Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

This is episode 182 of Missions on point. Thanks for joining us. We are in the beginning of a series on the church in the Great Commission as seen in Matthew 28.  In our previous episode we discussed the primary command in this passage where Jesus tells the church to make disciples.  Our definition of discipleship that we stated last time was that Discipleship is the Christ-commanded and Spirit-empowered equipping of all true Christians everywhere through the church to fully know and obey Jesus.  In this series we are looking at each aspect of that definition in detail with specific reference to how the church is central to the outworking of the Great Commission.  Simply recognizing, like we did last time, that discipleship is the main command here, this should instantly signal to us that the church is central, because that is the place where disciples are made.  For anyone who would go into all the world and make disciples, we must have the church front and center in our mind.

Today we consider the first aspect of that command to make disciples, the authority of Jesus.  Discipleship of people from every tribe and nation requires authority.  Thus, we say that discipleship is Christ-commanded.  In my time as a missionary, the most common objection I received was that Christianity is a Western religion.  But that is not true because Jesus is in authority over all people.  In this last command before his ascension, Jesus is speaking to his disciples of whom many are confused and even doubting, and he says in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  And for those confused and doubting disciples, this brings stability, comfort, leadership and direction for their lives.

Yet, Jesus’ authority has always been questioned and challenged, like it was for my non-Western disciples.  Shortly after cleansing the temple and after children sang, “Hosanna to the son of David,” the Pharisees questioned Jesus asking, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”  It’s like if the police pull me over and ask for my driver’s license.  I better produce one for them, to prove that I have the authorization to be driving my car.  Similar questions were asked of Moses and Aaron by the Israelites in the wilderness, and of the Israelites throughout their history questioning the prophets, doubting that they truly speak for God, ignoring their authority.  Likewise, the Apostles in the New Testament had their credentials questioned.  Church history too has seen missionaries and elders in the church questioned about whether they speak from God or hated because they do.  But this should not surprise us, for the rebellious heart of man has resisted the authoritative word of God, often shooting the messenger in the process.  The nations rage because they do not kiss the Son. 

But when Jesus says in Matthew 28:18 that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” we can tell that he means something quite unique to him.  The first obvious qualification here is that Jesus’ authority is universal.  All authority has been given to him.  There is no authority apart from him.  He is making a claim to divinity here.  For Jesus is God.  He is creator, judge and king of all kings.  Every other authority in heaven and earth is subject to him, derives its authority from him, and exists as long as he pleases. 

And the second thing we observe here about Jesus’ authority is that it has been given to him.  Though Jesus has always been God, there is a sense that by virtue of his resurrection, the Father has definitively crowned Jesus as king, his divinity now unquestionably proved.  The Son of the vineyard owner has received his inheritance.  And we might ask why there is a point in time in which Jesus is crowned with all authority in heaven and earth.  And the best answer that I know of to this question is that Jesus makes this declaration on the basis of his resurrection.  In other words, his work of redemption has been completed.  He has once for all purchased through his blood the salvation of all of God’s children.  And praise the Lord for that.  What a glorious truth that because he has been raised from the dead we can submit to Jesus as our savior and king. 

Of course, we must admit that we do not see this truth in our present reality.  And we would say that though Jesus has been inaugurated as king his reign has not yet been fully consummated.  The powers of this world, both seen and unseen, undoubtedly fight a losing battle.  And the only place where we see this authority truly displayed is in the church, for Jesus is the head of the church.  That’s why we recognize that this world is not our home and we are only sojourners passing through.  The church is like an embassy of God’s rule in a foreign land.  2 Corinthians 5 tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ, with God making his appeal through us that in Christ the old has passed away and the new has come.  We try to persuade others to be reconciled to God, again on the basis of Christ’s resurrection, for Christ has died and been raised from the dead for all those who have faith in him.  Thus, we too die to our sin and are raised as new creations in Christ. 

I hope you are saying amen to these truths, for they are glorious and wonderful and they exalt Jesus as Lord.  We only know these truths because the Word of God has been made flesh and he has spoken these things to us through the authority of his Apostles in the New Testament.  But how can this practically affect us?  Let’s consider where we see this authority lived out in our world today.  I would contend to you that the only place in this world where we see these truths authoritatively proclaimed and the only place where the implications of all that Christ has commanded are actually lived out is in the church.  The church is the inbreaking of God’s kingdom into this world, outposts of a heavenly realm where God’s will is done on earth.  The church is where Jesus’ authority is exercised.  And inversely, if you do not have the church, you do not have the authority of Jesus.  One day Jesus will return and remove every last vestige of rebellion against him.  But until that day, Jesus is the head of the church, and that is where his authority is seen in this world. 

