OUR GREAT COMMISSION Part 1
“Jesus Is Authorized”
1. Turn in your Bible to Matthew 28, where we will read the account of the Lord Jesus Christ’s eighth post resurrection appearance to His disciples. When you have found Matthew 28.16, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:
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.
2. All of the other times the eleven had seen their risen Lord they had seen Him in the vicinity of Jerusalem. But on this occasion they went to the considerable trouble of traveling all the way to Galilee, and up a mountain, to see Him. Why did they go to all that trouble? “Jesus had appointed them.” These men had spent the better part of 3 ½ years learning to obey the Lord Jesus Christ without doubting, so they were getting accustomed to simply following His directions without question.
3. The verb used by Matthew to describe the risen Lord’s directive to His disciples is the word ta<ssw, meaning “to assign, to order, and in the middle voice as we have here, to appoint by one’s own authority.” So, what we have by the selection of this word is a bit of a glimpse of what’s coming, the showcasing of the awesome authority that is wielded by the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. But what mountain, since it is clear in the Greek New Testament that a specific mountain was their destination? Though we are not told which mountain, which is to say that we are not told, though the disciples certainly were told, it seems likely that it was the same mountain on which the Lord Jesus Christ was transfigured and His glory shined forth for the three apostles who were with Him to see. What better setting could there have been for the imparting of the Great Commission than the same locale where some of them had seen Him transfigured. Or, perhaps where He had taught the sermon on the mount was the location where this incredible meeting took place. Wherever the meeting took place, it would forever change the lives of those who were in attendance.
5. But why, verse 17, did some worship Him when they initially saw Him, while others doubted at the first? There are several possible explanations. Those who worshipped Him were no doubt convinced that He had risen and had previously been convinced of His resurrection in Jerusalem.
6. But what means this doubt that some had? Two possibilities: First, it is possible that some were convinced Jesus had risen from the dead but did not recognize Him from far off, and their doubt was not doubt that He had risen but a doubt about what they were seeing. Or, and this I think is more likely, some who had gathered for this meeting had not yet seen the risen Savior and still harbored doubts that He was really risen.
7. Those who are of this second opinion, and I am one of them, think that this is the occasion whereupon the Lord Jesus Christ was seen by more than 500 brethren at once, as was mentioned by Paul in First Corinthians 15.6, wherein he wrote, “After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.”
8. So, this encounter the disciples have with the risen Savior is unique in several respects: First, it seems that this is the only appearance that He announced ahead of time, telling them where to meet Him. Second, it seems that this is the only appearance that occurred outside of the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem. Third, it seems that this was the only appearance which might be considered a public event, since there were so many people there. And fourth, this was the appearance that was most significant in that the Great Commission is most fully presented on this occasion.
9. My text for this morning is Matthew 28.18, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” After some saw Jesus and worshipped and others saw Jesus and doubted the risen Savior came to them. He approached them all. It was then that He spoke to them. And it was what He first said to them that I want to focus our attention on for now. What He said to them in verses 19 and 20 will be considered at another time, the Lord willing.
10. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Matthew has already painted this dispatching of these men to the mountain in Galilee in authoritative terms. He did so when he described this assembly of men as the result of an appointment, as an authoritative assignment, using that word tavssw that I explained to you.
11. Keeping in mind that the word translated “power” in this verse, exousia, refers to the right to control or command, authority, absolute power, let’s consider four aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ’s authority.
1A. First, WE CONSIDER THE POWER OF CHRIST’S NATURE
1B. Please understand that I come before you this morning as a man who is humbled by the very thought of my Lord’s nature. But because there is much confusion and dishonor shown to God the Father in these last days, I feel the need to preach for the next several weeks on doctrines that will exalt both the Lord Jesus Christ and glorify the Father. It is in seeking to accomplish that task that I am humbled by a consideration of the nature of my Lord. Here is something for you to consider:
2B. B. H. Carroll, founder of Southwestern Seminary and theologian par excellence, said of those who cry “less creed and more liberty are a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jelly fish.” In his work Interpretation of the English Bible he wrote, “A church with a little creed is a church with a little life.” “Very solemnly I would warn the reader against any teaching that decries doctrine, or which would reduce the creed of the church into two or three articles. We are entitled to no liberty in these matters. It is a positive and very hurtful sin to magnify liberty at the expense of doctrine. A creed is what we believe. A confession of faith is a declaration of what we believe. The church must both believe and declare. The longest creed of history is more valuable and less hurtful than the shortest ….. The standard is the Holy Scriptures. Again I solemnly warn the reader against all who depreciate creeds, or who reduce them to a minimum of entrance qualifications in to the Church.”
