: Bob Poncer
Subject: Our Lord’s Commission to His Church
Date: Tuesday Evening - September 10, 1996
Tape # S-91
Introduction: Matthew 28:11-20
"Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. (12) And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, (13) Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. (14) And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. (15) So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (16) Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. (17) And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. (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."
In this last paragraph of Matthew’s Gospel the Holy Spirit inspired his servant to relate several important things to us, matters full of spiritual instruction. The paragraph begins with a picture of the blind absurdities unbelief will grasp when the truth of God is willfully rejected. Then Matthew shows us that there is in the hearts of true believers much weakness and unbelief. Even when the risen Christ was standing in front of these worshippers “some doubted.” Then Matthew concludes his Gospel narrative of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ by recording for our learning The Great Commission which our Savior gave to his church just before he ascended back up into heaven. That will be our subject tonight.
In this great commission our Lord Jesus Christ shows us that it is the responsibility of his church to preach the gospel to all men, to baptize those who profess faith in him, and to teach believers to observe, obey, and keep all that he has commanded and taught.
As we study these verses and seek to understand those things that are here required of us, I want to call your attention to five specific things in our text.
1. The Conspiracy of the Jews (vv. 11-15)
2. The Congregation of Worshippers (vv. 16-17)
3. The Claim of the Savior (v. 18)
4. The Commission from Our Master (vv. 19-20)
5. The Comfort of the Church (v. 20)
I. First, in verses 11-15 Matthew shows us THE CONSPIRACY OF THE JEWS.
Matthew 28:11-15 "Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. (12) And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, (13) Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. (14) And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. (15) So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."
Matthew makes no comment concerning this conspiracy on the part of the Jews. He simply states it as a matter of fact. When the chief priests and elders heard from the Roman soldiers who guarded the Lord’s tomb how that he had in fact risen from the dead on the third day, they never gave the matter a thought. They were not interested in knowing the facts. They were not concerned for the details. They gave not consideration to the evidence. All they wanted to do was to protect themselves and their positions. Therefore they immediately began what is today called “spin control.”
They concocted an unbelievable story. They simply bribed these Roman guards to tell anyone who asked that “His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept!” That is amazing in itself. But this is even more amazing - It worked! The Jews who had so willingly followed their blind leaders swallowed their lie hook, line, and sinker. The lie (A lie that is totally unbelievable when you understand the consequences of a Roman sentry sleeping at his post!) was so commonly reported and received that even to this day Jews and others readily grasp it rather than believing the undeniable evidence of our Lord’s resurrection.
But these things should not surprise us at all. The fact is, the prejudice of blind unbelief is so great that it will grasp, believe, and defend the most ridiculous absurdities rather than bow to and receive the truth of God, no matter how fully and evidently the truth is manifested. When God sends blindness upon those who have deliberately rejected his truth that blindness is inconceivably great!
John 12:37-40 "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: (38) That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? (39) Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, (40) He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them."
Romans 11:8-10 "(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. (9) And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them: (10) Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back alway."
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
There is no end to the folly of otherwise smart, even brilliant, educated men and women who willfully reject the truth of God.
· Rather than believe that God created all things, as is evident from any basis of rational judgment, most people believe that all things in creation evolved from something, though they have no idea what, and that that evolutionary process began so long ago that no one has any idea when or where. And they believe these things without so much as a shred of evidence of any kind!
· Rather than believe that salvation is by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone as the Scriptures clearly assert, most people believe that salvation can be obtained in any way a person chooses to seek it, so long as he is sincere. And they believe that we who insist upon the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ are divisive, sectarian bigots!
· Rather than bowing to the Word of God and the law of God as the standard of right and wrong, of righteousness and sin, most people are willing to tolerate and even promote abortion (the murder of unborn infants), euthanasia (the murder of the weak and sick), homosexuality, fornication, adultery, and pornography in the name of morality and freedom! In our society those who promote the murder of babies crusade for the protection of rattlesnakes! Our government forbids the teaching of God’s Word and his law in our schools and demands the teaching of homosexuality, lesbianism, and various methods of sexual perversion to our children in the name of sex education!
