The Great Conclusion
Scripture: Matthew 28:16–20
The Great ConclusionMatthew 28:16-20
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Pastor Randy Smith
The first sermon was delivered in December of 2007. One hundred and ten messages later we are concluding our study in Matthew.
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul articulates the Gospel: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve" 1 Cor. 15:3-5).
Over the past few weeks we have studied the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. I left you last week with the Jewish leaders attempting to cover-up the resurrection story (Mt. 28:15). By way of contrast ("but"), verse 16 indicates the eleven disciples (and probably some others) did as they were told. They went to Galilee (cf. Mt. 26:32; 28:7, 10), worshipped Jesus and received His final words of instruction before He ascended to glory.
As with any final words, great emphasis must be placed upon what Jesus said. I'm calling this message, "The Great Conclusion," and before we go to the Lord's Supper we will cover the four points: The Great Claim, the Great Commission, the Great Calling and the Great Companion.
1. THE GREAT CLAIM
We begin with "The Great Claim." Verse 18, "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'"
What a remarkable statement! "All authority" belongs to Jesus Christ (cf. Dan. 7:13-14; 1 Cor. 15:27-28; Rev. 17:14). In a sense this should not surprise us because we have already seen Jesus demonstrate authority over demons, diseases and death. But now in a more comprehensive way, all authority on earth and in heaven belongs to Jesus Christ. The entire universe is under His sovereign control. Everything and everybody is submissive to Him, and He is free to do whatever, whenever with whomever He wishes.
I will get to the specific purpose for His claim, but for now I want to consider the fact that all authority has been given to Jesus Christ. How does that impact your life right now?
Ever complain about the weather? Guess who brought that rain shower! Ever see those TV preachers working themselves into a sweat searching for the right formulas to expel demonic oppression? Guess who can say the word and the demons flee! Blaming Satan for every misfortune in your life? "I ran over a bunch of nails and that was Satan keeping me away from the Bible Study." Guess who Satan needs to seek permission from before he acts? Ever grumble about and act insubordinate to the human authorities in your life? Guess who put those people there! Guess who stands in authority over them! Ever fear the day of your death? Guess who has sovereignly determined that date from the beginning of time! Ever think it was your own brilliance that helped you choose Christ? Guess who first needed to open your heart! Ever assume that partial obedience to the Word is acceptable? Guess how Jesus feels when you think you can pick-and-choose as if you are the ultimate authority! Ever get worried or anxious about the trials that enter your life? Guess who permitted them! Guess who knows what is best for your life!
We don't care too much for that word "authority" in our self-focused, independent society. But fully understanding and submitting to the authority of Jesus Christ brings with it peace and protection, comfort and confidence. Think of it as a safety umbrella. Like an immature child that rebels against parental authority, it is only when we try to step outside of His authority that our life starts spinning out of control.
2. THE GREAT COMMISSION
We go from the Great Claim to the Great Commission. Verse 19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations." We will never be able to fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples of all the nations unless we understand and accept our previous point - the Great Claim pertaining to Jesus' authority. Because Jesus has all authority, "therefore" (Mt. 28:19), we are to make disciples.
Listen to what John Stott said almost fifty years ago: "The fundamental basis of all Christian missionary enterprise is the universal authority of Jesus Christ, 'in heaven and on earth.' If the authority of Jesus were circumscribed on earth, if He were but one of many religious teachers, one of many Jewish prophets, one of many divine incarnations, we would have no mandate to present Him to the nations as the Lord and Savior of the world. If the authority of Jesus were limited in heaven, if He has not decisively overthrown the principalities and powers, we might still proclaim Him to the nations, but we would never be able to 'turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God' (Acts 26:18). Only because all authority on earth belongs to Christ dare we go to all nations. And only because all authority in heaven as well is His have we any hope of success" (The Great Commission, One Race, One Gospel, One Task).
Because Christ is the ultimate authority we can proclaim His name and "make disciples" with confidence.
What is a disciple? A disciple is a "learner" a "student" of Jesus Christ. A disciple is one who eagerly believes and humbly receives and desperately cleaves to Jesus Christ. Specifically in the words of Christ, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Lk. 14:27). Or, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine" (Jn. 8:31). Let's be clear, discipleship is not an optional second tier of Christian living. All true Christians are disciples.
The Great Commission from Jesus Christ then is for His disciples to make disciples. It does not say "make decisions." We are not talking about mere converts. We are talking about producing committed followers who submit to Christ as Lord and give evidence of progressive growth in their faith.
