Theme: Four Great Universals
In this week’s lessons on the Great Commission, we are promised that Jesus is with us to the very end as we obey his command to go into all the world to make other disciples.
Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20
In that great challenge to evangelism just before His ascension, known as the Great Commission, Jesus commanded that His disciples disciple others. They were to lead them to faith through the preaching of the gospel, bring them into the fellowship of the church through the initiatory rite of baptism and then, within that fellowship, continue to teach them all that Jesus had commanded them. He promised that He would be with them always as they did this.
What a great promise! The disciples were to live for Jesus in a hostile environment. They were to serve as His witnesses, strive to bring others to faith, and help them grow in it. But they were not to do this alone. They were to go into all the world, but as they went they were to know that Jesus Himself would go with them.
The Great Commission contains four universals, each marked by the word “all”: “all authority,” “all nations,” “everything [or all that] I have commanded you,” and “always [or all the days].” The first is “all authority.” This is no weak assurance, because the One who spoke it, promising to be with His disciples, is no weak Master. Even in the days of His flesh He was powerful. Jesus opened blind eyes, healed lame persons, calmed troubled seas, and raised the dead. But in spite of this great power, in those days there were limitations—if in nothing else, Jesus was in only one place at one time. Now that has changed. Jesus is the risen Lord of glory, and this means that, as Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (v. 18, emphasis added).
It is significant that Jesus used the word “authority” (NIV) and not merely the word “power,” which the Authorized Version used to translate exousia. Exousia involves “power,” but it contains the additional idea of legitimacy in the exercise of that power. A usurper might have power in the sense of mere naked power of rule (the Greek word kratos is used for that), but only a rightful sovereign has authority.
Jesus is our rightful sovereign. He is sovereign over the whole of the created order, because He is the creator of it. The apostle John wrote, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Paul wrote, “By him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Col. 1:16, 17). Jesus also has a special authority over His own disciples in that He had not only created them but redeemed them as well. Paul rightly declared, “You are not your own; you are bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:20).
Christ’s declaration of His authority is the basis of the Great Commission. It has several parts.
1. Authority in heaven. When Jesus said that He had been given “all authority in heaven” He was making an astonishing claim. For the authority of heaven can be nothing less than God’s own authority, and the claim is thus a claim to be God. Whatever Jehovah can do Jesus can do, for the authority of the Father and the authority of the Son are one authority. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote,
If it were his will to speak another world into existence, we should see
tonight a fresh star adorning the brow of night. Were it his will at once
to fold up creation like a worn out vesture, lo the elements would pass
away, and yonder heavens would be shriveled like a scroll. The power
which binds the sweet influences of the Pleiades and looses the bands
of Orion is with the Nazarene, the Crucified leads forth Arcturus with
his sons. Angelic bands are waiting on the wing to do the bidding of
Jesus of Nazareth, and cherubim and seraphim and the four living
creatures before the throne unceasingly obey him. He who was despised
and rejected of men now commands the homage of all heaven, as “God
over all, blessed for ever.”1
It is this great Lord of glory, God over all, who has promised to “be with [us] always, to the very end of the age.”
What is Christ’s great promise to us as we seek to live for him in a hostile world? What are the implications of this promise for carrying out his commission in Matthew 28:18-20?
What are the four universals seen in the Great Commission? What do they teach about the doctrine of Christ?
From our study, what does the word “authority” mean with reference to Jesus?
What do we learn from the fact that Jesus’ authority extends over heaven?
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Power of the Risen Saviour” in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 20 (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1971), p. 603.