GREAT COMMISSION Q AND A
We often think Jesus’ final marching orders will leave us with questions pertaining only to the aspect of “going” or “making disciples.” But that’s not always the case. As these two questions reveal, there’s more to the Great Commission than meets the eye. Here’s some insight into a couple of intriguing questions related to other aspects of Matthew 28:16-20.
Q: Why were they not sent to preach the gospel? It says, “teach to obey.”
A: Actually, the words “preach the gospel” are used in Mark’s account of the Great Commission (Mark 16:15). John uses the word “sent,” and Luke uses the word “proclaim.” So various words are used to get across the same idea of making disciples of all nations.
In my opinion, Matthew uses the words “teach to obey” to show the process involved in the making of disciples. And since Matthew’s imperative verb (make disciples) is surrounded by sequential participles (going, baptizing, teaching), the sense is one of progression. Thus, it would make sense to use the words “teach to obey” since that is one aspect of the process.
Q: Is it a sin not to be baptized?
A: The Bible doesn’t just assume baptism; it calls for it (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:16), not as a condition for being saved, but as a commandment after being saved. And to not obey a command is disobedience. Sin.
So yes, not to be baptized is, I believe, a sin.
As you read that, be careful not to read into it. Like other sins we wrestle with in the middle of our sanctification, not getting baptized is perhaps just the outward, disobedient display of inward, selfish sins, such as fear or pride. These things, and things like them, are the real reasons we sin after all. So dealing with the real inner sin will help us deal with the outer disobedience.
Furthermore, our ability to not sin isn’t what saves us or keeps us saved. Admittedly, over time, those who are truly born again, though never sinless, will usually sin less (1 John). But that’s not why we’re saved or remain saved. It is the atoning work of Jesus through the power of God that does both of those (Jude 24-25). This is why the thief on the cross, though not baptized, was assured of his eternal destiny (Luke 23:43).
Remember, dealing with disobedience is part of our sanctification (i.e., growth), which is one of the reasons baptism matters. It is the first sign/step of identification with our new family and obedience to our new Father, and to avoid and disregard the command of baptism is sin.