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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Matthew 28

Verses 1-15

The Testimony of Man - Matthew 27:1 to Matthew 28:15 records the testimony of man regarding the Passion of Jesus Christ. The evangelist records two testimonies of the innocence of Jesus at His arrest (Matthew 27:1-26), two testimonies of the deity of Jesus as His death (Matthew 27:27-56), two testimonies of the burial of Jesus (Matthew 27:57-66), and two testimonies of His resurrection (Matthew 28:1-15). The evangelist organizes the testimonies of these four, key events regarding Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection in pairs in order to contrast the views of those who are ungodly with those who are convicted of Christ’s deity by these events. Both scenes work together to introduce the events of the Passion, reflecting the dual roles of divine providence and man’s free will in God’s plan of redemption.

The Theme Matthew 27:1 to Matthew 28:15 contains literary evidence of the theme of crucifixion. The Greek word σταυρόω is used ten times throughout the Gospel of Matthew. Of the nine times this word refers directly to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, seven of these uses are concentrated within Matthew 27:11 to Matthew 28:5. The other two uses are found in Matthew 20:19; Matthew 26:2 as predictions of His impending crucifixion. Matthew will insert one fulfillment quotation in this section that reflects the Old Testament prediction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:35).

Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Testimony of Jesus’ Innocence at His Trial Matthew 27:1-26

2. The Testimony of Jesus’ Deity at His Death Matthew 27:27-56

3. The Testimony of Jesus’ Burial at the Tomb Matthew 27:57-66

Verses 1-15

The Testimony of Man - Matthew 27:1 to Matthew 28:15 records the testimony of man regarding the Passion of Jesus Christ. The evangelist records two testimonies of the innocence of Jesus at His arrest (Matthew 27:1-26), two testimonies of the deity of Jesus as His death (Matthew 27:27-56), two testimonies of the burial of Jesus (Matthew 27:57-66), and two testimonies of His resurrection (Matthew 28:1-15). The evangelist organizes the testimonies of these four, key events regarding Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection in pairs in order to contrast the views of those who are ungodly with those who are convicted of Christ’s deity by these events. Both scenes work together to introduce the events of the Passion, reflecting the dual roles of divine providence and man’s free will in God’s plan of redemption.

The Theme Matthew 27:1 to Matthew 28:15 contains literary evidence of the theme of crucifixion. The Greek word σταυρόω is used ten times throughout the Gospel of Matthew. Of the nine times this word refers directly to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, seven of these uses are concentrated within Matthew 27:11 to Matthew 28:5. The other two uses are found in Matthew 20:19; Matthew 26:2 as predictions of His impending crucifixion. Matthew will insert one fulfillment quotation in this section that reflects the Old Testament prediction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:35).

Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Testimony of Jesus’ Innocence at His Trial Matthew 27:1-26

2. The Testimony of Jesus’ Deity at His Death Matthew 27:27-56

3. The Testimony of Jesus’ Burial at the Tomb Matthew 27:57-66

Verses 1-20

The Messiah’s Departure Matthew 26:1 to Matthew 28:20 is popularly referred to as the epilogue of this Gospel. This narrative section records the accounts of Jesus’ Passion: His betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and final commission to the disciples.

The Theme - The plot of Matthew 26-28 develops around the predictions made by Jesus regarding His Passion and the events that take place in fulfillment of these predictions. The movement of this narrative plot can be divided into three parts: the setup, the conflict, and the resolution. The Setup - This narrative section sets up the plot by opening with Jesus predicting His crucifixion to the loyal disciples, saying, “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.” (Matthew 26:2) The Conflict - The action within the epilogue rises as Judas Iscariot plans his Master’s betrayal, leading to His arrest, trial, and death in fulfillment of Jesus’ opening prophecy in the epilogue. The climax of this conflict is reached with the crucifixion of the Saviour. The Resolution - The resolution of this conflict takes place at the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the commissioning of His disciples. Thus, the theme of the Scriptural fulfillment of events surrounding the Passion of Christ is introduced in the opening verses of the epilogue (Matthew 26:2) and fulfilled throughout course of the narrative material. The setting for the epilogue of Matthew is the city of Jerusalem and its immediate suburbs, in particular, the Mount of Olives and Golgotha. The main characters in this narrative section are Jesus and His disciples in conflict with the Jewish leaders and the Roman government. Also important to the plot of the epilogue is the development of events surrounding two key disciples of Jesus Christ, Peter and Judas Iscariot.

