Is the Great Commission for Everybody, Somebody, Anybody or Nobody?

Is the Great Commission for Everybody, Somebody, Anybody or Nobody?  When I was working, I used to have a sign in my office that told the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.  Given all the protests and other things happening surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, I couldn’t help but think about it.  For a number of reasons.

Is the Great Commission for Everybody, Somebody, Anybody or Nobody?But one thing that brought it to mind is this headline from msn: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: Racism Won’t Stop Until We ‘Accept Jesus Christ’.  If you’ve read much oh my stuff, especially over on whichgodsaves.com you know how a feel about mixing government and religion.  It’s a bad mix.  Really bad.  It compromises Christianity, and that’s never a good thing.

The story comes from something on, of course, Fox News.  Here’s the part that really struck me as, well, missing the point of something Jesus told His followers.

Speaking after more than a week of demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, Patrick tried to pin the nation’s long and deep-rooted racial problems on people not being religious enough ― and more specifically, “the left” not accepting Jesus Christ.  

Patrick said on Fox News that Floyd’s killing and the unrest breaks his heart and that it’s an issue of “loving God.”

“You cannot love your fellow man if you don’t love God,” he said. “And we have a country where we’ve been working really hard, particularly on the left, to kick God out.”

Patrick also said laws can’t fix racism, only Jesus and God can:

“You cannot change the culture of a country until you change the character of mankind. And you can’t change that unless you change the heart, and for billions of us on the planet, we believe you can’t do that unless you accept Jesus Christ or unless you accept God. God has been left out of this equation through all of this and we need tremendous healing. We cannot heal through commissions and blue-ribbon panels and more laws.”

Dan Patrick goes on about how the left refuses to accept Jesus Christ.  Of course, I don’t feel like either side has a good track record of accepting Jesus.  Not the way He presented Himself, anyway.  Lots of people are willing to accept Jesus in the image we create Him.  Unfortunately, Jesus wasn’t created.  He is, was, and always will be, God.  

I feel like both the left and the right, as far as political parties, have created Jesus in the image they think will be acceptable to the folks who vote for them.  I also wish, because of that, that both parties would stay out of the “God business”.  We should not and cannot learn about God from them.  Neither can we or should we try to force our image of God, wherever it comes from, on anyone else.  
Even God doesn’t force His true Self on anyone!  So who are we to think that we should try to even do that?  History is full of attempts to force God on people.  It seems like it never goes well.

The Great Commission – what is it?

On the off chance that you don’t know what the Great Commission is, you can read it below.

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said,All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We cannot heal through commissions and blue-ribbon panels and more laws.

Oddly enough, Patrick says We cannot heal through commissions and blue-ribbon panels and more laws. It’s almost funny.  In a way, he makes my point for me about not mixing politics and Christianity. 

No – we cannot heal through political commissions and laws.  Not even laws that attempt to force Christianity or Christian concepts on everyone.  That much we agree on.

However, we can absolutely heal through the Great Commission.  One little word – Great.  And one huge concept – God’s Commission, not a human commission.

But the Great Commission says to make disciples

Yes, the Great Commission, in English, says to make disciples.  And maybe that’s part of our problem.  We don’t really understand what Jesus said.  Why do I say we don’t know what Jesus said?  Because Jesus didn’t say to make disciples!  Check this out:

Great Commission - make disciples

Notice – there’s no Greek word under the English word “make”.  Therefore, Jesus, in English, is telling us “therefore to disciples all nations”.  That’s bad grammar, so maybe it’s actually “therefore, go disciple all nations”?  Let’s find out.  Here’s what that Greek word we read as “make disciples” actually means.

3100 μαθητεύω [matheteuo /math·ayt·yoo·o/] v. From 3101; TDNT 4:461; TDNTA 552; GK 3411; Four occurrences; AV translates as “teach” twice, “instruct” once, and “be disciple” once. 1 to be a disciple of one. 1a to follow his precepts and instructions. 2 to make a disciple. 2a to teach, instruct.  1)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

That didn’t really help, did it?  Teach and instruct stand by themselves.  But disciple still says “make a disciple”.  Why?

Let’s look at the four instances where the Greek word μαθητεύω is used.  I’ll underline the translated word in each verse.

Mt 13:52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

Mt 27:57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.

Mt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Ac 14:21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,

You can see, “make” isn’t even close to appropriate in the other three instances.  However, there is some action involved in all four of them.  That shouldn’t be surprising, since everything Jesus taught was about action.  Even “believing” required action, based on our belief.  Saying some words along the lines of  “I believe” was never enough. 

Sure – the words were said.  But people who heard Him at the time knew about the action, because it was built into the words Jesus used.  But not for us in English.  Although, given the overall context of everything Jesus taught, we should be able to figure that out.  Action is required!  For more on that concept, please see Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God?.

Given that, let’s look at those four verses one more time, looking for the action.

who has been instructed about

Mt 13:52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

There are two actions here.  Truth is, we’ll see there are two actions in every instance of the word μαθητεύω.  Every teacher of the law has been instructed.  That means everyone who was a teacher of the law had to learn.  And they had to have an instructor.  So, we have two actions by two sets of people – teachers and students.

become a disciple

Mt 27:57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.

In order for Joseph of Arimathea to become a disciple, he needed an instructor.  Again – we have two actions by two (or more) people – teacher(s) and a student.

disciples

Ac 14:21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,

This time, we have no direct connection between μαθητεύω and any other words.  However, in order for the ones who were preaching the good news to win disciples, there had to be both teaching and learning going on.  Two actions.  Two sets of people.

