What Part of the Great Commission Don’t We Understand?

This past summer, Heralds of Hope held their annual picnic at a park in Shippensburg, PA.  It was a lovely time, and the board, staff, spouses, and children enjoyed great food, frisbee, corn hole, spikeball, the playground, and good old-fashioned chatter.   As people were arriving, Christian walked up to a circle wearing a T-shirt that spoke well to his expertise in roofing.  The title in bold letters said, “What Part of Roofing Don’t You Understand?” and the body of the t-shirt showed a diagram drawing with labels of each component that make up a roof – the trusses, the underlayment, the tar paper, the flashing, the nails, the trim, the caulk, the shingles, and how it all comes together to become a roof protecting everything below it.  It sparked some conversation about what Christian does for a living, and the T-shirt accomplished it’s purpose: get people talking about roofing, and to show that it is both simple and also quite complex. Then someone said, “Hey, that could be a T-shirt for Heralds of Hope; What Part of the Great Commission Don’t You Understand?” 

Ever since, that phrase has been speaking to me.  Do we as believers, as followers of Jesus, as board, team members, and supporters of Heralds of Hope, understand the call and command of Jesus found in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15-20, Luke 24:44-49, John 20:21-23, and Acts 1:4-11?  In Matthew, after Jesus’s death and resurrection, and before He ascended to heaven, He gathered the 11 disciples together and said;

 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 ESV.

Over the centuries, some have believed this applied only to the apostles, citing the verses in Mark and John where they were given special authority to forgive sins in Jesus name along with accompanying signs of supernatural protection and power to heal diseases in the name of Jesus. As Matthew 28:20 points out, however, this command to go, proclaim, baptize, and teach continues to the end of the age and models believers discipling believers.  Matthew 24:14 confirms that the end will come after the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations.  The emphasis in the gospels of Believers sharing the Good News is clear and goes far beyond Christians finding people who agree to say a sinner’s prayer.   Jesus did rebuke the disciples who had trouble believing what they had not seen themselves in Mark 16:14, and He brings out the point that is foundational to our calling:  the Great Commission cannot be carried out by someone who has not believed and experienced it.  What have believers experienced and what are they proclaiming? Here are some of the components of the Great Commission. These are found in the above passages, and are simple, yet complex.

  • The Source: All power and authority is given to Jesus, who, through the Holy Spirit, gives power to believers.
  • The Target:  All creation and nations of all the world, to the extreme ends of the earth.
  • The Message: Repent, believe, be baptized, and obey.
  • The Gift: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, and freedom.
  • The Call:  Go, Make Disciples, Proclaim, Baptize, Teach.
  • The Why: Restoration and Relationship of God with human beings He created.

The Great Commission is not only for the Heralds of Hope board, team members, and supporters.  It is Jesus’ command for every believer as their responsibility regardless of their background, language, citizenship, age, race, gender, giftings, abilities or affiliations.  All of us can be, indeed must be, part of carrying out Jesus’ model where believers put priority on entering into relationships with others to help people trust Jesus in faith and follow Him in obedience.  The Great Commission does not stand in contrast to or against any of the other teachings in the New Testament as some suggest. It is all encompassing, and truly sums up a follower’s life of faith, belief, and obedience.   As organizations, churches, and individuals, Jesus’ call is for us to study our motives, our words, our actions, our creeds, our messages, our relationships against His final instructions.  Are we all getting involved in going, making disciples, proclaiming, baptizing, and teaching?

This conversation answers some things and also creates more questions. What part of the Great Commission don’t you understand?

-Tony Hollinger, HOH Board

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