The Great Commandment – MD Issue #43

Our global mission agency, Compass 28:19, has its roots and meaning in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .” (NAS).  Traditionally, evangelicals have considered this passage to be the Great Commission.

The Greek word translated go is actually not a command, but a present participle going.  The only command in the Great Commission is make disciples. Jesus said, “While you are going, make disciples of all the nations.”  At Compass 28:19, we believe strongly in these two English words, (one word in the Greek) – make disciples. While many of us have built our ministries around this verse in Matthew 28, we should pay close attention to another set of verses in Matthew.

Matthew 28:19 is not appropriated properly if we eliminate Matthew 22:36-40 from our ‘practical theology’, “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’”   

If we’re following Matthew’s story, Jesus had just answered three difficult questions in Matthew 22. He responded to the question about the relationship between religion and government, the question regarding this life and the next, and finally, the relationship between God and our neighbors.

The obvious question before us is how can we accomplish Matthew 28:19 correctly and effectively, if we are not true to Matthew 22:37-40?  The answer is simple, we cannot!  The sincere lawyer, who asked the question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment?” understood that there were 613 commandments in the Law, 248 positive and 365 negatives. No person could ever fully obey all of these commandments. Consequently, if you broke one, you broke them all (James 2:10).

Jesus answers the lawyer’s question by quoting the Jewish ‘Shema’ (to hear), found in Deuteronomy 6:4.

The greatest commandment is to love Jehovah with all that we are – heart, soul, mind, and strength. But you cannot love God fully without loving your neighbor.

My point? If we say that we love God, then it’s only consistent to love our neighbor.  And, who is your neighbor? Everyone is your neighbor! Not just the person who lives next door to you in the apartment house, or the elderly couple living in the nursing home, or the farmer who borders your property line, or the newlyweds who just moved into your suburban neighborhood.

Even the person who lives halfway around the world is your neighbor. That’s what Penny and I believed, and still do, when we moved to South Africa to be church planting missionaries.

As disciplers, we must understand that to live out the Great Commission in Mathew 28, we must first learn to live out the Great Commandment in Matthew 22 – “love your neighbor”.

Are we taking the time to love our neighbor by living a consistent Christian testimony, pointing them to Christ?

Once we love them . . . I mean really love them, then we should be motivated to go to them with the gospel. Be intentional, you can do it!