You have probably heard it said before, the main command in verses 18-20 is "make disciples." This is a lofty imperative that is given to all Christ's followers. It is their responsibility to make disciples. It is a commandment. It is an expectation. All Christians will be disciples who are making more disciples.
How are you doing in this area? Can you name two people you are discipling? Can you identify anyone in this church that has grown because of your influence? Are you helping others mature by the personal example you set? Is a church of mature disciples your greatest desire? Better yet, is a family of mature disciples your greatest desire…Dads? How are you contributing?
It goes back to the "all authority" part. Who is your ultimate authority? A spouse? A friend? A coach? Yourself? When you submit to the complete authority of Jesus Christ, you will desire to obey Him fully. And when you understand that all things are under His authority, you will have the strength to proceed with confidence. And you will need that confidence when you tell a pluralistic world that Christ is the only way, and a self-sufficient world that Christ demands absolute allegiance. Simply put, those statements are not acceptable today.
Example: just before I arrived in New Jersey the Southern Baptist Convention sent several evangelistic teams to Chicago. Some of Chicago's liberal religious leaders responded with outrage and indignation. In a collective letter they wrote, "While we are confident that your volunteers would come with entirely peaceful intentions, a campaign of the nature and scope you envision would contribute to a climate conducive to hate crimes." Hate crimes to share Jesus (and this was pre-911)!
The world claims that to preach Jesus Christ as the only Savior is to preach intolerance. We are not permitted to say we know "the truth" for every religious conviction is as true as any other in our society. So what do we do as Christians? Do we bow to the secular world or follow our Lord's commandments and obey the Great Commission to make disciples of the "nations," which must naturally start with evangelism! Should we not follow the example set for us by Peter and John: "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Ac. 4:19-20).
But it doesn't stop here. For many churches, the Great Commission has been the Great Omission! Yet despite those that are faithfully sharing their faith with others, we unfortunately now have another problem. The aspect of discipleship has flown out the window. People are "getting in" by raising a hand or walking an aisle, and the church thinks it has fulfilled her commission resulting in a building filled with weak or false converts.
Why is the Christian community not aggressively producing disciples? Is it because we cater to lazy individuals? Is it because we are too afraid of scaring people away? Is it because we have incompetent pastors shepherding the flock? Is it because we simply have no clue as to the purpose of the church?
We come back to the authority issue. This church belongs to Jesus Christ. He is the final say in everything we do. His primary command given to us is to make disciples. That is the purpose for which we exist. As you know, that is the "home run" on our Grace Tabernacle vision diagram.
Imagine going for a tour of a shoe factory. The foreman shows you around the plant. You see dozens of hired hands well-dressed in beautiful uniforms. You see the building is in tip-top condition. You observe the machines all on the cutting edge of modern technology. While the foreman is expecting your compliments, you ask a simple question: "May I see a pair of shoes you produced?" And to his shame, he has nothing to show you. Despite its appearance, what grade would you give that factory?
I think the church can function this way too - doing a whole lot of stuff and accomplishing nothing for the Lord. We are not a philanthropic organization. We are not a social club. We are not a recreation center. We are to be a disciple-making factory. And unless we are producing mature disciples eager and able to disciple others, we fail in everything we do regardless of how cool or managed or attractive our organization may appear.
That is why here at the Grace Tabernacle everything we do has the purpose of making disciples. Everything is prayerfully and strategically coordinated to produce by God's grace growing Christian believers. Everything from baby showers to men's nights to Christmas parties to prayer meetings is aimed at assisting you in your walk with Jesus Christ. Our teaching sessions are ultimately important. This is why we preach the Word and do men's discipleships on Saturday mornings and ladies Bible studies and small groups. And I still can't figure out for the life of me why almost half of you cannot leave the house 90 minutes earlier and attend Sunday school? It is a tremendous discipleship experience! So how important is it for you to be a growing disciple? God wants disciples who are equipped to make more disciples! This is not an option. This is the Great Commission!
3. THE GREAT CALLING
We move to the third point, the Great Calling. Beginning in verse 19, "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" (Mat. 28:19-20a).
In this point I am referring to the three participles surrounding the command to "make disciples." Each one of these shows us how we are to make disciples, and each one shows the picture of a mature disciple.
A willingness to go
First, there must be a willingness to "go." Verse 19, "Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (cf. Mt. 10:5).