The Structure - Using the literary element of Matthew’s one ἵνα πληρωθῇ formulae as a key to his structural design throughout His Gospel, an Old Testament citation can be found in Matthew 27:9-10, which refers to a key event in Jesus’ betrayal, when Judas Iscariot hangs himself in guilt over his deed despite Master’s innocence.

Zechariah 11:12-13, “And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.”

Matthew 27:9-10, “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.”

Jesus also cites an Old Testament passage in Zechariah 13:7 as a part of one of His predictions (Matthew 26:31).

Zechariah 13:7, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.”

Matthew 26:31, “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.”

Thus, we observe that each division of Matthew’s Gospel gives one ἵνα πληρωθῇ formulae as a fulfillment of prophecy. Each of these quotes reflects the five-fold themes of our spiritual journey, which is reflected within the structure of the Gospel of Matthew.

The epilogue opens with Jesus predicting His crucifixion (Matthew 26:1-2). The testimony of Jesus predicts His death and betrayal (Matthew 26:3-30). The testimony of the Scriptures predicts the arrest and scattering of the disciples (Matthew 26:31-75). The testimony of man is recorded to reveal two opposing views of His arrest, death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 27:1 to Matthew 28:15). The epilogue closes with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

Outline: Here is a proposed outline:

1. Introduction: Jesus Foretells His Passion Matthew 26:1-2

2. The Testimony of Jesus Christ Matthew 26:3-30

3. The Testimony of the Scriptures Matthew 26:31-75

4. The Testimony of Man Matthew 27:1 to Matthew 28:15

5. The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20

Moses’ Departure vs. The Passion of Christ - The Betrayal, Trial, Passion, and Resurrection narrative of Matthew 26:1 to Matthew 28:20 tell us of His Departure and soon Return. This departure can be compared to the departure of Moses in the final chapter of the book of Deuteronomy. There is one quote from the Old Testament in this section of Matthew. Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 in Matthew 26:31 which refers to the theme of this section, which is a prophecy of the Passion of Christ.

Matthew 26:31, “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.”

His Passion Jerome says that Jesus’ Passion took place twenty-seven years before the death of Paul, which was the fourteenth year of Nero, around A.D. 41.

“He (Paul) then, in the fourteenth year of Nero on the same day with Peter, was beheaded at Rome for Christ's sake and was buried in the Ostian way, the twenty-seventh year after our Lord's passion.” ( Lives of Illustrious Men 5)

Verses 16-20

The Great Commission (Mark 16:14-18 , Luke 24:36-49 , John 20:19-23 , Acts 1:6-8 ) Matthew 28:16-20 is commonly referred to as the Great Commission.

Matthew’s Version of the Great Commission Compared to the Other Gospels Matthew 28:18-20 is generally referred to by scholars as the Great Commission. However, we find that each of the Evangelists ends his Gospel with a commission. A careful study reveals that each commission is based upon the structural theme of its particular Gospel. The theme of Matthew is the coming of the King to establish the Kingdom of Heaven and lay down the doctrine of the Kingdom. Jesus does this in Matthew’s Gospel by delivering five major discourses, which provides the structure of this Gospel. As a result, Jesus commissions His disciples to go and teach, or disciple, all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe His commandments, or doctrines, laid down in Matthew’s Gospel. Discipleship is accomplished by following the example Jesus gave in Matthew’s Gospel of both demonstrating the Christian life in the narrative material, and teaching others how to do the same in the discourse that follows the narrative. This commission best reflects the office and ministry of the teacher in the five-fold ministry.

