CYBERJOURNAL FOR PENTECOSTAL-CHARISMATIC RESEARCH #27
EXPLORING THE GREAT COMMISSION MANDATE IN MATTHEW 28:18-20
By Kolawole Oladotun Paul
Throughout the history of Christianity, evangelism has been an often-discussed topic; congruent with the vast expansion of the church. On several occasion, the vast growth of the church is attached to the ‘Great Commission’. Thus, this research explores the word of Jesus with specific emphasis to mission of the church. One of the most common verses cited as a command for evangelism is Matthew 28:18-20. However, the text in question is embedded and it succinctly seeks for adequate exegetical analysis to enhance its proper theological significance for the contemporary church.
Keywords: God, Jesus Christ, Matthew, Disciples, Believers, Great Commission.
The church is built on the rock of Jesus’ word; one of which is in the gospel of Matthew 28:18-20. Humans understands power and authority as that which deals with tenure (connoting limit). The Christian community has an astonishing claim; Jesus Christ didn’t acquire his authority through election, revolution or inheritance. His power was given by God, his heavenly Father, the Creator of heaven and earth. A survey of the literatures on the Great Commission indicates that many scholars are unconvinced that Jesus actually gave this commission while some argue that Jesus gave no “missionary” mandate at all. Many biblical scholars see nothing illogical about the commission with the explanation that Jesus wanted his followers to continue and spread that which he had begun; was Christ’ mission and purpose on earth important enough to die for but not important enough to continue? This research seeks response to the question through a proper exegetical engagement with the text.
Background of Matthew
Technically Matthew, like the other three gospels, is anonymous.[i] However, both internal[ii] and external[iii] evidence support the position that Matthew is the author of the Gospel that traditionally bears his name. Lenski opined that; “although the Gospel of Matthew is technically anonymous, Christians have traditionally attributed authorship to Matthew (also Levi) who is educated and literarily capable, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples.”[iv]
Also, the dating of Matthew is a complicated issue. In view of Matthew the Disciple as the author, the Gospel was most likely written in the first century since it presumes the Jewish destruction by Rome (Matt 22:7, 24:15, 27:25).[v] The researcher agrees that Markan priority is a viable approach which means that since Mark was likely written in the mid fifties then Matthew was written later; probably 60s or 70s A.D.[vi] Lenski avers that the destination of the Gospel is suggested by Ireneaus and Origen[vii] to be the Jewish converts.[viii] Thus, it is generally accepted that the original recipients were Jewish Christians though it is often said that the book must have been written in a Greek speaking region with a large-Jewish population.[ix]
This in turn informs the language of which the book was written; Aramaic or Greek. The former hold unto Papias, as quoted by Eusebius, which stays that Matthew wrote in the Hebrew dialect and then translated it (H.E III 29:16)[x]. While the latter, argued that Greek text explains certain Aramaic words and that the author explains certain Palestinian customs (Matt 27:46).[xi]
The book of Matthew was written to show that Jesus was the Messiah; this comprises of Davidic genealogy and fulfillment of O.T. messianic prophecies and Jesus’ miracles and teachings (ch. 5–7; 10; 13; 18; 23–25). Obviously, Matthew recorded selected events from the life and ministry of Jesus to explain to his audience that Jesus was the promised Old Testament Messiah and the kingdom program of God for the present age in light of Israel’s rejection of her King.[xii]
Above all, the book of Matthew is clearly a gospel, a recounting of the Jesus story. It is a historical[xiii], narrative and theological literature.[xiv] The research recognizes that Matthew is carefully structured. Kingsbury classified the book into three major sections (1:1–4:16; 4:17–16:20; 16:21–28:20).”[xv] In view of this, the selected text under discourse falls in the third section.
Christ’s appearance in Matt 28:18-20 happened after his resurrection. The Mathean account is parallel to Mk 16:15-18 and to Lk 24:46-49.[xvi] In recognizing the plot of any literature, time and causality are major categories for organizing events into plot; thus, the ending of the narrative is of paramount importance.[xvii] A clear understanding prompts the agreement with Wenham’s view that the versions of these accounts contain four common elements: the risen Lord's presentation of himself, the commissioning, the content of the mandate, and the confirmation.[xviii] In view of this, the great commission is referred to as the climax or epilogue of the whole gospel.[xix]
The Context of Matthew 28: 18-20
Over the centuries, emphasis has largely swung to the genre of the text (literary formation and context). Many scholars have termed this portion of Matthew with different terms.[xx] In view of this, the research opines that even after discarding views that contradict inspiration, there seems to be no single theory adequately explains all the theological implications of the passage. Thus, everyone just like the early believers, are simply overwhelmed by the richness of this passage.[xxi]
The larger context of the selected text starts from verse 16 which reveals intently the character, setting and the circumstance of the narrative. Thus, the research sees the need to take cognizance of verse 16 and 17, since they constitute an integral part of this discourse. Verse 18 began with the statements of Jesus; then the question is what prompted the statements? Who are the audience? what occasion? In view of this, only in the light of the larger context can the statement of Jesus which connotes command, the means of action and the promise be well understood.
