The Great Commission

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The Great Commission

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:46-48


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NOTE: Due to being out of town, there is no video for this lesson.  The audio will be added after the lesson is presented on Sunday, January 2, 2022 am.  TT

TEACHINGS OF Jesus (69) 

We have devoted the last 2 years to the theme of the teachings of Jesus.   We have covered much – the sermon on the Mount, numerous parables, the I AM sayings of Jesus, a handful of miscellaneous texts, the limited commission, some of His teachings during His final week leading to crucifixion, His final recorded prayer and in our last lessons His teachings from the cross.  We now come to our final lesson in this study – the great commission.


  1. Background
    1. In our last lesson, we concluded with Jesus dead on the cross.
    2. Following that He arose from the dead as recorded by all 4 gospels.
    3. After His resurrection, Jesus was on earth for another 40 days during which time He made numerous appearances, enough to conclusively determine that He did physically arise from the dead and left the grave.
    4. We have a handful of teachings during this time, including the restoration of Peter, His rebuke on the night of His resurrection, etc.
    5. We now come to the Great commission.
  2. The great commission
    1. This is the final admonition of Jesus, directed primarily to His apostles, but in conclusion, all of us as Christians. We will address this later in this lesson.
    2. It is found in all 3 synoptics. We are most familiar with Mark 16:15-16, then Matthew 28:18-20.  But there is also the summary in Luke 24:46-48.  We will combine all of these in this lesson.   ALSO, consider that it is possible Jesus taught these things on more than one occasion during His 40 days on earth following His resurrection.  I could see this as a continued emphasis which would explain differences in the texts.
    3. Go – this in an imperative mentioned in both Matthew and Mark. It is a command to be obeyed like any other.  The disciples could not sit still and be pleasing.  Jesus was counting on them to do the work He left for them to do (they did it).  Similarly, we cannot sit still either.
    4. Into all the world, of all nations – this was a commission that would begin locally, but in short order it would spread and keep spreading. Acts 1:8 outlines that book and noted the progression of the gospel beginning in Jerusalem, then Judea & Samaria and ultimately to “the end of the earth.”
    5. Make disciples, Preach the gospel – this is HOW we make disciples.
      1. Romans 10:14-17. Unless the word is shared, hearers will never come.
      2. A disciple is a learner, but more than just learning facts from a teacher. This is about learning from and FOLLOWING the master teacher.  Clearly, this is Jesus.
    6. The Gospel – this is the message –
      1. It is the greatest message, as it is a message of salvation and eternal hope. It is not about what I think it should be, but God’s word preserved for all generations.
      2. Romans 1:16, Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 1:13 – the gospel of your salvation.
      3. We need to depend on the message to do the teaching, not gimmicks. Gimmicks are superficial and rarely accomplish the goal.  They may provoke a temporary response in someone, but rarely the conviction needed for true conversion.
    7. Repentance – Luke 24:47 – only mentioned in Luke, but needs consideration.
      1. Repentance needs to be present as one obeys the gospel. Without repentance you will NOT have true conversion.
      2. Luke 13:3 & 5, Acts 17:30-31, 2:38, 3:19, etc.
      3. This step is often neglected in the conversion process. When one tells another, “you won’t have to change much” there is usually a misunderstanding of what true repentance involves.
      4. A study of repentance shows that it comes from a convicted heart. Acts 2:37, 16:29-30, etc.    This is also reflected in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.
    8. Baptizing them – the final step in obeying the gospel.
      1. It is clearly not the only step. One must hear, believe, repent and confess.  Baptism is the response because of one’s belief.
      2. But baptism is clearly described as important – Acts 22:16, 2:38, Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:27 – it puts you into Christ, 1 Peter 3:21, etc.
      3. It is a significant step that God has provided. It is a PUBLIC profession of your faith.  It is a step of submission where you let God fulfill His promise via your obedience (Colossians 2:11-12 – NOTE that the salvation in this step is not about your but “the working of God.”)
      4. Luke 24:47 does not mention baptism by word, but it DOES give the result, “remission of sins” which implies the necessity of baptism (Acts 2:38).
    9. “Shall be saved”