In contrast, the commission that closes Mark’s Gospel emphasizes the preaching of the Gospel with signs following. This is because Mark is structured around the proclamation of the Gospel with miracles accompanying it. Jesus tells His disciples in Mark to preach the Gospel with the promise that signs and miracles would accompany their preaching. This commission best reflects the office and ministry of the evangelist in the five-fold ministry.

The structural theme of Luke’s Gospel is the collection of verifiable eyewitness accounts as to the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, Jesus commands His disciples to be witnesses of these events by preaching the Gospel to all nations beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47), and to tarry in Jerusalem unto they be endued with power on high (Luke 24:49). He is making a clear reference to the contents of the book of Acts and establishes its structural theme. Since the Gospel of Luke does not reach this goal of spreading the Gospel, (this is why Luke’s commission seems incomplete) we must rely upon an additional volume to fulfill our Lord’s commission. The book of Acts opens with the fulfillment of power coming from on high and closes with the fulfillment of the spread of the Gospel to Greco-Roman world. Thus, Luke clearly links these two writings in an unmistakable way through this commission. This link is necessary because the office of the prophet and apostle work together in the Church. This commission best reflects the office and ministry of the prophet (Luke) and apostle (Acts) in the five-fold ministry.

The structural theme of John’s Gospel is the five-fold testimony of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. John’s Gospel reveals His deity with the testimony of the Father, of John the Baptist, of Jesus’ miracles, by the fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures and finally in the last chapter by the testimony of Jesus Himself. This is why John’s commission is simply, “Come, follow Me.” This commission best reflects the office and ministry of the pastor in the five-fold ministry.

Two Phases of the Christian Life The Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 contains Jesus’ command to preach the Gospel to every creature and to disciple them in the faith. This commission reflects two stages of the Christian life: conversion and discipleship. Conversion of believers is described in the statement, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” (Matthew 28:19) while discipleship is addressed in the statement, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)

Illustration - On April 9, 1997, I traveled to the Philippines to pick up my wife and bring her to the U.S. When I awoke the first morning after we met in Manila for the processing of her visa at the U.S. Embassy, I dreamed that Pastor Tom Leuther and John Wampler went to the baptismal pool at Calvary Cathedral in order to baptism. The presence of the Lord was so strong that they were not able to stand. I ran upstairs to help. I ran past an assistant and felt God’s power there. I passed Steve Henry, who was reading his Bible quietly. The Lord then quickened to me that there were two steps in the Christian life: conversion and discipleship. The scene in the dream of water baptism represented conversion, while the individual reading the Bible represented discipleship. The Lord continued to show me that once both steps are completed in a person’s life, it is difficult to re-convert someone out of an erroneous teaching and discipleship plan. He reminded me of how people in cults will do fanatical things, such as committing suicide with their leader. He reminded me of a California cult named Heaven’s Gate that had recently drunk poison with their leader believing that their souls would be teleported to an alleged alien space craft that was following a comet named Hale-Bopp, which was passing near the Earth at this time. [722] Such people exhibit bizarre behaviour because they have been through both conversion and discipleship. The Lord then quickened the words to me, “And many disciples followed their conversion.” Jesus had many who believed in Him (converts), but not all of them followed Him in sincere devotion and became genuine disciples.

[722] Wendy Gale Robinson, “Heaven's Gate: The End,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 3 (3) (Duke University, Department of Religion, December 1997) [journal on-line]; accessed 30 August 2011; available from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol3/issue3/robinson.html; Internet.

The Purpose of Preaching the Gospel to the Nations was to First Change the Mindset of a Nation - Why did Jesus send out apostles to the nations to preach the Gospel prior to sending in social workers to meet the physical needs of the people? Having worked in the African mission field of Uganda for thirteen years, I learned that financial contributions and social aid do not help a poor nation come out of its poverty. An effort must be made to change the mindset of a nation so that integrity is embedded among the people to properly manage international aid. Otherwise, the people squander what is given to them through greed and corruption, leaving a few wealthy and the masses in poverty. Thus, Jesus first sends His disciples out to teach the nations in order to change the mindset of the people.

