The Great Family Commission: Part II

We discovered in The Great Family Commission: Part I that the LORD wanted to bless the whole world through the offspring of Abram. Here was our first principle:

#1 The LORD wants to bless the whole world

The story continues in Genesis 18:

James Tissot's Abraham overlooking Sodom

James Tissot’s Abraham overlooking Sodom

Abram’s now been renamed to Abraham. He and his family were camped at the oaks of Mamre and were sitting near the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day.

It was there that three men appeared to him and his wife, Sarai. Derek Kidner refutes the belief that these three men were the Trinity incarnate. Rather, he says, this was the Lord and two angels.[1] Abraham prepares food and water for the three of them while they deliver a shocking message: Sarai will bear Abraham a son. Sarai laughs and is rebuked for both her lying and disbelief.

In verse 16 Abraham sees the three men off. As they are overlooking Sodom, the LORD muses:

“Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.” Genesis 18:18 CSB

The LORD had His eye on other nations from the very beginning. But how exactly would the He use Abraham’s offspring to bless the other nations?

The answer is in the very next verse. The LORD tells us exactly how Abe’s children are going to bless all the nations of the world.

“For I have chosen him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. This is how the LORD will fulfill to Abraham what He promised him.”” Genesis 18:19 CSB

Did you catch that?

The LORD would bless the world through Abraham teaching his children to live out their faith.

This was the Old Testament Great Commission: Have lots of children, train them up in the teaching and way of the LORD, and the land will be filled with families who do what is just and right.

Here’s the second principle:

#2 His people are to fill the earth with offspring who live out their faith

I am sad to say that we have failed miserably at this.

We’ll examine this further in The Great Family Commission: Part III.


[1] Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Genesis. IVP Academic, 1967,  131.

The Great Family Commission: Part I

Evangelicals have a healthy preoccupation with the Great Commission—as they should. I examined it here: Another Look at the Great Commission.

Where we fall short, however, is Old Testament equivalent of the Great Commission, which I call The Great Family Commission.

First, sharing the good news of the LORD with all nations is not just a New Testament concept. It was always the LORD’s plan to share His goodness with the world.

Let me show you from Genesis:

Jozsef Molnar, Abraham’s Departure, 1849.


Abram’s father, Terah, was a resident of Ur of the Chaldees (modern day Iraq). Terah intended to move his family from Ur to the land of Canaan, but, for some reason, they stopped at Haran and remained there (Gen. 11:31).

Terah died at 205 years old, at which time the Lord appeared to his son, Abram. In Genesis 12 the LORD began the slow unveiling of His plan: He intended to create a new nation. That nation, He promised Abram, will come through his offspring.

Then the LORD said this:

“…all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3 CSB

From the beginning the LORD intended to bless the whole earth, not just Israel; but the nation of Israel (Abram’s children) would be the vehicle through which the blessing would come.

So here’s the first principle:

#1 The LORD wants to bless the whole world

How exactly would the LORD bless the whole world through Abram’s offspring?–As we will see, His plan was and is to use healthy, God-honoring families.

You can find out more in The Old Testament Great Commission: Part II


Another look at the Great Commission

Jesus’ colossal declaration at the end of Matthew has become the staple verse of evangelicalism, culminating in its acquisition of the now famed title ‘The Great Commission.’ Its title was first coined by Dutch missionary Justinian Von Welz, but popularized 200 years later by Hudson Taylor.[1] One wonders why the Markan commission receives such little attention. It is likely because the text is questionable. It was also not phrased as positively as Matthew’s. In fact, the wording is nowhere near as epic. The recognition of the Matthean version is well deserved.

Near the end of chapter 28, Matthew winds down his tale with a brief description of the post resurrection events. The final movement takes the eleven disciples to an unnamed mountain back in the Northlands of Galilee. It was there they were told to wait for the risen Lord (28:10). Upon seeing Jesus (presumably from a distance), the disciples responded by worshiping Him. The oi de construction of verse 17 is problematic. Donald Hagner suggests that the construction can be partative, that is ‘Some of them doubted.’ More likely, he suggests, the construction should be taken as pronoun for ‘they.’[2] Therefore, they saw Jesus from a distance (since He later came near to them), then they began to worship Him. As they were worshiping, they also had their doubts.

While the group was sorting through their emotions, the text specifically says that Jesus “came near.”[3] Of the several words the koine Greek uses to describe an arrival, proselthone is the milder word and a favorite of Matthews. One imagines if Jesus had appeared on the mountain and began power-walking toward the disciples, it might have caused them to flee. Instead, He ‘approached’ or ‘came near.’ It is the word used when one approaches a deity—that is, with caution. It can also mean to occupy one’s self with someone.[4] We should more rightly imagine Jesus cautiously approaching them as one approaches a scared child or a wounded animal.

The first words out of His mouth are a declaration of power. Thus far in Matthew Jesus has wielded a significant amount of authority (7:29, 9:6, 11:27, 21:23), but now He has all power and all authority. This declaration of power is reminiscent of Daniel 7:13

“I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom”[5]

For what purpose was this power given?—so that they might go. The coordinating conjunction of verse 19, oun is most often translated as ‘therefore,’ but can also mean ‘consequently.’ What is being said is that since all power and authority has been given to Him, He has the authority to command us; and in that command is the power and means to obey. Simply put, the core of evangelism and mission work is the power and authority of Jesus Christ.

