The Greater Commission

Coffee! Coffee! Coffee! Anyone for Coffee?

This morning I flipped open my thick NIV Study Bible and guess where I landed? I landed right in the last part of the Gospel of Matthew where I had highlighted a few verses and in the margin next to it was labeled “The Great Commission.” So, I got to wondering…

When Jesus came back from the dead, He gathered the eleven apostles in Galilee and gave them a firm directive on what He expected from them after He ascends to the clouds. These instructions became known as The Great Commission – the most quoted comes from Matthew 28:18-20

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus teaching

What I get out of this is that Jesus wanted His Eleven to make disciples of everyone, to baptize (a Trinitarian baptism) them, and then indoctrinate them in all His teachings. That sounds like a heavy load for these illiterate, Jewish laborers from a small community who Jesus rebuked many times for not understanding.

Did you know that The Great Commission is also found in the other three Gospels and also in the beginning of Acts? One slight problem though – they’re all different. But, I have an idea. Let’s combine the five commissions to figure out what Jesus really said. Isn’t that how we get the real birth story? We harmonize the two birth stories of Jesus from Matthew and Luke to come up with our own version of the birth story that we tell every Christmas. Anyway, here’s what the entire Commission might sound like…

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations and preach the good news to all creation. Preach also repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations. You have the authority to forgive sins as well as not forgiving sins. Whoever is not forgiven will not be forgiven. Whoever believes and is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit will be saved. As a sign of their belief in me they will be able to drive out demons, speak in tongues, pick up snakes with their hands, drink deadly poison – and it will not hurt them. Whoever does not believe will be condemned. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:14–18, Luke 24:44–49, Acts 1:4–8, and John 20:19–23.)

With this new, harmonized Greater Commission in mind I decided to read through the book of Acts to see how well the apostles followed directions. And sure enough – they forgot again. For one thing Jesus demanded a Trinitarian baptism and all they did was baptize in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38-39; 8:15-16; 10:44-48; 19:4-5). Not once did they give a proper baptism! And they never once gave anyone a drink of poison to test their faith. Holy cow! I can now understand why Jesus rebuked them so much. And Peter must have been the misfit of the group seeings that Jesus called him Satan (Matthew 16:23).

Oh, for those of you who enjoy Christian history, the Commission is not found in two of the oldest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament – the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus. I wonder when God actually added them to the Bible? Another mysterious act of God!

Time for one more cup… or two.

3 thoughts on “The Greater Commission

  1. Whoever added the Commission to the bible could’ve at the least made up the same story in all the gospels. Why have them different?

  2. I’ve always wondered why no one ever quotes the other commission statements. Every pastor I’ve ever known seems to know only the Matthew version.

    1. As I wonder why the creation of humans (at the same time) in Genesis 1 is never quoted. Why is the Genesis 2 version quoted more often? Which is correct? Mark 10:6 repeats Genesis 1, by the way and not the popular Genesis 2.

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