Calvary Road Baptist Church

OUR GREAT COMMISSION Part 8

“I AM WITH YOU ALWAY”

Matthew 28.16-20

 

Have you noticed what young people usually say when they are thanking family members and loved ones at their graduation or on some occasion when a milestone in their young lives has been achieved? Predictably, and wonderfully, they express their gratitude to a mother, a father, a loved one, or some other important person for, to use their words, “being there for me.” As much as what is actually said and done, it is important to every one of us that a loved one or a mentor was quite simply there. And the tragedy in so many lives today is that when being there is so important that person is simply not there. Oh, he may say he will be there for you. However, too often such words are sadly unaccompanied by actions.

With that in mind, let us stand to read our text, Matthew 28.16-20:

 

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.

 

This is the 8th and final of a series of messages dealing with our Great Commission. I draw your attention to the last half of verse 20 and the phrase

 

“and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

 

From verse 16 we learn that the eleven surviving apostles of Jesus Christ rendezvoused on a mountain in Galilee sometime after the Lord Jesus Christ had gloriously conquered death by rising from the dead in a glorified human body. They went where He had appointed them to go. Though not mentioned in this passage, there are indications elsewhere that a multitude of His other disciples also gathered with the eleven, so that they might see their risen Savior yet again.[1] When they saw Him, verse 17, they worshiped Him, but some doubted.

They came because they expected something momentous to happen. After all, when you are where the Lord Jesus Christ is things that are momentous tend to occur with some regularity. Had He not walked on the water? Had He not given sight to the blind? Had He not fed the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes? Had He not healed the lame and cleansed the lepers? Had He not calmed the storm and cast out demons? Had He not conquered death itself, by dying and then rising from the dead?

Oh, yes. These men and women had seen much, and they wanted to see more. So, to see Him, to hear Him, to be with Him, many of them had traveled far. They had crossed rough terrain. They had left family and friends and responsibilities behind once again . . . to be with Him. You want to be with the one you love, do you not?

Was it worth it to travel so far? Was it worth it to so inconvenience themselves? They met with the Son of the living God on a mountain! They saw once more the One Who loved them, Who had risen from the dead, Who had conquered death! But more important than seeing Him, they had heard Him. And this is what they heard Him say:

 

18   . . . 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.

 

At first He encouraged them:

 

“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

 

How they must have been thrilled by those words; their hearts beating faster, their breaths coming more quickly. What must the implications be?

 

“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

 

Then He commissioned them:

 

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

 

They were commissioned to make disciples of peoples of all nations. But they were not left to their own devices. They were to make disciples by going, by then baptizing, and by then teaching them to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them. It would be a fearsome task. There would be great danger. Much blood would be shed in the discharge of this duty, in the fulfillment of this obligation, in the spreading of the gospel, in the preaching of the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. They would not shed the blood of others. Rather, their blood would be shed by others.

The disciples already knew, from their experiences during the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry before He was crucified, that there would be great opposition. They had seen the reactions of the religious men. They had experienced how fickle and quick to turn against them the multitudes had been. They remembered being abandoned by the crowds. They remembered abandoning the Lord Jesus themselves.

What, then, would prompt these disciples to embark on a worldwide conquest in the Lord Jesus Christ’s precious name? What emboldened them? What encouraged them? It was Jesus Christ, Himself. Listen to His final words:

 

“lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

 

We are provided, in this statement, three powerful incentives that not only energized those original disciples of Jesus Christ but every subsequent generation of Christ’s disciples since those words were uttered. Notice what our Lord Jesus said:

 

First, THERE IS THE DECLARATION OF HIS PROMISE

 

“lo, I am with you”

 

I want you to consider this word “lo”. You may not think this little word is significant, but it’s used in 146 separate verses in the Bible to get the reader’s attention, to arrest the listener’s attention, and as preparation for something very important to follow. Let me quickly rehearse some of the important events in the Bible announced with this word:

 

 

So, there can be no doubt that the Lord Jesus Christ is warning His disciples of an important announcement, a significant statement, a comment worthy of their undivided attention. What could be so important?

Next, His promise to His disciples:

 

“I am with you”

 

Please pay careful attention to what the Lord Jesus Christ says here. He does not here promise to someday be with His disciples. He promises to currently be with His disciples. Herein He promises His abiding presence. Consider how this promise must have sounded to their Jewish ears. In Exodus 33.13-17, Moses said to the LORD:

 

13   Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.

 

And the LORD responded:

 

14   And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.

 

Now, it is Moses’ turn to speak:

 

15   And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.

16   For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

 

The passage closes with these words of comfort from God to His man:

 

17   And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

 

Then, in Joshua 1.5 we find the LORD saying these words to Joshua:

 

“as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

 

What has always been most important to God’s people is God’s presence. And what is most important to Christ’s disciples is Christ’s presence. But how can this One Who sits at the Father’s right hand on high promise His presence among His disciples while being a fully glorified man? In John 16.7, our Lord Jesus Christ spoke of a Comforter:

 

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

 

This Comforter is the Holy Spirit, Who draws alongside each believer to strengthen, to guide, to live right inside, . . . to represent as only He can the Lord Jesus Christ. What a grand and exciting promise the Lord Jesus Christ made, and keeps.[2] How excited the disciples were that what Moses wanted they were promised. And what Moses experienced after a fashion they would experience more fully, more intimately, and even more personally. And the same is true of us. As God promised His presence to the congregation of Israel, and as the Lord Jesus Christ promised His presence to those first disciples, so He promises His presence to us. As individual Christians?[3] Yes, but also as a congregation.[4]

 

Second, THE DECLARATION OF HIS PRESENCE

 

Obviously, Christ’s promise runs into His presence, since His promise is the promise of His presence:

 

“lo, I am with you alway”

 

Let’s focus our attention on this single word, “alway.”

