Think of this. Imagine this. Grab this. I, no less than I, the living risen Son of God, am with you.
Isn't that great? I mean, I wouldn't want to do this on my own, would you? One business has these words on its website. Woe to that company that loses sight of its mission statement, for it has taken the first step on the slippery slope to failure. Well, in a similar way, woe to the Christian who forgets his unique mission, namely, the Great Commission, Jesus' command to go into all the world and make disciples. The question is, how does that lofty call to action connect with the ordinary responsibilities you have, working and running errands and going to school? John MacArthur is tackling that practical question in his current study on grace to you, titled, The Great Commission. Today you'll see what successful evangelism looks like and what it doesn't look like. So turn to Matthew chapter 28 as John begins the lesson. We're reminded that the statement, make disciples, is the heart of our calling. That we're in the world to do that. That teaching and preaching and praise, fellowship, all of those things which we cherish and hold dear to us are only means to an end. They are only elements of preparation for the real task which is evangelizing the world, which is reaching the lost for Christ. And so we are to be about making disciples of all nations, all peoples, all ethnic groups, all tribes, all races. And how do we do it? How do we make disciples of all nations?
How? Availability is the first thing. In verse 16, we read that the 11 disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And that is to say they were available. They were where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there. The second thing we saw was worship. In verse 17, when they did see Him and He finally appeared there at first at a distance and then drawing near, they worshiped Him. They fell on their face prostrate as it were before Him, some of them doubting until He came near because they had not yet seen Him after His resurrection. But when He came near, surely their doubt was erased and they too worshiped. The third element of fulfilling the Great Commission we see in the passage is submission.
Submission. In verse 18, our Lord when He does come near speaks and says, All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. And He makes a statement frankly that staggers my thoughts.
And it reaches far beyond my ability to conceive or articulate. He is making a claim to consummate sovereign authority. He rules over earth and heaven. He rules over the physical and the spiritual. He rules over men and angels. He rules over holy angels and fallen demons. He rules over Satan himself. He controls disease. He controls circumstances. He controls the wind and the waves. He forgives sin. It's all under His control. And when He says we are to do this, then we are to do it.
That takes us to the fourth. That is the principle of obedience or the element of obedience which is necessary to do the Great Commission. And here in verse 19 is where we have the command, Make disciples of all nations, and it calls for obedience. How are you doing that? How are you doing that? How are you making disciples of the people around you, the people around the world?
How are you doing it or are you doing it? It may seem to you unnatural and impossible as it must have to them, but it was commanded. Are you involved in making learning believers and believing learners? Are you in the words of Mark 16, 15, going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature? Are you in the words of Luke 24, 47, taking repentance and forgiveness of sins and preaching it in His name among all nations?
How are you becoming a fisher of men? Well, we are to be obedient. You say, well, obedient to what? He tells you how to do it right here in verse 19 with three participles. The main verb is making disciples of all nations. The three participles are going, baptizing, teaching.
That's how you do it. Going, baptizing, teaching. That's how you make a disciple. It isn't just that they should believe. It is that they should believe and be taught.
It isn't just that they are taught. It also encompasses their act of faith, which is symbolized in baptism, and neither of those can take place until you go to those people. The commission of the church is not to wait until the world shows up.
The commission of the church is to go to the world, to go to them. Now, let's talk about that first participle, going, paruth and tess. Actually, in the Greek, it could be translated better, having gone, having gone. It isn't a command, go ye.
That's not a command in the Greek. In the Authorized, they've put it in the imperative mode, but in the Greek, it's an assumption, having gone. I mean, it's basic that if you're going to make disciples of all nations, you've got to have gone. Having gone is assumed. It's obvious.
It's natural. It's a corollary. The first essential element of making disciples, then, is to go. That means wherever they are that do not know Christ, wherever you may go where Christ is not named.
It may be your school or your office or your neighborhood or whatever, maybe around the world someplace, but having gone is assumed if we're going to do the job around the world. The second element, the second participle that modifies the main verb is baptizing. Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Baptizo, a familiar term, means to immerse in water, to dip in water. And our Lord is saying, when you go, you are to be baptizing. Now, what importance does this have?
Why does He stress this? Because baptism was the outward sign of an inward act of faith in Christ. Baptism was synonymous with salvation, though baptism in no way saved.
It was the outward visible symbol of what had been done in the heart. And it was an overt act of obedience by which a person could demonstrate the reality of the miracle of salvation. There's no way that you can see someone being saved. I have never seen a salvation, have you?
I wouldn't be able to see it. It's a supernatural spiritual transaction. I have never seen a salvation. All I have ever seen is the fruit of one.
