The Works of the Church: Evangelism, Part 3
The Marks and Works of the Church
Evangelism, Part 3
This morning we will conclude our series on the Marks and Works of the Church. I’ve greatly enjoyed teaching through this series. I hope you have, too. This is the first sermon series I have ever completed. So, it’s a bit of a milestone for me.
We will conclude this morning with a discussion of the Great Commission. This is part 3 of the Work of Evangelism. The first part we talked about personal evangelism. In last week’s sermon we discussed the OT basis for missions. And this week we will deal with the central text for understanding the missionary endeavor, Matt 28:16–20. If you have your Bibles this morning, go ahead and turn with me there. This passage reads,
"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 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 yo. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
For our sermon, we will focus exclusively upon what it is that Jesus says to his disciples from v. 18 to the end of the passage. As many of you know, this passage is known as the “Great Commission.” From these passage, we see that there are three parts to the Great Commission.
Each part of the Great Commission will form my points this morning.
The first part of the Great Commission is “Jesus’s Power.” This point comes from v. 18. Jesus says in this passage that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This passage highlights the tricky theological issue of Jesus’ exaltation. Often when we think of
Christ during his earthly ministry, we think of him as perfect—fully sufficient and having no need for maturity or development. Static. In this passage, though, Jesus states that he has been given power. How is it that, as God, Jesus could be “given power?” Did not Jesus have this
power all along? How can that which is God lack anything? When it comes to this passage, we are sometimes left puzzled.
This type of thinking, that Jesus lacks nothing, is embodied well in the famous Christmas hymn, “Away in a Manger.” Listen to these lyrics:
"Away in a manger no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head. The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay. The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay. The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes. But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes."
The idea of a static Christ comes with this last line of the song where it says, “little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” In the manger, when Jesus was born, this song states that Jesus did not cry. The thinking behind this is that, as God, Jesus was not prone to the same weaknesses that
humans are. He was not prone to suffering, sadness, hunger, or fatigue. And because he was not prone to these human frailties, he, thus, did not cry as a newborn baby.
Such an understanding of Christ is wrong, though. Such an understanding of Christ cannot compute with what Jesus says of himself in Matt 28:18. Jesus did not have this authority prior to his resurrection. After his resurrection, Jesus enters a new state. Because of Jesus’ obedience to God the Father, the Father has exalted Christ and bestowed upon him lordship of the whole universe. Turn to Phil 2:5. We will read through verse 11.
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God ra thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
This passage is helpful for understanding our Matthew passage. Here, Paul states mentions two states that Christ has experienced. The first state is that of humiliation. This is mentioned in vv. 6–8. Verse 6 specifies his pre-existence prior to the incarnation. Verse 7 mentions the beginning of his humiliation. The Son of God takes upon himself human nature and becomes a slave. Verse 8 specifically uses the word “humiliation.” His humiliation reaches its climax in his crucifixion.
The Son of God, who existed with the Father, became incarnate and was crucified. In verse 9, Paul stops talking about Jesus’ humiliation and begins to discuss his exaltation. Verse 9, “As a result” of Jesus humiliation, God the Father exalted him and bestowed upon him the role of cosmic Lord.
One more passage for you all. This one from the OT. This stuff is deep, rich. WOW! Can’t skip over this. Turn to Daniel 7:13. We’ll read through verse 14. The passage reads,
"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
The passage is not as clear with reference to Christ’s humiliation as is Phil 2 but Daniel explains for us Christ’s exaltation. Verse 13 mentions the presentation of Christ to the Father. “Son of Man” here is Christ. “The Ancient of Days” is the Father. Christ comes to the Father after his
crucifixion, and what does the Father give to Christ? That’s specified in verse 14. The Father gives the Son total, cosmic, final authority over the whole world. He will be the Lord of all peoples, tribes, nations, and tongues. His kingdom will never go away. His reign is eternal.
With all this in mind from Phil 2:6–11 and Dan 7:13–4, turn back to Matt 28:18. What Jesus says in Matt 28:18 is what Paul mentioned in Phil 2:9–11 with reference to the Father exalting him and bestowing upon him the name that is above every name. What Jesus says in Matt 28:18 is
what Daniel says in Dan 7:13–14 with reference to Ancient of Days bestowing upon the Son of man dominion, authority, and power.
