Kenneth L Gentry

Narrated By: Joseph Spurgeon
Book: The Greatness of the Great Commission
Topics: , ,


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Chapter Text

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18b-20).

In these sixty-one words from Matthew’s gospel we have what rightly has come to be known as “The Great Commission.” This Commission was issued by our Lord Jesus Christ only a few days after His resurrection and not long before His ascension into heaven.

The Great Commission has long served, and still today continues to serve, as the marching orders for Christ’s Church in the world.[1] Rare is the Missions Conference that has met without making reference to this text. Few are the denominations that have been established without some appeal to it. Most orthodox Christians from all denominational connections and from all theological perspectives have held this forth as their banner in the service of Christ.[2]

But is the Great Commission understood properly today? Is the fullness of its import comprehended by its adherents? Do we really grasp The Greatness of the Great Commission? These questions are becoming major issues in evangelical circles.

The Issue

Surely the most important debate between liberal and orthodox theologians today has to do with the issue of the inerrancy of Scripture. Is the Bible God’s Word and without error? Does it possess impeccable authority as the certain revelation of God? This is a fundamental issue with great implications for Christian faith and practice.[3]

Among evangelical Christians today a related discussion has developed. This discussion has to do with the problem of the apparent irrelevancy of Scripture. Is the whole of Scripture confidently to be applied to all of life today? Is God’s Word practical for Christian living and social conduct in every aspect of modern society?[4] And the significance of the Great Commission lies at the very heart of this important discussion.

Basically, the issue of the greatness of the Great Commission may be resolved by properly answering the following three major questions.

  1. What Is the Great Commission? A. Is the Great Commission a wholly new divine program to respond to sin, which is set in stark contrast to and is discontinuous from the Old Testament program? B. Or is it the capstone of the longstanding covenantal program of God to respond to sin, and the fruition of the development of the progress of redemption that is continuous with the Old Testament?
  1. What Is the goal of the Great Commission? A. Is its goal pessimistic, directing the Church bravely to be a witness in a hopelessly lost and dying world despite overwhelming resistance, while “snatching brands from the fire”? B. Or is its goal optimistic, empowering the Church successfully to promote the salvation of the world against all resistance, while leading the vast majority of men to salvation?
  1. What Is the nature of the Great Commission? A. Is its nature individualistic, seeking the salvation of individual lost sinners, with a view to training them in their private walk and public worship? B. Or is its nature holistic, seeking the salvation of individual lost sinners, with a view to training them in their private walk, public worship, and the development of Christian culture?


The Approach

The three questions just presented touch on vitally important issues related to the Great Commission and the Christian enterprise in a sin-laden world. In this work I will seek to answer from Scripture these crucial questions. In doing this I hope to promote a better apprehension of the greatness of the Great Commission.

My approach to the Great Commission primarily will be to offer a focused and careful exegetical analysis of Matthew 28:18-20. I will also draw into consideration a broad array of biblical texts from throughout Scripture, in order to flesh out the full biblical meaning of the Commission. The issue before us is, as stated before, the relevancy of Scripture – all of Scripture – to modern life and culture.

It is my hope that this study will both enlighten and challenge: My design is to enlighten Christians to the teaching of Scripture on this crucial issue and to encourage them to apply biblical principles to all of life. The Commission before us is truly great, for it speaks of “all authority” (Matt. 28:18) to disciple “all nations” (Matt. 28:19), with a view to our teaching them “all things” (Matt. 28:20a) Jesus taught His disciples. It also holds out the certain hope that Jesus will be with us “all the days” (Matt. 28:20b) to see that it is done.

But before we can begin in earnest, we must point out the foundations of the Great Commission. The ultimate foundation stones are two: creation and covenant. I will deal with relevant matters drawn from creation and covenant in the first two chapters below.

[1] Reference to this passage is found as early as Ignatius (AD. 50-115), Epistle to the Philadelphians 9; Irenaeus (AD. 130-202), Against Heresies 3:17:1; Tertullian (A.D. 160-220), Prescription Against Heresies 20.

[2] I do recognize that there are some evangelicals, who do not understand the Great Commission as incumbent upon the Church. For more information on this unusual phenomenon, see: Chapter 12.

[3] See the following for helpful studies in this area: Rousas John Rushdoony, Infallibility: An Inescapable Concept (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 1978). James Montgomery Boice, Does Inerrancy Matter? (Oakland, CA: International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1979). Ronald Youngblood, ed., Evangelicals and Inerrancy (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984).

[4] See: Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today, (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985). Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 2 vols. (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, [1973], 1982). Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990).