Question – do you see anything indicating the use of force in any of these three times the word μαθητεύω is used?  No.  And yet, it’s there in the final instance.

make disciples of

Mt 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Why isn’t it just “disciple all nations”?  You know why it’s not like that?  It’s because we don’t translate it that way anymore.  Anymore!  But we used to read it like that.  Here’s the translation from Young’s Literal:

16 And the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mount where Jesus appointed them, 17and having seen him, they bowed to him, but some did waver. 18And having come near, Jesus spake to them, saying, ‘Given to me was all authority in heaven and on earth; 19having gone, then, disciple all the nations, (baptizing them—to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all, whatever I did command you,) and lo, I am with you all the days—till the full end of the age.’  2)Young, R. (1997). Young’s Literal Translation (Mt 28:16–20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

And even the King James Version:

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.  3)The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 28:16–20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

We cannot “make” disciples

So we used to read disciple all the nations and teach all nations.  They both mean the same thing.  We are to teach willing people to do the things Jesus taught.  We are not told to “make”, as in “force”, people to become Christians!

This sheds a whole new light on things for those who want to legislate Christianity into universal acceptance in the U.S. – or in any other country.  As I’ve said before – can you even imagine Jesus or the early church going to Rome to have their beliefs set into Roman law?  Jesus never forced anyone to believe in Him.  

So when Dan Patrick if Texts said … –

“You cannot change the culture of a country until you change the character of mankind. And you can’t change that unless you change the heart, and for billions of us on the planet, we believe you can’t do that unless you accept Jesus Christ or unless you accept God. God has been left out of this equation through all of this and we need tremendous healing. We cannot heal through commissions and blue-ribbon panels and more laws.”

… there were probably lots of Christians who applauded what he said.  To some extent, as I said, I agree.

However, by now you know where I disagree.  

We cannot pass laws that make people act like Christians.  That act like we’re supposed to.  For one thing, it’s not what Jesus said.  For another, it’s not loving, and Jesus did tell us to always love even the people we hate. 

No – we have to do it the old fashioned way.  The way Jesus did.  The way the early church did.  We go out – and we talk with people.  Not “to people”.  Not pass laws that they have to read and follow.  Talk with them, in a loving manner.  Teach them.  Of course, that also means we have to know what we’re teaching.

But that’s OK – we’re supposed to learn about Christianity ourselves.  We should have plenty of people to teach us, although we do have to be discerning and be able to recognize false teachers.

Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit to help us with all that.  There again though, we have to be willing to allow Him to help us.  And we have to listen when He tells us something we don’t want to hear.  For us to ignore those subtle feelings that we get when we don’t want to do something we know is right – that’s a recipe for disaster.  We become false teachers.  Or we go back to forcing people.  Not acting in love.  And then we cannot teach people.

It’s not easy.  And yet, it is what we’re called to do.

Conclusion – Is the Great Commission for Everybody, Somebody, Anybody or Nobody?

Is the Great Commission for everybody?  If we are Christian, yes.  It is for all Christians.

Is it for somebody?  Well, yes, as long as that somebody is Christians.

Is it for anybody?  It’s for anybody who’s Christian.

Is the Great Commission for nobody?  No.  Because of the story below, which is a specific instance of the more general story most of you have heard before.

“Whose Job Is It, Anyway?”

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.  Everybody, Somebody and Anybody are Christians.  Nobody is not a Christian.  There was an important job to be done.  The Job was the Great Commission, something Jesus commanded all of His followers to do. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody, the non-Christian, did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody, the non-Christian, realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

Did you catch what happened there?  None of the three Christians fulfilled the Great Commission, even though they all promised to do it when they were baptized. 
Since one of them took up the task, the non-Christian was free to put forth his version of Christianity.  Of course, it was false.  Something that few would want to take part in.

It’s not entirely true, of course.  There are some Christians who do work on fulfilling the Great Commission.  But nowhere near enough.  Also, there are plenty of “Nobodys”, with various flavors false Christianity.  Jesus knew this would happen, because there are warnings about false teachers. 

That’s so sad.  Jesus came to this earth, suffered and died.  All the while knowing that many of those who claim to be His followers really aren’t.  And to the extent that the true Christians fail to do our part, it gets increasingly harder for anyone to actually become a true follower of Jesus.  Nobody flourishes.  And fewer are saved.

So who is the Great Commission for? 

If you are a true follower of Jesus, trying to live life the way He taught us, then as the image at the top says, the Great Commission is for you and me.

As Patrick said at the top – You cannot love your fellow man if you don’t love God.  Of course, the catch is that loving God requires being a Christian.  And no, I don’t believe there are many paths to God.  See The problem of Coexist – and – Love your enemy for more on that.

And you cannot force people to love God, by legislation or any other means.

Likewise, you cannot force people to love our fellow man.  Not by legislation or any other means.

It all comes from a willingness to turn to God and learn what Jesus taught.  As we begin to learn from Jesus’ teachings, we will love God more and more.  And from that will also come the desire to love each other more and more.

So don’t try to do your part of the Great Commission via politics and who you vote for.  Do it the way Jesus commanded us.  Teach others.  Disciples others.   Not so we force them to know God the way we want Him to be – but so they will want to know God as He really is.

disciple all the nations, (baptizing them—to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all, whatever I did command you,) and lo, I am with you all the days—till the full end of the age.’ 


Original Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay
words added by c wgsu


References   [ + ]

1.Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
2.Young, R. (1997). Young’s Literal Translation (Mt 28:16–20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
3.The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 28:16–20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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