And so, what does this mean for missions?  This is after all a podcast about missions.  I’ll give you four implications.

  1. The mission and the message of the missionary must be authoritative. If Jesus began the commissioning of his disciples with an appeal to his authority, then we too need to think of Jesus’ authority as foundational to all that we do.  We do not go into all the world on our own initiative.  Jesus is building his church.  The gospel calls sinners to repent and submit to Jesus as Lord, declaring that lordship on the basis of his resurrection.  Our hope, and the hope we proclaim, is based on the authoritative proclamation of Jesus’ word to us and the promises found there.  When a gospel minister preaches the gospel, he says to his hearers, “don’t take my word for it, but believe the word of the resurrected Son of God.”  In other words, missionaries must use the Bible to accomplish their mission.  The mission and the message of the missionary must be authoritative.  That’s the first implication. 
  2. The missionary must be submissive to authority. We don’t just proclaim a message of the authority of Christ, we must demonstrate that we ourselves are submissive to him.  Jesus, of course, is the perfect example of this for he obediently follows his Father and goes to the cross.  He then tells his followers that they need to take up their crosses and follow him.  When the missionary gets to his field, he demonstrates this because he is being submissive to the church who sent him.  He ought not to just decide for himself whatever it is he is going to do.  The mission is not primarily comprised of the imagination of the missionary about what he should be doing, but the missionary is taking his direction from Jesus.  And he finds Jesus’ authority in the church he has been sent from as Jesus has established under-shepherds to both care for and guard his church.  The missions of Paul, Barnabas, and Silas in the book of Acts demonstrate this too, as they are submissive to the church in Antioch and also the church in Jerusalem.  The missionary is not a lone ranger.  The missionary must be submissive to authority. 
  3. The church must rightly exercise its authority in the Great Commission. Since the church is the place where the authority of Jesus is exercised and his word is authoritatively proclaimed, then the church must not be negligent to exercise the authority given to it.  Too often churches just assume that individuals will respond to Jesus on their own and be led to obey the Great Commission independent of the church.  And too often that is exactly what happens.  But, as Romans 10 tells us, “how can they preach unless they are sent?”  Just as elders cannot be self-appointed over a church, missionaries must have hands laid on them appointing them for a task to go on behalf of the church, to bring the church’s message, to establish new churches just like the one they have been sent from.  And this leads me to the fourth and final implication that I will give to you today about the authority of Jesus in the Great Commission.  Although, I’m sure that we could think of more than these.  Not only must the church rightly exercise its authority in the Great Commission, but…
  4. The establishment of authority in the church must be a high priority for missionaries. Missionaries not only go out as those under authority, but they seek to establish elders wherever they have preached the gospel so as to institutionalize authority in local churches.  This is Paul and Barnabas’ realization in Acts 14, after having been persecuted in the cities that they made disciples in, they revisited those cities in order to strengthen and encourage the saints by establishing elders in every church.  Churches with duly appointed elders provide for healthy, stable, life-long discipleship of believers.  And this must be the goal of missionaries, far more than simply bringing the Bible into a place and seeing converts made.  While that’s good, it’s only the first step.  The mission is not finished until indigenous churches are established and local pastors are installed who continue the work of making disciples in that village, language, and nation far beyond the time that the missionary is there.  Missions needs to be focused on the planting of healthy churches that in turn send out more missionaries to do the same. 

Those are four implications of Jesus’ authority.  Repeating them again: One, the mission and the message of the missionary must be authoritative.  Two, the missionary must be submissive to authority.  Three, the church must rightly exercise its authority in the Great Commission.  And four, the establishment of authority in the church must be a high priority for missionaries. 

I’m sure there’s much more we could say about authority in missions.  But I hope one of the major takeaways from today is that we see a little clearer how central the church is to missions because of how Jesus says, “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”  Of supreme importance is that Jesus is the head and the cornerstone of the church, with the apostles and prophets as the foundation.  We must continue to build up Jesus’ house on his authority.  As God’s word is preached, his people respond with joyful obedience to their Lord.  Jesus has saved a people for himself from every language and tribe on the earth, and he has commissioned his church to bring the gospel call to those people.  Jesus’ authority in commissioning the church to go into all the world and make disciples is why the church is integral to rightly obeying this command from our savior.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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