3B. I read Carroll’s words so that you will see the value of not only God’s infallible Word on the subject of Christ’s nature, but also the value of ancient creeds and confessions on the subject, so that we can see what Christians have always believed about the nature of this One Who we bow before as Savior.
4B. I first read The Apostle’s Creed, well known to many and dating from 400 AD: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. ”
5B. Less well known than The Apostle’s Creed, but even older, is The Nicene Creed. Adopted by the Nicene Council, which met in 325 AD to deal with the Arian heresy that denied Christ’s deity: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.”
6B. Finally, I would like to read to you The Athanasian Creed, which is ascribed to Athanasius, who lived from 296 to 373 AD, and who battled against the Arian heresy and upheld the deity of Christ. As I read please be aware that the word “catholic” refers not to the Roman Church, but to the Christian faith being universal in its scope and application: “Whoever wills to be in a state of salvation, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith, which except everyone shall have kept whole and undefiled without doubt he will perish eternally. Now the catholic faith is that we worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit; the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated; the father infinite, the Son infinite, and the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet not three eternals but one eternal, as also not three infinites, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one infinite. So, likewise, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty; and yet not three almighties but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God; and yet not three Gods but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; and yet not three Lords but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be both God and Lord; so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten but proceeding. So there is one Father not three Fathers, one Son not three Sons, and Holy Spirit not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less, but the whole three Persons are coeternal together and coequal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity is to be worshipped. He therefore who wills to be in a state of salvation, let him think thus of the Trinity. But it is necessary to eternal salvation that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The right faith therefore is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. He is God of the substance of the Father begotten before the worlds, and He is man of the substance of His mother born in the world; perfect God, perfect man subsisting of a reasoning soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who although He be God and Man yet He is not two but one Christ; one however not by conversion of the Godhead in the flesh, but by taking of the Manhood in God; one altogether not by confusion of substance but by unity of Person. For as the reasoning soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life eternal, and they who indeed have done evil into eternal fire. This is the catholic faith, which except a man shall have believed faithfully and firmly he cannot be in a state of salvation.”
7B. Why have I read these creeds to you? I have read them to you for four reasons: First, because they are ancient statements of what we believe the Word of God teaches about our Lord Jesus Christ. Second, because it is good for us to be reminded that ours is a historical faith, and not something new conjured up by charlatans over the last century or two that has been supposedly hidden for millennia. Third, because I am convinced that contemporary Christians have departed from the faith that is reflected in these ancient creeds, as we will see over the next few weeks. And finally, because we need to be reminded afresh and anew of Who our Savior is and by what authority He commands that we must obey.
8B. Jesus Christ possesses the very nature of God because He is God. Therefore, consider and ponder the authority that is His by virtue of His nature and essence. Does He have the right to command? Yes. Do we have the duty, the obligation, the responsibility to obey. Yes.
2A. Next, WE CONSIDER THE NATURE OF CHRIST’S POWER
1B. Do not think I am playing words games with you this morning, for I am most assuredly not. My first point was a reminder of the power of Christ’s nature. And by nature, I referred to Christ’s deity, to His Godness, to His divinity. By such a nature He is rightly seen to possess astonishing and infinite authority.
2B. But if you will carefully read our text you will see that the Lord Jesus Christ does not, here, speak by virtue of the power He possesses naturally as a result of His essence. Rather, He makes a definite point of speaking with authority that is given to Him. You may think that is a distinction without a difference, but it’s not.
3B. The Lord Jesus Christ clearly shows us in our text that He was not speaking by His Own authority. He has great authority, as we have seen, but in our text He is not wielding His Own power, but that of Another. He is most assuredly declaring here that the authority by which He speaks to His disciples is authority, is power, that has been given to Him.
4B. But Who would give to the Lord Jesus such power? Who could give to the Lord Jesus such power? Remembering that by power we are speaking of authority, this power is given to Jesus by His Father. And the Bible speaks to this issue in several places. Malachi 1.6 shows that God the Father has authority over the Son of God by virtue of their father/son relationship: “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?” Revelation 13.8 shows how far back God authorized His Son to act on His behalf when Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
5B. As a matter of fact, the Father’s authority over His Son has been a recognized Bible doctrine since at least the time of Augustine. Listen to a portion of what Augustine wrote on matter: “For the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son. In the light of this we can now perceive that the Son is not just said to have been sent because the Word became flesh, but that he was sent in order for the Word to become flesh, and by his bodily presence to do all that was written. That is, we should understand that it was not just the man who the Word became that was sent, but that the Word was sent to become man. For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of power or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father, but in virtue of the Son being from the Father, not the Father being from the Son.”