The Larger Context
The characters first mentioned in verse 16 were the disciples with specification to their numbers which depicts a reminder of the tragedy of Judas’ failure (27:5). Thus, the setting of this account is in Galilee, on an unnamed mountain. The Greek τό ὄρος has been proffered with several meaning; it is probably the word used in Matt 5:1-2, 8:1; 14:13-21, 15:29-39 and Mt 17:1-13. Which parallel did Matthew intend? It is somewhat hard to tell, for there are many parallels between these verses and Moses[xxii] as well as between them and the beginning of this Gospel.[xxiii]
On this note, the fact remains that the disciples must have known the mountain Jesus asked them to go. The term “mountain” is an important one for Matthew’s account; the mountain as a place of teaching.[xxiv] The reader is thus prepared for the fact that Jesus is about to impart important revelatory material to his followers. That the disciples go “into Galilee” demonstrates their obedience to Jesus’ instruction (28:10). The research observes a significance of Galilee to Jesus’ ministry.[xxv]
On the Greek text here ‘οἱ δὲ ἐδίστασαν’; some scholars argue that the article is functioning like a personal pronoun, thus “they doubted”.[xxvi] If so, then all the disciples would be in view. The translation of the text takes οἱ as an alternative pronoun which has a partitive notion (i.e., some of the disciples doubted, but not all).[xxvii] Meanwhile, this raises the question of the sets that worshipped[xxviii] and those who doubted! The research affirms that the interpretation takes ‘hoi de’ as nominative, which means to have the same subject as the main verb. That is, those who worship and those who doubt are, in fact, the same individuals;[xxix] but the verb “doubt” - can indicate hesitation[xxx] rather than skepticism.[xxxi] From the discourse, the larger context depicts the setting which connotes the characters, circumstance and location of the story; this informs a proper analysis of vs. 18-20 which began with Jesus’ statement.
Analysis of Matt 28: 18-20
The research provides the text (vs. 18-20) with a structural classification which serves as the framework for the exegetical analysis. The three verses are systematically restructured by the research in to three (3) categories; (i) vs. 18, (ii) 19-20 and (iii) 20b.
καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς λέγων, Ἐδόθη μοι πᾶσα ἐξουσία ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ [τῆς] γῆς.
Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.[xxxii]
Here, καί has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative. Ἰησοῦς – Jesus is the subject here; the one communicating and the disciples as recipients. ἐλάλησεν and λέγων are used in the phrase; the former connotes ‘breaking of silence’ while the latter ‘speaking’. This implies that we have Jesus first breaking silence (ελαλησεν), and then discoursing (λεγων).[xxxiii] Also, the aorist word ἐδόθη states a fact “was given,” which refers to the human nature of Jesus alone; for according to the divine nature all authority belonged to the Son from all eternity.[xxxiv] While the word ἡ ἐξουσία could be translated as a state of control over something, freedom of choice; right to act or decide ability to do something, capability, absolute power, warrant.[xxxv] It is πᾶσα ἐξουσία, meaning all authority the full ability to do as one wills.[xxxvi] Two domains are mentioned, ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς, in heaven and on earth; all authority in each, nothing more comprehensive can be conceived.[xxxvii]
The re-entrenchment Jesus gave the disciples here is congruent with his previous sayings in Matthew 9:6 and 11:27,[xxxviii] Since Jesus in Matthew is described as the one who has authority. His authority can be seen in his teaching, his miracles, people’s response to him and in his titles and unique position as a divine or Messianic figure.[xxxix] Morris notes that Matthew is showing the reader how the restrictions of Christ’s incarnations no longer bind Him and that Christ’ divine authority is over the entire universe.[xl] The term ‘exousia’ is a more comprehensive term than ‘dynamis’, because the former refers to the position as well as function.[xli] Thus, nothing in creation is exempted from his authority; this denotes his deity.[xlii]
From the context of this verse, it appeared that Jesus on the Galilean mountain was first at a distance but drew closer so they could see and hear Him. Despite the disciple’s state of mind, Jesus approached and then reinstates his authority (referring to His human nature) in heaven and upon the earth.[xliii]
Verse 19 -20a
πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν·
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
πορευθέντες, a nominative plural with aorist middle participle, translated as “go” has the sense of an imperative. In this case, the participle as well as the verb that follows it can be in the present case but must be interpreted as having imperative force.[xliv] οὖν means ‘therefore’ and it has a peculiar force which draws a conclusion from the gift of all authority bestowed upon Christ; indicating an assured reality that the work to be done is gloriously possible.[xlv] Therefore, a connective tissue is seen in πορευθέντες and οὖν revealing a continuation of Jesus’ words in vs. 18.