This single English word translates a Greek phrase which literally means “each of the days,” or “every one of the days.”[5] Think of it! The Lord Jesus Christ has promised His presence to His disciples. And from His Own mouth He has promised us His presence daily. This is no indication that He will check up on His people from time to time, but that He will maintain a daily presence with His people.

Let’s visit this question again of how the Lord Jesus Christ will accomplish this. The Savior has promised His presence. From Matthew 18.20 we read of a previous promise of His presence, made to those who are in the process of reconciling a sinning brother in Christ:

 

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

 

How could the Lord Jesus Christ truthfully make this promise in Matthew 28.20, as well as the promise He made in Matthew 18.20, in good faith? He could only make this promise and keep this promise if He were God, could He not? For only God is omnipresent. Yet there are many passages in God’s Word which show Jesus Christ to be at the Father’s right hand on high, a specific location.[6]

Again, we seem to be driven by scripture back to the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit of God, unless we would deny Christ’s humanity. He is the God-man, seated at the Father’s right hand, so His promise of presence must be understood to be fulfilled by that Other Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

The important consideration for us, however, is not theological speculation, but our Lord Jesus Christ’s promise of His presence each and every day!

 

“lo, I am with you alway.”

 

His promise, His presence, made to His disciples as a comfort to them carrying out His Great Commission.

 

Finally, WE SEE HIS PERSISTENCE

 

“lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

 

Strange as it may seem when I first say it to you, this last phrase does not suggest that the Lord Jesus Christ will be with His disciples forever. The Great Commission is not an eternal and never-ending assignment. There will come a time when the gospel of God’s grace will not be freely offered to a Christ-rejecting world anymore. This last phrase actually refers to the end of this present age, not the end of the world.

The world will come to an end after a series of events and subsequent ages have elapsed. Let me quickly rehearse them for you: Obviously, our own age, this present era that we live in, must come to a climactic conclusion. That, I believe, will occur at the time of the Rapture of the Church Age believer, bringing to a close the era of the churches. Following the Rapture will be a period of time known as the time of Jacob’s Trouble, or the 70th week of Daniel. It will last seven years. That era will come to a conclusion with the momentous Second Coming of Jesus Christ in power and great glory, Revelation 19. When Jesus Christ comes He will establish His millennial kingdom and will reign on earth for 1000 years, Revelation 20. At the end of Christ’s millennial kingdom rule Satan will inspire a rebellion that King Jesus will put down, and this will lead, I think, to the destruction of all the elements in a fervent heat, Second Peter 3.10 & 12.

What the Lord Jesus Christ is referring to in Matthew 28.20, then, is not the end of the world in something more than 1007 years, but the end of the present age in which we live. When will that be? We cannot precisely know until the Rapture occurs.

But we do know this: What the Lord Jesus is promising is His persistent presence to be with us . . . until the time comes that we will be with Him. Once He has gathered us to Himself there will be no more preaching of the gospel by us, there will be no need for His persistent presence anymore, for we will then be with Him. First Thessalonians 4.16-18:

 

16   For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

17   Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

18   Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

 

The Savior’s last recorded word is “Amen.” This word means “truly,” “verily,” “certainly.” It is His final encouragement to the disciples to certify that things will be as He has promised. He speaks the truth.

 

We live in a very strange and unusual time in human history. And ours is a strange and unusual spot on God’s green earth. We have lived in this country in a period of more than two centuries in which there has been virtually no religious persecution, and religious freedom and liberty has been like it has existed nowhere else on earth in recorded history. The response to Christians in this country being so profoundly blessed by God has generally been to take His blessings for granted, to gradually develop the attitude that such blessings are enjoyed by Christians always and everywhere, and to somehow think we are entitled to what we have received.

However, things have begun to change of late, have they not? A sober look at what is transpiring both here at home and elsewhere in the world should serve to correct such notions. As well, reading some accurate histories and old biographies, like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is helpful. But what is best is a clear-eyed reading of the gospels and the book of Acts. The general rule is that Christians are persecuted, that Christians face terrible opposition for preaching the gospel, and that it costs a great deal and has always cost a great deal to be a Christian, in terms of personal suffering and in terms of lives lost. In Second Timothy 3.12, Paul promised Timothy,

 

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

 

And before that, in John 15.20, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples,

 

“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

 

For these reasons, it is likely that you and I have less appreciation for these words of comfort our Lord gave than Christians of other times and places. Our brothers in China, Africa, and the Middle East need this exhortation to get through each day. Our brothers in India, whose lives are also at risk from the assaults of the radical Hindus as well as the Muslims, also cherish this promise of Christ’s persistent presence until we are all gathered to heaven.

So, let us recognize that our appreciation of the Lord’s encouraging promise of His persistent presence is not the measure of its value, for there are others of our faith who prize this promise far more than you and I do, who know its value to life better than we, and who recognize the daily demands for grace that require Christ’s abiding presence in order to survive.

God has been so good to us. Our Savior is great and greatly to be praised. Let us then be careful not to take Him for granted, but to always rejoice and shout “Hallelujah, what a Savior!”

__________

[1] 1 Corinthians 15.6

[2] Romans 8.9

[3] 1 Corinthians 6.19

[4] 1 Corinthians 3.16

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 782.

[6] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org