Banning The Great Commission
With respect, I would suggest that Lutherans cease using the phrase "Great Commission”. Cease its employment because in our day it has come to obscure the work the Lord has actually commissioned his church to do.
The “The Great Commission” no longer consists of baptism and instruction leading sinners to the altar of God (Psalm 43:4). But of basketball, social work, or anything that might promote people’s awareness of the church. But if we cannot do without the term let us at least apply it to John 20:21-23 where the commission - to forgive sins – may supply us with a much-needed new awareness of what the work of Christ's church actually is.
Moreover I would dispute the NIV and ESV translation of "matheteuo" as "make disciples,” a translation which is abstract, if not incorrect. One that has allowed people to supply their own content for what a disciple is and does. An interpretation that has possibly even encouraged the Baptized to think of the church in wrong terms. To conceive of it as an association of converted “independent contractors,” each having his or her own “personal relationship with Jesus,” instead of the Body (soma) of Christ.
"Matheteuo" means to teach and receivers of said teaching are called "matheitoi" in Greek. Students. This translation is supported by the rest of the verse which has been forgotten: "Teaching (didasko) them to carefully observe all things whatsoever I have commanded, and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
What commanded things? Certainly the entire body of teaching recorded in St. Matthew's gospel. But especially Jesus’ Great Commandment, "This do in remembrance of me”; because it is the Eucharist that defines and constitutes us as Christ’s holy people. And because it is by this Sacrament that Christ is incarnationally (and not just notionally) present "with” his church "until the end of the age" - at which time sacraments will no longer be needed.
And so unless we are able to fully understand and implement what the Lord has commissioned and empowered the church to do in these holy verses, I think we are better off banning the term "great commission" from our ecclesiastical vocabulary.
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