Illustration - In the late 2000’s I was leaving Lugogo shopping center in Kampala, Uganda when I saw a Ugandan man lying in the middle of the street who had been hit by a taxi driver. He was lying in a small pool of blood, but was alive and trying to sit up. I pulled up to him and had my security guard that rides with me assist him into my car. A crowd was there watching the scene. The injured man then called out for his mobile phone. I found a few pieces of the phone, then asked the crowd if someone had his phone. No one answered. I then drove this may to a nearby health clinic, where he was treated and released later that day. Dr. Stockley identified him as being drunk, a probable cause of the accident. During his treatment, the man asked for his shirt, which I gave him. He then discovered that his money had also been taken. This story reminded me on another incident that took place in Fort Worth several years earlier. I was driving to church in the mid-1990’s when I came upon an overturned car on the freeway with a lady laying on the road with a couple attending her. I call 911 and described the accident and our location. Within five minutes, a police officer, a fire truck and an ambulance had arrived and began to treat her and manage traffic. Two accidents on a highway, but with two different responses by cultures.

The Testimony of the Early Church Concerning the Fulfill the Great Commission by the Apostles - The early apostles of Jesus Christ took the Great Commission of their Master literally. The early Church fathers tell us that they scattered themselves into every region of the ancient civilized world, preaching the Gospel and performing miracles. Hippolytus (A.D. 170 to 236), in his writing On the Twelve Apostles Where Each of Them Preached, and Where He Met His End, gives us the tradition handed down to him as to where each of the twelve apostles preached the Gospel.

“1. Peter preached the Gospel in Pontus, and Galatia, and Cappadocia, and Betania, and Italy, and Asia, and was afterwards crucified by Nero in Rome with his head downward, as he had himself desired to suffer in that manner.

2. Andrew preached to the Scythians and Thracians, and was crucified, suspended on an olive tree, at Patrae, a town of Achaia; and there too he was buried.

3. John, again, in Asia, was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan's time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.

4. James, his brother, when preaching in Judea, was cut off with the sword by Herod the tetrarch, and was buried there.

5. Philip preached in Phrygia, and was crucified in Hierapolis with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.

6. Bartholomew, again, preached to the Indians, to whom he also gave the Gospel according to Matthew, and was crucified with his head downward, and was buried in Allanum, a town of the great Armenia.

7. And Matthew wrote the Gospel in the Hebrew tongue, and published it at Jerusalem, and fell asleep at Hierees, a town of Parthia.

8. And Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians, and was thrust through in the four members of his body with a pine spears at Calamene, the city of India, anti was buried there.

9. And James the son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem. was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.

10. Jude, who is also called Lebbaeus, preached. to the people of Edessa, and to all Mesopotamia, and fell asleep at Berytus, and was buried there.

11. Simon the Zealot, the son of Clopas, who is also called Jude, became bishop of Jerusalem after James the Just, and fell asleep and was buried there at the age of 120 years.

12. And Matthias, who was one of the seventy, was numbered along with the eleven apostles, and preached in Jerusalem, and fell asleep and was buried there.

13. And Paul entered into the apostleship a year after the assumption of Christ; and beginning at Jerusalem, he advanced as far as Illyricum, and Italy, and Spain, preaching the Gospel for five-and-thirty years. And in the time of Nero he was beheaded at Rome, and was buried there.” ( Appendix to the Works of Hippolytus 49: On the Twelve Apostles Where Each of Them Preached, and Where He Met His End 7)

Socrates (A.D. 380-450), the early Church historian, tells us that the apostles went forth by lot among the nations.

“We must now mention in what manner Christianity was spread in this emperor's reign: for it was in his time that the nations both of the Indians in the interior, and of the Iberians first embraced the Christian faith. But I shall briefly explain why I have used the appended expression in the interior. When the apostles went forth by lot among the nations, Thomas received the apostleship of the Parthians; Matthew was allotted Ethiopia; and Bartholomew the part of India contiguous to that country but the interior India, in which many barbarous nations using different languages lived, was not enlightened by Christian doctrine before the times of Constantine.” (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History 1.19)

Philip Schaff tells us that early Church tradition distributes the Twelve Apostles throughout the Roman Empire:

“The apocryphal tradition of the second and later centuries assigns to Peter, Andrew, Matthew, and Bartholomew, as their field of missionary labor, the regions north and northwest of Palestine (Syria, Galatia, Pontus, Scythia, and the coasts of the Black Sea); to Thaddaeus, Thomas, and Simon Cananites the eastern countries (Mesopotamia, Parthia, especially Edessa and Babylon, and even as far as India); to John and Philip Asia Minor (Ephesus and Hierapolis).” [723]

[723] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1: Apostolic Christianity A.D. 1-100 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 200.

Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

Matthew 28:16 Comments - We find Matthew closing his Gospel not in Jerusalem where the Jews rejected Him, but in Galilee, where the people who sat in darkness first saw the light (Matthew 4:16); for it was the people of this region that first clung to the light and became His disciples. The final message that He taught was to those who would receive His words.

Matthew 4:16, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”

We have no record of exactly where Jesus first met His disciples in Galilee. Evidently, it was in a remote place so as to avoid arousing the attention of the local villagers. Jesus had told them prior to His Passion that after His Resurrection He would met them in Galilee (Matthew 26:32). Perhaps He gave them the location of the mountain as well. He repeated this instruction to the women at the tomb (Matthew 28:10).

Matthew 26:32, “But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.”

Matthew 28:10, “Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.”

Matthew 28:17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

Matthew 28:17 “but some doubted” Comments - The disciples failed to recognize Jesus at first in a number of recorded appearances following His resurrection (Matthew 28:17, Mark 16:12, Luke 24:16; Luke 24:37, John 20:14; John 21:4).

Matthew 28:17, “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.”

Mark 16:12, “After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.”

Luke 24:16, “But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.”

Luke 24:37, “But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.”

John 20:14, “And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.”

John 21:4, “But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.”

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Matthew 28:18 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying” Comments The disciples saw Him, perhaps at a distance, so Jesus approaches them, perhaps with warm greetings, before He gives instructions.

Matthew 28:18 “All power is given unto me” - Word Study on “power” - The Greek word for “power” used in Matthew 28:18 is εξουσι ́ α (G1849), which means, “absolute authority” ( BDAG), or “the power of rule or government, authority” ( Thayer). Zodhiates says this word “combines the two ideas of right and might” and translates it “authority.” Helen Milton suggests that this phrase reflects the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom upon earth in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, which is mentioned in the opening genealogy of Matthew. [724] Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham and of the royal lineage of David, now sits in absolute dominion both in heaven as the Son of God and upon earth as the Son of Man.

[724] Helen Milton, “The Structure of the Prologue to St. Matthew’s Gospel,” in Journal of Biblical Literature 81.2 (June 1962): 176.

“in heaven and in earth” - Comments Jesus Christ opens the Great Commission with the phrase, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” In this phrase He makes a distinction between His divine authority being established in the two-fold realm, that of heaven and that of earth. We see this two-fold distinction discussed in the opening chapters of the epistle of Hebrews. Hebrews 1:1-14 tells us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has been given a name above the angels, that is, above everything that is in the heavenly realm. Hebrews 2:1-18 tells us that He took upon Himself the form of man; and as the Son of Man He destroyed the power of the devil, delivering mankind from bondage, which reflects Jesus’ dominion upon the earth as a man according to Psalms 8:4-6, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:” (Hebrews 2:6-8) Jesus has been given dominion in heaven as the Son of God. He has been given dominion upon the earth as the Son of Man. He took dominion upon the earth when He destroyed the power of the devil. He took dominion in Heaven when He sat down at the right hand of God. Thus, Jesus Christ has been given all dominion and authority in every realm of creation.

