Why the Great Commission is not so Great

At the end of the book of Matthew it is recorded that Jesus instructed His disciples to go and make disciples. As a result of this command, this verse has been used as the battle cry for missionaries. Taking the gospel around the world! However, the verse does not actually say that, and when we understand what it in fact states, we see that the Great Commission diminishes what Jesus said.

From the ESV, although most modern translations are basically the same, Matthew 28:19 states, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is basically the same translation as the King James version even though the ESV claims to take the original language into account. Why is this important? Let us walk through the original statement so we can see.

When it comes to translating Scripture from the original Greek, we need to pay attention to the type of verb that is being expressed. For commands, we typically find these in the imperative. Therefore, it is necessary, urgent, or required that we do the statement. In Matthew 28:19 “Go”, in our translations, is expressing an imperative. However, there is an issue with this, because the word for “go” is not in the imperative in the original language; rather, it is the word “make disciples” that is the imperative. So why does this matter? Well, you see, the disciples were not commanded to “Go”, they were commanded to “make disciples”. Is not the meaning basically the same? Actually, it is not. Let us look at the word “Go” and see. “Go” is not a normal verb, it is actually a participle. […]