The Command to “Go” or “Evangelism and Missions”

Posted on October 11, 2010

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Probably one of the most misunderstood portions of the commission is the first word in it, “Go.”  Many have viewed this participle not as part of the imperative to “make disciples” but as part of the means by which we are to make disciples, which include “baptizing” and “teaching.”  Because the verb “poreúomai” from which we get “Go” is a participle, some may interpret it, “as you are going.”  This understanding leaves it void of the punch that Jesus intended and is a misunderstanding of how the verb works in connection with the imperative to, “make disciples.”  The word is an attendant circumstance that actually, “piggy-backs on the mood of the main verb.”[1] The “Go” is part of the imperative.  This means that going is not optional nor is it something someone does wherever he or she may be as they are walking through their life.  It is an intentional action of the church that involves strategy, planning, and most important: going.  Churches must be intentional in engaging their neighbors with the gospel of Christ.  Churches can’t sit back and wait for the lost to come to her doors.  In the plurality of beliefs and systems of spirituality, the church must deliberately engage her culture with the gospel.

A second item one considers in the term “Go” is the logistics?  Where, how and to whom is the church to go?  This is best understood from Luke’s narrative in the book of Acts especially Acts 1:8 where Jesus commands the disciples to be witnesses in “Jerusalem, and all of Judea and Samaria, and the and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  A way of bringing this to our present context is to understand Jerusalem to be locally where the church exists, Judea and Samaria as a larger context, such as one’s state or country, and the remotest parts as encompassing areas outside of ones national territory.  Two areas of debate hinge on this understanding of the command.  First, how much should the local church devote herself to each area?  Is the immediate context of one’s Jerusalem more important than “the remotest part of the earth?”  Second, the first argument may be a moot point if Jesus was more concerned about racial, national, religious division.  What was true in 1955 is unfortunately still true in that, “It is easier today to send missionaries to Africa than to have fellowship across racial lines at home.”[2] It is quite evident from Acts and many of the epistles of the New Testament that the biggest issue inside the church was crossing those racial lines and accepting Gentiles into the fold.

The “Go” mandate of the Great Commission is not relegated to only geographical distinctions.  It is also intended for the church to move out of its racial and socio economic comfort zone to make disciples of “all nations” (Matt 28:19).[3] The church must be strategic and intentional in reaching those who differ whether they live across the street or across the world.


[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 640.

 

[2] Frank Stagg, The Book of Acts, (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1955), 36.

 

[3] ἔθνη is the Greek term used by Matthew.  It is not limited to an understanding of those who live within certain national boundaries, but is more particular to people groups with a specific culture and language that live within a national boundary, city, or even a small community.

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