Mission Impossible





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Mission Impossible

Matt 28:18-20

Dr. Alex Tang


The Great Commission is only possible because of the great I Am.


18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 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,  20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (NKJV)


1.   The Purpose of the Church : The Great Commission or the Great Omission? 

If we are to do a survey among members of the church on what is the purpose of the church, I am sure we will get many diverse ideas: 

(a)   Fellowship.

 A large number will probably rank fellowship first. The church is the community of God. The church is the ‘chosen people’. Are not the church where these people interact with one another, pray for one another and care for one another? People value the church as the place where activities are organized so that relationships are nurtured, where families can grow in a safe environment – safe from the influence of the world.

(b)   Sound biblical teaching

Some others will regard the purpose of the church to provide sound biblical teaching. The church should expound the Scriptures, teaching and informing the members of the revealed truth of the Word of God. This will lead to transformed lives. This will lead to members discovering and using their spiritual gifts for the common good of the church.

(c)    Praise

Others will regard the praise of God to be the supreme purpose of the church. A church should be a praising people. We should be grateful that we are the ‘chosen ones’. We should be grateful that God has chosen us and draw us near to Him until we have received His salvation. We should be grateful for his daily grace. We should be thankful and continually praise Him.

Fellowship, sound biblical teaching and praise are thoroughly biblical and should characterize the church. But neither separately nor together do they represent the central purpose and mission of the church in the world. The supreme purpose and motive of every individual believer and every church is to glorify God.

Let me clarify. In our study of Blackaby’s Experiencing God, we are to watch and see what God is doing and join Him. What is God doing in the universe today? What is God’s purpose for the created order we are in? God’s purpose is to redeem the world. That is His divine plan. Since Adam sinned and fell from fellowship from God, God has been redeeming the world. He has been seeking and calling people back to Him. He has been protecting our environment from going into complete chaos. God’s purpose to redeem this creation.

2 Cor 5:18-19

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Christ is the means by which God redeems or reconciles the world. To fulfill God’s purpose of redeeming the world, God has sent Jesus Christ. By becoming man, bearing our sins and dying on the cross for us, Jesus Christ has make possible for us to reconcile with God.

John 17:3-4 records Jesus’ priestly prayer.

3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.  

In his time on earth Jesus has glorified God by accomplishing his mission of providing eternal life to those who trust him and reconciling man to God. Jesus’ supreme purpose on earth was “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

That is God’s purpose for the universe. But what is God’s purpose for the church? It is the extension of the work of Jesus. As Jesus’ purpose is to glorify God by saving the lost, so it is the church’s purpose to glorify God by saving the lost.

John 17:18

18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

As John MacArthur wrote:

‘ If God’s primary purpose for the saved were loving fellowship, He would take believers immediately to heaven, where spiritual fellowship is perfect, unhindered by sin, disharmony and loneliness. If His primary purpose for the saved was the learning of His Word, He would also take believers immediately to heaven, where His Word is perfectly known and understood. And is God’s primary purpose for the saved were to give him praise, He would, again, take believers immediately to heaven, where praise is perfect and unending. 

There is only one reason the Lord allows His church to remain on earth: to seek and save the lost, just as Christ’s only reason for coming to earth was to seek and save the lost. “As the Father has sent Me, “He declared,” I also send you (John 20:21). Therefore, a believer who is not committed to winning the lost for Christ should reexamine his relationship to the Lord and certainly his divine reason for existence.’ 

In His last words to the 500 disciples, especially to the eleven, before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gave what is know as the Great Commission

Matt 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

The Great Commission is the mission of the church to achieve the purpose of the church, which is to glorify God by saving the lost. Fellowship, teaching and praise are not the mission of the church but rather are preparation of the church to fulfill the Great Commission. And just as in athletics, training should never be confused with or substituted for actually competing in the games, which is the reason for training. Fellowship, teaching and praise should not be an end in itself. If it does, then the Great Commission becomes the Great Omission.


2.                  The Great Commission Revisited

Matt 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said,


All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [credential]


 make disciples [mission]             of all nations, [scope of mission]

go [active verb]

                        baptizing them [active verb]

in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 

teaching them[active verb]

 to obey everything I have commanded you.

 I am with you always, to the very end of the age. [resources]

a.       credential - All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matt 18:18b)

Exousia (authority) refers to the freedom and right to speak and act as one pleases. In Jesus’ case, the exousia that is given to Him is absolute and unlimited. He emphasized by stating that the exousia extends to heaven and earth. As Lord of the church, Jesus has the authority to give the church a mandate.

Before Desert Storm (Gulf War), when President Bush approached General Schwartzkoopf  to command the alliance forces, Schwartzkoopf  wanted three conditions which must be fulfilled before he agrees to the command. Firstly, he must have all the manpower he wanted (half a million troops), secondly, all the war materials which he wanted (few billions USD) and thirdly, the authority to wage war from the field (“You set the goals and I’ll call you when it’s over”). The Vietnam War and the Korean War were lost because the generals had no authority and the wall was run from the White House. Hence it is in this context that Jesus declares that He had absolute authority.

b.      mission - make disciples (Matt 28:19)

The mission is to make disciples. Mathèteuò (make disciples) is the main verb and central command of v. 19-20. The root meaning of the term refers to believing and learning. But in the context that Matthew is using, Mathèteuò relates to those who place their trust in Jesus Christ and follows Him in lives of continual learning and obedience. John 8:30-31

JN 8:31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

The scope of this mission to ‘of all nations’. This echoes that the seeds of Abraham are to be a blessing to all nations. God wants to save all the nations, not only Israel.

