The Promise of “I am with you” in relation to Missions
No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5
“And lo, I am with you, even until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
“And He will be called Immanuel, which translated, means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17
The late R. C. Sproul’s Tabletalk Magazine is a helpful devotional to keep one organized with a plan in reading the Scriptures.
In January of this year, 2019, Tabletalk magazine started in the book of Joshua and I was struck by this quote: (based on Joshua 1:5)
“If Joshua and the Israelites were not convinced that God would be with them, they would have been unable to obey Him and take the land.Similarly, if we are unconvinced that God is with us, we will not attempt great things for the kingdom of God or do what God has commanded when it is hard to do so.God promises to be with us by His Spirit because of the work of Christ (John 14:18; Hebrews 13:5).Let us believe that truth this day, that we might serve Him.” (page 33, Tabletalk Magazine, Ligonier Ministries, Burt Parks, editor, January 2, 2019.)
[ The phrase “attempt great things” reminds me of William Carey’s famous statement: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”]
This is one of the great promises of our God in Scripture, “I will be with you”. Jesus promised this to His disciples for power and encouragement to obey the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20. He is saying “go and make disciples of all the nations”; in other words, go and seek to plant churches in all the nations; and I will be with you to give you power to do the work and comfort you when there is opposition and trials.
When I was a young Christian, in college, and seeking God in prayer, and sensing God’s call on my life, and then later, as a young missionary, this principle and promise seemed reasonable and powerful and effective; and I did not think about it much (compared to now), because I believed it and I believed in God’s word, the written Scriptures. Now that I am older (58) and have experienced 29 years of difficult missions ministry and a heavy trial recently, these verses of this basic promise (“I am with you”) is more and more precious and encouraging.
This promise of the Lord in His word, throughout Scripture, is very encouraging these days. It helps me persevere.
In thinking about the promise that Jesus gave, “I am with you, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and its relation to missions (verses 18-19), encourages us to take a look at the larger context of the passage:
In Matthew 28:18-20, I out-line these three verses this way:
1. The Sovereignty of the Commander (v. 18) Based on events earlier in the passage – the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1-10), Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the appearances to the women and disciples. “They worshipped Him”. (verse 9, 17) verse 16 – “the eleven disciples” – the command in verse 19 is given to them as a group. They will become the church in Acts 2 and following. See Matthew 16:16-18 & 18:15-20 regarding “church”.
2. The Strategy of the Command (v. 19)
“Therefore . . . ” – based on Christ’s sovereignty, we can go and make disciples into other nations/ cultures / people groups / languages
How do we make disciples of people from a different culture? We have to go and cross cultural barriers and learn their language and be with them, and spend lots of time with them, and be willing to suffer.
by going (or “go and make disciples” – see article on the Greek construction by Dan Philips)
As I wrote in an earlier article: “It is not meant to be understood as “as you go” then make disciples. It is not passive. The going carries command force because it is connected to the verb and only makes sense because of the the direct object of “nations”. “Nations” cannot be reached without the going. “
The command: disciple all the nations (Discipleship includes evangelism – see Acts 14:21-23) This, in Acts 14:21, is the only time the verb form of disciple is used outside of Matthew’s gospel – how did the apostles understand the Great Commission? (evangelism, discipleship, teaching, encouragement in the face of trials, raising up elders for each church.)
by baptizing (this presupposes evangelism and basic teaching – Acts 14:21-23) Baptism is an outward sign of the profession of the inward reality of being baptized by the Holy Spirit when a person repents and trusts in Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:11-12; Matthew 3:6-11; Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38-46)
baptism is done in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit – there must be basic teaching on the Deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity and other related doctrines before one is baptized. (see also 2 Corinthians 13:14; Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:1-5; 1:14; chapters 14-16)
by teaching them to obey all things I have commanded you
3. The Spiritual Presence to obey the command. (v. 20)
(see John 14:16-18 – Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with them forever. Jesus is with us to empower us to obey and witness and go and minister, and He is with us to comfort us when the task gets difficult and we have trials and persecution and difficulty. The Holy Spirit was promised to the disciples to give them ability and boldness to witness (Acts 1:8; 4:31) and to live holy lives. Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:13-26)