The Great Commission
, in Christian
tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ
to his disciples
, that they spread his teachings
to all the nations
of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology
emphasizing mission work, evangelism
, and baptism
. It has been a primary basis for Christian missionary
Over the centuries, Christians have preached their faith across the world. Christians, a small sect at the time of the Great Commission, are majorities or significant minorities in many countries worldwide.
New Testament accounts
Some version of the great commission appears in the Gospels of Matthew
, and in the Book of Acts
, which is the second part of Luke-Acts
. Details vary from book to book. In Matthew, Jesus
directs the disciples to baptize people of all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, similar to the Trinitarian
formula of God the Father
, God the Son
, and the Holy Spirit
. In Luke, Jesus tells the disciples to preach repentance
, and promises that they will have divine power. In John, Jesus says the disciples will have the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins and to withhold forgiveness. In Acts, Jesus promises the disciples that the Holy Spirit will inspire them. In Mark
, Jesus never speaks with his disciples after his resurrection, since many modern scholars agree that the original Gospel of Mark ends at verse with the women leaving the tomb. See also Mark 16
The most familiar version of the Great Commission is depicted in Matthew 28:16-20:
- Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."(NIV)
Other versions of the Great Commission are found in , , , and . All these passages are composed as words of Christ spoken after his resurrection.
The commission from Jesus has been interpreted by evangelical Christians as meaning that his followers have the duty to go, teach, and baptize
. Although the command was initially given directly only to Christ's Eleven Apostles
, evangelical Christian theology
has typically interpreted the commission as a directive to all Christians of every time and place, particularly because it seems to be a restatement or moving forward of the last part of God's covenant with Abraham
Commentators often contrast the Great Commission with the earlier Limited Commission of , in which they were to restrict their mission to their fellow Jews, to whom Jesus referred to as "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" ().
Textual critics note that the portion of Mark 16 which records the commission is not found in two of the oldest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus. The response generally given is that this is immaterial, as essentially the same thing is quoted as having been said by Jesus in at least three other New Testament passages, and additionally that the passage in question was regarded as part of the canon of the scriptures throughout most of Church history.
Some believe that the Great Commission was already fulfilled based on the statements "And they went out and preached everywhere," (Mark 16:20), "the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven," (Colossians 1:23), and "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations," (Romans 16:25-26).
The Jesus Seminar generally portrays the statement as a later editorial addition to the text.
The Jewish Encyclopedia: Gentiles: Gentiles May Not Be Taught the Torah states:
R. Emden in a remarkable apology for Christianity contained in his appendix to "Seder 'Olam" (pp. 32b-34b, Hamburg, 1752), gives it as his opinion that the original intention of Jesus, and especially of Paul, was to convert only the Gentiles to the seven moral laws of Noah and to let the Jews follow the Mosaic law — which explains the apparent contradictions in the New Testament regarding the laws of Moses and the Sabbath.