What Is the Great Commission?

Biblical Authority Devotional: Acts of the Apostles, Part 1

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Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., opens a new devotional series on the book of Acts by looking at an often-overlooked aspect of the Great Commission.

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Today’s big question: what is the Great Commission?

The most well-known passage describing the Great Commission is found in the Lord’s words at the end of Matthew:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

This passage is often used as a basis for evangelism, which is certainly an appropriate application of Christ’s words, but the emphasis is often misplaced. In English, it seems as though Jesus gave several commands: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. However, in Greek, the only imperative is the verb translated as “make disciples.” The instructions to go, teach, and baptize explain how the command to make disciples is to be carried out.

Since Jesus told His disciples to teach their followers “all things that [He] commanded,” the command to make disciples must also be obeyed by the next generation of believers. As such, the Great Commission was not only for the first disciples, but is to be obeyed by every Christian.

So how can we obey our Lord’s teaching? Many people mistakenly believe that the command was only about sharing the good news. In fact, one of the weaknesses in the church today is that too many people think church is all about evangelism. Please don’t misunderstand me. Evangelism is extremely important, and we are definitely commanded to witness to others. Without evangelism, there could be no discipleship. However, the emphasis of the Great Commission is to “make disciples,” and this involves far more than simply leading someone to the Savior. Followers of Christ are supposed to make more disciples who live in obedience to Christ. We must spend time teaching and mentoring believers so they will grow and mature in the faith (Hebrews 5:12–14).

In this new devotional series, we are going to survey the book of Acts to see how the early church obeyed the Great Commission. In fact, today’s verse from the first chapter of Acts records a restatement of Christ’s command and functions as a practical outline of the book (i.e., the disciples were His witnesses first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth).

May we have the boldness and wisdom of the apostles to both witness to an unbelieving world and disciple those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ.

Today’s big idea: we are commanded to mature in the faith and disciple others.

What to pray: ask God to help you fulfill the Great Commission.


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