Matthew 28:18 Comments The last words of a person are some of the most important words that a person speaks. The last words of someone are also words that people remember the most. As the last words of “the Preacher” in the book of Ecclesiastes are the most important words of the Preacher (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14), so are words of the Great Commission.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

In Genesis 1:26-31 God handed over to man the power to rule over the planet earth. Psalms 115:16 tells us that God rules over the heavens, but He has given the earth unto the children of men. God gave man dominion over his creation on earth, but man yielded this dominion to demonic influence as a result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. However, when Jesus Christ conquered death, hell and the grave, He legally took back this dominion because He, too, became a man (see Hebrews 2:5-18). Jesus then handed this dominion back over to His Church again in the Great Commission when He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore…” (Matthew 28:18-20) Without this delegating of power, the Church would not have been able to accomplish its task of taking the Gospel to the world.

Psalms 115:16, “The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.”

Jesus Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, which is the greatest place of divine authority. Just before His ascension into Heaven, He gave to the Church His name and all of the authority within His name. It is by His name that we will overcome and be able to fulfill the Great Commission. We are the body of Christ and have been commissioned to do what Jesus was doing, which was defeating the kingdom of darkness. As the Head, He has ascended to Heaven. Therefore, we have been given His authority to complete what He began. The Head is dependent upon the body to carry out His work. In the natural we depend upon our physical bodies to do the work although our head plans the work. Thus, in Matthew 28:18-20 we see that Jesus Christ delegated His authority to the Church as a whole, so that anything that is done on earth would now have to be done through His body, the Church. This is stated again in Ephesians 1:20-23. Thus, many problems that we face on earth take place because the Church permits them to happen and does not take authority over them.

Ephesians 1:20-23, “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”

Arthur Blessitt, who has carried a 12-foot wooden cross in every nation on earth, said that Matthew 28:18-20 is our “passport to the world.” [725] In other words, he was saying that God will open the doors if we will go.

[725] Arthur Blessitt, interviewed by Matthew Crouch, Praise the Lord, on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California), television program, 24 February 2009.

If we do not know how to use His name and walk in divine authority, then we as believers will live a defeated life and not be able to do what we have been called to do. We read in Colossians 2:15 that Jesus Christ spoiled principalities and powers. That is, He defeated them and took their goods, or their dominion over men. Thus, Matthew 28:18 implies that Jesus’ disciples have matured in the Christian faith so that they are equipped to walk in victory in their own lives through faith in His name. Before we can go forth and disciple nations, we must walk in a level of Christian maturity and faith.

Colossians 2:15, “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

Jesus Christ gave Kenneth Hagin this witness from the words of Jesus and three others New Testament writers, Paul, James, and Peter, that testify as to the authority given to every believer. [726]

[726] Kenneth Hagin, I Believe In Visions (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1984, 1986), 87-9.

Mark 16:17, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;”

Ephesians 4:27, “Neither give place to the devil.”

James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”

Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Matthew 28:19 “Go ye therefore, and teach” Comments The Greek word for “teach” in Matthew 28:19 is μαθητευ ́ ω , which means, “to be discipled, instruct, teach.” This statement reflects the office and ministry of the New Testament teacher, which office is emphasized in the Gospel of Matthew. In comparison, the commission of Mark’s Gospel reflects the office of the evangelist, the commission of Luke-Acts reflects the office of the prophet and apostle, and the commission in the closing chapter of John reflects the office of the pastor. Therefore, the commissions in the final chapters of the Gospels reflect the five-fold ministry offices listed in Ephesians 4:11.

Ephesians 4:11, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”

The Lord quickened this phrase in Matthew 28:19 to me one night in church (6 Aug 08) prior to being asked to take up the offering. I brought out the point that Christian television in Uganda for the past ten years has had the effect of transforming the mindset of the people. The process of discipleship transforms a person into the image of Christ. Lighthouse Television is an instrument used to disciples its viewers in fulfillment of Matthew’s great commission.

