This Sunday, we finished our miniseries on love and unity in the local church.
If you’ve been with us these past few weeks, you might recall we began our miniseries by looking at the commandments Jesus quoted in Mark 12:28-31; namely, to love God with all of our being—as Deuteronomy 6:5 indicates—and to love our neighbors as ourselves—as Leviticus 19:18 states. The rest of the Lord’s commandments rest on these two. But as we noticed the order of things, we noticed that loving others necessitates loving God, first. So we learned: The foundation to love and unity within the church is loving the Lord above all things.
Last week, we saw Christ deepen the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves by looking at his new commandment to love fellow Christians sacrificially, just as the Lord has loved us (John 13:34). We further noticed that as the church expresses Christlike, sacrificial love to one another, it sets the church apart from the rest of the world in such a way that the world notices we belong to Jesus.
In all this, we’ve seen both our call to love God supremely—our foundation to love and unity in the local church—and our call to love one another sacrificially—our distinctive as the local church. The progression from loving God to loving each other now continues to loving the very work the Lord left for us: The Great Commission. We find it delivered by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20:
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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
In textual context, Jesus had just been betrayed, arrested, tried, and crucified. He had just died for the forgiveness of our sins (it was his mission). He had just been buried, his tomb being sealed with a massive rock and guarded by Roman soldiers. But with a great earthquake, an angel from heaven rolled back the stone to show its empty state. Jesus had been raised from the dead and was no longer there!
As indicated by Matthew, the angel goes on to tell the women who were present to go and tell the rest of the disciples the good news, and to meet Jesus in Galilee. As they ran to tell the disciples of the resurrection, Jesus also appeared to the women, and he gave them the same instructions: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10).
Matthew 28 closes with Jesus appearing to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee, where he commissions them with the very words mentioned above (verses 19-20). With those words, he showed them (and us) a command to follow—together—in light of Jesus’s recent death, burial, and resurrection (the gospel).
This leads us to the main point we saw on Sunday: Our loving, missional Savior calls his followers to join him in loving mission, together.
Notice his words again at the beginning of verse 19: “Go therefore and make disciples.” The imperative verb is “make disciples.” This is the central focus of the Great Commission. We are to make disciples of Jesus Christ. So, at the heart of all that we do as a church is a desire to fulfill this command. Yes, our purpose is to glorify God (Ephesians 1:6), but our work is focused on making disciples, a manner in which we glorify God.
Additionally, notice the pronoun in verse 18. It indicates to whom Jesus addresses the Great Commission: “And Jesus came and said to them” (emphasis mine). We often think of the Great Commission in an individual sense, but Jesus gave the Great Commission to them—to his disciples—and by extension, to us, today—to all who have been united in Christ as one body, the church.
So, while it’s true we’re each individually called to obey this Great Commission, the third-person, plural pronoun “them” serves to emphasize the togetherness of our Great Commission. We’re meant to make disciples of of one another, together, as a united body of Christ that loves one another. As we love God supremely as our foundation to Christian love and unity, and as we distinctively love one another sacrificially, we naturally make disciples of one another, together, in fulfillment of the very mission Jesus welcomes us into.
It is important to mention: As we jointly labor in our mission, we must remember to labor not just out of obedience, although obedience is involved, but—more importantly—out of love.
Paul highlights this for us so emphatically in his first letter to the church in Corinth. By the time we reach the 13th chapter, Paul addresses (1) divisions that were evident when the church gathered together and participated in communion together (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), and (2) the use of spiritual gifts within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:1-31), which are meant for the common good and edification of the church (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:26; Ephesians 4:11-12). In light of this, Paul then mentions that all we do with our spiritual gifts is to be done in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13), with love itself being “a still more excellent way” of doing ministry (1 Corinthians 12:31). Love, therefore, is the superb motive.
Lake Murray Community Church: Our loving, missional Savior has invited us to join him in loving mission, together.
So as we help one another continue committing to Jesus as Master and Lord, and as we encourage one another toward God-glorifying holiness, and as we teach one another all that the Lord has taught, and as we counsel one another with the gospel, and as we equip one another and build each other up toward Christlikeness—all in accordance with the gifts God has given us—we are to do it all in unifying love.
Why must we do it in love? Because Christ lovingly died for us. He came on mission for us, to serve us and to give his life as a ransom for us (Mark 10:45), to make us new creations in himself—holy and acceptable before the Father—that we might walk in the good work he prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).
A follow-up question must be asked: How do we do this work of love-motivated disciple-making?
I believe we find a three-fold answer in the final sentence of Matthew 28: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” With these words, we’re first reminded that the Spirit of Christ is with us as we labor in our mission to make disciples of one another. This encourages us to rely on his spiritual equipping and strengthening, for our work can become difficult, wearisome, and even painful at times. Paul himself seems to have experienced the pain of being deserted by people he invested in (2 Timothy 1:15). So we must remind ourselves to rely on Christ’s spiritual presence within us and among us, that we might keep laboring in lovingly making disciples of one another.
Second, his promise of his spiritual presence also reminds us to rest in him. There will always be work for the church to do, but we must guard ourselves and each other from burning out; we need to rest in his spiritual presence.
Third, because Christ promises to be with us spiritually until the end of this age, it reminds us to also point one another—with great anticipation—to his return. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, as Christians in Corinth are assured of their own future resurrection at Christ’s second coming, Paul charges: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” May we do similarly. May we be steadfast in our mission by reassuring one another of our blessed hope, the future appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
So let’s join our missional Savior in his mission for us. Let’s do it together, in unity. Let’s do it lovingly, in response to his love for us. Let’s do it by trusting in and relying on Christ’s spiritual, ever-present help. Let’s do it “to the end of the age,” reassuringly anticipating his return for us. In all that we do, let’s go and make disciples!
In your small groups this week, take a moment to discuss these questions together: Mathew 28.19-20 Notes. May “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
With love for the Lord and for you,