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16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

I suspect we are all familiar with the Great Commission, and the five instances its’ recorded in the Gospels and Book of Acts as Jesus exhorts His followers with this challenge. And perhaps like me,  you have heard dozens of sermons or talks on it. But I still seem to learn new things each time I study and meditate on it.

A few years ago, I was preparing a message on Matthew 28 to give in Latin America. While reading a few commentaries, I stumbled upon something I never noticed before (cited in Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East by G. E. Mendenhall, 1955).

The Great Commission is actually written in the same format as that of an ancient covenantal agreement. It contains a Preamble (introduction), a Stipulation/Command (requirement) and a Promise (if the covenant stipulation is fulfilled). Why is this significant? This gives us clear indication of when God’s Spirit will be present with us.

In the Matthew account, the preamble is “All authority in heaven and one earth, has been given to me.” The covenant here rests on the authority of Jesus. He has all authority given to Him from God the Father. Philippians 2:9 says of Jesus, ‘Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…’

Out of reverence for God, Jews in New Testament times did not speak God’s proper name YHWH aloud. Instead, they would use other names and attributes of God or make indirect reference to Him saying, “the name above every name.” The writer of Philippians says that Jesus has the name of God- YHWH as his name- “the name that is above every name.” Jesus and God are one and the same. He existed before all things, and He will exist when our world passes away. He conquered sin and death by dying on the cross and rising from the grave. He has authority over all things. It is in the light and strength of this authority that He commissions His people.

The stipulation is “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  And the promise is, “I am with you always…”  

The interesting thing about the nature of these ancient covenant agreements is that the promise is predicated on the stated stipulation being fulfilled.

In the case of the Great Commission, Gods’ promised presence only becomes a reality when the people of God are making disciples. We cannot divorce the stipulation from the promise. God’s promised presence is void when the stipulation is not fulfilled. In other words, His presence is only promised to reside with the disciple-making person or church according to this covenantal agreement.

What does this mean for us practically? We will experience His promised presence when we live out the Great Commission. When we enter into the disciple making process by sharing the Gospel with a “lost person” (going), and discipling them as a follower of Jesus (baptizing), and equipping them to be disciple-makers (teaching), God will be with us.

We are not to wait for His presence and power to fall upon us, before we live out His commission to us. Our going activates the covenant of His promised presence.

Disciple-making is a walk of faith. This means we will assume the risks of inconvenience, awkwardness, rejection, persecution or other losses. But God promises to be with us as we faithfully live out His call as disciple-making followers of Jesus.

Concentric prayerfully strives to help ministries restore their commitment to the Great Commission as their mission. We want to create Jesus centric disciple-making movements to the nations.  This only happens as God’s people, rich and poor, young and old walk in the way of Jesus.

As we seek to be faithful to this mission He is growing and expanding our reach.  We believe our work is most effective through partnering with indigenous leaders in their respective communities.