Christ’s Sovereignty and Our Commission – Matthew 28:18-20

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I gave thought to adding a point to my message this morning, but decided to save it for tonight. There are reasons to worship Christ contained within this so-called “Great Commission.” For example, Christ says, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” What is the Greek word translated “power” in verse 18? As I mentioned last Sunday it is the word “exousia” – as opposed to “dunamis.” It refers to “authority” rather than “dynamite” – it is “sovereignty” rather than “muscle” or “might.” Hypothetically, God could gave someone physical control over creation, and Jehovah would still be God. But if He gave away His sovereign AUTHORITY, then the recipient of that authority would become God. Authority is the key. “Authority” is infinitely more powerful and important than “power.” This being true, based upon verse 18, Christ Jesus is God because He possesses “all authority.” He should be worshipped as such.

Then He goes on to say that God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and God the Son, all possess the same name. “Baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Among other things, in this – Christ makes himself equal to God the Father. Therefore, once again, He deserves worship as God. Perhaps the first half of verse 20 is not quite as powerful a thought or argument as the earlier ones, but listen to Christ Jesus wielding His authority. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” If I should tell you to share with others the things that I have taught you, that does not bear the same weight as when Christ gives you the same commission. The things that I teach you are not as absolutely reliable as the things which Christ teaches. Christ then concludes with the absolutely unique thought “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” There is not a person on earth who can make that kind of statement and mean what he is saying. When I die, my ministry among you will be finished, even if I leave you all my old sermon notes. But Jesus refers to far more than just His memory or His legacy “and, lo, I AM with you alway.” This is a statement about a very special eternality. As I say, this commission are a part of the reason for our worship.

But rarely do we think of this commission and authority in that way. Usually we consider these verses as a summary of our responsibility as a church. And with what does it begin? “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” For years the only way I applied that “authority” was to those who received the commission. For years I applied it to the evangelists whom Christ was about to direct toward the lost world. But again, how much authority has Christ been given? ALL power is given unto ME in heaven and in earth.” Doesn’t this divine authority affect the receiving of the gospel as well as the dispensing of the gospel?

Consider Christ’s “sovereign” death.

What does the word “finished” mean in Revelation 20:5 – “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” What is the meaning of Matthew 19:1 “And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan.” Does the word “finished” have the same meaning in John 19:30? “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” What did the Lord mean when He said, “It is finished?” Did He mean nothing more than that His earthly life and His physical pain were over? Did He mean that there was nothing more to be done by Christ to complete salvation? Did He mean that there was nothing more to be done by man to complete salvation? Was salvation finished or not? To which of the following does the word “finished” most closely relate: Christ actually and specifically gave His life to redeem certain people, or… His death merely provided an opportunity for people to be saved, who were smart enough to receive it? Was the work of salvation finished or not?

As unsaved sinners, we were spiritually dead, but – some of us sinners have been given eternal life. From where does that eternal life come? Of whom was the Lord speaking when He said, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand”? The context explains to us that Jesus said, “I give unto (my sheep) eternal life; and they shall never perish.” How and when did those people to whom He gives eternal life become His sheep? Did they believe on Christ in order to be come His sheep or were they already His sheep? “I give unto (my sheep) eternal life; and they shall never perish.” Listen to John 10:22-25 – “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, BECAUSE ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Christ gave His life on the cross in order that HIS sheep might be given eternal life. When He said, “It is finished,” for all intents and purposes the salvation transaction was completed. The Great Commission, including the work of evangelism, is the spreading of the good news that Christ has accomplished that great work. And the exhortation of the gospel then becomes: “repent and believe.”

In Matthew 10:6 the disciples were sent out to preach the gospel to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Later those instructions were expanded to include Gentiles. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” The Book of Luke concludes with the words: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” Back in John 10 the Lord explained this: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And OTHER SHEEP I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”

Christ Jesus died specifically to give eternal life to His sheep. Those sheep are to be found both among the children of Israel and among the Gentiles. All authority, has been given unto Christ in Heaven and in Earth in regard to the saving of those sheep. That authority includes not only their evangelism, but also their salvation as well. No aspect of salvation has been left to chance or failure; either their reception or their evangelization.

Christ’s “sovereign” evangelism.

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

There are some people who say that it is no longer important to stress this commission since the coming of the Holy Spirit. Birds fly, fish swim, baseball players spit and Christians all witness of the grace of God to others. There isn’t an honest Christian in the world who will admit that is the case. Just as the Great Commission talks about teaching, Christians need to be taught about that Commission.