I repeat myself deliberately - There is no end to the folly of otherwise smart, brilliant, educated men and women who willfully reject the truth of God.
Isaiah 5:20 "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
II. Second, in verses 16 and 17 Matthew describes THE CONGREGATION OF WORSHIPPERS who gathered in the mount in Galilee to meet their risen Lord.
"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted."
Judas was now dead and the Apostle Paul had not yet been converted. So there were only eleven apostles at this time. They, along with more than five hundred brethren (1 Cor. 15:6), went into Galilee to meet the Lord as he commanded them both before and after his resurrection (Matt. 26:32; 28:10). When they saw the Lord Jesus “they worshipped him: but some doubted.” Even while the risen Christ stood before them, there were some who doubted. We are not told what they doubted. Therefore I will not speculate about the matter. But we are plainly told that some of the Lord’s disciples, some of those five hundred brethren who were there doubted. I call your attention to this fact because I want you to understand and to be constantly aware of the fact that God’s saints in this world are sinners still. We are forgiven but not faultless, pardoned but not perfected, sanctified but not sinless. Faith and doubt do exist in the same person. We should never have any doubts concerning matters plainly revealed in the Word of God. But the sad fact is, we do. In fact, I have serious questions about the honesty of that man or woman who claims never to have any doubts.
This much I know - There were some on the mount with the risen Christ who believed and yet doubted. I have had enough doubts at times to drive a man into utter despair. And the very best of the best of God’s saints had this same conflict with faith and doubt. Even when he was imprisoned for the testimony of Christ, John the Baptist had some doubts, doubts in the teeth of all that he had personally seen and experienced.
Matthew 11:2-3 "Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, (3) And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?"
These things are revealed not to excuse or gloss over the horrible evil of doubt and sin, but to let us know and to re-enforce these three gospel truths. See that you never lose sight of them. See that you never forget them.
· God’s saints in this world are sinners still.
· Salvation is by grace alone.
· Our only standing and acceptance before God is the blood and righteousness of Christ.
If we truly understand and believe these things, they will both teach and compel us to be patient, gentle, long-suffering, and forbearing with one another in times of weakness and unbelief. The congregation of the Lord in this world is a congregation of sinners in constant need of grace.
III. Third, I want us to consider THE CLAIM OF OUR SAVIOR to sovereignty, power, dominion, and authority over all things as our Lord and Redeemer.
Matthew 28:18 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."
This power was not given to him as God the Son, the second person of the blessed Trinity. That could never be. As God he is one with the Father and equal to him in all things from eternity. This power has been given to Christ as our Mediator because of his obedience unto the Father as our covenant Surety.
Philippians 2:8-11 "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Romans 14:9 "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living."
“This is not usurped power, but what is given him, and what he has right to exercise; having finished sin, abolished death, overcome the world, and destroyed the devil.” John Gill
A. Our Savior’s power is the power of absolute, universal monarchy.
He rules all things everywhere and rules them absolutely. This is what David spoke of in...
Psalms 68:17-20 "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. (18) Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them. (19) Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah. (20) He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death."
1. The Angels of heaven are dispatched by him (Heb. 1:14).
2. The Holy Spirit and his gifts of grace are dispensed by him (1 Cor. 12:4-12).
3. The gifts of the ministry are distributed by him (Eph. 4:8-16).
4. The people and events of this earth are ruled and disposed of by King Jesus.
5. Indeed, satan and the very demons of hell can do nothing in the earth but by his permission and his decree.
B. Our Lord Jesus Christ exercises this dominion at all times for the salvation of his people.
John 17:2 "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him."
IV. Fourth, I want us to understand THE COMMISSION FROM OUR MASTER that is set before us in verses 19 and 20.
"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."
