The Great Commission or the Great Suggestion?

I don’t know the source, but I suspect it is from a Christian magazine article written in the last 75 years. My guess is that this idea would have found fertile soil during the Great Depression (when funds were definitely low and excuses for lack of action could be high; for a parallel, see Jas 2.1-13). There’s a myth foisted on the Christian public about the meaning of the Great Commission (Matt 28.19-20). It goes something like this: “In the Greek, the word translated ‘Go’ is really a participle and it literally means, ‘as you are going.’ But the words ‘make disciples’ are an imperative in Greek. That’s the only imperative in these two verses. Therefore, the Great Commission is not a command to go; rather, it is a command to make disciples as you are going, or make disciples along the way.” The exposition based on this understanding of the Greek text then attempts to salve the consciences of the congregation, permitting them to do nothing about the lost if it at all means going out of their way.

There are two major problems with this treatment of Matt 28.19-20. First, it is a misunderstanding of the Greek. Second, it is a misunderstanding of the historical context. This blog will deal with the first issue.

As for the Greek, it is true that the word translated ‘go’ is a participle. But it is not a present participle, which is the one that would be required if the meaning were ‘as you are going.’ It is an aorist participle, πορευθέντες (poreuthentes). As such, it hardly means ‘as you are going’ or ‘while you are going.’ The basic idea would be ‘after you have gone,’ and as such would presuppose that one would have gone forth before making disciples. But in collocation with certain kinds of verbs this basic meaning is altered. When an aorist participle is followed by an aorist imperative in narrative literature, it almost invariably piggy-backs on the force of the imperative. That is, it is translated like an imperative because the author is trying to communicate a command.

A great illustration of this is found in Matt 2.13-14: “‘Get up and take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to kill him.’ Then he got up and took the child and his mother during the night, and fled to Egypt.” In v. 13, “Get up and take” is a translation of an aorist participle followed by an aorist imperative. That the reader is to understand that this was a dual command is seen in the fact that Joseph got up during the night and fled to Egypt. The urgency was not in taking Jesus and Mary only; it was in getting up quickly, then taking the child and his mother out of Bethlehem.

The construction in which the participle and verb combine so that the participle borrows from the mood of the main verb is known as attendant circumstance.

With the same participle as is found in Matt 28.19, we see this idea repeated elsewhere in Matthew. Here are all of the passages in Matthew of the aorist participle of poreuomai followed by an aorist imperative (each time the translation of the participle is italicized):

  • Matt 2.8: “Go and look carefully for the child.”
  • Matt 9.13: “Go and learn what this means.”
  • Matt 11.4: “Go and tell John what you hear and see.”
  • Matt 17.27: “Go to the lake and throw out a hook”
  • Matt 28.7: “Go quickly and tell his disciples”
  • Matt 28.19: “Go and make disciples”

Matthew 9.13 even has both the same participle and the same imperative as Matt 28.19. What you will notice is that in every instance the main idea is what the imperative says (look carefully, learn, tell John, throw out a hook, tell his disciples). But the participle is never to be taken in a casual sense of ‘as you are going.’

However, when the present participle of poreuomai is used, the idea of ‘as you are going’ is indeed found. Here are all the references in Matthew (with the translation of the participle in italics):

  • Matt 10.7: “As you go, preach this message”
  • Matt 11.7: “While they were going away, Jesus began…”
  • Matt 28.11: “While they were going, some of the guard went into the city…”

Check any English translation. They should all tell the same story. If Matthew had wanted to say ‘as you are going, make disciples’ he would have used the present participle of poreuomai instead of the aorist. In every other instance when the aorist participle is followed by an imperative in Matthew, the force of the participle is a command. However, you should also notice that the command to go is a necessary prerequisite for fulfilling the main injunction in the sentence. It cannot be dispensed with, but neither is it the main point. This is why Greek uses the participle instead of two imperatives: the second imperative is almost invariably the main point, while the aorist participle is the necessary prerequisite. For example, Peter could not throw a hook in the lake until he went to the lake (Matt 17.27); the women could not tell Jesus’ disciples that he had been raised from the dead until they went (Matt 28.7). How does this relate to the Great Commission? Essentially, it means that the apostles must go before they could make disciples.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that grammar is inconsequential! Matthew’s grammar paints a picture and urges an action, and we seriously err if we neglect what our Lord is really teaching at the end of this Gospel.

To learn more about the relevance of Greek grammar for the proper understanding of the New Testament, you might want to get a hold of my book, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1996).

31 thoughts on “The Great Commission or the Great Suggestion?

