Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
— Matthew 28:18-20 NLT
Our verses today form what has come to be known as the Great Commission, the virtual marching orders for the church. There are three orders: make disciples, baptize them, and teach them.
The reason the disciples are to do these three things is that Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Why is this relevant? Because Jesus has been given all authority, it follows that there is nothing that can prevent the church from fulfilling His orders. Jesus is in control “far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else” (Ephesians 1:21). Although the church may yet face opposition to its task, it will not be stopped from fulfilling the commission.
Given Christ’s authority, the disciples are to go forth and make new disciples from all nations. They do this by leading people to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In effect, they go forth and make new members of the church, new citizens of the Kingdom of God.
The disciples are also to baptize these new disciples. Baptism is significant because it is a symbol that represents the disciples dying and rising with Christ and having their sins washed away. Baptism signifies the disciple’s having passed from citizenship in the kingdom of darkness to citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
The disciples are also to teach the new disciples to obey all the commands Jesus gave them. In its broadest sense, teaching the commands of Jesus means teaching the whole Bible, because Jesus’ commands presuppose previous biblical revelation and form the foundation of the biblical revelation that was yet to come. It means to teach the new disciples everything they need to know to be effective citizens in the Kingdom of God.
As a member of the church, as a citizen of the Kingdom, you are participating in some way, shape, or form in fulfilling the Great Commission—and Jesus is with you.