In the last passage of the Gospel of Matthew, the Great Commission is delivered on a mountain. Claiming power in heaven and earth, this last passage is grandiose and awe-inspiring. Power is promised, and the promise is powerful. Christ’s disciples are not left alone until the end of time and of the world. Surely the spread of Christianity to the majority of the world can be attributed to these words.
The passage also contains many verbs that have inspired gospel workers throughout the ages. Actions like “go,” “make,” “baptize,” and “teach” comprise the main actions of ministry. With decreeing overtones, our Commanding Officer, who has been granted all authority in heaven and earth, has given us His primary directive with these four verbs.
When translated into English, the four verbs seem equivalent. However, only one of them is the main verb, while the other three share an object. Called participles, the three are not the focus of action in the passage; rather, they help the main verb. The three participles modify, describe, and assist how the primary verb is to be accomplished. Which of the four do you think is where the central action takes place?
Though it is the first verb, and often thought of as the most active, “go” in this verse is a participle. Rather than an imperative command, it can be better understood as “as you are going.” Though baptisms are a pivotal ceremony in the life of the church, in this passage it is also a participle. Again, it could be reworded as “as you are baptizing.” The same can be said for the last verb of “teaching.” The primary verb is “make disciples.”
First, Christ’s disciples must “go.” We must go as much to difficult areas for missions as to easier places, regardless of inconvenience. In other words, Christian discipleship is an active one that requires movement, drive, dynamicity, development, progress, travel, and advancement. Second, Christ’s disciples must “baptize.” More than a ceremony, this ordinance demarcates the formal beginning of a discipleship walk with Jesus Christ. Having declared a death to self, the new man is reborn and sustained by the Holy Spirit to live a godly life. Third, Christ’s disciples must “teach.” Not some esoteric society, Christianity is composed of teachings from Christ about life, the world, time, humanity, salvation, and purpose. These things must be learned, experienced, and passed on to others.
These three actions are not minimized in anyway, but they are placed in relation to the main verb of “make disciples.” The primary goal of the Great Commission is to make disciples. This is done is by the aforementioned “going,” “baptizing,” and “teaching.” This trio of verbs explains the methodology, or “how” the primary verb is to be accomplished. While more can be said on the trio, the idea of making disciples and discipleship in general is the focus of the Great Commission.