The trifold meaning of poreuo, or ‘go’ has some significance. It can, of course, mean to ‘go.’ But it can also refer to one’s walk or one’s lifestyle. Curiously, the word was also used as a euphemism for going to one’s death.[6]  Such a word, then, could rightly mean ‘go,’ ‘go live this way,’ or even ‘go to your death.’ Perhaps the Lord intended that we ought to go intentionally and do these commands, that we ought live in such a way that we do these commands, and that we ought to do them under threat of death or until we die.

The Great Commission has but one imperative, ‘make disciples,’ but it contains four instrumental participles, or participles of means. [7] Simply put, the commission is to make disciples, while the method through which Christian out to fulfill that command is by going, baptizing, and teaching. Since the first word, poreuthentes,  or ‘go’ is a participle, it has been suggested that it should be translated as such: ‘Therefore, as you go, make disciples of all nations.’ Daniel Wallace takes issue with such a translation when he writes, “First, it is a misunderstanding of the Greek. Second, it is a misunderstanding of the historical context.”[8] He goes on to write that if Matthew wanted it to be common participle, he would have used the present active tense. Instead, he states that “The construction in which the participle and verb combine so that the participle borrows from the mood of the main verb is known as attendant circumstance.”[9] In other words, poreuthentes is a technical participle, but acts as an imperative. Wallace even lists several examples of the same Matthean construction that are always translated as English imperatives. See figure 1.

Figure 1.                                 
Example of the aorist participle/aorist imperative construction:

“Go and look carefully for the child.” Matthew 2:8
“Go and learn what this means.” Matthew 9:13
“Go and tell John what you hear and see.” Matthew 11:4
“Go to the lake and throw out a hook” Matthew 17:27
“Go quickly and tell his disciples” Matthew 28:7
“Go and make disciples” Matthew 28:19

Please note that these constructions contain the aorist participle of poreuomai connected to an aorist imperative, which are quite obviously not translated as the English participle ‘going.’

Hagner summarizes it in this way: “The commission itself is given by means of one main imperative verb, mathenteusate, ‘make disciples,’ together with three syntactically subordinate participles that take on an imperatival force.”[10]

The final word is that the command is not a casual making of disciples as one goes about one’s business. The imperative force of the Great Commission is that we are—with purposeful intent—to make disciples. Of course there is a precedent in scripture for relational and casual evangelism. There is nothing wrong with ‘as we go’ making disciples. This verse, however, clearly commands purposeful intent.

We have already examined the power behind the command, and the means through which the command will be achieved, i.e., going, baptizing, and teaching; but who are the actors to carry out this commission? The aorist imperative ‘make disciples’ is a 2nd person plural, which means that the command was given to a group. The eleven disciples were the recipients of this command, and, given a glut of similar verses, this applies to all who call themselves disciples of Jesus. Every Christian is a missionary.

Thus far we have the power, the imperative, the means, and the actors, but about whom were these commands given? In verse 19 is it the ethne or ‘nations’ who are to be the target of this teaching. Our 21st century, Western, and racially conscious, minds do not automatically perceive any difficulty with this command, but it is likely that a 1st century Jew would have been taken aback over the notion that they were to make disciples even among the gentiles. This is similar to Acts 1:8 where Jesus lists concentric geographic targets for their witness, including Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Even Daniel 7:14 mirrors this:

“He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.”[11]

It is easily concluded that the message of the Gospel, through His power, is to be carried out purposefully by every Christian and to every nation on the earth. The end goal is disciples of Jesus Christ.

If this appears a daunting task, how much more was it for the eleven who stood upon that unnamed mountain? The Great Commission ends with a promise: That He is with us, even to the very end. Our task is to remember it.


[1] Robbie F. Castlemam, The Last Word, Themelios, Vol. 32, Issue 3, 2007, 68.
[2] Donald A. Hagner, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 33a, Matthew (Dallas: Word Books, 1993), 884.
[3] Matthew 28:18 (CSB)
[4] BDAG,  878.
[5] Daniel 7:13 (CSB).
[6] BDAG, 853.
[7] Daniel Wallace, The Basics of New Testament Syntax (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2000), 274.
[10] Donald A. Hagner, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 33a, Matthew (Dallas: Word Books, 1993), 886.
[11] Daniel 7:14 (CSB).

Women in Ministry: Epilogue

This is part twelve on the dissertation ‘Women in Ministry.’
For part eleven, click here: Women in Ministry: Personal Practice & Belief

During the 2008 presidential election there was an ongoing nationwide conversation concerning Sarah Palin and her role as a possible Vice-President. The question was how can evangelicals vote for the McCain/Palin ticket when they would not allow her to lead a church in the pastoral role? During a CNN interview on September 9th, 2008, anchor Kyra Philips asked Pastor Voddie Baucham his opinion on the matter. After explaining his interpretation of scripture, this news anchor proceeded to call him a sexist on live national television (3:20-4:20). See the video below:

As our country’s cultural war continues, Christian views on homosexuality and gender roles will increasingly come under attack. Our task is to continue wrestling with the text and live out the scriptures, no matter how unpopular.

Women in Ministry: Intro
Women in Ministry: Genesis 3:16
Women in Ministry: 1 Timothy 3:1-13
Women in Ministry: 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Women in Ministry: Romans 16:1-2
Women in Ministry: Romans 16:7
Women in Ministry: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Women in Ministry: 1 Corinthians 14:33-35
Women in Ministry: Galatians 3:28
Women in Ministry: Current practice & belief of the SBC
Women in Ministry: Personal practice & belief
Women in Ministry: Epilogue


website security