In addition, μαθητεύσατε is an aorist plural active imperative participle derived from μαθητευω. The Hellenistic transformation of intransitive actives into causatives is represented in μαθητευειν: it meant first “to be a disciple or become a pupil” [xlvi] then became a deponent (Mt. 13:52, 27:57) and from this there developed a new active “to make disciples of” (Matt 28:19, Acts 14:21).[xlvii] Thus, it can be translated as “discipling” or “making disciples.”[xlviii] πᾶσα[xlix] τὰ ἔθνη[l] as the object of the discussion means “all the nations.” Although there have been arguments on the identity of the nations, the research agrees with Hendricksen; the nations here is plural and it signifies the whole world (including Jews and non-Jews), yet, the divinely instituted order was to the Jews first and also to the Greek. [li]
βαπτίζοντες is a nominative plural masculine present active participle, from βαπτιζω[lii] - which means to baptize, wash with water.[liii] Thus, Jesus instructed the disciples that in other to μαθητεύσατε they should Βαπτίζοντες.[liv] this is to be done ‘εἰς τὸ ὄνομα’ – ‘in the name’ of ‘τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος·’[lv] The research opine that ‘εἰς τὸ ὄνομα’[lvi] connotes the authority behind the baptism which is the father, son and the Holy Spirit. Baptism here is seen as an activity which connotes a transfer of ownership and a promise of faithfulness.[lvii]
Notable in this categorized section is διδάσκοντες, a nominative plural masculine present active participle from διδασκῶ, meaning to teach, instruct. Thayer explains it as holding discourse with others in order to instruct them or deliver didactic discourses.[lviii] The research opines that this reflects ‘to be a teacher or to discharge the office of a teacher.’ Apart from baptism, the research strongly opines that teaching[lix] is also a subordinate of “making disciples” as revealed in Jesus’ statement.
The word αὐτοὺς succeeds διδάσκοντες and it points to the fact that the third person of the discourse is the recipient of this activity although it manifests as the responsibility of the Christ’s disciples. In the same vein, the research discovers that “Go…baptize…teach” are participles modifying the imperative verb “make disciples.” Thus, μαθητεύσατε is well expressed in βαπτίζοντες (baptizing) and διδάσκοντες (teaching). βαπτίζοντες is done ones; since διδάσκοντες is not a subordinate of βαπτίζοντες, it means that it can and should continue even after baptism. The addition of τηρεῖν which means to “keep watch over, protect, preserve someone or something, probably for a definite purpose or a suitable time”[lx] connotes that the disciples should emphasize the keeping of those teachings to converts. The didactic nature of Jesus’ command of teaching is not materialized if not kept and protected by converts; this command is view of the behavior of Jewish leaders.
καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθʼ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
The word καὶ means ‘and’; it is a conjunction word used in tying the knot of the previous statements in the text; it depicts continuation of statements. No doubt this verse continues from where vs. 20a stopped. This is the last phase of the analysis and it ends with the proclamation of Jesus’ presence; a promise which looks like a vow or covenant. In connection with the significance of the phrase ‘ἰδοὺ’ means ‘surely’, ‘ἐγὼ’[lxi] and ‘εἰμι’; meaning “I am” and ‘always’ respectively, signifying Christ’s abiding presence with the disciples as well as other disciples in all ages.
More so, the word ‘μεθʼ ὑμῶν; - “with you” is in genitive masculine second declension noun which is possessive in nature. This implies a serious attachment of the person of Christ and disciples (in general). This attachment is a serious reflection of Christ anywhere the believer goes (Acts 11:16). In the same vein, the researcher observes that Christ’ promise is extensive “…εἰμι…ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος”[lxii] - “always…to the very end of the age.” is there a difference in the significance of ‘always’ and ‘end of the age.’[lxiii] In view of this, the researcher asserts that the usage of these words in different ways signifies the emphasis Jesus placed on his presence – ‘I am not only going to be with you always, I will be with you even to the end of the world; not until the world ends “I” (which signifies himself and his presence) will not leave you. In the past, some have suggested that the Great Commission was intended only for the original apostles. The analyzed words here negates that and it reveals that Christ is directing the assignment to Christians of all ages, since the apostles would not live physically and bodily upon this earth until the last day (Jhn 21:22-23).