  1. Pingback: The Great Commission | Effectual Grace

  2. Kevin

    I had taken this passage in the incorrect manner that you state here which does seem, on the basis of textual evidence, to be wrong. But if so, would this mean that *everyone* is supposed to *go* and make disciples? In other words, this interpretation would seem to imply that everyone is to become a vocational missionary, at least in the way that this verse is typically used, where this verse is taken to applied individually (at least, that has been my impression). But that would seem to go against the practice of the early church where most of the people in the early church stayed where they were and only a few were sent out. Or is the imperative given to the church, as a whole, instead with missions, and a subset of believers being vocational missionaries, being a prime focus of the church? An easy answer would be to say “both”, but that might overstate what the verse is actually saying or cloud the issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kevin, what you’re saying here is why so many have mistranslated this text: they swiftly move from interpretation to application. In fact, they don’t even interpret the text. And since it seems self-evident that we should not all become missionaries, this has a backlash effect on the translation. Here’s what’s happened: by way of realizing that the application of this passage cannot be that all believers should be on the mission field, exegetes, pastors, and theologians have felt that the text was mistranslated. So, they introduce the grammatically improbable “as you are going” into the translation. In my next blog (part 2 on the Great Commission) I will distinguish between what the text meant and how it applies to us today. Stay tuned.

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  3. Pingback: Greek Grammar and The Great Commission: Understanding the Command To Go | Blogournal

  4. Geno

    Another profound and penetrating insights of yours Dr. Dan… we will wait for the second part of this eye-opening contribution on the Great Commission…

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  5. Pingback: Dan Wallace Myth-Busts the Great Commission "As You Are Going" | DIASPORA

  6. Barry Hofstetter

    If it were a present participle, it still wouldn’t excuse anyone from failure to evangelize. It would simply mean “While you are going…” i.e., in each and every context in which you find yourself. Looking forward to your next post on this subject…

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  7. Even if it were a present participle, it wouldn’t mean that one gets excused from evangelism. πορευόμενοι, “As you go,” could easily be interpreted to mean “in each and every context you find yourself…”

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  8. Blair McBride

    Thank you, this is very helpful. I can’t count the number of times I have heard the “as you are going” interpretation. It seems strange that people automatically assume that if the text is to interpreted as you are suggesting, that it would mean that all people are to become vocational missionaries. Hopefully part two will address the extent of going to the nations as required by every believer. I certainly think that it does but not necessarily vocationally.

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  9. This is a great reminder to always be suspicious (meaning do your own homework and verify) when a pastor/teacher says, “it’s not translated this way, but here’s what it REALLY means…”

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    1. Tim Reichmuth

      Brent, this is a great insight . We should be especially wary when we view major translations and they all agree against such insight!

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      1. This does require an “amen.” It never ceases to surprise me how people with Strong’s Concordance and a reference grammer (if that) can come up with insights better than folks who have studied and worked with the languages for the better part of a lifetime

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  10. Pingback: Some recent reading. | Linguae Antiquitatum

  11. Great grammatical analysis. Thank you very much. I am looking forward to your modern day application. I believe this commission applies to all Christians with no exception, though it doesn’t mean that everybody must become a missioner. All of us can promote the Gospel locally.

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  12. I think the “great commission” will find its true fulfillment in the Millennium, Several reasons for my view: people who are to be baptized and discipled must first be born-again or there’s no point in doing either. Jesus of course knew this. Baptism and instruction in all things that Jesus taught would fit most wonderfully with the idea of Jewish believers baptizing and instructing Gentile believers in the millennium. God’s original purpose for Israel was for them to be a light to the nations. Here is where that will happen.

    It’s well to remember also the 12 Apostles of the Lamb (a singular group: Revelation 21:14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.) were promised this in Matthew 19:28:
    Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” That time will be the millennium.

    “All” that Jesus taught while on earth included Kingdom teaching, or how to live in a perfect society. Its simply inappropriate to try and teach Kingdom living to the church today. The church is a new creation, inhabited by the Holy Spirit with its own instructions.

    So should the church evangelize? Of course, but forget “making disciples” (a term never used by Paul) and simply tell about Jesus and His salvation. Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

    Please note the absence of the key factors of the “great commission”. Paul could be accused of misunderstanding the great commission except we know he is appointed by Jesus Christ to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. Acts 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

    You will not find Paul teaching obedience to the Beatitudes to the Church but rather encouraging them to grow in grace that they might produce the fruit of the Spirit.

    The churches blather a lot about making disciples (a term fit for Kingdom than Church) but we see precious little of true discipleship.

