Westminister Presbyterian Church
Jon Marq Toombs
25 June 2017
Our sermon text for today is Matthew 28:16-20. Hear the word of the Lord:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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.”
The word of the Lord. May God bless the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word.
This is one of those texts that everyone knows yet no one knows. What I mean is that we know the text as the great commission yet we do not know the great commissioner behind the text. In my experience this text has been treated as something far too much about us and not near enough about Jesus.
So today I want us to explore this familiar text in an unfamiliar way by focusing our attention on Jesus every step of the way. With these words Jesus radically altered the mission strategy of God’s people. We are so used to hearing the great commission that we don’t even realize how radical it commission was/is:
In the OT God’s people were attractional. They were a light for the nations. Only a few messengers were sent out to the nations. For the most part the nations were attracted to the light and came into the community.
But now in the NT God’s people are missional. We are a light to the nations. The community sends out many messengers into the world to gather the peoples from every tribe, language, family, and nation into the church.
Let’s focus our attention on the mission of Christ in the world.
The text begins with his power (v18) includes his program (vv18-19) and ends with his promise (v20). Let’s explore these one at a time.
POWER – vs 18
Jesus has all authorinty in heaven and earth. So by the authority of the Lord Jesus the attractional community becomes a missional community.
He sends us out on mission to the world.
A true missional community is not content to just be Christians with other Christians; a true missional community wants to be Christians calling non-Christians to come together with them…to go up to the mountain of the Lord to the House of God…that he may teach us…that we may walk in his ways.
As the prophets foretold many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
Why? For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:2)
In the great commission Jesus sends his ministers of the word out from the mountain to teach and preach the gospel to the nations.
It is by the authority of Jesus Christ that we go into all the world with the gospel of grace.
But how should we go? What should we do?
PROGRAM – vss 19-20
What is Jesus’ mission program? Three words: disciplize, baptize, and catechize the world.
Let’s look at these one at a time.
The Greek word for “make disciples” is actually one word—a verbal command that means “disciplize”. So Jesus authorizes his ministers to go and disciplize all nations. The word for nations means people-groups.
But what does it mean to disciplize? What is a disciple?
Some think that a disciple is a radical, special force, extreme follower of Jesus. But that is not how Jesus defines a disciple.
Jesus defines a disciple as a student and a slave: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master” (Matthew 10:24-25).
So a disciple is not a radical, special force, elite follower of Jesus.
A disciple is an ordinary Christian who follows Jesus as a student and a servant.
Jesus sends his ministers out to make disciple of all nations. That means the scope of the mission is all the people-groups of the whole world. All Jewish people and all non-Jewish people. People from every tribe, language, family, and nation.
Jesus authorizes his ministers to disciplize all people-groups. But what kind of people does he want to gather into his house?
The answer might surprise you. The prophets foretold that in the last days the Lord “will assemble the lame
and gather those who have been driven away
and those who have been afflicted;
and the lame he will make the remnant,
and those who were cast off he will make a strong nation” (Micah 4:6-7)
The point is that Jesus wants even the most unworthy and least likely people—the poor and crippled and blind and lame—to come into his house.
In essence he says: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Jesus wants the immigrant, the alien and stranger, the refugee to come into his house.
Jesus authorizes his ministers to disciplize all kinds of peoples. But how does Jesus want us to do that?
Thus says the Lord: First, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; Second, by teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
There is a reason baptism comes before teaching. Everyone who comes to Jesus must first be cleansed and then be catechized.
baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Baptism was instituted by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grammatically, “them” can only refer to the nations not to disciples. Why? Because ‘disciple’ is a verb and ‘nations’ is a noun. It is the direct object of disciple. So baptize them means baptize the people-groups that are being disciplized.
To baptize the nations/people-groups into the Name of the Triune God means to mark them as the people of God; to apply the sign of the new covenant to them; to put the sign of the cross on them.
As the Westminster Confession of Faith explains,
Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.
By the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, baptism should be administered to everyone who is being disciplized, from the youngest baby to the oldest adult.
As the Confession explains,
Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.
By means of baptism, God adopts us into his family and gives us his Holy Name – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. In this way, disciples form part of God’s Holy Family both as individuals and as families.
If any of you have not yet received the Holy Name of God in baptism, I solemnly charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to do so without delay. And if your children have not yet received the Name of God in baptism, go speak with the elders of this church as soon as possible.
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
The word catechize is a fancy word that means to teach or instruct. Generally, the word catechize means to instruct someone in the principles of the Christian religion by means of question and answer.
For example, as Presbyterian Christians, we have access to the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
- What is the chief end of man?
- Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
- What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
- The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
- What do the Scriptures principally teach?
- The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
The Shorter Catechism is a great resource and I highly recommend it to you. However, I must point out that in context of Matthew 28, Jesus has a different kind of catechesis in mind. He wants baptized people to observe and obey everything he commanded us in his word.
As one of my professors put it: We must “catechize them to obey all Jesus commanded (not just abstract doctrine).”
There is a time and place to learn doctrine and systematic theology, but Jesus calls for something more personal and relational and practical.
The word “observe” means to attend to carefully, take care of, to guard and keep. Thus obey. As we disciplize and baptize people we are to catechize them to obey Jesus in everything and observe everything Jesus commanded.
So baptized disciples must learn everything Jesus commanded, and they must obey everything Jesus commanded. Not everything you think he commanded. Not everything you wish he commanded. Not everything you felt like he commanded. But (literally) “all as much as” he commanded.
So what did Jesus command?
Here are a few examples of things the Lord Jesus commands us to observe and obey. All these commands are found in the Gospel of Matthew:
It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (4:4)
Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (4:17)
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. (6:19-20)
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. (6:33-34)
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (7:7)
Enter by the narrow gate. (7:13)
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (7:15)
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (7:21)
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. (7:24, 26)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (11:28-30)
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take uphis cross and follow me. (16:24)
Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. (19:14)
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (22:21)
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (22:37-39)
Take, eat this bread; this is my body…Drink of this cup, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (26:26-28)
Finally, disciplize all nations by baptizing them and catechizing them (28:18-20)
Again, Jesus calls for a deeply personal, relational, and practical obedience.
In order for a student to be like his teacher, he must do what his teacher says and does. In order for a servant like his master, he must do what his masters says and does. In order for a disciple to be like his Lord and Savior he must obey what his Lord and Savior commands.
PROMISE – VS 20
The great commission begins with power and ends with promise.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…I am with you all the days even to the consummation of the age.”
We are a missional community of Christ. As such, we must keep marching on, discipling, baptizing, and catechizing the world for Christ. Only let us do so by the power of Christ according to the promise of Christ.
“May the Lord reign over the nations in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore.” (Micah 4:6-7)
Missional Prayer (Common Prayer 1929):
Almighty God, Grant that all people everywhere may seek after you and find you. Bring the nations into the Church of Christ. Grant unto us your servants a living and active faith that we may labor diligently to make known to all peoples the blessed gift of eternal life in Christ; who came to preach peace to them that are far off and to them that are near. All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen