Skip to main content

What is the Great Commission?

Barry is the founder and Professor of the M.Div. program for Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.


The Great Commission

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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 follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

What is the purpose of this command? So much emphasis has been placed on “Go” that we fail to see that there is an ultimate end or purpose. That purpose is to “make disciples.” Simply going, will not fulfill the Great Commission. Some would view this command as a compound command of “go and make.” If the “and” in the sentence is a conjunction of connecting equal elements, which is how it reads in English, then the “go” and the “make” are united and stressed together. * At the very least, it is obvious that one cannot disciple the nations unless they go. On the other hand, merely going is not sufficient to fulfill the command to “make disciples.” The point is that the purpose of the Great Commission is to go to the nations so that disciples would be made.

What is a Disciple?

A disciple is a follower of Christ. A disciple, in the New Testament, is always synonymous with a person who has repented, been born again, and places faith in Christ. We do have examples of those who appeared to be disciples for a while but later fell away, revealing that they were false believers and not true disciples.

Some confuse discipleship with evangelism. They gather a group of people to “disciple” them to become Christians. They see discipleship as a process of acquiring knowledge until one is convinced to commit themselves to Jesus. While I will refrain from commenting on the questionable Biblical basis for such, I must say that if we confuse evangelism with discipleship, we will end up doing neither.


Gospel Confusion

Christ tells us in John 3:3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

How can we compel people to enter into a kingdom that they cannot even see? The Bible is clear that there are no pagans, either savage or civilized, who are sitting in their huts or high-rise offices longing for salvation from their sins (Romans 3:10-18). Scripture further explains that the unconverted man cannot begin to understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). The reason for this is because people are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3).

What is the point? We cannot make disciples of the dead. As Christ said to Nicodemus “you must be born again.” The Holy Spirit must give life to the unbeliever so that he can see his sin and his need for a savior (John 3:6-8). The method for regeneration is the Gospel call (Romans 1:16-17) to repent and believe for salvation (Mark 16:16).

The Gospel is preached. The Holy Spirit regenerates. People repent and believe. These believers make a public profession by water baptism. They then are constituted into a Church. The Word of God is preached and taught. Disciples are made.

The Gospel Going to the Nations

After Pentecost, we see the first Gospel message. I say this is the first Gospel message because it occurs after the death of Christ and after the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers. Peter preaches and there are Jews as well as people from different dialectics present (Acts 2:5). When Peter spoke, these people heard in their language (v.6). The Great Commission to make disciples of the nations starts with the preaching of Peter at Pentecost. And what was the message of Peter? Peter tells them in v. 38, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” The call to repentance for salvation is all that we see going forward through the book of Acts (Acts 3:19, 8:22, 17:30, 26:20). There is no methodology only a message. The message alone is the method.


Contemporary evangelism

At least since the 1950s and perhaps before, missions and evangelism has been tied to various marketing strategies. We need only to visit the local Christian book store, attend a Church-growth conference, or do an internet search to see that several times a year a new program is created to attract people to “join the Church.” In all fairness, some of these programs do include a Gospel presentation. Of those which do include a Gospel presentation, there is usually some formula or clever acrostic that the evangelist is to use. And perhaps, this in and of itself is not bad. If a person had a good understanding of salvation and basic knowledge of their Bible then these formulas would be completely unnecessary.

What is worst is “bait-n-switch.” Given that no one wants to repent and believe, we are to offer something else to draw a captive audience where we can then ambush them with a Gospel presentation. No doubt, many do so with good intentions. These programs are pragmatic. They are designed to “work.” And to some extent, they do work in gathering an audience. But they have no power to convert. In most cases, even the professions that are made do not produce lasting fruit.

Also, the person who was tricked, baited, and manipulated comes to resent the way they have been treated. While they imagined that this person was their friend and cared about them, they find out it was all a ploy to convert them. And that is precisely what it was: a ploy. Is it any wonder then, when we mention that we are Christians people flee from us. We might as well say, “Hi, I have a new multilevel marketing program I would like to share with you.”

There is less genuine care for the person as there is to put numbers on the tote board. But more to our point, there is no Biblical example to support these methods. The message is the method.

Part 2: Confusion about the Great Commission

Scroll to Continue

Foot Notes

* This is one case where the original wording makes a distinction that is often not seen in the English translation. If we look at the passage in Greek, we see that there is only one word that is in the imperative form (“make disciples’). The other three words that appear as “action words” are participles (“go”, "baptizing". "teaching"). The point being that the main verb is a command (“make disciples”) while the participles are either means or attending circumstances to the main verb.


Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on December 09, 2020:


KC McGee from Where I belong on December 05, 2020:

You asked me only one question which I answered.So, honestly I am waiting for your answer. I would like to know what defines a Church. I can't get more honest than that. So, please, I would like a answer.

Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on December 05, 2020:

Read the article provided. You are not very cordial. You still have pending questions. I will not answer any further questions until you have addressed mine. Quid pro quo. IF you will not engage honestly, then you will not be permitted to comment further.

Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on December 05, 2020:

My blog is not a forum for your writing. I asked you first. I provided an article to answer. You will no longer be allows to post comments on my articles.

KC McGee from Where I belong on December 05, 2020:

It's been six days since I asked you two questions you a have yet to answer. I'm still waiting.

KC McGee from Where I belong on December 01, 2020:

You never answered my questions. I am still waiting .

KC McGee from Where I belong on December 01, 2020:

You never answered my question. I'm still waiting.

Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on November 30, 2020:

Your comments are more than comments. You should consider your own blog. But, before Hebrews 9 comes chapter 8. Please take a look oat my article on this topic re: the New Covenant and the Church.

KC McGee from Where I belong on November 29, 2020:

I should have mentioned in my last comment to you. I NEVER said the church IS the New Covenant. You said it. I said the New Covenant/Testament went into effect when Jesuus died on the cross. You wrongly state the church is the New Covenant, when in fact the Covenant is a TESTAMENT of Jesus Christ. In other words I was the WILL of Christ. That is what Hebrews 9:16-17 is about. You are taking scripture out of context.

And you have not answered my question I had asked you in my last comment.

KC McGee from Where I belong on November 29, 2020:

You are forgetting something that is very important. Jesus Christ sent out His disciple as Apostles to spread the Kingdom of God before He died on the Cross. These 12 Apostles were given power to heal the sick. This was before His death on the cross. In Matthew 10:1-9 NKJV it states: 1 And when H had called His twelve disciples to Him. He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of disease. 2 Now the names of the twelve APOSTLES were these; first Simon, who is called Peter, and Ander hisbrother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother. 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the Tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon, the Cananite, and Judus Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out and COMMANDED them saying, " Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter the city of the Samartans. 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. 7 And as you go, preaching saying; THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give"

A number of points that should be mention here. First, Jesus gave these TWELVE APOSTLE POWER. Second, they were APOSTLES when He sent them out to spread the GOSPLE of the KINGDOM. Third. Even Judas Iscariot was identified as an APOSTLE at this point (which no one ever mentions). Fourth, They were commanded to go out a spread the (Gosple) message of the Kingdom and heal the sick. (WHich is exactly what they continued to do long after Jesus death on the cross)

Now I ask you, if this isn't Christ's "CHURCH before His death, then what is a CHURCH?

Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on November 29, 2020:

I greatly appreciate your taking the time to answer. Yes, the New Covenant starts with the death of Jesus- we agree. He said so in Matt.26:28. The Church is the New Covenant. Then there is no New Covenant Church until the shedding of the blood (by your own words). The Church is not established until after the death and resurrections of Christ according to Matt. 28, Hebrews 8 and (your example) Hebrews 9.

KC McGee from Where I belong on November 28, 2020:

The New Covenant/Testament started the moment Jesus died on the cross. There's my answer. So what does that have to do with anything I mentioned earlier? Read Hebrews 9:16-17.

Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on November 28, 2020:

I asked you a question and you did not answer. It has been my experience that people who do not engage just want to monologue and are not sincere. I ask again: When did the New Covenant start?

KC McGee from Where I belong on November 28, 2020:

If you think about it the church began at the very start of Jesus ministry. Jesus made disciples too, just like He commanded His disciples to do In matthew 28. Jesus had the Holy Spirit within Him when He was baptized by John. Christ was the Head of the "Church" (HIS CHURCH) at the VERY beginning of His ministry. His Gospel message of the Kingdom of God was the same message Jesus commanded His disciple to teach as noted in Matthew 10:5-14 while they where still disciples.He sent them out a pairs of two. That was the start of THEIR ministry. Read it for yourself.

Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on November 27, 2020:

If the Old Covenant was with Israel, and the New Covenant is with the Church, when did the New Covenant Start?

KC McGee from Where I belong on November 27, 2020:

The first gospel message was NOT after Jesus Christ death on the cross as you have explained. The FIRST gospel message was at the very beginning of Jesus ministry were it's explained and stated in Mark 1:14-15 NKJV which states: 14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, PREACHING the GOSPEL of the KINGDOM of God. 15 and saying; " This time is fulfiled, and the KINGDON OF GOD is at hand; Repent and believe in the GOSPEL".

When Jesus was speaking here of the GOSPEL He was talking about the KINGDOM OF GOD. Not what you are claiming in your article. And further note Jesus was telling the nations THE GOSPEL.

Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on November 26, 2020:

I agree, sir.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 26, 2020:

I just have a hard time with a born anew, believer must not be genuine at first if he falls later. Good article.

Related Articles