The ASV reads, “make disciples of all nations.” Disciples, or mature Christians, are not born that way. They have to grow and be taught. The Lord said to me in April 1997, while in Manila, Philippines, “There are two phases to the Christian life. There is conversion and there is discipleship. Just as a person can be converted into a cult, if he is discipled properly, this person will give his life for his faith. So it is the same with a Christian.” A Christian must be discipled through much effort and work of the local church in order to be rooted and grounded in the faith.

Discipleship is accomplished by following the example Jesus gave in Matthew’s Gospel of both demonstrating the Christian life in the narrative material, and teaching others how to do the same in the discourse that follows the narrative.

“all nations” - Comments - The word “all nations” refers to all races and colors of people, and not necessarily countries, although other countries are included under races.

“baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” Comments The statement, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” describes the phrase of conversion, while the statement that follows, “…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” describes discipleship. Thus, the commission of Matthew 28:18-20 gives us a two-fold formula for discipling the nations, which is first through conversion by the proclamation of the Gospel, then the teaching the Word of God.

This statement has been used as a formula in many churches when baptizing new converts. However, other believers teach that the proper formula should be to baptize in Jesus' name only. They use verses in the book of Acts to verify this. Note that every baptism that took place in the book of Acts uses the name of Jesus only:

Acts 8:16, “(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus .)”

Acts 10:48, “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord . Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”

Acts 19:5, “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

When teaching on water baptism, I had to deal with this difference in views. When praying about this matter, the Lord gave me the following answer. When we read the Gospels, we have the testimony of Jesus bearing witness to the Father, Himself and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in water baptism, He also bears witness to the trinity. However, the book of Acts is written by the unction of the Holy Spirit. He testifies not of Himself, but of the Lord Jesus (John 15:26). Therefore, the testimony of the Holy Spirit at water baptism is a testimony of Jesus.

John 15:26, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me :”

Matthew 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:20 “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” - Comments The statement, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” describes the phrase of conversion, while the statement that follows, “…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” describes discipleship. Thus, the commission of Matthew 28:18-20 gives us a two-fold formula for discipling the nations, which is first through conversion by the proclamation of the Gospel, then the teaching the Word of God.

The teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew serve to lay a foundation upon which the Church is to build its doctrine. Many scholars see five major discourses within the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 5:1 to Matthew 7:28, Matthew 10:5 to Matthew 11:1, Matthew 13:1-53, Matthew 18:1 to Matthew 19:1, Matthew 24:1 to Matthew 26:1). Each of these discourses end with similar phrases, or transitional sentences:

Matthew 7:28, “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:”

Matthew 11:1, “And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.”

Matthew 13:53, “And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence.”

Matthew 19:1, “And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;”

Matthew 26:1, “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,”

The Great Commission ending this Gospel serves as a final commission to the Church to build itself upon the foundational doctrines laid down in these five discourses:

Matthew 28:19-20, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

The Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel Serves As the Commission of the New Testament Writings - We often find a divine commission at the beginning of the story of God’ servants in the Scriptures. We see in the book of Genesis that Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each received their commissions at the beginning of their genealogies which divide the book of Genesis into major divisions. We also see how Moses received his divine commission near the beginning of his story found within Exodus to Deuteronomy. Joshua received his commission in the first few verses of the book of Joshua. Also, we see that Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel each received a divine commission at the beginning of their ministries. The book of Ezra opens with a divine call to rebuild the Temple and the book of Nehemiah begins with a call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which divine commissions Ezra and Nehemiah answered. In the New Testament, we find Paul the apostle receiving his divine commission in Acts 9:1-22 at the beginning of the lengthy section on Paul’s life and ministry.