    I think the church should get back to the idea of actually feeding the starving saved souls of the church with the word of grace and forget so called “discipleship”. Paul had a sure fire spiritual formula for growth in Christ: Acts 20:32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
    Branches produce fruit by imbibing from the vine. Jesus told Peter, “Feed My lambs and my sheep.” He didn’t say, “Bleed them and He certainly didn’t say “beat them” with the great commission or any other spiritual club.

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  13. Pingback: The Naked Bible » Dan Wallace on the Great Commission

  14. Pingback: Go and Make Disciples | while today

  15. Pingback: Called by God to Minister | God's call to His Mission

  16. Hruaikima Reang

    since this participle is in aorist, so it is anticidant to the main verb, so i feel it has to be translated plainly as after you had gone, make disciple. And yet, this participle conveys the sense of command, because without going how can one disciple to others.

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  17. Reblogged this on συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life and commented:
    This is as a the saying goes “and oldie but a goodie” and I wanted to share it here. The great commission is not a suggestion – it is a mandate and it is the responsibility of every Christian to do his or her part to play a role in its fulfillment be “cross the sea” mission or “cross the street” mission – each has a role to play and it must be done with urgency, courage, and determination. Blessings,

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    1. Dennis Clough

      Great Commission? Or great confusion?

      Matthew 28:16: Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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.”

      Theme: I believe the “great commission” was intended for and will yet find its true fulfillment in the Millennium, when the Kingdom is established on the earth, at the Second Coming of Christ. Herein are several reasons for my view.

      Prologue:

      It is my view that misapplied scripture actually restricts spiritual growth in believers and retards the Spirit of evangelism which causes numerical growth. Some people are naturally stronger in their flesh natures than others and these folks will often lead the way in spiritual matters in the church, even as they do in other fields. Since they are usually disciplined, goal-oriented people who won’t quit, they attract weak people like myself. They may (sincerely) imitate the works of the Spirit and miss the power thereof.

      We ordinary weaklings, by contrast, often give up, discouraged by a comparison of our “achievements” with that called for by such leaders. Guilt, and a deadening sense of gloomy failure cling to us like spiritual dust, drying up faith. It sometimes seems like God has written “Ichabod” in the dust clinging to our souls…where is the “living water” which Jesus promised would spring up in us and from where we once believed we had satisfied our thirst? Perhaps the well of our salvation has been stopped up with the rubble of disillusionment from our failure to fulfil the “Great Commission” we once so bravely endeavored to obey?

      Let us ponder how we got here and explore the possibility of a clearer Biblical viewpoint of the “great commission” leading to a renewal in grace. (End prologue)

      I believe the “great commission” was intended for and will find its true fulfillment in the Millennium, when the Kingdom is established on the earth at the Second Coming of Christ. Herein are several reasons for my view.

      First, it’s well to remember that while an “apostle” can be any messenger sent by God, the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb is a singular group: (Revelation 21:14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.)

      They were given a unique promise with their calling: Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28) That time will be the Millennium.

      At this point, please take a moment and reread the “great commission” carefully. Do you see the term “Gospel” therein? No.

      People who are to be baptized and discipled must first hear the Gospel to be born-again or there’s no point in baptizing or teaching anything. Jesus, of course knew this, when He spoke this command to these future rulers of a converted Israel, before the Church was born. I suggest He had the saved, but untaught, Gentile people who will enter the Millennial Kingdom in mind when He spoke this command. Remember, this is a command to only the Apostles and which calls for a world-wide application by those Apostles themselves. They did not fulfill this command in their lifetime. However, they can and will obey it fully and personally, since they are alive forever and it is a future command for the future Kingdom where they will rule with Christ.

      When the end of the Tribulation happens with the return of Christ, all Israel will be recipients of the new Covenant and have God’s Law written on their hearts. (Jeremiah 31) This seems to happen all at once and brings instant spiritual maturity with it, to the Jewish nation. It would be strange to have the first commandment written on a Jewish heart one day, the second a week hence and so forth. Zachariah 12:8 points to this instant transition in spiritual status and power (“each one shall be like David”).