More so, the researcher notes that this phrase in vs, 20b is a resemblance of Jesus’ statement in vs. 18 where He reinstates the pericope of his ἐξουσία being the son of man. The observed nature of resemblance does not imply meanings but its structural and theological significance; the statements are emphatic, extensive and enduring. In view of this, the researcher argues that Mathew thematically presents these statements; the former upon Jesus’ appearance and the later at the end of his conversation with the disciples.
Summary of the Analysis
Any portion of the scripture can only be understood in its context; this method reveals the uniqueness of Matthew’s account and the climactic position of this text in the overall Gospel structure. The larger context exposes the setting of Christ's commission as an urgent imperative based on the ever-presence of Christ and directed towards all men without sentiment. Making disciples is the crux of the commission; it entails bringing individuals into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ by a public confession of devotion to Christ (baptism) and continual obedience to the teachings of Christ.
Theological Significance for the Contemporary Church
From the exegetical analysis in the preceding part which is the core of the paper, the researcher affirms that Matthew 28:18-20 is not only applicable to the Apostles but also in extension to believers in all ages which is the ‘church’ – the body of Christ. As a result, the analyzed text entails some theological significance for the contemporary church; this is the focus of this section of the paper. There is a four-fold use of all that gives clue to the apostolic task: it rests on the risen Christ’s authority, its scope embraces all nations (peoples’ group), its content is teaching all that Christ has commanded and its promise is Christ’s ever-abiding presence.”[lxiv] In view of this, the research explores the significance of the text thus in three (3) sections.
i. The analysis reveals the true position and status of Jesus in heaven and on earth (28:18); on which the church is absolutely built. Jesus Christ has been given absolute authority as the son of man (Jhn 17:2; Dan 7:13-14), therefore no one is beyond His control, not even Satan. In fact, they are not in range because there is victory in the authority of the son of man and this lies in the resurrection (1st Cor 15: 54-57). Therefore, the church should understand that the authority of Jesus is her bed-rock and that all powers in the universe belong to him (phil 2:8-11); thus, Jesus Christ is in charge, as in, he is in full-control.
ii. The current status quo of Christ informs the baptismal formula which adds the son – which is Jesus to the Father and Holy Spirit. In other words, Jesus is divine and so baptism can be done in his name (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16). In view of this, the church should not emphasize the recitation of the triune God at the expense of teaching concerning His relationship with believer (especially converts).
iii. The research notes a paradigm in the submission process to God’s royal authority to qualify man’s obedience. This has to do with the Jewish tradition in Deut 6:4 (Shema) replaced with Matt 10:32. The church should learn that submission requires confession of Jesus Christ; the one who has the absolute authority from the Father.
iv. Jesus, unlike the Jewish rabbi (Matt 28:19) is calling believers to make disciples (23:2-10) for nobody but him alone. From the analysis, it is clear that the church is called by Christ to make disciples; bring people to ‘Christ’ not for personal gain or interest, to one’s self; therefore, things that will be taught should inherently pertain to Christ in the truthful stance; the unmixed, undiluted and non-interpolated teachings of Christ. Thus, teachings that are not Christo-centric will eventually produce a half-backed disciple which is incongruent with instruction of Christ and the mission of the church.
v. The narrative teaches the church about her mission as commanded by Jesus Christ. It is clear that Jesus speaks to every disciple (even new converts) to key into the kingdom business (a vital responsibility) of making disciples. Thus, disciples should not upon salvation in Christ remain relaxed or arm chaired; there should be hunger to bring others into the light and knowledge of God’s saving grandeur. In other words, discipleship goes beyond self aggrandizement but preparing well groomed people for the heavenly kingdom.
vi. In the instruction, Christ reveals the nature of the recipients. Obviously, he gave the disciples scope for the assignment; which is “all nations.” This connotes absence of ethnic sentiment or segregation in the course of carrying out the assignment. Therefore, Jesus in no way supports the monopolization of discipleship making process to an ethnic group or the interest of just a group of people among others. On this note, the research argues that the effectiveness of the assignment lies in the fact that the gospel is preached to people (regardless of the culture) without ethnic sentiments and segregation, among others. The word “all nations” mentioned in Jesus’ statement is significant because Jesus adequately referred to all people; including the Jews and gentiles.
vii. This text explains what the process of discipleship is; that which entails baptism and teaching. The two mentioned activity makes the discipleship process complete. The church should note that baptism is an act of initiation and conversion which is substantiated with the teachings of and about Jesus. Therefore, the neglect of any of the steps subsequently suggests a defect in the discipleship making process commanded by Jesus Christ.
viii. The end of the age as stated in the text is eschatological in nature. It has to do with the truth of Jesus’ second coming – parousia. If many Christians today have lost a sense of Jesus' presence and purpose among them, it may be because they have lost sight of the mission Jesus has given them.
ix. Therefore, Christians should not fear or be intimidated about the mandate for he has assured the church of his abiding presence. Irrespective of the hazards of the ministry, the promised ever abiding presence of the LORD guarantees believers’ safety. It should be known that death is not the ultimate of all life; because the presence of Christ is to be enjoyed therein and hereafter.
x. Even though Christ is far removed from believers (transcendent); yet he is so close to us being with us (immanent). Christians should not fear or be intimidated about the mandate for he is with us.
