So what is the Great Commission, anyway?
As anyone who has received ambiguous instructions to follow from a boss (or a spouse!) knows, if you don’t know the target you’re trying to reach, it’s hard to meet the goal. With that in mind, I’d like to definite what the Great Commission is so that there’s no confusion from here on out. First, let’s look at the ‘dictionary’ definition of the term. Actually, I don’t know of a dictionary that would define the term, so we turn to Wikipedia, which definitely has it’s issues, but seems to be a good ‘first stop’ to see what’s out there:
The Great Commission of Christianity is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing ministry, missionary work, evangelism, and baptism.
OK, not bad. This definition definitely gets the main point across. But I like digging into the Scriptures themselves to see what Jesus Himself said. As I read the Biblical account and study the last 40 days of Jesus’ earthly life (between the resurrection and His ascension), I’m struck by this idea that in the last 40 days, this was the last chance Jesus would have to instruct his disciples and other followers on what He wanted them to know before He ascended. I would like that He saved the most important instructions for last. And what did He say?
I use three passages of Scripture to compile what I call the Great Commission commands. It’s these three verses that we see the Great Commission. In Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8, we get a complete idea of what the Great Commission is. While I will enjoy breaking down each of these passages in future blog posts, for today’s entry, let me give you my definition by way of an acronym.
In trying to remember the commands we get from Jesus in these three verses, I’ve come up with a hard to remember acronym, but gets the job done. Just remember PDBTW. I know, I really need to work on an acronym that flows a little better, but for now this’ll have to do. And I’ve found that if you repeat PDBTW 100 times, you begin to remember it! Having said that, if any of you come up with a better acronym, I’m all ears!
From the Mark passage, which I always use first, we get the P, which stands for Preach, or as I like better, Proclaim. This is a part of the Great Commission that often times gets overlooked for the more popular Matthew passage, but it’s really important because we can’t make disciples without new believers, and Jesus accounts for this.
From the Matthew passage then we get the D, the B, and the T. The D is for make Disciples, the B is for Baptize and the T is for Teach. I really love the order here in the acronym because it seems like Jesus knew that there was an order that we needed to go in. You need believers before you can disciple. As we disciple, they need to be baptize and we need to teach them as well. As that happens, we must be His witnesses wherever we are. Beautiful stuff from a ministry perspective, for sure.
Finally, we get the W from Acts 1:8 when Jesus tells us to be His Witnesses. I’ve had some people tell me that the Acts 1 passage should not be included but clearly from a chronological standpoint, this falls right at the same time as the Mark and Matthew passage, just before the ascension, and as would be the case, Matthew, Mark and Luke, the author of Acts, write down different aspects of what they heard Jesus say just before the ascension. So by combining the three, we get a nice combination of Jesus’ command.
So what is the Great Commission? It’s Jesus command for His followers to Proclaim, make Disciples, Baptize those new believers, Teach them everything Jesus commanded, and be His Witnesses all throughout the world.