      There will be a huge number of Gentiles saved during the Tribulation:
      9 And they sang a new song, saying:
      “You are worthy to take the scroll
      and to open its seals,
      because you were slain,
      and with your blood you purchased for God
      persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9 NIV)

      These saved Gentiles are not the church. After they are converted, they will then enter the Millennial Reign of Christ as the believing sheep, separated from the unbelieving goats, by Christ, at the Judgment of the Gentile nations. 32 All the nations (not Israel, only the Gentiles) will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:32-
      What to do with these sheep? They are spiritual non-Jewish refugees. They cannot become part of the church, since the church was completed at the Rapture. It seems these sheep must be added to the other sheep of the house of Israel saved in the Old Testament and in the conversion of Israel at the Second Coming of the Great Shepherd/King, Jesus.
      Following their entry into the new order, baptism and instruction in all things that Jesus taught would fit most wonderfully here for these Gentile converts. Jewish believers will, under the leadership of the Apostles (who had been instructed by Christ in Kingdom living in the Gospels time frame) be baptizing and instructing Gentile believers in Kingdom living during that time.
      Jesus’ Kingdom teachings, given in the Gospels, were directed in their fullness to the future, perfect people, of the Kingdom. Many of those Kingdom teachings simply do not fit the age of the Spirit, the age of the church, the present dispensation. Many a believer has tortured himself with an inability to “live up” to them. I believe much harm has been done to believers by trying to impose such Kingdom teachings on the new creatures in Christ which make up His body, the church.

      Indeed, the attempt to apply Kingdom teaching to the church is to seek to put “new wine into old (Matthew 9:17) wineskins”…which causes disastrous damage to both systems….the wine and the container. The “everything” Jesus taught contained in the great commission included what Jesus taught while on earth: Kingdom teaching, or how to live in a perfect society. It’s simply inappropriate to try and teach Kingdom living to the church today. The church is a new creation, inhabited by the Holy Spirit with its own instructions in the writings (largely) of the Apostle Paul in his nine epistles to and about the church.
      So, it’s a logical solution for these Gentile “refugees” to join them into the New Israel of the New Covenant. In the Old Testament, baptism was one rite, among several, utilized in the process of joining a Gentile proselyte to the Jewish nation. Therefore, it shouldn’t be seen as too much of a stretch to see the old way of assimilating Gentiles into ancient Israel still employed in the New Israel of the Millennium.
      Also, we will see the fulfilment of God’s ancient purpose to use Israel as “a light to the nations” as they teach Gentile believers Kingdom ways under the authority and guidance of the Apostles, now judging (or ruling) the 12 Tribes of Israel. See how nicely the “great Commission”, with its initial emphasis on baptism, rather than conversion, fits this future situation in God’s perfect plans!

      So should the church not make disciples? While “a rose by any other name” may remain just as lovely as the original, terms mean things, especially when the Holy Spirit is the Author! Discipleship is a term best thought of in its natural setting in the scripture and that is in Kingdom living and teaching. Its emphasis is on obedience, which calls for a faultless commitment, from perfect people. To fail, is to fall. Psalm 2 is a picture of Kingdom living and many a believer has been surprised at the different description of Christ seen there from that of the one pictured in the Gospels!

      11 Serve the LORD with fear
      and celebrate his rule with trembling.
      12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
      and your way will lead to your destruction,
      for his wrath can flare up in a moment.

      The church on the other hand, is not the kingdom of Israel, either presently or in the future, but rather a spiritual organism birthed by the Spirit though the faith-inducing Word. After we are born again through believing the Gospel of Christ, the Father teaches each of His children His Word, by the Holy Spirit, through the church Apostles, preachers, teachers, evangelists. His Word always keeps His Son central in all teaching as Christ’ death, burial and resurrection are the foundation of our belief.

      The soon return of our risen Lord is our blessed hope while we make it our aim to please Christ in all we do by the help of the Spirit. There are no more Apostles of the Lord with us except through their writings which are alive and able to give us life since they are the living words of our Living Lord. The Apostles earthly mission is fulfilled as are the complete revelation of God in the canon of scripture. We are to check the truth of all teaching against this Divine template.
      It’s significant to this writer that the Apostle Paul, the discloser of the “secret hidden in God”, the church, never once uses the term disciple. In fact, it’s used 289 times in the Gospel and Acts, yet never once in Paul’s nine church Epistles.

      Summing up; If there is a great commission for the church it is found here: Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

      Please note the absence (in Acts1:8) of the key factors of the “great commission”. The focus will not be on all he taught about Kingdom living but rather on Himself. This is Gospel truth which causes spiritual hunger which causes a consumption of the word of God which causes growth into maturity. Mature, healthy sheep will produce healthy sheep.