There is absolutely no question about what the mission and ministry of the church of God in this world is. Our work is clearly defined and established by our Master. This commission is not given just to the apostles. It is not given to preachers, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. It is a commission given to the whole church of God. This is not a command to go to mission fields, though that is certainly included in it. Rather, this is a charge to us all to be Christ’s witnesses as we go through this world. The text might better be read, “Therefore (since I am Lord) as you are going into all the world, teach all nations!”
“It is the bounden duty of every disciple of Christ to do all he can in person, and by prayer, to make others acquainted with Jesus.” J. C. Ryle
Notice that the church is here given a threefold responsibility. All three things are our duty. It is not our duty to perform part of this commission. We are commanded and responsible to perform the whole thing.
A. First, our Lord commands us to teach, or make disciples of, all nations.
God has an elect multitude scattered among the nations of the world. Christ has his sheep everywhere. It is our responsibility to seek them out. And the only means we have of doing so is by teaching them his gospel. According to Dr. Gill, the Persic version explains our Lord’s commission most accurately - “Bring them to my religion and faith.” You and I are responsible in the generation in which we live to make known to all men the gospel of Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can regenerate and save. Only he can give faith in Christ. But we are responsible to tell out the message of grace. Our message is really threefold:
· Ruin by the Fall.
· Redemption by the Blood.
· Regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
We must make all men know who Christ is, what he did, why he did it, where he is now, and how God saves sinners by the merits of his obedience and death as the sinners’ Substitute.
B. Second, we are commanded to baptize all those who become Christ’s disciples.
The order given is clear. Our Lord does not say baptize all nations and make them my disciples. He says, Make disciples and baptize them. Baptism is to be administered only to those who are by their own profession Christ’s disciples (Acts 8:37).
1. Baptism is our confession of faith in Christ - A Burial!
2. Baptism is the mark of distinction between believers and the rest of the religious world.
3. Baptism is our oath of allegiance to Christ.
4. Baptism is our confessed hope of resurrection glory - A Resurrection from the watery grave!
5. Baptism is and must be by immersion.
6. Baptism is to be performed in the name of the holy Trinity, the one true and living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
C. Third, it is the responsibility of God’s church to teach believing sinners all that Christ has commanded us.
We have no right to invent doctrines. We have no right to dismiss doctrines. We have no right to hold back doctrines. It is not our responsibility to decide what people need to hear and know. We are responsible to teach exactly what Christ has commanded us to teach in his Word - All of it!
· All the Doctrines of the Gospel.
· All the Duties of Faith and Worship.
· All the Responsibilities of Life in this World.
V. Fifth, I want you to notice briefly THE COMFORT OF THE CHURCH.
Our Lord Jesus Christ says to you and me, “And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Christ encourages us to be faithful in obeying this commission by assuring us of his presence with us. He is with us everywhere. He is with us at all times. He is with us forever.
A. He is with us daily to pardon, forgive, and sanctify us.
B. He is with us to lead, guide, and protect us.
C. He is with us to provide for us, strengthen us, and preserve us.
D. He is with us in sorrow and in joy.
E. He is with us in trial and in triumph.
F. He is with us while we live.
G. He will be with us when we go down to the grave.
H. He will be with us forever!
This is our Savior’s word of promise to his church, to you who believe on him, and to me. And he will stand by it. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Since Christ himself is with us...
· Compromise is inexcusable.
· Failure is impossible.
· Whole-hearted devotion to the preaching of the gospel is most reasonable.
Isaiah 55:11 "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
May God give both you and me the spirit and consecration of the Apostle Paul that we may in our generation fulfill the commission given to us by his grace. He testified to the Ephesian elders...
Acts 20:24 "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
Let nothing move us from the work to which God has called us. Neither let us count our lives dear unto ourselves, so that we might finish our course with joy, and the ministry, which we have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.