Each of these divine commissions fits within God’s original commission to Adam in the story of Creation to be fruitful and multiply, for these men were called to bring the about the multiplication of godly offspring. The patriarchs were called to multiply and produce a nation of righteousness. Moses was called to bring Israel out of bondage, but missed his calling to bring them into the Promised Land. Joshua was called to bring them in to the land. Esther was called to preserve the seed of Israel as was Noah, while Ezra and Nehemiah were called to bring them back into the Promised Land. All of the judges, the kings and the prophets were called to call the children of Israel out of sin and bondage and into obedience and prosperity. They were all called to bring God’s children out of bondage and destruction and into God’s blessings and multiplication. The stories in the Old Testament show us that some of these men fulfilled their divine commission while others either fell short through disobedience or were too wicked to hear their calling from God.

Now Joshua’s calling falls under God’s original command to Adam and Eve while in the Garden of Eden to be fruitful and multiply and to take dominion over the earth. In this command, God was referring to the multiplication of a righteous people. Thus, Joshua was simply building upon the foundation laid by his predecessor Moses. We see God’s original plan for mankind is still being given to His children of righteousness, who are the children of Israel during the time of Moses and Joshua up until the time of the New Testament church. The command to be fruitful and to multiply has never changed and will be given again to the apostles in the Great Commission by our Resurrected Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for He will command the apostles to go and to train, or to make disciples, of all nations. In other words, the Church was to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. This was God’s original plan for mankind and this plan has not changed in the least. The Gospel of Matthew serves as the training manual by which the Church is to go and make disciples just as the Law of Moses found in the Pentateuch served as Joshua’ guide to fulfil his divine calling and destiny; for the Gospel of Matthew is structured into five major discourses that parallel and build upon the five books of the Pentateuch. The Great Commission is found in the first book of the New Testament and therefore serves to lay the foundation for the work of the New Testament Church. We find in the book of Acts how the early Church followed this command. In the same way, the book of Joshua serves as an example and a pattern for the nation of Israel in subduing the nations around them.

Matthew 28:20 “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” Comments - Matthew opens and closes his Gospel with the promise that God is now with us and that He will never forsake us. He is called Emmanuel in the opening passages of Matthew 1:23, which name means, “God with us.” Jesus is about to depart, but He will always be with us in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Matthew 1:23, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us .”

Jesus Christ knew that persecutions accompanied the proclamation of the Gospel. The disciples did not live in fear when following Jesus during His earthly ministry. However, at His Passion and Resurrection, the disciples feared that their own lives would be endangered; therefore, He needed to assure His disciple that He would still be with them forever, and ever leave them. Jesus appears to His disciples for forty days after His Resurrection to assure them of His presence with them and to give final instructions (Acts 1:1-9). He returned to Heaven after these appearances and sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to be with them and dwell in them forever. However, Jesus still appears to men and women on occasions. For example, Kenneth Hagin records the major visitations from Jesus during his ministry. [727] In contrast, many children of God no longer hear the voice of God and lack a sense of His presence with them because they have drifted away from His plan for their lives and walked in disobedience.

[727] Kenneth Hagin, I Believe in Visions (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1984, 1986).

A. B. Simpson comments that Jesus did not say He will be with us, which suggests a break, but rather, “I am with you,” suggesting the ever present, never changing, presence of God is always with us when we need Him (Deuteronomy 31:6-8, Hebrews 13:5). [728]

[728] A. B. Simpson, The Gospel of Healing, fourth edition (New York: Christian Alliance Publishing Company, 1890), chapter 1: The Scriptural Foundation no. 15.

Deuteronomy 31:6-8, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee . And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee : fear not, neither be dismayed.”

Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee .”

Jesus is also with us in the sense that He will supply the resources to go to the nations and preach the Gospel. This cannot be done without finances. Jesus promises that if we will just go, He will supply the means to get there and He will supply the resources to accomplish this great task.

How do we know that He is with us? Mark’s commission (Mark 16:14-18) and the epistle of Hebrews (Hebrews 2:1-4) says that He will be confirming the preaching of His Word with signs and miracles following. He will let the world know that we are servants of God when miracles take place.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Matthew 28". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/matthew-28.html. 2013.