The Great Commission

The Great Commission
By O. F. Fauss

The Great Commission is summed up in four commandments, or duties to be fulfilled, with a promise following, namely:

1. “Go ye therefore. . .”
2. “Teach all nations. . .”
3. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father,
4. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. . .”

And now the promise that followed: “And, lo, I am with you alway. . .” So great was the Commission that Jesus promised to accompany those who dared to obey it. His promise was not for just one short period, but “alway, even unto the end of the world.” His promise was given on conditions, and those conditions were the fulfilling of the commandments contained in His Great Commission.

The Great Commission was spoken to the eleven apostles and those gathered together with them at Bethany.

They received His commandment to evangelize the world. In His commandment to do so, He emphasized the “continued observance” of all else He had commanded.

It is wonderful, too, to note that they carried out His commission to the letter, as recorded by Mark in the closing verse of his Gospel: “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20).

Therefore, we shall endeavor to analyze the Great Commission as follows:

1. The training and qualification of those commissioned.
2. The Commission emphasized by Matthew, Mark and Luke.
3. The records proving how, and in what manner, the Commission was obeyed.

The Training and Qualification of Those Commissioned
We should notice how Jesus selected and called men to follow Him; how He instructed and trained them; how He proved Himself to them; and how He acquainted them with deity and power.

For three and a half years He led them, manifested His power and love to them, and let them behold Him as He did the impossible, on many occasions. He admonished them, “Be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). He taught them, “When ye stand praying, forgive” (Mark 11:25), and again, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). He said, “All things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).

Jesus continually pointed them to a great future experience, the coming of the Comforter–the baptism of the Holy Ghost. He breathed on them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22). This was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

After three and a half years of training, teaching and manifesting Himself to His disciples, we notice the closing hours of instructions, given in a large upper room, where He ate with them the last Passover Feast, and instituted the Lord’s Supper as a memorial.

The keynote of all His words to them pointed to that great experience which He had come to give the world. It was that of which He spoke to the woman of Samaria, and then promised on one of their feast days, when he stood and cried, “. . .If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink; He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly [or innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37, 38).

Let us pay special attention to the last words Jesus spoke on earth to His disciples. These words were spoken after His resurrection, and after His having appeared to them, showing “. . .himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

We notice that He “. . .Commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4, 5).

Although He had commanded them to go into all the world, yet He made them know they were not qualified until they were filled with the Holy Ghost. He said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and [then] ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Those were His parting words to His disciples. The last emphasis He placed on all His commands was concerning the greatest and all-important qualification–the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

The Commission Emphasized

1. MATTHEW. Matthew 28:19, 20 gives us his account of the Great Commission as follows: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

Matthew understood Jesus to mean to evangelize all nations, to bring them into the knowledge of the kingdom of God, and then baptize them in the [singular] name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

What is the name of the Father? Matthew had heard Jesus say, “After this manner. . .pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). The “name” of the Father, indicates that the Father has a name. Jesus also said, “I am come in my Father’s name” (John 5:43), and again, “I have manifested thy name [the Father’s] unto the men which thou gayest me out of the world” (John 17:6).

It is true that the expression, as recorded in Matthew’s account of the commission, gave birth to the theory of three persons in the Godhead. Adam Clarke, in his commentary of the Scriptures, said, “The orthodox, as they are termed, have generally considered this text as a decisive proof of the doctrine of the holy Trinity, . . .but this I can never believe; I must abide by what I believe to be the meaning of the Scriptures.” (Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 5, page 284).

It is clear that the name of Jesus is the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, for the angel had announced before His birth, “His name shall be called Jesus, [Jehovah-Savior], for He shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

This was the fulfillment of the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 7:14, “. . .they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (See also Matthew 1:23.) Let us also notice, further, that the singular name of the Lord Jesus is referred to by all other writers recording the account of the Great Commission.

2. MARK. Mark gives his account of the commission, thus: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name [singular] shall they cast out devils….” (Mark 16:15-17).

Mark went further to record, that they “. . .went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20).

Mark’s account is in full harmony with Matthew and with Luke, and agrees with the record of how the commission was preached, practiced and obeyed in the Book of Acts.

3. LUKE. Luke makes us to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the apostles knew and understood the words of Jesus when He gave the Great Commission. For we read in Luke 24:45-48, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.”

This makes clear the following:

A. What is to be preached.
B. How it was to be preached.
C. In what name it was to be preached.
D. Where this specific preaching would begin.

How The Commission Was Obeyed

IN JERUSALEM. Let us keep in mind the four commandments of duties in the Great Commission: “Go, Teach, Baptize, and Observe.”

After the disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost (second chapter of Acts), they were ready for service. We have already learned that “repentance and remission of sins were to be preached in the name of Jesus,” and that it was to “begin at Jerusalem.”

Let us also bear in mind that Jesus had given Peter a very special commission in Matthew 16:18, 19, when He said, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven…. ” Jesus further made known that the action or words of Peter, pertaining to setting up of the church, or His kingdom, would be recorded as the authority of heaven itself. Therefore, it was necessary that the Apostle Peter speak first on the Day of Pentecost–the birthday of the church.

