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Commissioned to Teach
Growing up in Tennessee I would vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains, always thinking “great” was in reference to the superb quality of the experience enjoyed when visiting the site. It was only later I learned of the “Little Smoky Mountains” near the convergence of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. “Little” and “great,” are designations of topology, the section of the Appalachians in Ohio being of a lower elevation than the section in Tennessee.
Likewise, reading the closing verses of Matthew, we come across the “Great Commission.” This designation is in contrast to the “Limited Commission” of Matthew 10:5f: “These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The original commission, which was restricted to the Jews, was lesser in scope than the “Great Commission,” given in Matthew 28:18-20.
The earlier commission was narrow, being given only to the Twelve Apostles, for a limited time, to reach out to a limited number of people. The second commission is greater in being given to the whole church, until the end of the age, addressing the whole world.
The Great Commission continues to serve as a motto, stirring Christians to send out missionaries and to conduct evangelistic programs. The church continues, with a fair measure of success, to fulfill the charge Jesus gave to preach the gospel and to baptize converts. Yet, we should look further into what the Lord commanded. We must not only make converts; we must also teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded.
With young people growing up in the Lord’s church, training in doctrine occurs in Bible classes and in training received at home. For adult converts, however, the process of spiritual growth is more piecemeal. Special attention should be given to help those who become Christians as adults to ensure they understand basic doctrine. Having an elder or other mature Christian serve as a mentor is a great help, as is having a prepared course of study covering the distinctive nature of the Lord’s church. In this way we will fulfill the Lord’s command, not only to baptize, but also to instruct.