      Perhaps the Apostle Paul could be accused of misunderstanding the great commission…except we know he is appointed by Jesus Christ to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. Acts 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
      You will not find Paul teaching obedience to the Beatitudes to the Church, or calling for leaving one’s gift at the altar to first make amends or calling for a tithe or many of the other Kingdom practices fitted for the perfect people of the Millennium. You will find Paul encouraging believers to “grow in grace” that they might produce the fruit of the Spirit. The church is a new creation, inhabited by the Holy Spirit with its own instructions in the writings (largely) of the Apostle Paul in his nine epistles to and about the church.
      The church should get back to the idea of actually feeding the starving saved souls of the church with the word of grace and forgo so called “discipleship”, a term better fitted for the Kingdom come. Paul had a sure-fire spiritual formula for growth in Christ which he shared as his last earthly word to the Ephesian Elders:

      Acts 20:32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

      Branches produce fruit by remaining and imbibing from the vine, not from being lashed (pun possibility overlooked) to the vine in “discipleship”. Jesus told Peter, “Feed My lambs and my sheep.” He didn’t say, “Bleed them and He certainly didn’t say “beat them” with the “great commission” or any other spiritual club. Let us feed believers the word of His grace, which encourages us to keep looking unto Jesus and seeing in His dear face the glory of God that we might continually experience His transforming power through the Spirit and the Word.
      End of Message

      Fuller Helpful Scriptures

      Matthew 25:31-46 (NKJV) The Son of Man Will Judge the Gentile Nations
      31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
      37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
      41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’44 “Then they also will answer Him,[b] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

      Zachariah 12 Conversion of Israel Mourning for the Pierced One
      10 “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. 11 In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.[b] 12 And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.

      Isaiah 66 The Miraculous Birth of the New Israel (Sudden)

      7 “Before she was in labor, she gave birth;
      Before her pain came,
      She delivered a male child.
      8 Who has heard such a thing?
      Who has seen such things?
      Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day?
      Or shall a nation be born at once?
      For as soon as Zion was in labor,
      She gave birth to her children.
      9 Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the LORD.
      “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.
      10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem,
      And be glad with her, all you who love her;
      Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;
      11 That you may feed and be satisfied
      With the consolation of her bosom,
      That you may drink deeply and be delighted
      With the abundance of her glory.”
      12 For thus says the LORD:
      “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
      And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.
      Then you shall feed;
      On her sides shall you be carried,
      And be dandled on her knees.
      13 As one whom his mother comforts,
      So I will comfort you;
      And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

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      1. Dennis, although I don’t have an official maximum word-count policy on comments, I do ask that responders keep their responses brief. Please try to be more succinct in other comments you may make. Thanks.

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  18. Pingback: The Great Commission or the Great Suggestion?

  19. To be frank I find your statement that “attempts to salve the consciences of the congregation, permitting them to do nothing about the lost if it at all means going out of their way” to be a false dichotomy, presenting an either/or fallacy where none exists.

    There is clearly a command to make disciples in this passage. As such, that completely invalidates your fear about whether or not “go” is to be translated as a participle (which the Greek is clear about) or a command (which is possible but not necessarily mandated); Christians are called to bear witness wherever they go (I Peter 3:15). The idea of discipleship is still carried into personal lives (By the way, discipleship is not just telling strangers about Jesus; it applies to heads of family houses teaching their children as well, and sometimes the church forgets this).

    Nor does understanding “go” as a participle invalidate the need for supporting missionaries and evangelistic efforts to other areas, as support of mission work is clearly presented in both Scripture and church history. There has always been (in most church bodies) an allotment for the preparation and exportation of pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. While it is true that Christians may at times need to be reminded and urged to support mission work, to blame a laxness on missions upon a potential discrepancy of translation in one verse is a bit of an overreach.

    Finally, let me say this: “go” has a broad meaning that is not equally applied to all believers. Command or not, the question arises “Go where?” For the missionary, evangelist, and other full time men of God called into ministry, it may mean a church or a foreign field. But for others, it may mean going to work, or to school, or to a sporting event, or to a restaurant, or to a family reunion, and be ready to explain the gospel. Not all are called to be full-time minsters or evangelists: the Scriptures are clear that these are particular offices of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Yes, all are called to bear witness. Yes, all are called to support missions as needed. But not all are commanded to “go” in the same applied manner.

    We must beware that, in avoiding the pitfall of disregarding missions, we do not turn passages like Matthew 28 into an excuse for a legalistic understanding of missions. The solution for falling off the left side of the horse is to sit on the horse, not get up and fall off the right side in response.

    It is a shame that the evangelical church does not learn to rediscover the doctrine of vocation as set forth by Luther, Calvin, and other early Reformers. Perhaps if we did so, we would have a much clearer understanding about how one is to bear witness and be ready to share the gospel to unbelievers.

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  20. Pingback: Not ‘as you go’ | Fellowship Room

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