The Sovereign Power and Authority Behind the Great Commission

They saw Jesus die on the cross. They knew He had been buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Stunned by His resurrection from the dead and the attributes of His glorified body, the disciples met with Jesus in Jerusalem. Doubting Thomas demonstrated the difficulty of believing without seeing (Jn 20:24–29). The scene had to be utterly surreal. Real it was, however, and it served as the beginning of the disciples’ transformation from frightened sheep to bold witnesses (Acts 1:8).

Jerusalem served as a pretext for another encounter with the glorified Christ in Galilee (Mt 28:16). The disciples worshipped Him, as they had in the boat after He walked on water (Mt 14:33; 28:17). Doubts remained. He would press them further. Their view of Jesus was still too low. He had prepared good works for them beforehand that they might walk in (Eph 2:10)…even to their death as martyrs (Jn 16:2).

At this point, post-resurrection and pre-Pentecost, what was the crucial knowledge they needed that would sustain them through coming trials and tribulation (Jas 1:2)? “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18).’” Who in the history of the world has ever made a claim such as this one?

There is one who sits in the heavens and does whatever pleases Him (Ps 115:3; 135:6). The sovereign God of the universe now has a man upon the earth, who claims to be equal in sovereign power and authority. It is no wonder some still doubted among the group. “All authority” might be the bodacious boast of a silly despot king or an arrogant judge, but here, Jesus included heaven as His realm. Just a few days prior to this, these men were scattered, in fear from the authorities, of their tiny, despised nation. It is imperative for us to grasp the great chasm between Jesus’ claim and their recent experience.

The Bible gives us title after title after title for Jesus. The Bible is all about Him. Who is this man? What has He done? What is His story? What difference does it make to me? This is why we must savor His words, while men run about making their own claims, “This shampoo will change your life!” or “Join our sales team and change the world!”

The One with ultimate authority, if He could be believed, was now telling them to respond to that claim. He had a mission for them. Later, they would know the extent of this outreach, as the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). They never lost their designation as Jesus’ disciples, but to this was added another title “apostle.” They had seen and met several times with the resurrected Christ, and soon they would go and teach others.

As bold witnesses, endued with the Holy Spirit, who would come upon them at the Jerusalem Pentecost (Acts 2), the apostles were to make more disciples (Mt 28:19). These new disciples would also receive the Spirit of Christ (Acts 10, 19), joining the great cloud of witnesses (Heb 11), the church through all generations.

Because God in Christ is Lord of all (Acts 10:36; 17:24), all nations are represented in the formation of Israel (Mt 28:19; Gal 6:16; Rev 5:9; 7:9). God, the Holy Spirit, who abides in the soul (heart + mind) of every believer (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; Jas 4:5), works as the on-site supervisor of sanctification (1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). Disciples are conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). They are living stones, being fitted into the building (1 Pet 2:5), the Temple of God (Eph 2:20–22), the body of Christ. They live to God because Christ lives in them (Gal 2:20).

Disciples of Jesus Christ, citizens of His one, holy nation (1 Pet 2:9), from all nations (Mt 28:19; Rev 5:9; 7:9), serve Him as royal priests (1 Pet 2:9), who offer up spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet 2:5). Their very lives are living sacrifices (Rom 12:1), laid down in the service of worship. They take up their own cross and die to self and to the world (Lk 9:23). They decrease (Jn 3:30), so that the fragrance of Christ might increase in every place (2 Cor 2:15).

Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, has triumphed over sin, death, the devil, and this fallen world. This mission to make disciples is for the gathering of God’s elect, who are called to come to Him, to serve Him with good works prepared for them, before the foundation of the world (Eph 2:10). Each believer/living stone has his or her place in this work.

Because God is the Potter and Christians are clay vessels of mercy prepared for glory (Rom 9:21, 23), we understand that we are objects of God’s will and God’s work (Phil 2:13). As clay is immersed in solution before it is placed into the kiln, so the new disciple is baptized into the Triune Godhead family/community (Mt 28:19). In union with Christ (Jn 17:21, 23), the saint is sent through diverse and often fiery trials and tribulation (Jas 1:2). We join in the afflictions of Christ’s body (Col 1:24). We suffer with Him that we may glory with Him (Rom 8:17), and this present suffering is not to be compared to the glory to be revealed to us (Rom 8:18).

As men of God proclaim Christ (Col 1:28), we grow in grace and knowledge of Him (2 Pet 3:18). We are not just hearers of the Word of truth (Jas 1:22), but we are transformed to become doers of the Word of truth, who are led by the Spirit of truth, into all truth (Jn 16:13). The Holy Spirit teaches us and causes us to walk in obedience to God’s statutes (Ezek 36:27; Jn 14:26).

Christian, press on in your walk, your service, your worship. You have God’s promise to never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5), and that He is with you even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20). It is God who began His good work in you (Phil 1:6), and it is God who will finish His sanctifying work, by His Word and His Spirit (Jn 17:17).

You have been called, so you must go. You represent His name, and you have His promises. There are others He has appointed to believe (Acts 13:48), and they will believe in Him, when they hear the Word of faith given to you to give to them (Rom 10:17). You are not alone, and never forget the basis for His sending you to all nations…He alone has sovereign power and authority in heaven and on earth.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

November 22, 2022

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher