As God has called different ministries to various aspects of His kingdom work in this world, they have often been characterized by different tag lines or summary statements. William Carey, the father of modern missions, said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” Desiring God says that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Hudson Taylor is known for saying that “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” And we have summarized the emphasis of our ministry here with “All of Christ for all of life.” Depending on the context, we might add for “for all of Moscow,” or “for all the world.”
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 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” (Matthew 28:18–20).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
The Great Commission can be divided into three parts. The first is the declaration. All authority has been given to me” (v. 18). The second is the commandment. “Go ye therefore . . .” (vv. 19-20a). And the third is the promise— “I am with you always . . .” (v. 20b).
Because Christ has been given all authority both in Heaven and on earth, this means that this commission trumps the wishes of all others. We are given this task on the basis of the authority that has been given to Christ. We know that He has this authority of the strength of multiple passages. He has been given the nations as His inheritance, the ends of the earth for His possession (Ps. 2:8). He approached the Ancient of Days and was given dominion, glory and a kingdom that will never be destroyed (Dan. 7:13-14). The government will rest on His shoulders, and of the increase of that government there will be no end (Is. 9:6-7). In short, He has the authority to issue this command.
The command is to go out and to do so on this basis. He says “Go therefore.” The basic verb is matheteuo, which means to disciple. Disciple the tribes, the nations, the ethnoi. No civic unit is excluded. This is to be done by baptizing them in the triune name, and by teaching them to obey everything Jesus said.
Then there is the promise. Jesus says that as we engage in this task, He will be constantly with us, even to the end of the age (v. 20). And we see elsewhere in Scripture that this does not exclude the “age to come” (Eph. 1:21).
CONSIDER ALL THE ALLS
The word for all in this passage is pas. It is used four times. Jesus here claims to have all authority (exousia). He tells us to disciple all nations. He explains that this involves teaching them to obey all the commands He ever gave. And He concludes by telling us that He will be with us all the time.
This commandment is frankly staggering, and it is no surprise that the promise is attached to it. And even despite that promise, we still have a tendency to cook this commission in the reduction sauce of careful exegesis, and
THE REASON WE ARE OVERWHELMED
The reason we are so often overwhelmed in our Christian lives, whether singly or when considering the church at large, is that we have reduced the monumental task to one that is bigger than we are, but one we still think we might be able to handle. But we can’t, because we are fighting in our own wisdom. The task is enormous. If we keep it that size, then we are going to have to look beyond ourselves to the power and strength of God. Christ gave the promise for a reason. After Isaiah said that of the increase of His government there would be no end, what else did he say? “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”
And this is why the statement of the great Thomas Chalmers is so pertinent. “Regardless of how large, your vision is too small.”
INTO THE CORNERS
Now “all of life” includes absolutely everything, and that can be scary. This means family life, education, economics, resource management, divorce law, sacraments, warfare, moon exploration, word processing, AI, robotics, watercolors, and the cooking of soufflés. If you think I am leaving anything out, just throw that in. So where do we start?
Not surprisingly, we start with your own heart. Repent of your sins. Look to Christ. Trust in Him as your only possible righteousness. From there it should move out to your family, and the principal and characteristic note there should be godly kindness. Not push-over kindness, and not intransigent harshness. Kindness. From that position, consider your vocation—scholar, merchant, tradesman, or other—and in that vocation seek to combine high honesty and peerless competence.
As we learn to excel in what God has called us to, what happens? “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men” (Proverbs 22:29). Working quietly with our hands, on the task that is right in front of us, is God’s appointed method for getting us to fan out across the globe (1 Thess. 4:11). So the process should be heart > family > world. And you are equipped at every stage of this process when you appear before God, together with your family, on the Lord’s Day, in order to worship Him.
Sin is off limits, naturally. But nothing else is.
CHRIST IS LORD
In a saner time, the word secular did not mean godless. Secular meant auto mechanics as distinct from singing psalms in worship—but secular did not mean godless. It did not mean unbelieving. The secular world was not an autonomous realm, but rather the realm of the kingdom outside the church proper.
The sacred space is here, as we are gathered to worship God in the name of Jesus Christ. This is the day that is set apart, and this time is consecrated to sacred use. The bread that we break here is the body of God. But the bread that you break over lunch tomorrow is not polluted bread. You say grace over it. It is consecrated to secular use, in the name of Jesus Christ. And the same thing goes for everything you might touch.
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).