Saturday, April 26, 2014

Study Starter: The Great Commission

Study Starter: The Great Commission by Christopher Wiles

I regret that we as humans aren't perfect.  Sometimes our best efforts can still fall a little short.  I see this especially in our English translations which are sometimes limited and can actually take us away from the emphasis the original Biblical writers intended.  Take for instance the Great Commission, which you have likely heard for years and know by heart. 
Matthew 28:19-20a (KJV) "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you;"

Due to this translation, we have a tendency to boil the beautifully simple Great Commission down into three basic and  equivalent commands:  Go, Teach, and Baptize. 

Yet one look at the Greek words show that these are not parallel commands at all.  We find out that KJV translation of the verse 19 "teach all nations" is written differently from the "Go, Baptize, and Teaching".   Here's the parsing of the words in Greek
Go (v. 19) - πορευθεντες (poreuthentes)-  a participle meaning "going"
Baptize (v. 19)  - βαπτιζοντες (baptizontes) - a participle meaning "baptizing"
Teach (v. 20) - διδασκοντες (didaskontes) - a participle meaning "teaching"
Here's  what verse 19 "teach" looks like
"Teach" (vs. 19) - μαθητευσατε (matheteusate) - an imperative verb commanding "make disciples"

Here's the rub of it all.  Most translations and sermons put all four of these verbs into parallel commands such as "Go, teach, baptize" or maybe four commands such as "Go, Disciple, Baptize, Teach".  Yet when Matthew recorded Jesus' words in Greek, the first word for "teach" (KJV)  or better translated "Make disciples" (NIV), is given first priority.  "Make disciples" stands out from among the rest because it is the only direct imperative command in Jesus' Great Commission. 

To sum it up, the Jesus' Great Commission directly commands us to MAKE DISCIPLES.  Then Jesus gives us a three step process into HOW to make disciples: by going, baptizing, and teaching.   Keep studying and consider how your disciple making is going.