If you ask any Christian what their mission is, hopefully they’d respond with something similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What many of us fail to realize, however, is that this is the Great Commission; it’s not the New Commission.
The fact that we often don’t connect the Great Commission to the Old Testament is to be expected; many of us, whether or not we acknowledge it, operate under the assumption that there are basically two Gods in the Bible.
There’s the Old Testament God who commanded holy war and swallowed up the disobedient with fire and earthquakes. And then there’s the God of the New Testament, a God of love, mercy, and grace. Such a dichotomy is more than just bad theology; it’s theology with drastically bad side effects, whether we believe it explicitly or implicitly.
God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Theologians call this attribute of God His immutability; He doesn’t change. When you think about it, it only makes sense. Why does anyone change? It’s because that person wants to become better or different than he or she once was. If God altered His operations or character in the four hundred years between Malachi and Matthew, the implication is that in the previous years He was somehow imperfect.
Further, if God changed then, who’s to say He might not change again? Do you see it? If we think of God in the New Testament as different from God in the Old Testament, we attack the perfection of the holy God. We then remove any sense of security we might have that comes in knowing God never makes mistakes or operates in anything less than absolute perfection.
But if it’s true that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament, it means when Jesus commissioned His first followers, He did so as an extension of what God had already been doing in the previous centuries. One of the clearest places we see God’s work of redemption in the Old Testament is in Genesis 12, the call of Abram.
Abram was the father of the Jewish nation. He was the beginning of God’s special people, those He would set apart for Himself. But it’s essential that we see in this passage that God didn’t bless Abram or His descendants for their own sake. He wouldn’t shower them with blessings so that they could be more comfortable. He blessed them for the sake of all nations on earth.
When God blessed Abram, the rest of the world was on His mind. Way back in the Old Testament, God promised Abraham land. He promised him protection. But more than anything else, the greatest blessing God gave to Abraham was the same blessing He gives to every child of Abraham today—Himself. That’s the true blessing.
As children of Abraham, we’ve been blessed with the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of this centuries-old promise of blessing for God’s people, as well as the means by which God wants to bless all nations on earth. Jesus is at the center of Genesis 12.
The same charge is for us today. We haven’t been given the blessing of new life in Christ so that we can appreciate being blessed. We’ve been blessed in order to be a blessing to others.
That’s the core of the Great Commission: it’s the mission to fulfill the desire of God
from the beginning to bless the nations of the earth with the knowledge of Himself.