By Eric Newton
Everyone from Aldi to Dick’s Sporting Goods to the local chess club seems to have a mission statement these days. Someone on a mission focuses on a preeminent goal and sets aside peripheral matters. Think of a runner setting aside all weight that would hinder his progress in the race. Or a soldier who refuses to be entangled with civilian activities so that he can focus on war.
While mission statements are modern, living for an ultimate goal isn’t. The original eleven disciples lived missionally. In Twelve Ordinary Men John MacArthur writes,
“They certainly struggled with pride and arrogance like every fallen human being. But the driving passion of their lives became the glory of Christ. And it was that passion, subjected to the influence of the Holy Spirit—not any innate skill or human talent—that explains why they left such an indelible impact on the world.”
To put it simply, the disciples obeyed the Great Commission. They took Christ at His word.
It’s no different for us. Sometimes we wrestle with a call to missions, but the question isn’t whether or not we should go. The question is whether or not we’re going to obey and honor God. We shouldn’t read the imperative at the end of Matthew conditionally, like a Mission Impossible script: “Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . .” Jesus commands us, “As you go, make disciples.”
This doesn’t mean God calls everyone to move time zones. Perhaps your disciplemaking mission is on the very street where you currently live. But we have to reckon with the reality that the Great Commission is God’s will for all of us.
How do we know this command to a few people on a mountain nearly two thousand years ago applies to us in this zany, contemporary world of ours? Several aspects of these verses clearly indicate that the Great Commission is for us. One of the prominent features of Matthew’s final paragraph are the universal statements.
In other words, as long as Christ has authority and people need discipled and the commands of Christ are in effect and the world hasn’t yet ended, we must obey the Great Commission.
The second feature that confirms the ongoing nature of Christ’s directive is how the paragraph ends. There are five previous sections in Matthew. Each is completed by Jesus’ teaching. The final narrative concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection concludes, not with an extended discourse, but instead with this divine charge to the disciples. The teaching is a call to make disciples.
In fact, Matthew’s gospel concludes in an ironic way. Matthew does not mention Jesus’ ascension into heaven. This does not mean Jesus stayed on earth, of course. But by omitting an actual reference to the ascension, the Holy Spirit reinforces the ongoing necessity of the disciples’ role in carrying out Christ’s mission. Instead of a period, there are ellipses marks. The work of the King to rescue worshipers continues on through the evangelism and discipleship of the church.
Most of us have understandable questions about what we should do with our lives. We have specific decisions to make about next summer and next year, not to mention next month. But in our quest to know God’s will, regardless of the specific situation at the moment, we must keep the Great Commission in full view. It is God’s will for all of us. It is our mission.