At the conclusion of the four Gospels and at the beginning of the book of Acts, Christ commissioned his disciples with a momentous task—make disciples of all nations. Before we become overwhelmed with the fact that there are over seven billion people on the planet, half of whom have never heard the name of Jesus, we need to consider what Jesus said to these discouraged disciples. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” The truth is, what Jesus says next is of no consequence, because He just said He has all power. Rather than focusing solely on the responsibility of this mission, let us consider the provision we have in Christ for this mission.
The provision that we have to fulfill this command is wrapped up in the word power. There are two different words for power that are connected to the great commission. One of words deals with authorization and the other word deals with enablement. In Matthew 28:18, the word power is a word that means authorization (ἐξουσία). Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and in earth, and He is authorizing His disciples to carry out His great command to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations. There is no place on the planet over which Jesus doesn’t have a claim. Jesus has complete jurisdiction. When the church understands and embraces this delegated authority from our Lord, it will gain confidence for the mission.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus informed his disciples that they would receive power after the Holy Spirit came upon them. The word power here is not the word for authorization, but rather the word for enablement (δύναμις). Not only has Jesus Christ given his disciples delegated authority for gospel ministry, but He has also given them divine enablement.
It is interesting to note that when Jesus Christ was on the earth he operated by delegated authority and by divine enablement. Jesus was authorized by God the Father and enabled by the Spirit to fulfill His ministry. All through the gospels we see Jesus exercising authority. He spoke with authority (Matthew 7:29). He used authority in healing the son of the centurion (Matthew 8:9). He had authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6). He was questioned about his authority by the Pharisees (Matthew 21:23). In the gospel of John, Jesus clearly stated that His authority had been delegated to Him from the Father (5:28-30).
Jesus was also divinely enabled by the Spirit of God. Jesus was conceived by the Spirit (Luke 1:35). He grew and developed by the Spirit (Luke 2:40). Jesus was set apart for earthly ministry by the Spirit (Matthew 3:16). He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1). Jesus returned to Galilee after the temptation in the wilderness by the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14). He offered himself on the cross and shed his blood by the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). Jesus’ resurrection was energized by the Spirit (Romans 1:4).
In the same way that He was commissioned by the Father, we have been commissioned by Christ. In John 20:21 Jesus said to his disciples, “…as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” The church is an extension of the very ministry of Jesus Christ. The way Jesus accomplished His ministry is the same way we continue His ministry. We have the same authority Jesus had—He has authorized us! We have the same enablement He had—He has given us the Holy Spirit! To say that the mission cannot be accomplished today is to completely ignore the fact that we have everything we need in Christ to do it. No one would argue the fact that the church in the book of Acts was unstoppable. The more they were threatened and persecuted, the more they flourished. Whether it was a religious crowd or a pagan crowd they boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit. They were unashamed, and they were relentless! This was because they never lost sight of the fact that they had been authorized and enabled to obey the Lord’s directive of making disciples of all nations.
Because of the steady decline in American churches, the morale of many pastors as well as church members is at an all time low. Many have developed a mentality that we just need to “hold the fort ‘til Jesus comes.” But we must identify that this mentality is blatant unbelief! The Lord is not called us to hold the fort but to advance it. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Let us stop blaming our culture or the days in which we live. Let us cling to the fact that we have been authorized and enabled by Jesus Christ to obey His command to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations.