I said last time that I find the Semiticness of Matthew’s Gospel more culturally appropriate for Christian witness to Muslims. I asserted that the imperative command in the Great Commission is not “Go” but “disciple!”. I then promised to unpack the participles – ‘going’, ‘baptising’ and ‘teaching’ which are supporting activities to the end goal to ‘disciple’ among all nations.
We are using insights from Kenny Burchard’s Biblical Studies in Hermeneutics where he shows the original Greek to actually be saying: ‘As you are going – disciple – baptising them and teaching them…’ (Mat.28:18-19)
Here’s a quick insight into these participles:
Going (poreuthentes – πορευθέντες) cannot be restricted to “going on a one-off short-term mission trip” nor even (as I did) “going overseas for a decade of mission experience”; it’s more because the participle is a continuous action that’s happening now and will continue happening in future.
So the idea is “disciple as you are going” i.e. everywhere, anywhere and anytime. For example many professionals travel overseas more than many missionaries and the traditional sending countries are now sites of cross-cultural mission.
Baptizing (baptidzontes – βαπτίζοντες) comes about as we help Muslims to make a clear commitment to follow Jesus, not by merely sharing “facts” about Jesus which we urge them to agree with but rather becoming a winsome influence attracting them to the sort of commitment to Jesus that leads – not just to a personal affirmation of faith but – to baptism.
Philip came alongside the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) by responding to his questions about the Messiah. So ‘preaching’ in this scenario was about interactive Q&A which led to a baptism, n.b. Philip was “going” and as he went he “discipled” by “teaching” and “baptizing”.
Teaching (didaskontes – διδάσκοντες) is defined here as spending the necessary time with a baptized believer, in order to instruct on how to obey everything Jesus taught. It conveys the eastern cultural practice of living the things we are teaching (i.e. consistent modelling) as well as imparting ideas in the western sense.
While Mark’s Gospel commands that we ‘go into all the world’ (kosmos) in Matthew it’s ‘disciple among all nations’ (ta ethne) or all ‘people groups’.
Notice that none of the above is dependent on travelling overseas (though that must also be done). They can be done in our own postcode because these days there are usually people of various ethnicities living around us.
The Great Commission is an invitation from Jesus to join with him in his mission-enterprise. He says ‘all authority has been given me’ (v18) and so promises to ‘be with us to the ends of the age’. (v20) Jesus joins us in our ‘going’, our ‘baptizing’, and our ‘teaching’ (and preaching) as we disciple others. The ends of the earth start here! I wonder how this insight into the Greek grammar of Mat.28:19-20 expands your understanding of the Great Commission.
Source: Kenny Burchard, ‘Greek-Geeking the Great Commission in Matthew’, Nov 7, 2013, Biblical Studies in Hermeneutics