COMMISSION, THE GREAT. The Great Commission is linked with two great historic events: the Resurrection, which provides both message (1 Cor 15:3, 4) and motive (Matt 28:6, 7); and Pentecost, which insures both power (Acts 1:8) and wisdom (Acts 6:5, 10).
As conceived by Christ, the Great Commission linked the missionary activity of the Church with that of Christ Himself (John 14:12). As the first and greatest missionary (Heb 3:1), He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). The church’s mission was to be patterned after His (John 20:21). As His ministry included teaching, preaching and healing (Matt 4:23), so would theirs (Acts 4:2; 5:12-16).
Beginning at Jerusalem, the mission was to extend, via Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Historically the Gospel was first preached to the Jews (Rom 1:16); when they rejected it, the apostles turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). The Christian mission would continue to the end of time (Matt 24:14). Not everyone would be saved, not even many who professed allegiance (Matt 7:21-23). Indeed, the majority would be unresponsive (7:13, 14).
In carrying out the Great Commission the disciples would encounter opposition (Matt 10:16, 17) and persecution (John 15:20). Some would suffer martyrdom (John 16:2; Acts 7:58-60). None of these things was to deter them (Matt 10:28; Acts 21:13).
The Gospel preached was to include not only the historic facts of Christ’s death and Resurrection (1 Cor 15:1-4) but His teachings as well (Matt 28:20). Only by embracing the latter could men achieve genuine discipleship (Luke 14:25-33), the seal of which is baptism (Matt 28:19), the badge of which is love (John 13:35).
H. W. Frost, The Great Commission (1934); R. H. Glover, The Bible Basis of Missions (1946), 13-42; H. R. Boer, Pentecost and Missions (1961), 15-47; G. H. Anderson, The Theology of the Christian Mission (1961), 55-71.