True? All I have ever seen is the result of one. And if I don't see the result, then I have to question whether there was a fruit of one. Then I have to question whether there was a salvation. And in the early church, it was essential that salvation be demonstrated by the fruit of obedience. And that initial fruit of obedience was baptism, by which an individual testified to their union in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, so beautifully symbolized in immersion. Now, the baptism of John the Baptist was different. It was a baptism of repentance, of a people repenting of their sin to purify themselves inwardly and show it by their outward baptism to ready themselves for Messiah. But here is a new kind of baptism. For the first time since Jesus died and rose again by now, people can be baptized as a demonstration of their identity with Christ in His death and resurrection. That is why immersion is the only viable mode of baptism, for it portrays the death and resurrection of Christ in the very ceremony itself. Baptism then was commanded as we see here, and that's why it was done. Jesus said, baptize them. Now when you get into the book of Acts and people are converted and you see them being baptized, you know why, because they were obedient to a command. Those who put their faith in Christ were to be baptized, but the command here is for those who preach the gospel to baptize, which means that in giving the gospel, beloved, we are to tell people that it is not just something you believe and that's it, it is something you believe and publicly confess in this act of baptism. And when you find someone who is reluctant to do that, you may have reason to question the genuineness of their faith. For Jesus said, him that confesses me before men, him will I confess before my Father who is in heaven.
This is public confession. No one is saved by baptism itself. Water can't save you. Any religious right or act is impotent to save you, but this is an act of obedience. This is a symbol, and that is why the Scripture so repeatedly emphasizes baptism.
In Mark 16, 15, go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Then verse 16 says, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. And some people have said, well, wait a minute, that means baptism is a part of salvation. No, the next part of the verse says, but he that believeth not shall be damned.
The issue is the believing. You believe you're saved, you believe not you're damned. It doesn't say he that is not baptized is damned. But baptism is in there, just like it's in Ephesians 4, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. And just like it's in Acts 2 38, repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin. And just like it's here, go and make disciples of all nations while you go, baptizing them because it is an intrinsic element in the confession and demonstration of genuine heart faith.
You understand? By the deeds of the law or the works of the flesh, no one is justified. We're saved by faith.
That is repeated again and again. For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves is gift of God, not of works thus any man should boast. Ephesians 2 8 and 9. But baptism becomes that identifiable act that says that something has happened, that you're identifying with Christ. And baptism was a step of faith. Yes, it was also a tremendous step of confession and courage. You were making a public statement of your identification with Jesus Christ.
There was a price that was very high. And so you could separate the true from the false somewhat more readily, I think. So we are to go baptizing.
What does that mean? Leading people to Christ, whose salvation is genuine enough for them to desire to make a public confession of their union with Christ and his death and resurrection. And we need to preach that. And we need to teach that.
And we need to tell people that. So that we are saying to them, look, we're not asking you to just believe in Jesus and get eternal life no matter how you want to live or what you want to do. We're not offering cheap grace and easy believism. We're saying we call you to Christ. And calling you to Christ means we call you to obedience, which is demonstrated in that act of baptism by which you declare to a watching world your faith in the Savior and submission to his Lordship. Baptism here is synonymous, now follow my thought, with salvation. And salvation here therefore is synonymous with making a disciple.
Would you note that in your mind? Baptism is synonymous with salvation and salvation is synonymous with making a disciple. So you make a disciple when you lead someone to Christ. When you are saved, you then become a learner of Christ. And there is a submissive spirit in one who is truly saved, which manifests itself in a willingness to make a public confession and a willingness to submit to the teaching of what Christ commanded.
And that takes you to the third principle, which we'll get to in just a moment. Teaching. A person who comes to Christ is willing to learn. So the burden is ours to teach them whatever Christ commanded. The assumption is that if they're truly converted, they'll want to know. The truly converted person has a hunger for the truth of God, a hunger for the Word of God, a desire to be obedient.
Even when we're disobedient, we know that it's against the grain of our deepest desire, which is to obey. So having gone, he says, make disciples of all nations. And you do that initially by bringing them to faith in Jesus Christ, which is demonstrated in the act of initial obedience in baptism. Now would you notice that he says baptism is in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? First of all, I need to say that that is not necessarily a formula for baptism. That's a common way, and we often use that in our baptisms. I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And it's a beautiful way to do that. There are, however, several occasions in the book of Acts where people are baptized in the name of the Lord, baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, there is no baptism in the book of Acts in which this formula is ever used.
It only appears here. Every baptism specifically where any formula is given or any statement is made as to who the baptism is in or into is the Lord, the Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ. Now we conclude from that then really that there is no binding formula.
People want to make a big case out of that, but there's really no binding formula. To baptize someone in the name of Jesus Christ is simply to baptize them sort of demonstrating and portraying and picturing their union with Jesus Christ. And that's wonderful. And that says plenty. Here we just have the fullest statement possible. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit shows not only their union with Christ but their unity with the whole Godhead.
