The Synoptics on
The Great Commission
& The Ascension
The Great Commission
16 But the eleven disciples went into Galilee,
to the mountain where Jesus had sent them.
17 When they saw him, they bowed down to him, but some doubted.
18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying,
"All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.
19 Therefore go, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you.
Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
The word "doubt" here cannot be construed as total unbelief, but rather
of a degree of unbelief. The only other place the greek word is used in
the Bible is in Matthew 14:31 In which by faith Peter stepped out
onto the water. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
"You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" So again
we see it is not a completely lack of faith. But I would say that the quality
of faith that the "some" exercised is not characteristic of Biblical faith.
For Paul writes of the faith of Abraham saying, "Yet he did not waver
through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in
his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had
power to do what he had promised." Romans 4:20,21 We saw this
same kind of doubting going on concerning Jesus' resurrection. It appears
at that time they were not fully persuaded that God had power to do what
He promised. But now having seen the resurrected Christ, how could these
"some" continue to doubt? What was it they doubted about?
I would infer that it was certainly not his resurrection that they doubted,
but rather whether it was appropriate to worship Christ. Notice the context
they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted." Doubted
is being contrasted with worshipping him. The scriptures at that time were
very emphatic, and it is the first Commandment to worship God only. Even
Islam accepts Jesus as a great prophet. But they reject him as an object
of worship. The concept of the deity
of Christ would be a source of great controversy for centuries.
Nonetheless it appears that Jesus tolerates this unbelief, as if to allow
them time to mature in their thinking on the matter.
Non-Trinitarians and the Great Commission
It is interesting that Matthew says that Jesus came to "them", as if referring
specifically to the doubting ones. If this is the case, then again this
affirms that the issue had to do with the Deity of Christ, or more generally
the Trinity. For he says, "in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit" It doesn't say "names. "Name" is singular.
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united in one name. Which is also in
accordance with Jesus' response to Philip saying, "Anyone who has seen
me has seen the Father." John 14:9 Yes his command here applies
to all of them, but he targets the non-trinitarians so as to make clear
to them that as they make disciples, they must baptize in the name of the
Trinity, else they are acting outside of His authority. Non-Trinitarian
Christians such as Jehovah Witnesses are acting outside of Jesus' authority
in their discipling of people. And of course you cannot baptize in the
name of the Trinity unless you also accept the Trinity. Thus it is with
the prerequisite of their acceptance of his Deity that he commissions them
and promises to be with them.
The making of disciples consists of baptizing and teaching people to obey
what Jesus has commanded. Although "baptizing" is set here before "teaching",
the greek would seem to play down any relevance to this order in that both
are present active participles and there is not even an "and" separating
them. These two things are simply presented as two aspects of discipleship.
Does "teaching them to obey all I commanded you" limit the teachings to
the gospels? No, for the New Testament letters are also Jesus' commands.
anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge
that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command." 1Co 14:37
But just as there are non-Trinitarian doubters, so also there are those
who doubt that the New Testament letters are the Lord's commands as well.
Such are unspiritually minded.
Is the Great Commission for all Christians, or only for those few disciples?
As it does say to teach them "to obey everything I have commanded
you", that would include the Great Commission itself.
The Great Commission & Ascension
15 He said to them, "Go into all the world,
and preach the gospel to the whole creation.
16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved;
but he who disbelieves will be condemned.
17 These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new languages;
18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing,
it will in no way hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them,
was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.
20 They went out, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with
and confirming the word by the signs that followed. Amen.
To Every Creature
Matthew mentions the fact that the Great Commission involves baptizing
and teaching. Mark mentions it involves preaching, as does Luke. So speaking
to people of Christ is essential to living the Christian life, if we are
to live as servants of Christ.
2Cor 4:13 It is written: "I believed; therefore
I have spoken."
But why preach to "all creation". The King James renders this "to every
creature". Are we to preach to animals? What he means by this is to include
Gentiles. For Jews were generally racist. They spoke of Gentiles as if
dogs or other such animals. And indeed we will see in the book of Acts
a great reluctance on the part of the Jewish apostles to preach to Gentiles.
Indeed instead of "going", they stayed around Jerusalem for quite a long
time. So God went on to chose someone else who would fulfill the Commission.
With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,
Are there people in the world that you despise like the Jews did the
Gentiles? Perhaps they are the ones God is calling you to go to. For didn't
God chose the most unlikely character - a Pharisee who even used
to persecute even Jewish Christians - to preach to the Gentiles over that
of the Galilean Apostles who grew up in a Hellenistic environment?
Salvation, Faith and Baptism
Mark 16:16 is the only verse in the Synoptic gospels which speak
of salvation by faith. It reads somewhat like John 3:18 "Whoever
believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned
already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
Concerning baptism, we should be careful to not go beyond what is written
The text here only deals with the situation in which one believes and
is baptized, and when one disbelieves. It says nothing about the case when
one believes but has yet to get baptized. For that case we must refer to
other scripture like John 3:18 above which state that upon belief
one is not condemned, making no reference to baptism. Nonetheless I would
say that water baptism simply accompanies faith in Christ as naturally
as repentance does, but I would dissuade those who have a "get wet to the
get saved" ritualistic mentality. (See Baptism)
The key to understanding verse 17-20 is found in the phrase "the Lord
worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it."
purpose of the miracles was to confirm the message was from God. Jesus
applied this even to his own miracles saying, "The miracles I do in
my Father's name speak for me" John 10:25 For how does one know
whether God has spoken unless proven by miracles. (This is a major weakness
Now some people ask, "How can I know God has spoken?"
