KEY THOT: Even as Jesus was about to ascend to His Father from the mountain where He directed the disciples to assemble for his final commission, there were some who "doubted" (v.17). It's amazing that despite Christ being raised from the dead, there were still some among his followers who doubted. Jesus addressed their doubt by giving to them what is known as the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). In Jesus' Commission we discern three very important elements related to the Kingdom Gospel: Christ's reign, rule and realm. It takes all three truths to turn doubters into disciples.
The same may be said of many churchgoers--they remain doubtful regarding what Christ had done and said in the Gospels, despite calling themselves Christians. Jesus' commission is given to turn doubters into disciples through the three truths of the Kingdom Gospel:
- REIGN OF CHRIST (v.18): Jesus declares, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." This truth is independent of anyone believing it. It's what theologians call the de jure rule of God; in other words, Christ is Lord over heaven and earth "by right" because of what He has accomplished at the Cross and also by virtue of his exaltation to the right hand of God the Father as the Son of God. Christians who acknowledges this truth of Christ's reign may be said to be "believers". But this kind of belief will not save us for the demons also believe--and tremble! James 2:19 says, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!"
- RULE OF CHRIST (v.19-20a): In the next two verses, Jesus commands his apostles to go and bring everyone under His rule through baptism: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (v.19). But he didn't stop there. He went on to say that they are to teach them to "to observe all that I have commanded you" (v.20). Baptism turns a believer into a disciple who now comes under the rule of Christ by obeying Christ's commands. Theologians call this the de facto rule (in actuality) of Christ. If we do not obey Christ's commands given to us in the 4 Gospels, we are in essence rejecting His rule over us. The only way we can become disciples is to "observe (NIV: obey) all that I have commanded you" by teaching them Christ's commands as contained in the Gospels.
- REALM OF CHRIST (v.20b): In the final part of the Commission, Jesus says, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." This final promise of Christ's presence and power refers to the realm of His reign and rule. The promise of Christ's presence is given to Christians who not only believe He reigns but also submit to His rule by obeying His commands. To such true disciples, Jesus promises the realm of His kingdom presence characterised by "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). It is only when a church moves beyond believing in the reign of Christ but also teaches the need to obey and submit to Christ's rule by keeping His commands that we will experience Christ's realm of the kingdom presence and power.
Abba Father, help us not just acknowledge Christ's reign but also accept Christ's rule over us so that we may experience Christ's realm in our church. Amen.