Conclusion: The account of Matt 2:18-20 is significant to Jesus’ mission on earth; Christ presents the mission mandate for the church with the task of thoroughly equipping people of all nations as products of effective in discipleship making for advancement of the kingdom of God on earth.
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[i] Keith F. Nickle, The Synoptic Gospels (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1993), 121.
[ii] Internally, the writer appears to be a Palestinian Jew like Matthew. This can be seen in his acquaintance with the geography of Israel (Matt 2:1, 23; 3:1, 4:14–1, 8:5), his familiarity with Jewish culture (1:18–19; 2:1), the use of the Old Testament and Jewish terminology (1:2– 16, 22–23; 2:6, 15, 17–18). Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold the King: A Study of Matthew (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1980), 331. W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Gospels (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1948), 267–72. There are also internal clues which relates to Matthew’s given profession as a tax-collector. Matthew often speaks of money, he speaks of gold, silver, and copper together (10:9), he uses several monetary terms (17:24, 27; 18:24, 25:27; 26:14-15). He is referred to as Levi in his calling (Mark. 2:14; Luke 5:27, 29). Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 4th ed. (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity, 1990), 52.
[iii] Externally, the title itself although not probably part of the original autographs is an indication of early church tradition. There is evidence that the Matthean title was added as early as A.D. 125. Although, there is great debate about what Papias meant; Papias’ statement (c. 110– 140) suggests that Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew (Fragments of Papias 2:16). Nickle, The Synoptic Gospels, 121. Later in the mid- second century, Iranaeus wrote that “Matthew published also a book of the Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the Church” (Against Heresies 3.1 quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 5.8.2). Among the Church Fathers, Matthew is attested by Pseudo–Barnabas (ca. 70–130), Clement of Rome (c. 95–97), Ignatius (c. 105–115), Polycarp (c. 110–150), Hermas (c. 115–140). In view of this, there seems to be little reason to reject the long-standing tradition attributing the Gospel to Matthew. Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, ed. David S. Dockery, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1992), 44.
[iv] R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Columbus, OH: The Wartburg Press, 1943), 1171.
[v] Nickle, The Synoptic Gospels, 121.
[vi]Robert H. Stein, The Synoptic Problem (Grand Rapids: Queen Books Intl, 1985), 221.
[vii]Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1168-70.
[viii] Since the Church began at Jerusalem on the Pentecost (Acts 2) and began to expand (Acts 2:41-47) as commissioned by Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8), the expansion of the early Church progressed geographically from Jerusalem to Rome with a growing number of Jewish converts who had accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah, reaction from the Jewish community with persistent persecution, and outright opposition (e.g. Saul of Tarsus). This is based upon numerous references to the Old Testament; the emphasis on the fulfillment of O.T. messianic prophecy, the Law (5:17–19) and O.T characters (1:1. But this does not connote the gospel as that which is meant for the Jews alone.
[ix] Nickle, The Synoptic Gospels, 121. Much speculation surrounds the specific historical circumstances. The setting is usually assigned to either Palestine (in or around Jerusalem) or Antioch of Syria. Those who hold to an Aramaic original of Matthew normally put the place of writing in Palestine. Since the language of the Jews in Palestine was Aramaic, while a Greek original could argue for a place outside Palestine where Greek-speaking Jews predominated. Syria seems a likely place on this view since there were large numbers of Jewish Christians living in the area (Acts 11:19, 27). Antioch specifically is favored by many since this was the second major center for Christianity.
[x] Nickle, The Synoptic Gospels, 121.
[xi] The Greek of Matthew is generally considered good. Some have questioned whether a Jew in Israel would have such a good command of the Greek language as Matthew. It is important to note that as a tax-collector (Matt 9:9), He worked with the Romans; thus the culture in Israel was probably bilingual, if not trilingual. Meanwhile, Jews such as Josephus wrote Greek that is considered good. John Nolland, “The Gospel of Matthew” in I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner, (eds.) New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 23–29.
[xii] Daniel Akin, “The Gospel of Matthew”. Available at: http://www.danielakin.com/wp-content/uploads/old/Resource_346/Matthew.pdf. (Accessed on April 24, 2018).
[xiii] In recent New Testament scholarship, there is a developing consensus that the Gospels bear close similarities in form to Greco-Roman biographies. Richard A. Burridge, What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Greco-Roman Bibliography, Astrid Beck and David Noel Freedman, (eds.) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 9.