Just as the authors of the Old Testament were affirmed by miracles, so
too the authors of the New Testament. But the Bible having been finished
and confirmed by miracles, there was little logical need for such in post-Biblical
times. For the message is one of faith and not of sight. "Blessed are
those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29 Thus
today while there are perhaps pockets of miracles here and there, we no
longer see that parade of miracles characteristic of Jesus' ministry and
that of the apostles. For they fulfilled their purpose.
Just read His word and I'm not jokin.
Raising the dead and healing the blind.
Oh, there's lots of proofs, you'll find.
In the presence of thousands, both friend and foe.
things not done in secret, don't you know.
For when God speaks His word, He understands
we need proof it's His and not man's.
However there are even Christians who run from place to place desperately
seeking miracles so as to affirm their weak faith. Or they call something
a miracle which is not. And just as the bronze serpent of Numbers 22 later
became an idol, and the ephod that Gideon made became an idol (Judges 8:27),
so can the search for such "miracles" become an idol and detract from the
truth and distract from Christ, not to mention the divisiveness and elitist
attitude which have resulted in the Christian community from such obsession
But at the time these kinds of things indeed did follow the apostles.
Demons were driven out. The disciples spoke in other tongues at Pentecost
in which foreigners could understand. Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake
and survived unharmed. The apostles layed on hands and the sick got well.
Peter even had occasion to raise the dead.
In being taken up to heaven, Mark mentions that Jesus sat on the right
hand of God. The writer of Hebrews mentions, "The Son is the radiance
of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all
things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins,
he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Heb 1:3
Sitting indicates finished work. It's like after you get home from work,
the first thing you want to do is sit down. The right hand is a hand of
power. Jesus was God's right hand man.
The Great Commission
44 He said to them, "This is what I told you, while I was still
that all things which are written in the law of Moses,
the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled."
45 Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the
46 He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary
for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,
47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be
in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 Behold, I send forth the promise of my Father on you.
But wait in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power
from on high."
50 He led them out as far as Bethany,
and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
51 It happened, while he blessed them,
that he withdrew from them, and was carried up into heaven.
52 They worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
53 and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing
In preaching the gospel, the message should include repentance and forgiveness
of sins. And this we see also in the examples in Acts. However some today
having been influenced by incorrect theological view points preach Christ
without including repentance and forgivness. They may try to get people
to pray Jesus into their hearts even provoking unbelievers to do so in
an experimental fashion, and fail to mention repentance and forgiveness
of sins with the excuse that such would "turn people off" or that it is
too negative. As a result you end up with nominal Christians who are quite
comfortable living a lifestyle of sin and introduce a good deal of
yeast into the Christian community. There are those of a "do nothing" theology
who cry out "legalism" if the message includes an application oriented
faith as opposed to their own message of a dead non-application oriented
faith. To such "repentance" has nothing to do with a change of behavior.
Let me say emphatically that if a person's sinful behavior doesn't change,
such a person will not inherit the kingdom of God.
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom
of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters
nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves
nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit
the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10
And so Peter preaching the gospel proclaims, "Repent, then, and turn
to God, so that your sins may be wiped out." Acts 3:19 Don't
listen to those who say that men are incapable of doing these. Just do
it because that's what the Bible says.
Starting in Jerusalem
They indeed started in Jerusalem. But it appears they got too comfortable
there, as I mentioned above and they seemed to lose the point of view that
Jerusalem was only the starting place. So to with us that when we lose
the vision of the big picture and stagnate in ministry, people perish.
Many do well in parachurch ministries at college, but stagnate and end
up doing very little ministry the rest of their lives. Most institutional
church contribute to such stagnation, as does the burdens of married life.
And yet there often seems a contemptuous pride that those of the Jerusalem
ministry have towards those who go beyond the bounds of such a ministry.
Their one city is more important that those of the rest of the world, and
so they chose 11 to minister there, while 1 person goes to the rest of
The Holy Spirit
At this point none of the apostles had received the Holy Spirit. John writes,
this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to
receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus
had not yet been glorified." John 7:39 This was a dispensational
transition. The event Jesus spoke of would be realized at Pentecost. The
final miracle they viewed was the Ascension. Thus having had their faith
strongly affirmed by all these miracles, they returned to Jerusalem with
joy and confidence. This in contrast to their fleeing the garden of Gethsemane.
Before they were awakened to a nightmare. Now they are awakened to life.
The Change in the Apostles
I have heard from many Bible skeptics, but for many even of them, though
they attempt to get around the miracles, there is one thing that they find
most convincing is the change in the apostles. Something must have happened
else the church would never have begun. Indeed the transformation in the
apostles as the book of Acts records, is perhaps the most convincing of
miracles in this day and age.