6B. Why is this important to you and to me? This establishes that being functionally subordinate does not mean you are inferior. Jesus is subordinate to the Father, and has been throughout all eternity, all the while equal in nature, essence and might. Thus, it is not only godly to be humble and subordinate to one with legitimate authority over you, it is Godlike.
7B. So, we see the Lord Jesus Christ’s authority in a new light, in a much more humble and submissive light. Thus, the power by which Jesus acted, and continues to act, is delegated. In turn, He delegates that same power, that same delegated authority of the Father, to others.
3A. Third, WE CONSIDER THE EXTENT OF CHRIST’S POWER
“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”
1B. This power that Jesus Christ has been given by the Father, how far and to what bounds does it reach? As high as the highest heavens. And all the way down to earth. In heaven, Christ’s authority would extend from the Holy Spirit, and the authority to dispatch the Spirit of God to work on the lost and in the saved, to the angels, who minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation. And on earth, Christ’s authority extends to His power to gather from all nations a bride.
2B. A. T. Robertson, commenting on this verse, writes: “It is the sublimist of all spectacles to see the Risen Christ without money or army or state charging this band of five hundred men and women with world conquest and bringing them to believe it possible and to undertake it with serious passion and power. Pentecost is still to come, but dynamic faith rules on this mountain in Galilee.”
4A. Finally, WE CONSIDER THE DURATION OF CHRIST’S POWER
1B. Let us keep in mind that our focus is upon the delegated authority by which the Lord Jesus Christ undertook His saving mission on behalf of the Father, not His Own authority springing from His divine nature. For how long will the Lord Jesus submit to His Father and wield authority delegated to Him by the Father?
2B. Will there come a day when the Lord Jesus no longer submits to His Father, when He is no longer subordinate to the Father? “Consider Paul’s discussion of the consummation of Christ’s reconciling work in a day yet future. He writes, ‘For he [the Father] ‘has put everything under his [Christ’s] feet’. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all’ (1 Cor 15:27-28). Because Christ was commissioned in eternity past to come, in time and in history, to carry out the will of his Father, when this work is completed, Christ will place himself in the very position he had with the Father previously. While possessing again the full glory of the Father (John 17:5), he will put himself in subjection to the Father (1 Cor 15:28). The relation of the Father and Son in eternity past, in Christ’s historic and incarnate life, and in eternity future, then, is the same. Christ is fully equal in essence with the Father yet subordinate in role. Scripture clearly upholds these truths, and we in the Church should likewise do the same.”
1. I have done something during this exposition time that I have never before done. I have made an appeal to ancient creeds to show that our understanding of what God’s Word says about the Lord Jesus Christ, His nature and His authority, are firmly rooted in Scripture as it was understood 1,600 years ago, and since then.
2. Sadly, in our own day there is a departure from the positions established by the ancient creeds. Many evangelicals and Pentecostals, and too many Baptists, are no longer orthodox Trinitarians. As well, many who claim to be Trinitarians are beginning to slip in their understanding of the Trinity.
3. After brother Isenberger comes and leads us in a hymn I will briefly make application of the truths that we have too quickly and too superficially considered this morning because of the limitations of time.
4. Brother Isenberger, won’t you come at this time?
1. What does it matter whether Jesus wields His Own authority or authority given to Him by the Father? And why is it significant at all that Jesus submits to the Father throughout all eternity or almost throughout all eternity?
2. My friends, the implications of our Lord’s words in our text are far reaching, extending not only to the internal relationship that each member of the Trinity has one with the other, but also with respect to you and me, our marriages, our service to God and Christ, and our willingness to yield to the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit of God.
3. But for the purposes of this morning’s message and those I will bring, Lord willing, over the next few Sunday mornings, the implications of our Lord’s words have directly to do with our great commission and
the authority by which Jesus spoke and by which we as a Church act.
4. Four conclusions are properly and directly drawn from our text and those considerations of our text that I have rehearsed with you this morning.
5. In light of the power of Christ’s nature and the nature and extent and duration of Christ’s power, there are four truths you need to acknowledge:
1A. First, IT IS GOD-LIKE TO SUBMIT TO GOD THE FATHER
1B. How can it be said that submitting to God the Father is God-like? That doing God’s will is God-like? That obeying God is God-like? Jesus is God and He submits to God the Father.
2B. In John 8.29 Jesus said regarding obedience to God the Father, “I do always those things that please him.” So, if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, God the Son, finds no fault with always obeying His Father, seeking always to please and submit to Him, then what is your problem?