[xiv] The gospel has a verifiable historical context with reports and sayings of Jesus Christ to instruct and encourage believers and to convince unbelievers of the truth of their message
[xv]Jack Dean Kingsbury, Matthew: Structure, Christology, Kingdom (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 19. Benjamin Wisner Bacon, Studies in Matthew (New York: H. Holt and Company, 1930), 89-95.
[xvi] John Ylvisaker, The Gospels (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1932), 780. In conjunction with the synoptic, Acts 1:8; and John 20:21-23 are also parallel accounts; More so, universalism, doubt before the commission and baptism are common in the Synoptics.
[xvii] F.J Matera, Passion narratives and gospel theologies: Interpreting the Synoptics through their passion stories (New York: Paulist, 1987), 241.
[xviii]D Wenham, "The Resurrection Narratives In Matthew's Gospel," Tyndale Bulletin (1973) 24:37-38.
[xix] P. Foster, Community, law and mission in Matthew’s gospel (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 239. This assertion is supported with the fact that several major themes of Matthew is explicitly embedded in this final epilogue; eschatology, Christology and ecclesiology.
[xx] Jeremias and Michel characterize it as an Oriental enthronement hymn. Similarly, De Ridder and Recker describe it as an enthronement speech of the Lord. Dibelius considers it mythology, Bultmann calls it a cult legend, and Dodd labels it as a concise narrative. Strecker, Munck, Trilling, and Friedrich consider it a word of revelation, a farewell speech, a speech of God, and a revelation discourse respectively. The Critiques of John P Meier, "Two disputed Questions in Matt 28:16-20," JBL (1977) 96:424.
[xxi] Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 592.
[xxii] Frederick Dale Bruner, The Churchbook: Matthew 13-28 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 808.
[xxiii] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 413.
[xxiv] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, NAC (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 430.
[xxv] Geographically, Jesus’ ministry ends in Matthew where it began: in Galilee of the Gentiles (4:15,16). Donald Hagner, Matthew 14-28, WBC 33B (Dallas: Word Books, 1995), 884.
[xxvi] Hagner, Matthew 14-28, 2: 884.
[xxvii] The difficulty with the personal pronoun view is that there are no examples of it in Matthew in which the same subject immediately precedes with its own verb (as would be the case in “they worshiped they doubted”). Such, in fact, would be quite awkward, for the article would be unnecessary since the pronominal referent is already embedded in the verb. The only reason for the article here would be to distinguish the subject in some way; but if the same subject is in view, no distinction is being made.
[xxviii] The word “προσκυνέω”- to worship (κυνέω ‘to kiss’) is used to designate the custom of prostrating oneself before persons and kissing their feet or the hem of their garment, the ground, etc. to express in attitude or gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure, (fall down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully. Thus, Jesus Christ the risen Lord is the object of worship. W. Arndt, F. W Danker and W. Bauer, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 882.
[xxix] In view of this, Ellis opines that Matthew lets the reader know that a disciple still lives with a certain amount of tension. Disciples are those who know Jesus is the risen Lord and yet may still be confused. Hagner, Matthew 14-28, 2: 885. Why then did Jesus approach the disciples with a re-assurance and re-affirmation? The research observes that Jesus’ assurance statement in verse 18 actually implies that there must have been an iota of doubt in the disciple’s minds. Yet, the text (vs. 17) implies that the disciples acknowledged, submitted, honored or respected Jesus, although some of them hesitated; although, they were informed and knew what happened; some of them finds it puzzling. Though, it is possible that the entire group responded with both worship and doubt. It does not appear that Matthew means they doubted that this really was Jesus; if not, Jesus would have commenced his statement with a reprimand instead of reassuring them.
[xxx] Matthew may be saying that although the disciples worshipped Jesus, they were also hesitant or confused. Hal Freeman, The Great Commission and the New Testament: An Exegesis of Matthew 28:16-20, Online, pdf; 15.
[xxxi] Arndt, Danker and Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 252.
The other occurrence of this word is in Matt. 14:31, where Peter walks on water but begins to fall in because of his doubt. While the English word “doubt” has a semantic range from slight hesitation to all-on doubt, the word hesitation fits better in this passage.
[xxxii] It is important to note that all English Translations here are in New International Version of the Bible.
[xxxiii] Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, 1888), 149.
[xxxiv] Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1171.
[xxxv] Arndt, Danker and Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 353.
[xxxvi] E.J Hempenius, Matthew 28:28-20, He Has Got All Authority on Earth, www.christianstudy library.org (pdf), 4.
[xxxvii] R.C.H. Lenski, The Eisenach Gospel Selections (Columbus, OH: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1928), 577.