It's a fuller and richer and more comprehensive statement. But in no way should we construe that it is some kind of absolutely necessary formula since there are other statements made in the book of Acts. The wonderful thing we do want to note though in the book of Acts is that they were obedient to this and everywhere the gospel was preached and everywhere people believed, people were being baptized. Acts 2 41, Acts 8 38, Acts 9 18, the 10th chapter of Acts with Cornelius verse 48, the 16th chapter of Acts verse 33, the Philippian jailer and his family. You come into Acts 18 8, Acts 19 5, the followers of John the Baptist over in Acts 22, I think around verse 10. Baptisms, baptisms, baptisms, baptisms, always going on, always going on.
And so we're not looking at some kind of ceremonial rite in which conversion takes place by water and there's some special formula you have to say. It's just that our Lord has given us the richest possible statement of the comprehensive union that occurs when a saint comes to faith in Jesus Christ. We are one with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Marvelous thought. That's a great statement also because Christ puts Himself on a level with the other two members of the Trinity and those people who want to say that Jesus never claimed to be God, I've got some problems in that verse. He puts Himself on a level with the other two members of the Trinity. It's a great verse also to prove the Trinity. All three persons are there.
And would you please notice this? It doesn't say baptizing them in the name of the Father and the name of the Son and the name of the Holy Spirit, nor does it say in the names of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is one name with three persons, the mystery of the Trinity. The name means all that a person is and does. All that is bound up in that name. The name means all that God is as a Trinity. All that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are. We are baptized in.
And the word ace could mean into, it could mean unto, it could mean in. It's just the idea that when we are baptized, we come into a union with the Trinity through Jesus Christ. And as I said before, it symbolizes His death and resurrection. We have a full union with Jesus Christ.
What a wonderful, glorious thought. And not only with Him, but with the Father and with the Son as well. Now the point is this, becoming a disciple happens at salvation and involves a full union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which is a transforming reality demonstrated by the beautiful ceremony of baptism. What are we called to do then? While we're going, or already having gone, we ought to be bringing men to the Savior, baptizing them as an outward testimony of this inward union. And then, would you notice verse 20, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. It's not only a converting ministry that we're called to, but it's a teaching ministry. Now we have to follow up that new convert who is now desirous of being obedient and therefore desirous of learning what it is he is or she is to obey by teaching all things, the whole counsel of God in terms of Acts 20-27.
Oh, that's such a marvelous thing. We're to teach them all things the Lord has commanded. Lifelong commitment to obedience.
I love that. You see, being a disciple is a question of obeying commands. You can't be a disciple of Christ without an obedient heart. You can't be a disciple of Christ without a desire to follow Him as your Lord. That's the whole point of the rich young ruler. When he said to him, you know, take all you have, sell it, and give the money to the poor and follow me, and the guy went away and said, forget it. You're not in charge of my life.
It couldn't be converted. Coming to Christ is saying you are in charge of my life. I submit. I want to be obedient. And so he says to those people gathered there, you teach them all the things whatsoever I have commanded you. So ours is a ministry then of making disciples, which means making learning believers or believing learners. People who believe and desire to obey. So our obedience then is built on attitudes of availability, worship, and submission.
And out of those attitudes will come an obedience to this calling of God. All of those four things are critical, but they wouldn't mean a thing without the last one. I mean it wouldn't matter that I was available. It wouldn't matter that I had a worshiping heart. And it wouldn't be any use at all that I was submissive and wanted to be obedient if it wasn't for number five, and that's power.
Because I couldn't do it in my own strength. And nothing would happen. It would all be ashes.
And so the conclusion then wonderfully given is, and lo, and that's an attention getter, an exclamation. Think of this. Imagine this.
Grab this. I, and the ego here, the I is emphatic. I, no less than I, the living risen Son of God, am with you. Isn't that great?
I mean I wouldn't want to do this on my own, would you? But He's with us. I don't know about you, but I lean on that an awful lot all the time. I pray a common prayer in my life. Lord, you care more about this than I do, so do what you will.
Lord, you love these people more than I do, so reach them. Lord, you're more concerned about the integrity of your word than I am, so please, God, energize my heart to be true to your text. I mean I lean on the fact that it's the power and the purpose of God that is behind everything.
And the promise of power comes in the promise of presence. Did you see that? I am with you.
I am with you, no less than I myself. And when He went away, He said, I'm going to go away, but I will come to you. Remember that? In the form of the Spirit. I will come to you. The Lord is with us. He is in us. And He is empowering us. Oh, what power. I, no less than I, the resurrected Christ with power over death, am with you. Isn't that great?
This is the one who has power over demons, power over disease, power over sin, power over death. He's with us. You say, yeah, but how often? You tell me.
