Matthew 28: 9 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.
A few years back “mission statements” were all the rage in corporate America. It seemed that almost every business, school, or organization formulated a mission statement and posted it on their wall. People were even encouraged to make personal mission statements. And, like nearly everything else from the world, this eventually trickled down into the church. So, churches large and small created mission statements.
The truth is that we do not need to create a man-made mission statement to tell us what the church is to be about. We do not need to be creative or articulate. We have a mission statement that has been given to the apostles by the risen Jesus himself and recorded in the final verses of Matthew’s Gospel. We call this passage the Great Commission.
One of the beautiful things about this mission statement is that it is timeless. It works for the twenty-first century church as well as it did for the first century church, and it will work for the church in generations to come, should the Lord tarry. It works across cultures, for people of every race, tribe, and tongue. In fact, it was written down before the English language was ever even invented. It is written for the church in every condition and circumstance, whether prosperous or in need, whether strong or weak, whether at peace or persecuted. It is written for the local church of whatever size, large or small.
You may know that grammatically speaking this commission has one main verb: Teach (make disciples). And it is supplemented by three participial phrases: go, baptizing, and teaching. Let us look at each of these four directives:
Go: The Christian faith is a going faith. It is a centrifugal faith. It is an evangelizing faith. It is not an insular faith. There is a place for family care, for pastoral care for those who are already part of the family, but this faith is always sending us out to a lost and dying world. Every time we gather on the Lord’s Day we gaze in three directions: We are looking up to God; we are looking around at each other; we are looking out at the world.
Teach (make disciples of) all nations: The verb is matheteuo. In has in it the noun mathetes, disciple. The verb means to make disciples, to make students or scholars. We recruit those who desire to enroll in the School of Jesus, who desire to learn from him, and to take him as their Lord and Master.
Notice the object of this command: all nations. Christianity is not limited to those of one nation or of one ethnicity. Though national and ethnic distinctions have not yet passed away as they one day will, there are already no ethnic distinctions, spiritually speaking, in the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:28). There is, therefore, no room for exclusivity in this faith. The gospel is for all people.
Baptize: We are to baptize those new disciples. Few things bring more joy to us than to obey this command. Baptism is the Biblically mandated manner for men to make a serious and public profession of faith (see the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:35-38).
It speaks to who is authorized to baptize: the appointed officers of the church. It speaks to the proper subject of baptism: a believer or a disciple. It speaks to the mode of baptism: by full immersion (inherent in the verb baptizo). It speaks to the doctrinal integrity of baptism: It is done in the name of the triune God.
Teach Obedience: Disciples are expected to love God with their minds. We want to learn more and more about Jesus and his Word. Every true church must be a teaching church. The Bible as the whole counsel of God must be thoroughly taught and exposited. And the goal of that teaching is full obedience to Christ.
So, we have a mission statement. Let us strive to live it out.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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