We can translate this "having gone" or as some like to say, "While you are going." The basic premise is that Christians are not sitting around and waiting for people to come to church and hear the Gospel.
In the formal sense Christians are going to the "nations" to share Christ. That is why we support missionaries. In the less formal sense it means each of you have a responsibility to share Christ in all of your spheres of influence. And that is not very hard in this area where the majority of our community is living outside the truth. We need to be "going!"
Something I learned rather quickly when we moved here was the concentrated Jewish population in our community. It is interesting when you consider their mentality. Their desire is to huddle together. You know the stories about Lakewood. Yet for the Christian the mentality is just the opposite. We are called to go and interact with the unbelieving world. We huddle together at church to be encouraged and equipped, and then we scatter to share the loving message of Christ with the world. Both are necessary!
One author said, "Many churches today remind me of a laboring crew trying to gather in a harvest while they sit in the tool shed. They go to the tool shed every Sunday and they study bigger and better methods of agriculture, sharpen their hoes, grease their tractors, and then get up and go home. Then they come back that night, study bigger and better methods of agriculture, sharpen their hoes, grease their tractors, and go home again. They come back Wednesday night, and again study bigger and better methods of agriculture, sharpen their hoes, grease their tractors, and get up and go home. They do this week in and week out, year in and year out, and nobody ever goes out into the fields to gather in the harvest" (Paul W. Powell, The Complete Disciple).
A willingness to get baptized
Second, disciples must have a willingness to get baptized. Verse 19, "Baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Baptism should be the first act of Christian obedience. We know baptism does not save us, but it shows an outward picture of what God has already done in our lives. It shows how we are now dead to self and in union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a public proclamation of our desire to identify with Jesus.
As a side note, it is interesting that the word "name" (in verse 19) is singular, not plural. It is not the "names" of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But rather the "name" of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One name because there is one triune God who exists in three persons. On another side note, infants are obviously excluded from baptism as they cannot make a conscious decision to receive Christ and become His disciples as this verse teaches.
And if you call yourself a Christian and you have yet to be baptized after your conversion, you are not following this verse. But there is hope for you to do the right thing! As it has been listed in the bulletin, we are having a baptism class two weeks from today at 9:00. Don't make any more excuses. You need to be there because you want to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ!
A willingness to follow His teaching
Third, all disciples must have a willingness to follow Christ's teaching. And as the verse teaches "all" that He "command[s]" were are to "observe." Obviously this goes without saying that it is illogical to call yourself a disciple of Christ and then willfully disregard the teaching of your Master.
How does Christ teach you? It is a lifelong process, but I cannot imagine you having any success if you are not faithfully reading your Bibles and faithfully attending church.
Think of it this way. The NFL draft was this past week. Imagine a football team that blew off team meetings. Imagine if the players never studied their playbooks. Imagine if they just wanted to play for themselves. Imagine if they exerted minimal effort and practiced only when it was convenient. Imagine if they disregarded the directives of their coach. How successful would that team be? They would be a joke, a laughing stock to world! I just described most people in today's evangelical church. How productive are we? Are we willing to observe all that Jesus Christ has commanded us? Are we acting as disciples under His authority?
Folks, if we are not acting like disciples, how in the world will we ever make disciples? And if we are not making disciples, we have completely failed as a church in fulfilling our Great Commission!
4. THE GREAT COMPANION
We have packed a lot in this message. I do not deny that these are lofty commands and ones that will call most of us to make some radical changes in our thinking and lifestyle. But the great glue that holds all of this together is those final words from our Lord here in our fourth point. Our Great Companion said in verse 20, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
On our own we will fail, but though the power of the Holy Spirit that resides in us we have the promise that Jesus Christ is with us always from now until the end of the age. What a great way to end this gospel!
He will be with us. He will forgive us when we fail and empower us toward success. He will give us the time and desire and strength. He will guide us and defend us. He will keep us close to Himself. He will work though us to accomplish His eternal purposes. He is after all, Immanuel, "God with us" (Mt. 1:23).
And if you think the commission is daunting, just imagine those eleven uneducated disciples who originally heard this command. Imagine how they felt as they were called to take the message of Christ all over a hostile and pagan world. Yet they turned the world upside-down (Ac. 17:6). Look at the results two thousand years later. If you have yet to begin, it is now your turn to carry the torch remembering that you stand under the authority of Jesus Christ who promises to help you every step of the way.
What is your greatest goal? Is it to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? And are you obeying the Great Commission as one who desires to make more disciples?