3B. Do you think yourself to be superior to the Son of God, greater than the Lord Jesus Christ, more important than the second Person of the triune Godhead? If you do you are arrogant to the point that you risk insanity. If not, then there is no logical, reasonable, rational reason why you should not right this moment commit yourself to doing God’s will as you understand it.
2A. Next, IT IS GOD-LIKE TO SUBMIT TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
1B. The Spirit of God does. Is not the Spirit of God dispatched at the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is He not referred to by the apostle Paul as the Spirit of Christ? Why so? Because, as the Lord Jesus Christ submits to the Father, so the Spirit of God submits to the Son of God.
2B. What’s wrong with living for Christ? What’s wrong with serving Christ? What’s wrong with seeking to advance the cause of Christ? What’s wrong with working to exalt Christ, to lift Him up, to magnify Him? The Spirit of God does precisely that in His ministry, does He not?
3B. The Spirit of God does not speak of Himself, John 16.13, but speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ. And through human instrumentalities the Spirit of God’s message is “he must increase, but I must decrease.”
4B. So, why can’t you do that? You are not better than the Spirit of God, are you? He is God, remember, coequal with the Father and the Son. Yet He speaks not of Himself, as so many people do, doesn’t not promote His reputation, as so many people do, does not draw attention to His accomplishments, as so many people do.
5B. I challenge you to find a credible reason for not living for Christ, not serving Christ, not lifting up the Savior, not exalting Him. The Spirit of God doesn’t think such efforts are beneath His dignity. He doesn’t think such activity is too low for Him.
3A. Third, IT IS CHILD OF GOD-LIKE TO SUBMIT TO THE SPIRIT OF GOD
1B. Romans 8.14 declares, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Now, there is a great deal of confusion regarding what it is to be led by the Spirit of God, and I will need to preach several sermons on the subject, but the fact remains that those who are sons of God, those who are Christians, those who are God’s children, are led by the Spirit of God.
2B. But what do those who are led by the Spirit of God do? Well . . . they get led by the Holy Spirit. That is, they do what the Holy Spirit wants them to do, rather than what the god of this world wants them to do, or what the flesh wants them to do.
3B. So, while it may seem superficial and simplistic to you, it is a profound and sublime truth that follows the Lord Jesus Christ’s subjugation to God the Father, His eternal submission to the Father, and the Spirit’s obedience to Jesus, the Son of God, that you, in turn, by all rights, by all that is reasonable and logical, should obey God, should obey the Son of God, and should obey the Spirit of God.
4B. By what preposterous stretch of logic does a human being who pretends to think and reason and who expects to be taken as an intelligent and responsible person refuse to serve God, refuse to serve Christ, and refuse to submit to the Spirit of God? If Jesus can submit to the Father, being coequal, and if the Spirit can submit to the Son, being coequal, why can not a creature formed by the triune God see the reasonableness, the wisdom, the propriety of bowing before God and giving Him your all?
4A. Finally, OUR COMMISSION IS AUTHORIZED BY THE ONE TO WHOM ALL AUTHORITY HAS BEEN GIVEN IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH
1B. We have not yet really begun to consider our great commission. What we have done today is deal with the Lord Jesus Christ’s commission by His Father and how His commission affects you and me.
2B. But in the weeks to come it will be important for you to remember what we have dealt with today, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, the captain of our salvation, has Himself been duly authorized by the Father with “all power . . . in heaven and in earth.
3B. Why do we exist as a Church? What is our mission? By what authority do we say the things we say and do the things that we do? And what should be our attitude toward those who would stop us or impede us in any way?
4B. Whenever we do what we do, let us always remember that our commission is given to us by the one to Whom was given His power by God the Father. And let that fact determine not only what we do and how we do it, but the tenacity and the determination that drives us to obedience.
1. I once watched a ridiculous movie on television titled “The Blues Brothers.” In the movie one of the characters, played by Dan Akroyd, named Elwood, played a not too bright fellow who explained his actions over and over by saying “We’re on a mission from God.”
2. They were not on a mission from God, but we are. And the fact that we are on a mission from God should never be far from our minds and hearts.
 Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 87.
 John Gill, The John Gill Library, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 353.
 Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 100.
 Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1297.
 Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 130.
 Bruce Ware, “Tampering With The Trinity” Part 2, Reformation Today, #181, May-June 2001, page 27.
 St Augustine, The Trinity, trans Edmund Hill, vol. 5 of The Works of St. Augustine (Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1991) IV. 27 (italics added).
 A. T. Roberston, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol I, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930), page 244.
 Bruce Ware, “Tampering With The Trinity” Part 2, Reformation Today, #181, May-June 2001, page 30.