What Makes the Great Commission So Great: The Agenda Christ Has Set

Posted by R. Fowler White

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)

According to Matthew 28, the second of three truths that make the Great Commission so great is the agenda Christ has set, the program He has undertaken. Notice 28:19-20a, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. The point here is to tell us that Christ the King, as He executes His office, has a mission of outreach for ingathering. He is going to build His church. He is going to call out a people from the world to Himself. He will give them His laws, by which He will govern them, reward their obedience, and correct them for their sins. This mission, set by Christ our King, is a disciple-making agenda for all nations, and it has two parts.

The first part of Christ’s agenda is to make disciples by baptizing. Through baptism, those among the nations who repent and believe the gospel are admitted into Christ’s visible church, together with their children. Uniting us with His church under the name of the triune God, baptism marks the end of our life outside His assembly of disciples and the beginning of our life inside of it. The second part of Christ’s agenda is to make disciples by teaching. Every congregation of Christ’s church is supposed to be an extension campus of His ministry of education. Assembled as His disciples, we learn and teach all that Jesus taught about His own person and work and about the privileges and duties of discipleship. In the ministry of His word, we hear His gospel of grace and His law of love, His promises of salvation and His warnings of judgment. All this because Christ is not only the King on the mountain of the Great Commission; He is also the true Prophet who brings the word of the Lord from the mountain of God above.

As we said, this two-part program that Christ has undertaken is for all nations. His universal kingship means worldwide mission. Through Jesus the Son of Abraham, blessing goes to all the families of the earth from the Lord God. Through Jesus the Son of David, obedience comes from all the peoples of the earth to the Lord God. It was this transnational, transgeographical, transgenerational agenda that united and motivated the apostles of Christ in the years immediately after His resurrection and ascension. His Commission was an agenda so grand that the apostles could pursue it only by the power of His Spirit and according to His Word through prayer and preaching. So it is now, until the end of the age.

What is it that makes the Great Commission so great? In addition to the authority Christ exercises, it’s the agenda Christ has set for His church. There are no substitutes, no alternatives. The apostles, from Peter to Paul, took the agenda that He had set, the program that He had understaken, as their own. Those who would be His church today will do the same.