New International Version (NIV)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Most of us have read this and heard it so many times that we don’t really think much about what Jesus is saying here because of our preconceived notions that have been pumped into our heads all of our lives by listening to preachers and Sunday school teachers.
Let’s go over what our Lord is saying here a little more carefully and let it sink in for just a minute.
First, He said that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him and no one else. So that makes him the ultimate authority over everything in our universe including the way we do church. This authority lies in no other which would include the preacher, Sunday school teacher and me. So we want to do things his way, not a preacher, pastor, priest, father, nor any denomination’s way and not even our own way.
What exactly is a denomination? (domain>denominator>divider/ A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and another are defined by doctrine and church authority. Issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy separate one denomination from another.)
This happens because of men trusting and leaning on their own understanding rather than trusting in God.
What did Jesus say about that?
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Prays for All Believers
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
When I read this, I get these red flag signals that run all up and down my spine. SOMETHING’S WRONG, SOMETHING’S WRONG! Do you get that here?
Contrary to what many of you have been taught, a denomination is not an arm, leg or other part of the body working in perfect harmony with the other parts. As a matter of fact, most every one of them have absolutely no association with the other whatsoever and even have signs out in front of their establishments making sure all passersby know that they are denominated/divided from the rest of the body of Christ. Does that please Jesus? Is that really what he intended for his church? That is hard to imagine considering the prayer that he prayed.
How do we avoid falling into this? How do we know which one if any, who or what is right? Do I have some superior knowledge or am I more intelligent than anyone else that I can make a better judgment as to which one is right out of the some 40,000 of them? The answer is no! I don’t and you don’t either. What makes us think that our thinking is superior to another one of God’s children? Let God be true and every man a liar. Sadly, any and all denominations who believe that they have hold of some corner of truth which sets them above the rest are dishonoring God simply by denominating/dividing the body of Christ. Now let’s get back to the question. How do we avoid falling into this? The answer is very simple. We listen to Jesus, not men. In order to really listen to Jesus, you must really believe in Jesus.
What does Jesus say?
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
What else does he say?
New International Version (NIV)
Ask, Seek, Knock
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
What Jesus is saying is this: All authority in heaven and earth has been given to him and he will lead you in the right direction on his own if you will listen to him and no one else. Give no authority to no other, contrary to what another might want to tell you. Don’t give it to a denomination/divider and don’t give it to a man who resides over one of them acting as head. Jesus is the head of his own body and needs no another head to tell his hands or feet what to do.
1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
You and I have the authority from Him to be His ambassadors to the world and act as royal priest of the most powerful kingdom in the universe. If you and I are tuned in to Him alone, we will be in perfect harmony and unity with each other and of God. We will not be denominated/divided, and will be displaying Christ to the world in such a way that the world will know that we are His disciples and we will be making more disciples in that alone. Jesus can speak to you just as easy as He can anyone else if you will just listen to Him. You can share the things He has given you no different than anyone else.
This brings us to the next part of the great commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”
Let’s stop at the first word. “Therefore” what is it there for? It is there for you to know that the next statement coming is a result of the statement just spoken to you. “Go and make disciples of all nations” Did he say to go attend a church of your choice? Denomination of your choice? Sit on a pew and listen to a sermon? Did he say to go and make church members of all nations? No, he said to go and make disciples of all nations and He gave you the authority to do it because you are his royal priest or ambassador to all nations.
Some may say that Jesus was only speaking to his 12 apostles here and wasn’t speaking to all believers. There’s just one small problem with that theory. If he were only speaking to the 12 apostles, the church would have died out in the first century and the great commission would have been an ultimate failure making Jesus out to be an impostor and a liar.
Yes, he was speaking to you and me telling us as His disciples to go make disciples. And when we have made a disciple, that disciple must obey Him just as we have done making further disciples. It’s a daily labor and obligation for anyone who desires to follow Christ. That’s why He says we must die to ourselves if we want to follow him. Your life is finished in Christ. You are dead anyway without Him, so you might as well die now so you can live in Him.
Matthew 6:24-27- “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
Did he say anything about living and looking just like the unbelievers around you except for watching a Sunday morning 2 hour performance before a live studio audience? No. I know that’s a nice and cozy little comfort zone but He never told anyone to do anything like that, did He? You won’t find that picture anywhere throughout the entire New Testament either.
So this here is what it amounts to dear friend. If you want to go to heaven, you must obey Jesus. If you’re going to obey Jesus, He has called you to be a missionary to the world by making disciples whether that might be in your own house or on the other side of the planet. You must stop what you’re doing, throw your worldly dreams and ambitions away. Yes, just go ahead and burn them down now so he won’t have to later. Die to yourself so you can live in Jesus Christ. Live for nothing or no one else except Him and go make disciples.
Now, the next part of the great commission is the instructions on how to make a disciple. It’s nothing the least bit complicated. No theology schools, baptism or discipleship classes were mentioned here. He already told us that all authority has been given to Him. Let’s just simply do what he said next, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. This is where it’s done right here. You baptize them meaning that you bury them. The word baptism in the Greek actually means to bury under water, submerge, immerse. Let’s please not put up some kind of argument, defense or excuse here on baptism not saving a person. Of course baptism doesn’t save a person, Jesus does as a result of our faith and our obedience is what displays our faith, so let’s just obey him, okay? Anyway, it’s only water and we need a good bath every once in a while, so let’s just not fight it. Now if we happen to be kind of nailed down in some way like the thief on the cross was, that’s another story, remember that the authority has been given to Jesus, so he can make an exception whenever if he happens to want to. Okay? Hope we got that out of the way.
So how do we make a disciple? We simply baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, with their permission of course which would be a demonstration of their faith by their willingness to obey Him. At that point is where we would want to pray for them to be filled with that Holy Spirit which is the same as the Father and the Son. That is also the point in which they have now become a disciple of Jesus. The disciple has been made. The old person has died and was buried, then a new person was born again out of Spirit and water. This person is now a new creation and has become a royal priest to the nations of the world.
Next part: “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
How did Jesus do this? He said, “Go, and sin no more.” They are to stop sinning and start making disciples of Jesus. It is our job to encourage and help them to obey Jesus. It is our obligation and duty to love them as we would love any brother or sister, or as we would love ourselves. They become like a child to us that we would train up into maturity in doing good works through a love for God and a love for man. We have no obligation to laying down for them denominational rules, laws and doctrines or to teach them any kind of denominational creed. Just love them and teach them to obey Jesus. Now we have a functional family going on here operating in love and unity, not an institution or a denomination/division of Christ’s body. That would be called a dysfunctional family.
What we are doing here is building the Lord’s church rather than promoting some institution that is dividing the Lord’s church. If they’re led by the Holy Spirit and we’re led by the Holy Spirit, then His body will be working in perfect harmony, but if one or more is not being led by the Holy Spirit, then we have a problem where we need to give the Lord his proper position and authority as head of his body. That’s where we work through ourselves to become more like him. The Holy Spirit will lead us into truth that way, that is if we believe in Him (The Holy Spirit). If anyone doesn’t believe in Him, then they don’t have Him and should’ve never been baptized in the first place. This person does not belong in the Lord’s church and is a wolf among sheep.
This brings me to the last part of the great commission: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” That would be the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ who is God, the ultimate authority over the Universe living with us and literally in us to the very end of the age. So this means that we do not need to put our trust in the teachings of men if Christ is with us to teach us all things through the Holy Spirit.