      1. Mark 16:16, Luke 24:47 – remission of sins is the result.
      2. The greatest promise – those who respond to this invitation have a hope of salvation.
      3. This is the goal we are pursuing. It is what the preaching of the gospel was about.
      4. In a world filled with sorrows, troubles and struggles, this is the incentive to both preach the gospel to others AND to obey the gospel. It is a promise of something better.
      5. John 3:16 – everlasting life, Romans 2:7, eternal life to those who by patient continuance seek for glory, honor and immortality.
    10. Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded
      1. Addressing the great commission this is sometimes described as “the greatest authority”.
      2. Matthew 28:18-20 – Note how Matthew records this, “All authority has been given Me…” Jesus was the source of authority.  No other foundation can anyone lay – 1 Corinthians 3:11
      3. AND, even after obeying the gospel He must continue to be that source of authority. You CANNOT obey the gospel and then go on your merry way doing whatever you want to do.
      4. Of note here, Jesus is NOT saying one must know everything before they can obey (for then no one could obey), but this is an attitude – we must LEARN that He has authority and thus we must do what He says (Matthew 7:21-23). As we learn, if changes are needed we make them.  We do whatever is needed to stay in a right relationship with Him (cf. 1 John 1:7)
    11. LO I am with you always
      1. They would not be alone, and neither will we.
      2. We can find great comfort knowing that our Lord is there and that He understands. He has been there and endured (Hebrews 4:15-16).  Hebrews 13:5-6 – I will never leave you nor forsake you…
  3. Lessons:
    1. Does this apply to us?
      1. Some contend that this commission applied only to the apostles. And in context, they were clearly the first and primary audience of this instruction.  Furthermore, without the work of the apostles, we would not have the word of God today as it is.   They were given the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19) and they DID open that kingdom to both Jew and Gentile alike.  So in its immediate context, this was given to the apostles.
      2. BUT, its fulfillment extends beyond their exclusive work.
        1. While the gospel began with the apostles, they gave others the ability to help spread the gospel. It was through the laying  on of their hands, others received the Holy Spirit to teach and confirm the word (cf. Acts 8:14-18).
        2. Philip serves as an example of this – as he went to Samaria and then the Eunuch (Acts 8, cf. Acts 6:5-7). Also
        3. Acts 8:4 – they went everywhere preaching the word. How did the gospel get into the recesses of the world of that time?  Acts 11:19-21 further elaborates on this group.
        4. Clearly the apostles taught others who in turn taught others. This is actually what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2.  I am convinced as the apostles taught, the converted carried the message forward.  And together they preached the gospel.
        5. Colossians 1:23 – it was preached to every creature under heaven.
      3. When we consider what scripture teaches about spreading the gospel, we have reason to believe the great commission is a general command.  BUT, it is not saying that everyone needs to go into some foreign land to preach, but rather you teach who you can and whatever ways you can (including supporting those who DO go to other lands).
    2. Why this commission applies to me
      1. Because souls are lost. Every soul will live eternally somewhere.  Romans 14:10-12, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 speaks of the vengeance of God against those who do not obey the gospel. 1 Peter 4:17.
      2. The ONLY way God has provided to reach the lost is by word of mouth.  He’s counting on us to do our part.  Hence the GREAT COMMISSION.
      3. I need to be concerned about the souls of others – AM I? Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:16
      4. Colossians 1:23 – the gospel is the ONLY source of true hope for this world. No one other than Jesus will redeem man, and the gospel is the message about Him (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 4:15).


And thus we can see the final admonition of our Lord while upon this earth. It is our call to take His light and share it with others (Matthew 5:14-16).   In this dark world, there is a desperate need for His message of light and hope.  Will we do our part to share Him with others?

And thus we bring to a conclusion our study of the teachings of Jesus.  As we have continually noted, this study is not exhaustive, but we have given considerable attention to His message and can see how it applies to us.  Jesus came to this earth to save you and me.  And He teaches us how to live as His disciples.  Are you willing to learn from Him?  Think about it!