The View from Here: Once . . . and Four ‘Alls’

As I write this, I am preparing to speak to a joint meeting of a Christian Reformed classis and a classis from the Reformed Church in America. I have been asked to speak on the urgency of the gospel message, the importance of getting the Word out.

I can think of no better text than Matthew 28:16-20, the Great Commission, where once Jesus spoke to his disciples and in four allsgave them—and us—a message: all authority is mine; all nations are your mission field; all I have commanded you is the message; and for all time is how long I will be with you. That is what the church must be doing. And that is what Christian Reformed World Missions is accomplishing, by God’s grace.

It is, however, not just a message for a world mission enterprise but for us all.

“Go.” To go into the world is our task. Its best rendering in English is not just go but be going. Always on the move. Always reaching. Always aware of our mission. Always, constantly, consistently, keep going. Where you live; where you learn; where you shop; where you play; where you are. Be on the go for Jesus.

“Make disciples.” In the familiar English translation, disciple is a noun. In the original it is a verb, and its meaning is to fashion folks into faithful followers. That can, of course, only happen when the folks trying to fashion others are themselves simultaneously being fashioned into faithful followers.

This is a call not just to increase membership in the church but to be present and at work in the church. Not just to have faith but to put faith into practice. That is who disciples are. That is what they do.

“Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I suggest that the little word in in that sentence is actually at least as important as the verb baptize.

It refers not so much to proper administration of the sacrament, or to proper methodology, or even to proper vocabulary. It evidences that the act by which folks are brought into the church brings them in—or better yet, into—a deepening relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is why during baptismal services we promise to instruct these little ones in the faith. Their baptism is into the possession of and into relationship with Jesus.

“Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Somewhere between a.d. 114 and 165, Justin Martyr described Christians as those who “are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly.”

 

Obedience is a tremendously significant aspect of our commission, but it’s also one of our greatest failures.

Obedience is a tremendously significant aspect of our commission, but it’s also one of our greatest failures. Think about it. Do we everywhere, always, in all circumstances, on all occasions, in every instance, under all conditions, obey what Jesus has commanded us?

Do we consciously seek to obey Jesus at the bank, in the office, in heavy traffic, when deliberately wronged by someone, in the voting booth, around the kitchen table, in the hospital, beside the hospital bed—obeying “everything I have commanded you”? This is not only our mission; it is our mandate.

It strikes me that World Missions goes where we cannot go to do what we must be doing where we are. It strikes me that this is not only the Great Commission, but a fearsome one.

Like the original disciples, we may hear this Commission with some doubt—read hesitation, a dramatic pause—even while we worship. How can folks like us do something like this?

The Commission and the gospel end with the answer: “And surely I am with you always, to the very close of the age.”

About the Author

Rev. Joel R. Boot is the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

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