Peter did not speak alone, for we read of “Peter standing up with the eleven” (Acts 2:14). In other words, the rest of the apostles were standing with Peter and agreeing with his words.

His great sermon, proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus, so stirred the multitude that three thousand souls cried out unto Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

Peter answered with all the authority of heaven behind him, in complete accord with the words of Jesus in the Great Commission, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38, 39).

IN SAMARIA. On the Day of Pentecost, repentance and remission of sins began to be preached in Jesus’ name, starting at Jerusalem. The record shows, further, that when Philip preached Christ to Samaria, there came great joy to that city. We read in Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” According to verse 16, they were baptized in the name of the Lord

PAUL AT DAMASCUS. The persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, also received the same message when Ananias said unto him, “And now, why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

IN CAESAREA. God convinced the Apostle Peter and a number of Jews who were with him in Caesarea, that Gentiles were included too. He did this by an outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Peter made this statement, “. . .that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). After God had so convinced Peter and those Jews, Peter then commanded them “. . .to be baptized in the name of the Lord [Jesus]” (verse 48).

IN EPHESUS. About fifteen years later, or twenty-three years after the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Paul had a revival at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-6). He emphasized the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and so stressed water baptism that the people were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when he prayed for them, they were filled with the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues.

Nine years later he besought Timothy to abide still at Ephesus, that he might “. . Charge some that they teach no other doctrine!” (I Timothy 1:3).

IN CORINTH. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians, in view of his own conversion and his manner of baptizing the Ephesians, makes it very clear that they too (as well as all others) were baptized in the name of Jesus. For he said (I Corinthians 15:1-3), “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you [See Acts 19:1-6], unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received [Acts 22:16], how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” He asks them in another place (I Corinthians 1:13), “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” Who was crucified for the Corinthians? Jesus Christ! Into whose name, then, were they baptized? The name of Jesus Christ! The context will permit no other answer, for unless they were baptized in the name of Jesus, his statement would have no meaning whatsoever.

THE ROMANS, GALATIANS, COLOSSIANS, AND OTHERS. It is needless to go into detail showing that all these were baptized in the name of Jesus, for such statements as follow will suffice: “baptized into Jesus Christ”; “buried with Him in baptism”; “baptized into His death”; “planted together in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:35; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). We shall go into these Scriptures later, with a fuller explanation in Paul’s teaching on water baptism.

Let us remember this: to follow the Lord Jesus in obeying His Great Commission, we must follow these who heard Him. Paul said to the Thessalonians: “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord” (I Thessalonians 1:6).

The Apostle Peter gave us the following admonition, a short time before his execution, and thirty-three years after he had preached on the Day of Pentecost, “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us [Acts 2:38] the apostles of the Lord and Saviour” (II Peter 3:1, 2).

In conclusion, let us notice Paul’s teaching on water baptism. It will be well for us to consider the life and doctrine of the Apostle Paul, even on the subject of Water Baptism.

Paul’s statement to the Thessalonians (I Thessalonians 1:5), “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but. . .in much assurance,” should encourage us to look into what and how he preached.

His challenge to the angels to contradict his message makes it all the more important that we believe and preach accordingly. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you [Acts 19:1-6], let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

He informed the Corinthians that what he preached unto them, he had also received first, before delivering it unto them (I Corinthians 15:1-4). He further stated to them that he preached the same thing everywhere he went, in every church. (I Corinthians 4:17).

It cannot be denied that Paul was baptized in water in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 22:16), and that he practiced baptizing his converts in the name of Jesus, even though they had formerly been baptized in water unto John’s baptism (Acts 19:1-6).

Paul goes so far as to say that water baptism in the name of Jesus is necessary to put one into Christ. “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). Some try to make you think he was talking about the baptism of the Spirit here, but the following verse shows plainly that he was talking of water baptism, and that in the (singular) name of Him who died for us. “Therefore we are buried with him [not them] in baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life [the baptism of the Spirit]; For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death [of the one who died for us], we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:4, 5).

The same term, “buried with him in baptism,” is used in Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians (2:12), for he had already informed them that Jesus was (in His earthly life) the “. . .image of the invisible God, the firstborn [resurrected and glorified] of every creature: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell. . .For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 1:15-19; 2:9).

Paul said to the Galatians, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). This is fulfilled by obeying Acts 2:38, the way of entrance into the body of Christ.

Let us notice the record of Paul’s experience, and what took place at Philippi. His vision of a man calling for help over in Macedonia, made him to know that the Spirit of God had called him there to preach the gospel (Acts 16:610).

His first service was held out of the city by the river side (Acts 16:12, 13). His first convert was a woman named Lydia. She and her household were baptized.

After a number of days, Paul cast an unclean spirit out of a girl. As a result, both he and Silas were put in jail. (Acts 16:16-24).

The miracle that took place that night, and resulted in the conversion of the jailor and his family, will surely prove the essentiality of baptism. We read: “And he took them [Paul and Silas] the same hour of the night [midnight], and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:33). It is proved they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, by the wonderful exaltation of Jesus in Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him [Jesus], and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).