There are two references to teaching in this commission, but they come from two different Greek words. The modern translations want to change one of those words, but it’s not necessary. All we need is just a little instruction about them. The first one, “teach all nations” uses the word “matheteuo” (math-ayt-yoo’-o) which means “to disciple.” According to the literal definition, a disciple is a learner. Jesus tell us here: “Based upon my authority, I want you to gather or make learners in or from all nations.”

Can you show me from these verses, where we are told to compel people to become disciples? Is it even possible to compel someone to become a learner – a disciple? Does Christ give us authority to use guns and swords to force people to become disciples? Even though we can get very excited about things that we learn, generally speaking is teaching is not an highly charged emotional exercise. From what you have read in these verses is Christ talking about using strong emotional appeals? Evangelism begins with the relatively simple task of teaching people about their need of salvation, and what Christ Jesus accomplished on the cross, and why. What this does is gives the Holy Spirit the tools that He uses to convict and convert the lost. When the evangelist begins sobbing, arguing, belittling or berating people into accepting Jesus, he is not only disregarding these verses, but he is removing the Holy Spirit from the evangelical equation.

Who is it that saves souls from sin? Is it the evangelist who saves souls? Does the sinner in some way save himself? Although the subject could be examined from different angles and explained in different ways, essentially, Christ Jesus completed salvation when He said “It is finished” and died. Or more correctly, when He died, salvation was finished. The Holy Spirit is the one who regenerates the dead spirit of the sinner and gives him repentance for sin and faith to believe on Christ and to believe the gospel. Does the faith and repentance of the sinner cause Jesus to say “It is finished”? Does the sinner’s faith open the door for the Holy Spirit to regenerate him? God saves people who are completely incapable of doing anything to save themselves.

God sovereignly chose to call some sinners “His sheep.” He chose to give them eternal life. Their regeneration and eternal life is based upon the loss of Jesus’ life – His sacrificial death. Even though in the omniscience of God, He looks upon His elect as saved and glorified, since we live in a context of time, there is a point at which we are saved – converted and regenerated. And at that moment, there is the evidence of that sinner’s repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. Humanly speaking bystanders see what that sinner does, but he does those things by the grace of God. At a funeral, does the deceased ever preach his own sermon or read his own eulogy? Does he accompany the soloist as she sings? Does he lead the closing prayer? Not at any funeral that I have attended. Similarly, how dead is the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sins? Can he enter the gates of Heaven before his regeneration? If he dies in that spiritually dead condition could he climb out of Hell or swim out of the Lake of Fire? Can the dead sinner offer the Lord acceptable worship before his salvation? Since he can’t do these things, why do people think that he can repent? As a natural-born rebel against God, how can we expect him to humbly believe on Christ? These things are as much the gifts of Christ as salvation itself.

What do think was the reaction of the disciples, when Christ commanded them to evangelize the world? It was probably – “Who me?” Could that be the reason Jesus said, “All exousia is given unto me in Heaven and in earth?” Over and over again, before and since, the Lord has been preparing us for that commission. “In me your labor will not be in vain.” “Apart from me you can do nothing, but you can do all things through me and my authority.” “In the world you will have tribulation, but I have overcome the world.” “The gates of Hell cannot prevail against you.” “You preachers may be bound, but my word cannot be bound.”

When Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth,” He was not thinking only of His authority over His evangelists. He has authority over every creature throughout His vast creation. And as His evangelists go about their responsibilities, they can be assured of that authority. Everyone of the Lord’s sheep will repent and receive Christ, because the Lord’s authority guarantees it. They will repent because repentance is a gift given to those whom the Lord regenerates. II Timothy 2:21 – “If a man therefore purge himself… he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will GIVE THEM repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” The evangelist doesn’t know who are the Lord’s sheep, so he needs to assume that everyone he talks to is, and if God gives them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, then he will know for sure. The Lord’s sheep will believe the gospel because the Lord guarantees and empowers their faith. In fact, Ephesians 2 says that faith itself is a gift of God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Everyone of the Lord’s chosen will believe on Christ because that is the decree of God. Acts 13:48 “And when the Gentiles heard this (the Gospel), they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” What is said of Lydia is true of every true convert to Christ: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”

What the Great Commission demands of us is a consistent presentation of the Gospel to everyone. What the authority of Christ in the Great Commission guarantees is the reception of that gospel by those who are ordained to believe.