Is the Great Commission Prescriptive or Descriptive?

Some come to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:7-8), and see it merely as a description of the words of Jesus to his disciples and not as something prescriptive, meaning those of us who are followers of Christ now are not required to follow the commission, but that it was meant for those who heard it directly from the Lord himself.

A few things to consider:

First, this command is from Christ, and therefore you do not have the difficulties that normally come in narrative with sinful men acting and speaking – Jesus is perfect, and everything that he says is true.  So if someone follows what Jesus says to the letter, what are you going to say, “hey, stop being so much like Jesus.”  If someone is going to error, I think erroring to doing what Jesus said is the best error one could make (if one could call it an error).

Secondly, the repitition of the command is important – especially its repitition in the book of Acts.  Why?  Because, the Gospel was not preached to every tongue, tribe, and nation (the “remotest part of the earth”) by the end of the Apostolic age.  There was still work to be done, and so in this sense we see a continuation of the command in that it was not fulfilled.  Also, if we think that the “going” part of the command is descriptive, what about teaching people everything that Jesus taught and what about baptizing?  Is that merely descriptive as well?  No, it is not – it is prescriptive – it is a command.

Thirdly, we are the result of this Great Commission being followed.  We (most of us) are not Jews, and we (most of us) are not in Israel.  If followers had not followed the command of Christ, we would not have believed.  God uses his people as the means by which the message is proclaimed.

Fourthly, given in this command is “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”  What would this include?  Well, in the nearest context, it would include teaching this very command to those you are making disciples!  The Great Commission is inherently a command to ALL disciples.

Fifthly, the phrase, “and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20), makes it clear that the “you” who are being addressed are not just the eleven disciples, but rather this promise extends to all of Christ’s followers throughout time.

So, let us obey our Lord and Savior, not tomorrow, but today:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘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 28:18-20)

(for more on the Great Commission go here: Go and Make Disciples)


Random Thoughts from Reading in Matthew

The Prophet Jeremiah“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.'” (Matthew 23:29-30)

This verse reminded me how easy it is to think myself better than another – especially when reading history, or even reading the Old Testament or the New.  I read about Abraham and think, “man, what an idiot, lying about his wife when he knows God is on his side” or Jacob, that he was such a schemer.  Or when I read about the disciples and how it took them forever to trust Jesus, I think, “man, they sure were dense!”

But I should not think myself any better than them, for what am I?  Continue reading →

Go and Make Disciples

“Therefore go and make disciples from all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20a)

We were talking about this verse in Greek class today so I thought I would spend some time walking through its translation (mainly for my own benefit – the final is coming up!). This will be a bit technical, so I’ll put the interpretation first, and then if you want to read more to find out why I said what I said, you are more than welcome.

It is wrong to emphasis “Go” as the main thrust of this passage because in fact “make disciples” is the main verb.  Another fallacy would be to translate the participle in this way: “as you are going…” In reality the main thing Jesus wants to happen is that we would “go and make disciples” – attendant circumstances, meaning that Jesus is commanding us not only to go but also to make disciples – both are part of the command – they function sort of like a unit (a clear example of this is Matthew 2:13 “Rise and take…and go…”). Continue reading →

Why do you see the speck?

“Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?” (Matthew 7:3)

In one of my classes my professor told the story of a prominent preacher who taught for many years that the elder qualification of “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2) meant that, even if a man’s wife died, if he wanted to be an elder, he could never re-marry. This man taught this in his church and enforced it on the lives of his flock. That is until the day his own wife died. Continue reading →

Feeding the Multitudes

We’ve all read the story about Jesus feeding the 5,000 – most of us have probably read it more than once. But something I failed to think about until it was pointed out by one of my professors was this: Jesus also fed the 4,000.

Sure, I knew Jesus fed the 4,000 as well, but I never thought about it very deeply.
The feeding of the 5,000 is in all four gospels (Matt. 14:15-21; Mk. 6:35-44; Lk. 9:12-17; Jn. 6:4-13), and right after Jesus feeds the 5,000 the crowds seek to make Jesus their king – Jesus prevents them and then when they seek him again on the other side of the lake Jesus speaks to them about the true bread of life (basically confronting them with the fact that bread is not really what they need), causing many to leave.

But not much time passes before something quite amazing occurs… Continue reading →

The Pharisees and Sadducees

So in Greek Exegesis class we were talking about Granville Sharp’s Rule, and I thought I would post something about what we learned. Not exactly the most exciting thing in the world, but maybe it will be interesting, and it will help me learn because Greek is difficult for me.
What is Sharp’s Rule? Well, basically it speaks to the relationship of two substantives (words that function as nouns in a sentence) that are joined by the coordinating conjunction καὶ (sometimes translated as “and” in English).
Continue reading →

Plucking the Eyes

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29)

A cry of desperation reaches my ears – the sight of so many fallen, in tears. Too many of us, too many have not defeated the enemy – rather, we let our passions run our lives, or should I say we let our passions drive us deep into death’s grave. Why does the temptation to surrender to our loins so great – and why does it run the course of our whole earthly existence?

We have forgotten, we are blind to the truth, yet our eyes see all to clearly those things that are evil. Would we pluck out our eyes if it took this sin away? Would you take desperate action in order to remove lust from your flesh? We fall because we think we are strong – we fall because we think it does not matter.

Woe to us, woe to me for not plucking out my eyes, for not removing the opportunity for lust in my life. God! How long O Lord will it be, how long must I wage war! I am weary, I am covered in blood – O that I would be pure, O to never look at a woman and lust! Father, give me the strength to put my flesh to death, that I might truly live – the live of joy, the life of pure pleasure that you have for me – I am worthless without You, helpless without You. I am Your slave – You have commanded me, grant that I do what You have commanded.

“For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16)