How often? All the days, the Greek says, all the days, all the days, all the days, literal days, all the days. He'll be with us all the days until the consummation of the age, not the word end.
End just means something stopped. Consummation is the word suntileia means to translate. Consummation, that is the the consummation of many diverse elements into a grand finale. Now what does He mean by the suntileia?
What is this? Teleos means the ending. Sun means to come together.
So the coming together of all the ending events. He uses it here and three other times. Those other three times are in Matthew 13. And in Matthew 13, the three times He uses it, it always speaks of the second coming. So what the Lord is saying is so wonderful. He's saying, I'm with you all the days until my second coming.
You say, but what about that after, what about after that? Well, after that, He'll be here. That's not a problem. Until I get here, I'll be here, is what He's saying.
Don't worry about it. I'm coming again and until I come again, I'll be here. The end of the ages is the second coming to be followed by the kingdom of Christ. So He says, so He says, until I come in my kingdom, I'll be there in my presence.
Isn't that great? So the task of reaching the world is a task that is made possible by the power of Christ who is present in us, in us. And no wonder Paul says, now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all, he can ask or think according to the power that worketh in us. And no wonder Matthew said, amen. So let it be.
I mean, I can get into this great commission now. I understand that what God wants out of me is availability. What He wants from me is a worshiping heart that's totally centered on Him and not the junk of the world. What He wants is a submissive spirit that says, whatever you ask, Lord, I'll do it. And then when I hear it, He wants obedience. And what He gives me in return is not only all the commands and all the orders and all the right instruction, but the power of His own presence to pull it off and make it happen.
So let it be. Let's bow in prayer. Father, I pray that in faithfulness, we will stand with those people on that hillside in Galilee and hear the great commission and willingly go as they went. And we are the fruit of their going. Oh God, may there be a generation who are the fruit of our going. Help us to deal with our lives, our time, our money, our opportunities, everything for the sake of the Savior and eternity. And to know we're here for one reason, to miss that is to miss everything. Work in every life, we pray in Christ's name. Amen. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. John is pastor of Grace Community Church in Southern California. He's also chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary.
And his study today and the past few days is titled, The Great Commission. John, with all you've said this week about fulfilling the Great Commission, I've been thinking that's the reason Grace to You exists, to fulfill the Great Commission. And we are partners in that ministry and partners with lots of our listeners.
Talk about how strategic this ministry is. Well, obviously, we exist to fulfill the Great Commission, to proclaim the message of God, the word of God, Scripture, the gospel, as far and wide as we can to the ends of the earth. And it starts with our commitment to biblical truth.
That's where everything begins. We are convinced beyond a shadow of any doubt that the Bible is the living and abiding Word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, that it is a mighty power, that it is the Word that converts, it is the Word that sanctifies, it is the Word that edifies, it is the Word that comforts. And so we just keep proclaiming the Word and watching it do its incredible work. We know that many people in the United States and in Canada and the United Kingdom and all around the world are hungry for God's Word. So every day we're proclaiming, explaining, delivering God's truth, both to His people throughout the world as well as to those who are on the outside so they can hear the truth and come to faith in Christ.
We do it through the radio, the internet, CDs, television, study guides, commentaries, topical books, the MacArthur Study Bible. And this is the mission, this is the vision that has always been graced to you and will always be. People from all parts of the globe tell us that grace to you is leading them into the Word of God in such a way that it develops a hunger for the truth of God, and that results in them feasting on that Word and growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And frequently we're told that God has used grace to use Bible teaching to bring people to salvation in Christ. And we know that people like you share our commitment to unleashing God's truth one verse at a time around the globe. So God bless you as you seek to fulfill the great commission in your day-to-day interactions. And as you stand with us at the very end of the year, this is a wonderful time to make a tax-deductible donation to grace to you. Our website makes it easy to do, gty.org, and we will thank you, and the Lord will bless you for helping us head into the new year on a strong footing.
That's right, friend. People in virtually every nation on earth have access to grace to use Bible teaching, and it's your support that allows us to have such a wide reach. To make a tax-deductible donation for 2022, get in touch with us today. Go to our website to make a credit card donation, gty.org. You can also express your support by mailing your gift by check to grace to you Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. And again, to make a tax-deductible donation for 2022, you can do that online at gty.org with your credit card. Just be sure to complete your donation by 1159 p.m. on December 31st. Or you can send your gift by check, but be sure it's postmarked by December 31st.
Send it to Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. And remember, at gty.org, you can download all of John's messages free of charge. If there's a verse in the New Testament you don't understand or you want to understand it better, John has a sermon on it, as well as many sermons from the Old Testament. You can also read the Grace to You blog with articles by John and other staff members. All of those resources and much more are available at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow when John looks at five truths that will help you honor Christ no matter what comes your way in 2023. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Friday's Grace to You.
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