Trinitarian Living (Matt 28:18-20)
Matt 28:18-20: Then Jesus ascended up and said to them, “All the [Kingly Power and] Will in heaven and over the earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and disciple all nations, cleansing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. teaching them to guard everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (gsv)
I. The Trinitarian Commission Fulfills the New Covenant.
Why did Jesus command baptism in the first place? Israel needed renewal after the Exile and this was pictured as a “washing.”
Messiah would come to baptize Israel and the world. Ezekiel 36:24ff, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean . . . I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” “He will sprinkle many nations” (Isa. 52:15).
2) The OT predicts that the Covenant to Abraham would transform the world - “All the ends of the earth may fear Him (Psa. 67:7); “All nations serve him” (Psa. 72:11); “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before Thee” (Psa. 22:7). “... in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name, and fear Thee, as do Thy people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Thy name” (2Ch. 6:33). “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14).
3) All of this is rooted firmly in the Abrahamic Covenant which was to restore the world into the righteous rule of a Man (Adam - Second Adam). “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). “In your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14).
II. The Trinitarian Commission Washes Nations.
Some view this text to mean that our Lord commands the mere discipling of “individuals from all nations, not the national entities” (says one Reformed Baptist). However,
1) the grammar of this command from the Greek text (mathãteusate panta ta ethnã baptizontes autous) should simply be translated, “Disciple all the nations [and] baptize them (nations).” The pronoun “them” (autous), grammatically refers to “nations” (ethnã), not “disciples,” since “make disciples” (from mathãteuõ) is a verb. It is a grammatical error to read it as, “make disciples and baptize disciples.” [The term “nations” [ethna] is equal to “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3, 28:14, Acts 3:25; cf. Psa. 22:14).]
2) Since it is the nations to be discipled, then there are community, national, ethnic or cultural implications from the Commission. The Trinitarian commission is about creating Trinitarian communities. To neglect the corporate aspect flatly disobeys to familial, kingly, and cultural imperative of the One whose blood bought those from every family (Rev. 5:9), who is the King of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:6), whose kingdom conquers every enemy (1 Cor. 15:25).
III. The Trinitarian Commission Calls Us to a Community LIfe.
1) God exists in Triune Life. The Triune God is a “community” of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It not surprising then, that God set apart a people (Israel), a group to teach the nations His ways. It is not surprising that at the apex the Commission would require the gospel transformation of ethnic families, so that communities could be formed who live in light of Jesus’s power and authority.
2) Pride, leading to dishonesty, leading to schism, are the way to undermine this Trinitarian Life. Humility, authenticity, love covering a multitude of sins and bearing one another’s burdens in the unity and diversity of our congregation enables Trinitarian Living.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more