[xxxviii] Where Jesus claimed the authority to forgive sins and that all things have been given to him by the Father.
[xxxix] D.R Bauer, The structure of Matthew’s gospel: A study in literary design. Sheffield: Almond, 1988), 115-117.
[xl] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 745.
[xli] Grant R. Osborne, The Resurrection Narratives (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 90. Therefore, the research argues that ‘dunamis’ cannot stand the translation with the speciation to limit and boundary unlike ἐξουσία which is comprehensive and all encompassing.
[xlii] Osborne, The Resurrection Narratives, 90.
[xliii] With the words Jesus here in verse 17, majority of commentators believe Jesus’ claims to be the Son of Man who was given all authority by the Ancient of days in Daniel 7:13, 14; which implies that Jesus’ statement is at an echo of Daniel 7:20. W.D. Davies, The setting of the Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge: University Press, 1964), 197. More so, an extensive analysis of this contention can be found in J. Schaberg, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: The Triadic Phrase in Matthew 28:19b (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1980) 111-141. Also, the research opines that the comparism of Matt 4: 8-9 with vs. 18 here suggests that Jesus dethroned Satan, the usurper of the world.
[xliv] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973), 999. Some scholars argue that the translation should maintain the interpretation as “having gone” or “as you are going” which denies the imperative tone of the phrase; as a result, the research in agreement with Wallace opinion reveals that they might be incorrect and that the participles should be translated with the same force as the main verb. Thus, Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 642.
[xlv] Lenski, The Eisenach Gospel Selections, 580.
[xlvi] Arndt, Danker and Bauer, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, 486. Joseph Henry Thayer, The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Lafayette, Indiana: AP & A, 1979), 386.
[xlvii] F. Blass, A. Debrunner, R. Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961), 82.
[xlviii] The verb itself does not indicate how disciples are to be made, it designates only an activity that will result in disciples. It connotes results not methods and ways. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 1172.
[xlix] πᾶσα plays a dominant and significant role in the three verses of this text under consideration. Jesus has been given all power; He commanded them to make disciples of all nations; to baptize and teach all nations all things He has commanded.
[l] ἔθνη can be understood as a "plural collective" for “the whole world outside the community of believers. The aim of Jesus' disciples, therefore, is to make disciples of all men everywhere, without distinction. Carson, "Matthew," 596 and Walter L Liefeld, "Theology of Church Growth," in Theology and Mission (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), 596. The mystery here is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Eph 3:6; Ga 3.26-29; 1 Cor 12:13).
[li] Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, 1000. It is very clear from the story of the non-Jewish wise men (2:1-12), who came to worship the newborn King, and from other passages as 8:11, 12; 15:28; 21:43; 22:8-10, that from the very beginning the evangelization of the world was included in the purpose of God (Jhn 3:16; 10:16). But as was stated in connection with 10:5, in God’s plan it was from Jerusalem that that the gospel must spread out among the nations (Acts 1:8, Rom. 1:16). The research observes that the word αὐτοὺς lessens the ethnic connotations of πάντα τὰ ἔθνη; which connotes that Jesus commanded the making of disciples from all ethnic groups, including Judaism.
[lii] France argued Jesus did not explain the practice of ‘baptism’ unlike ‘teaching’ probably because the disciples were familiar with it. R.T. France, 1971. Jesus and the Old Testament: His application of Old Testament passages to himself and his mission. London: Tyndale Press, 1971), 94-111. In view of this, the researcher opine that Jesus sees the need for an alteration in the name of what people are baptized, that what why he added ‘τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος’, though this is subject to criticism; the researcher argues that the transference of decision and ownership is emphasized in the baptismal process.
[liii] Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 149.
[liv] Semantically, the action of “making disciples” is commanded, just as “going.” Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 642. It is important to note that Βαπτίζοντες involves the ones being immersed rather than the one immersing.
[lv] There have been several arguments on the baptismal formula given here in the words of Jesus by Matthew. Many scholars are strongly of the opinion that this began after the time of Jesus (in favor of the shorter reading which stops at ‘εἰς τὸ ὄνομα’; the exclusion of the Trinitarian formula in several quotations by Eusebius and a Jewish-Christian source dating from around the 6th century). Either it is present or not in the original text this formula is also present in the baptism of Jesus (Matt 2:15-17) as well as the commission parallel accounts (Luke and John) mentioned in the early part of this research and it is found even throughout the New Testament. Also, the presence in what Jesus taught cannot be denied and is therefore an accurate summary by Matthew. Nevertheless, research has shown that “incipient Trinitarianism” not only existed early but was presumed by Paul without argument. Joel B. Green and Max Turner, Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 312-331.
