Monday, February 6, 2017

In the Great Commission, does “Go” and “Make Disciples” carry the same weight?

While never called the “Great Commission” in the Bible, the last instructions to Jesus’ disciples carry tremendous importance. With his freshly confirmed authority (verse 18), Jesus gives the disciples a new directive (verse 19) to accomplish in his physical absence. The verse states, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Moving from "therefore" the reader is immediately caught by what appears to be two equally weighted imperative verbs in English “go” and “make disciples.” However, upon examination in the Greek πορευθεντες, transliterated poreuthentes, functions as a participle modifying make disciples.

Dr. Craig Bloomberg points out “the main command of Christ’s commission is “make disciples” (mathēteusate).” He goes on to explain “Too much is made of “making disciples” when the disciples’ “going” is overly subordinated, so that Jesus’ charge is to proselytize merely where one is.” Bloomberg points out that Matthew frequently uses “go” as an introductory circumstantial participle in Matthew 2:8; 9:13; 11:4; 17:27; 28:7. Countless preachers and missionaries appeal to their hearers to answer the call on a foreign mission field through placing too heavy an emphasis on the participle “go.” The mission of making disciples will require many to leave their homes. But “disciple making” does not obligate all Christians to leave their homes. It may be better understood to read, “Therefore, as you are going make disciples.” But one should not be quick to dismiss the importance of the participle “go.”

         Dr. D.A. Carson writes the following about the relationship of the participle “go” to make disciples, “The circumstantial participle ‘go’ followed by the main verb is a common Matthean stylistic trait, and it becomes in effect another imperative, ‘Go and make disciples.’ In fact, the two participles that follow (‘baptizing’ and ‘teaching’) are also circumstantial and are imperatival in force. Still, the main verb ‘make disciples’ dominates, and all are aspects of that central part of the commission.” Dr. Matthew David Turner goes on to explain the issue with this and all the participles in the Great Commission, “One sometimes hears preaching that stresses that the imperative πορευθέντες is the only command in the passage. But surely the activities described by the three participles, though not grammatically imperatives, are not optional.” So through Matthew Jesus has given his command “go and make disciples,” with the emphasis on disciple-making. So wherever you are or whatever you do make disciples.

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