Because Jesus was a human in every way except sin, he was born with the potential for obedience, growth, and perfection. His humanity made this possible and necessary. Jesus was faithful. He obeyed the Father, relied upon the power of the Spirit, and earned for us the righteousness that we need for salvation. Because of Jesus’ obedience, the Father has exalted him. This exaltation, as specified in Matt 28:18, has led to Jesus’ reign as cosmic Lord. Praise the LORD!
This reign as cosmic Lord is the basis of the Great Commission. It’s the basis of “Jesus’ Program.” This is our second point this morning. The second part of the “Great Commission” is Jesus’ Program. I get this from 28:19 through the first part of 20. Jesus says to his disciples,
"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."
The first word we must analyze to understand this idea of “Jesus’ Program” is the word “therefore.” What Jesus is saying here is that, because he is the risen Lord, because the Ancient of Days has bestowed upon him universal dominion, because the Father has bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, Jesus’ disciples are to go forth to proclaim his name. Jesus’ power is the basis of Jesus’ program. The commandments of the Great Commission are founded upon the sovereign reign of Jesus Christ. We go forth because he is LORD. Theology—Christ is Lord—is the basis of ethics—Go and make disciples. Who Jesus is is the basis of our obedience. This “therefore” communicates this idea.
The second word we must analyze is “make disciples.” This is the governing verb of the commandment that Jesus gives in this section. This verb means to bring persons into submission to the Lordship of Christ—to teach them to believe and obey what it is that Jesus says. It is to bring persons into the relation of pupil to teacher. People are the pupils. Jesus is the teacher. It is to bring persons into submission to the lordship of Christ.
Of all nations
The persons who we are to go and make disciples of is “all nations.” “Make disciples of all nations.” This idea touches upon what I discussed last week. God’s saving purposes have always been for the whole world. This idea book ends the Gospel of Matthew. Turn to Matt 1:1.
"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Matthew begins his Gospel with this reference to Abraham. Abraham, as we saw last week, was the one through whom God would bless all families of the earth, all nations. Turn back to Matt 28:19. Jesus says here, “Make disciples of all the nations.” Matthew begins and ends his Gospel with the same idea—God’s saving purposes are for the whole world. The aim of Jesus’ disciples, therefore, is to make disciples of all people everywhere, without distinction.
The two actions that characterize “making disciples” is baptism and teaching. These two ideas are what “making disciples” looks like. The first idea mentioned is baptism.
As I mentioned in a previous sermon, baptism, along with the Lord’s supper, is an essential mark of the church. And as Jesus specifies here, it is an essential mark of missions. These two ideas tie together with the idea that building churches is the goal of missions. Baptisms occur within the context of local churches. When we do missions, we do not just go to evangelize non-believers. While we do do that, we also seek to build up local churches. We seek to create contexts in which baptisms happen.
These baptisms, Jesus specifies, are to be done in “the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” What we have here is one of the clearest references to the doctrine of the Trinity. What makes this passage so important is the singular “name” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three entities have the same name. They are three persons yet have one name; one name for three persons. This is the doctrine of the Trinity.
When we have our baptismal service next week, which I am greatly looking forward to, we will be obeying this commandment. This passage will be fulfilled in us next week. Jesus’ program is being fulfilled. It’s so easy to become discouraged and to see the darkness of life. The darkness can, at times, overwhelm us. Jesus is still at work, though. His word is being fulfilled in and through this congregation. Next week we will see that. Praise the Lord.
The second action that characterizes “making disciples” is “teaching.” The teaching process is a non-negotiable part of Jesus’ program. What is it that we teach? Well, we don’t teach our own opinions. We don’t go to the farthest reaches of civilization to tell people, “Hey, you’re pretty
cool. You need more self-esteem. Just follow your heart. You can do it!” Why on earth would you travel across the world to say those things?
No. We tell them that Jesus is Lord. And as Lord, they need to obey what it is that he says. Or, as Jesus says, we teach them “to observe all that I have commanded you.” We teach people to obey Jesus—to deny themselves and find their full sufficiency in Christ alone. Many people don’t want to hear this. They want to hear that they’re good and everything is okay. That’s not what Jesus’ commands us, though. We teach people the offense of the lordship of Christ. We teach the
nations to obey Christ.
The final commandment that holds this entire passage together is the one mentioned at the beginning of v. 19. Jesus says to “Go.” There are billions in this world who perish without hearing of the redemption found in Jesus Christ. We cannot be indifferent to this. Jesus’ isn’t. He
commands us to go to these people and to bring them the gospel.
