18.02.01 Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:16-18
JESUS COMMISSIONS APOSTLES
Mt. 16 The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.
18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Mk. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”
At this point Jesus announced His Great Commission to the disciples. They were told to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God and make disciples throughout the world. While the church is called to baptize and make disciples, the true goal is to make disciples who will also become apostles. Throughout the Hebrew Bible there are numerous references (i.e. Ps. 117:1) to all the nations praising God. This Commission again proves the New Testament is a fulfillment or continuation of the Old Testament.
In a momentous event centuries earlier, when Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind (much to the disappointment of his disciple, Elisha; see 2 Kg. 2:11-12), his mantle, a/k/a prayer shawl, fell to the ground. Elisha picked it up, walked to the Jordan River, and used it to strike the water and thereby imitated the miracle of Moses parting the Red Sea. Immediately the Jordan River waters parted to the right and left and he crossed over into the land promised to Abraham (2 Kg. 2:13-14). The prayer shawl was symbolic of God’s anointing upon Elijah which was now passed on to his disciple. Only when he received God’s anointing did he preach the Word of God and perform miracles.
As Elijah passed his anointing Elijah, so now it was time for Jesus to pass His anointing to His disciples. However, rather than giving each of them a prayer shawl, He told them that divine authority would be upon them to perform signs and wonders and they were to preach and make disciples throughout the whole world.
“They worshiped [Him]” The Greek proskyneo means to worship, to fall on knees in front of or to prostrate one’s self. After being with Jesus for more than three years, this was the first time the disciples worshiped Him in this manner, and even then some had their doubts.
“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.” Amazingly, the word “baptizing” is singular and in the three-part name. This was probably to distinguish it from other baptisms that were commonly used in Judaism. The early Church did precisely as Jesus commanded. Three well-known baptismal interrogations have been preserved by the church fathers: Justin Martyr (100-165), Irenaeus (130-200), and Hippolytus of Rome (c. 215). The latter recorded the baptismal procedure as being a three-fold immersion with a three-fold confession of faith. The questions and answers between the new convert and the Church elder were as follows:
Pastor: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?
Convert: I believe.
Pastor: Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, Who was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose the third day from the dead and ascended into the heavens, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead?
Convert: I believe.
Pastor: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Church, and the resurrection of the flesh?
Convert: I believe.
– A Common Baptismal Interrogation
Jesus specifically made reference to the Trinity, which is also found in other passages. For the Jews, who for centuries believed in only a singular concept of God, the idea of a Trinity was most challenging. While it took centuries for the church to develop a doctrine of the Trinity, the Jerusalem church quickly developed this concept into the following hymn, which was sung in many synagogue-churches (the first “churches” were converted synagogues).
Glory to the Father
Glory to the Son
And to you blessed Spirit
While all ages run.
Early Church Hymn
Concerning the Great Commission, the church has often criticized the Jews for failing to proclaim the Word of God to the nations, but after nearly two thousand years, not a single nation has been discipled in the ways of our Lord. Unfortunately, the church has failed as miserably as did the Jewish leadership.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Heaven is a real place that God has prepared for all those who accept His Son and lives according to His word. Likewise, there is a real hell for those who refuse the offer. The devil and his angels, the beast, the false prophet, and all those persons whose names are not written in heaven’s Book of Life will be confined to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire and brimstone. This is the second death. Based upon various Scriptures, the Church has maintained this doctrine that after physical death the soul continues to live in one of these two places. It is the choice of each individual to determine where he/she will spend eternity. The entire purpose of Jesus Christ’s coming to earth was to teach the Kingdom of God, offer salvation to all people and bring those who accepted the offer into heaven. The Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) is therefore the fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 12:1-3, where God promised to bless all the people through Jesus.
Now, the disciples would no longer be disciples, but apostles. As disciples they were under the tutelage of Jesus, but as apostles,
- They were rabbis who established their own network of disciples, and
- They were sent out to tell others of the good news of Jesus and His Kingdom of God.
. See Appendix 27 concerning the lives of the apostles.
. W. E. Vine is typical of many scholars who have made minimal reference to the Jewish characteristics of Scripture. For example, every Jew knows that the “mantle” was a prayer shawl, but it is not mentioned (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:105-06). Another example is the Hebrew term “Torah” which is translated as “law.” Yet every Jew knows that it also means “instruction,” a definition that is missing from Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:354-56
. Martin, Worship in the Early Church. 61.
. 1 Cor. 6:11; 12:4 ff.; 2 Cor. 1:21ff; 13:14; Gal. 3:11-14; 4:4ff; 1 Peter 1:2; Heb. 10:29.
. Martin, Worship in the Early Church. 65.
. For other references that pertain to heaven and hell, see Rev. 19:20, 20:10-15, 21:1-3; Mk. 16:16; Jn. 14:2-3; 1 Cor. 2:9.
. Polybius, The Histories of Polybius 1.21; 5.38
. Shepherd, “Apostle.” 1:171.