The Great commission is a command to bring unbelievers throughout the world into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

c.       actions

In making disciples, there are three action verbs or participles: go, baptizing and teaching. 

The first action is to go. Go and makes disciples. Go, not come. The church is to go out into the world and make disciples. It is to go to where the unbelievers are – the orang asli, the boys and girls brigade, the prostitutes in Jalan Trus, the sex bars in Jalan Serampang, the prisoners next do, the office, the hospital, their neighbors… The church is not to wait for unbelievers in walk in on their own through their church  doors and then disciple them.

The second action is to baptize. We are to baptize new converts as soon as possible. Baptism is an act of publicly identifying ourselves with Christ. But it is not the ritual of baptism or the formula of saying the words ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. What is meant here is a heart change in our mindset – to become a new creation as we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. To develop a relationship with our Trinitarian God- God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is a unique relationship and we are to link ourselves into that relationship.

The third action is to teach. Obviously we need to know what God expect of us, if we want to obey Him. Hence there is the need for teaching. A disciple is by definition a learner and a follower. All of us are expected to be teachers of the Word. That implies we must know. To know we must learn if we are to teach the disciples to observe all that Jesus has commanded us. This teaching must leads to obedience. Jesus does not have in mind, teaching as an intellectual exercise but teaching that transforms life. Teaching that translates into a life of obedience.

d.      resources

Jesus did not only give us the marching orders and then left us. He also gave us resources to achieve the mission. The resource is He. He will be with the church until the end of the age. Until the time when He comes again. Jesus is the ultimate resource available to the church to achieve its mission.


3.                  The Great Commission- Mission Impossible?

In the 1970s, there was a television series named Mission Impossible. I always remember Peter Graves, the actor receiving his mission instructions at the beginning of the show. “Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it is …………… Then at the end of the mission profile, “should any of your members be captured or killed during the mission, the government will disavow any knowledge of your action. This tape will self-destruct in the seconds.”  The mission will be something impossible to achieve. But the team will come up with a good plan. Always somewhere along the way, something will go wrong. Yet the team will achieve their objective the end of the show. I do not know why it is called mission impossible. Recently there are two Mission Impossible movies tarring Tom Cruise. In the second movie, we saw Antony Hopkins saying. "This is mission impossible. Mission improbable is a walk in the park for you".

When I was younger, I was with the Navigators. I believed that we could change the world!  2 Tim 2:2 was our strategy to win the world.

2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

We believe that like Paul, each of us could train a Timothy who will train reliable men who will train others. It is like a geometric progression. We calculated that we could evangelize the whole world in 28 years. Now 28 years later, here I am and here you are in this great hall. And they there are thousands and millions of people outside the church. Is the Great Commission possible? Can it be done? Is it mission impossible?

At the end of the twentieth century, there is much excitement about reaching “unreached people groups” with the gospel. The AD2000 movement planned to have a church in every people group before the new millennium. When it became obvious that the target will not be achieved by the year 2000, it became AD2000 and Beyond Movement. The AD2000 and Beyond Movement’s revised Joshua Project lists 1,595 unreached people groups. Some 1,118 of them have no church of 100 people; 537 don’t even have a team of church planters yet. Some 4,000 groups, not 1,595 have no viable Christian witness according to missions statistician David Barrett. What happened? Why is the Great Commission not being achieved? Can it be done? Is it mission impossible?

The proportion of the world’s population that is unevangelized came down dramatically last century. The proportion that has not heard a gospel presentation shrank from 50.2% in 1900, to 44.3% in 1970, to 29.5% in 1990, to 25.7% in 2000. The proportion is expected to fall further to 21.6% in 2025, according to Barrett and Todd Johnson in January 2000 International Bulletin of Missionary Research. Yet there are an estimated 1.556 billion people in the world that have never heard of the gospel. Their ranks are expected to increase to 1.687 billion. The number of people born in the non-Christian world grows by 129,000 a month or 47 million a year, according to Barrett. Clearly, if fulfilling the Great Commission depends on seeing that everyone hears it, it is now where near completion.

Looks like an impossible mission. According to many missiologists, one of the reasons why the mission is not being accomplished is because of the failure of many churches to take the Great Commission seriously. The emphasis on fellowship, biblical teaching and praise worship become an end by itself. The Great Commission became the Great Omission. Because of this failure to churches to take the Great Commission as the mission of their church, it will seem an impossible task.


Closing Thoughts

Do I think that the Great Commission is mission impossible?  No, I do not think so, in spite of what I see around me. Making disciples has been my passion since I became a Christian and was introduced to the concept by the Navigators. As I grow in grace, I become more committed to making disciples. I have a personal mission statement that helps me to focus my ministry priorities: Making disciples with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in action. Why do I keep making disciples when it seems an impossible task? I do not see the Great Commission as mission impossible. I see it as mission  I  M  possible [ I aM  possible]. It is possible because of the I AM. Jesus said He would be with us. And I believe that Jesus will empower the church to complete the mission He has Himself started.

The question is where do you stand? Do you take the Great Commission seriously? It is addressed to you. Do you have a passion to make disciples? To go, baptize and teach. We started by looking to see where God is taking the church. This is where God is taking the church. Are you with us?


                                                                                                                                   Soli Deo Gloria



Stan Guthrie, Missions in the Third Millennium, (Carliste,UK: Paternoster Press,2000)

John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 24-28 (Chicago: Moody, 1989)



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