I do not take this commandment to mean that all Christians are to be involved in the missionary task in the same degree. Most Christians will stay. Some will go. When one goes, we all go, though. We financially support them, we pray for them, we converse with them, and we visit
them on the field. On some level, all Christians should be engaged with going.
For those who do go, what security do they have? To travel off to distant lands for the sake of the gospel is a great sacrifice. Missions is not easy. It can be dangerous, lonely, and full of suffering. What does Jesus provide us for our security? He provides his presence. The third part of the great commission is Jesus’ presence. This is our third point this morning.
What we have at the end of v. 20 is a great promise from the risen Lord. For those who go, Jesus’ promises that he is with them. While I take this to be a promise for Christians in general, Matthew specifies it as a promise for Christian missionaries in specific.
I am with you
Notice in this passage that Jesus does not say, “I will be with you.” Instead, he says, “I am with you.” If Jesus said, “I will be with you,” we might then ask the question, “When?” The “When?” question leaves open the possibility that there might be a time when Jesus is not with his people. Jesus, though, closes the door on this possibility.
Jesus is “always” with his disciples, those who take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This word “always.” This adverb renders an expression in Greek which could also be rendered “the whole of every day.” Not just the horizon is in view, but each day as we live in it.
Until the end of the age
This presence will continue among Christians in general and Christian missionaries specifically “until the end of the age.” Jesus will never not be with his people. While his people will suffer, toil, tire, labor, and die accomplishing his work, he will never leave them. Jesus is always with
his people. He is our shepherd, our guide. His presence is our comfort, our security, and our foundation. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.
We see here in this passage the beauty of Christ. On the one hand, as Jesus says in v. 18, he is the sovereign Lord of the universe. His power is unrivaled, and his dominion is cosmic. He is the King. He is high, exalted, and lofty. However, he is also with his people. His sovereignty is not opposed to his care. He comes to us, speaks his love to us, and dwells with us. He is our the missionary’s shepherd. No matter what life brings our way, the King of kings will dwell with us. Nothing can separate the King from his people.
The exalted Lord reigns in heaven. Jesus Christ has fulfilled his mission of humiliation. As a result, the Father has exalted him. As the exalted, cosmic Lord, Jesus has given us the commandment to take his message to the ends of the earth—to go to all the nations, to make disciples of them, to labor among the nations, to baptize them into the trinitarian faith and to teach them to obey Jesus Christ. Our security and hope for this difficult mission is the very presence of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. He is our hope, our treasure, our Lord.
From this sermon, I’d like to draw three points of application.
First, for those persons who are nominally, half-heartedly, only-just-kinda committed to Christ, you need to repent. Jesus is Lord. He has risen from the grave. He is the cosmic Lord. All peoples will one day bow before him. He commands you to obey him. You must forsake yourself
and reorient your life to his lordship. Your life, your money, your family, your time, your relationships, your hopes, your dreams, all of it, you need to give it to him. It’s his anyways. Relinquish your mastery of your life and submit to the cosmic reign of Christ.
Two, our mindset as a church must recognize that global missions is a non-negotiable for our existence. Missions is not something we do on the side. It not peripheral to our existence. Global missions—to worldwide proclamation of the lordship of Christ—is absolutely central to what we do. We need to repent of any tendency that suggests otherwise.
Third, Jesus wants to raise up missionaries from this very congregation. Jesus wants people from this congregation to go forth and to proclaim his glory. Young people, do you want to live a life that matters? Do you want to make a difference in this world? Do you want to glorify God? Go
to the nations. Go and tell them that Jesus is risen from the dead. Go and make disciples of all the nations. Jesus is with you. He is with you when you go, when you stay, and when you die. Go, young people. Go and obey your sovereign Lord.
Jesus, you are the cosmic Lord. You authority is supreme. Your reign is universal. You word is law. Your word is true. You say this in your Word: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore spray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” I pray, Lord, that you would raise up from this church, people to go forth to the nations and to proclaim your glory. I ask, Jesus, that your Spirit would powerfully work in this congregation to bring about in us and through us the Great Commission. We pray, Father, that you would us to
show this world your compassion, love, and forgiveness through the marvelous lordship of your Son. By the power of the Spirit, accomplish in us what Jesus commands us to do in the Great Commission. In the name of the Father, Son, and HS, amen.