[lvi] The research sees no reason to believe that the phrase was ever intended as a formula; to be repeated word for word as stated by Matthew. Instead, a clear understanding reveals that Jesus commands that baptisms be performed on those who understand the unique relationship enjoyed by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
[lvii] David Noel Freeman (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Doubleday, Inc, 1971) 36. This is what differentiates the Jesus’ baptism from John’s baptism; not only a demonstration of faith in the public but also a connotation of devotion to the Trinity - τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος. The baptism narrative in Matt 3 and the Great Commission are parallel references to baptism and Jesus' authority. Jesus' baptism reveals his authority, the disciples' baptism is built upon it. By implication, the disciples of the earthly Jesus must listen to the Son whose authority has been revealed from heaven, the post-resurrection community of disciples must be taught to "obey everything I have commanded."
[lviii] Thayer, The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 386.
[lix] From the analysis, the fact that Jesus wanted his followers to ‘make disciples’ and ‘teach’ is clear but the question remains; what are they meant to teach? Since ‘τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν’ means ‘obey or keep everything Christ has commanded’. Then, the question of what the disciples should teach is solved; “διδάσκοντε πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν” – ‘teach them all I have commanded you.” They are to teach what Jesus has commanded them. In Matthew, there are several teaching series (5:1-7:29; 10:5-42; 13:1-52; 18:1- 35; 24:3-25:46). It is interesting that the scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees (8:19, 9:11; 12:38), the collectors (17:24), and Judas (26:25, 49) call Jesus teacher. Even Jesus identifies himself as a teacher (10:24-25; 23:8; 26:18). Teaching is one of Jesus’ main tasks (4;23; 5:2; 9:35; 11;; 22:16; 26:55). Matthew uniquely applies the Christological description of “an authoritative Teacher” to Jesus. His teaching is so different and powerful that the crowds are astonished at his teaching (7:28-29; cf. 13:54). S. Byrskog, Jesus the only teacher: Didactic authority and transmission in Ancient Israel, ancient Judaism and the Matthean community (Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell International, 1994). The purpose of Jesus appearance to the disciple is to ascertain and assure them he actually resurrected; it is no longer what the disciples read in the prophets or heard Jesus saying but what they were eye witnesses (which is the strong evidence of all); so that they can groom other as ‘ear witnesses’. The research notes that the absence of the word ‘preaching’ in the commission negates preaching activity. Thus, teaching is assumed in preaching. Any proclamation of the gospel which does not have this Christo-centric ethic is not the gospel as Matthew presents it. The addition of τηρεῖν to the activity of the disciples made suggests that whatever the converts learnt must be ‘obeyed’ and ‘protected’ with all sense of responsibility and accountability.
[lx]Arndt, Danker and Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 822. τηρεῖν can also mean keep unharmed and undisturbed or pay attention to; this is significant in view of heretic teachings which Jesus had known will eventually surface as a result of hatred for the gospel (Matt 28:11-15, the Gnostics, among others).
[lxi] The researcher points that ἐγὼ - “I am” here reminds of the name of God in the Old Testament “eyeh aser eyeh”; the words are congruent; a parallel, which means “I am that I am” or “I am what I wiil be.” S.O.Y Baba, James O. Adeyanju and Tunde D. Aremu, Theology One Book (Ilorin, Nigeria: Amazing Grace Print Media, 2017), 169. Also, in John 8:58; “I tell you the truth, Jesus answered, before Abraham was, I am.” The claim of Jesus during his earthly ministry in Jhn 8:58 is explained as an affirmative reinstatement here after his resurrection. Therefore, ἐγὼ is cardinal to this text as it seriously sums up all the O.T revelations. John Munro Gibson, The Expositor’s Bible: the Gospel of St.Matthew (London: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1903), 450. This agrees with Oladotun who views this name as a very sacred and special covenant name to the Israelites (Exo 3:13-15); this name of God is from the Hebrew Tetregrammaton - YHWH. Kolawole Oladotun, The Reality of God’s Love for Mankind; A Sharp Lens on the Book of Genesis (Mauritius: Blessed Hope Publishing Company, 2019), 18.
[lxii] The word occurs about four times in the book of Matthew (13:39,4 0,49; 24:3; 28:20) referring to the second coming of christ - parousia to earth. Thus, the research notes that τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος then is the interim period between the resurrection and the second coming.
[lxiii] This text brings Matt 1:23 (with Isa 7:14 and 8:8, 10 linked together) where the name of Jesus is mentioned in lime light – ‘Immanuel’ is interpreted as God (is) with us; significantly, the researcher opines that Christ is reassuring the disciples of his presence which has been divinely ordained from and before his birth.
[lxiv] P. W. Barnett, “Apostle: New Testament,” in The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament: A One-Volume Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), 85-86.