Taken for Granted

Question: First, read Matthew 28:16-20 carefully, in the Greek, if you can. Second, to whom is the “Great Commission” directed? If you read this, please post your opinion (based on sound exegesis, of course). Just taking a little survey; although the results may be skewed a bit based on the relatively small number of people who will read this.

Timotheos

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “Taken for Granted

  1. > to whom is the “Great Commission” directed?

    The Church, according to the Scriptural exegesis of C.F.W. Walther, as well as his references to the Confessions and writings of Martin Luther and other Church fathers, presented in _Church and Ministry_, specifically in Thesis IV on the Church (pp. 49-66), Thesis VII on the Church (pp. 87-100), and Thesis VII on the Holy Ministry (pp. 268-288). For example, Walther includes the following excerpt:

    “Though we are not all called into the public ministry yet every Christian may and should teach, instruct, admonish, comfort, and reprove his neighbor from God’s Word whenever and whereever he is in need of it, just as parents must teach their children and servants or anyone his brother, neighbor, fellow citizen, and the like. For a Christian may teach and exhort form the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, etc., anyone who is ignorant, weak, and he who is so instructed should receive it of him as God’s Word and confess it publicly…. Behold, in such a way every Christian has and exercises his priestly works, But in addition to this there is the pastoral ministry that teaches and inculcates doctrine publicly, and for that we need ministers and pastors.” [Martin Luther, Second Exposition of Psalm 110, 1539, St. Louis Edition, 5:1036]

    Since 1852, Walther’s position on Church and Ministry has been the definitive statement under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Synod’s understanding on the subject of church and ministry. The 2001 synodical convention resolved that “all pastors, professors, teachers of the church, and congregations honor and uphold the resolutions of the Synod as regards the official position of our Synod on church and ministry and teach in accordance with them.”

  2. Definitely the disciples. I guess someone, somewhere decided to make the disciples, in this particular text, symbolic!?!?

    But, what I want to know is: what difference would it make?

  3. Carl,
    Nowhere–no where–in those pages is Matthew 28 ever referenced except once when speaking about the continuing presence of Christ with His Church. That’s what I meant about baptism, since Christ essentially institutes baptism in Matthew 28. Lots of talk about Matthew 16 and 18; Matthew 28 is all but absent from Walther’s discussion, that I can see.

    Tim

  4. Strictly going with rules of language and grammar of the text:

    The referent of “them” is explicitly “the eleven disciples” mentioned in verse 16.

    Then the eleven disciples went… (v.16)
    Jesus told “them” to go. (the eleven)
    When “they” saw him… (v.17 — still the eleven disciples)
    “they” worshiped him…
    Jesus came to “them” and said… (v.18ff)

    Exceedingly difficult to sustain any other referent than “them” = “the eleven disciples,” particularly when verse 16 takes up a new subject following verse 15’s closing comment on the pericope that precedes.

    My 2 cents.

  5. The great commission is spoken to “the eleven disciples” – that is, those Apostles who remained after the betrayal by and suicide of Judas. Thus the commission is directed to the Apostles and (by extension) to their successors, those who are called to the sacred ministry of the Church.

    This indicates that the commission is not directed to Christians in general. We all of us are to be ready to give an account for the hope that is in us, but the specific duties of “making disciples” (catechizing) and “baptizing” pertain to the sacred ministry.

  6. In correcting the erroneous view that the Great Commission is directed solely to pastors (represented by the eleven apostles) the Rev. Dr. James Kalthoff wrote in his “The Pastor: God’s Servant for God’s People”, from _Church and Ministry: The Collected Papers of The 150th Anniversary Theological Convocation of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod_, edited by Jerald C. Joerz and Paul T. McCain, 1998, pp.123-161, http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/CTCR/ChurchMinistrybook%20anniv%20essays.pdf):

    “Pastors need to recall this truth repeatedly as they function among God’s people. God has conferred their office to them through the congregation to whom Christ has originally given the Keys. The Office of the Keys is entrusted to pastors for ‘public’ administration of them. But every Christian, as a priest of God, may use the Keys in private by sharing the Gospel with unbelievers and by absolving a brother or sister who confesses sin to them. This clearly is the teaching of Scripture and the Confessions In our day, we occasionally hear of controversy brought on by some pastors who are insisting that the work of the Great Commission of Matthew 28, that of ‘making disciples of all nations,’ was only given to the apostles and that therefore lay persons should not assume this responsibility belongs also to them. Or that only pastors may carry out the Great Commission. The great Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse has written concerning this:

    “‘That the great freedom of the Reformation is truly the freedom of the Gospel is shown by the fact that the Office of the Keys is given three times in the New Testament: in Matthew 16 to Peter, in John 20 to all the apostles, in Matthew 18 to the whole church. These three bestowals of the Office may not be separated. One may not be selected as the chief one, and then played off against the others. To the Twelve Jesus gave the office of preaching the Gospel to every creature and making disciples of all nations by baptizing them. To them He gave the mandate at the Last Supper: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Who were the Twelve? They were the first ministers (Amtsträger). From them proceeds “the Ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments ”[AC 5]. But they are at the same time the church, the ekklesia, the representatives of God’s new people of the end time. It is therefore, in fact, impossible in the New Testament to separate Ministry and congregation. What is said to the congregation is also said to the Office of the Ministry and vice versa. The office does not stand above the congregation, but always in it. . . Office and congregation belong inseparably together.’ (_We Confess the Church_, trans. Normal Nagel, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, p. 78)

    “In its original context, the Great Commission given by Jesus, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing . . . and teaching them’ (Matt. 28:19-20) was indeed originally spoken only to the eleven apostles. But in the context of the whole New Testament we see that every Christian, as a member of the Priesthood of all Believers, has the responsibility to ‘declare the wonderful deeds of Him who has called [them] out of darkness into His marvelous light’ (1 Pet. 2:9 RSV).

    “We see this priesthood at work when we read in the book of Acts: ‘On that day [the stoning of Stephen] a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. . . . Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went’ (Acts 8:1,4). For the spread of the Gospel, it is the matter of ‘both/and’—Public Ministry and the royal Priesthood of all Believers in Christ.” [pp.147-8]

  7. According to Vehse, Kalthoff wrote:

    “In our day, we occasionally hear of controversy brought on by some pastors who are insisting that the work of the Great Commission of Matthew 28, that of ‘making disciples of all nations,’ was only given to the apostles and that therefore lay persons should not assume this responsibility belongs also to them. Or that only pastors may carry out the Great Commission.”

    PLEASE NOTE WELL THE PHRASE “and that therefore…”

    Sasse then wrote:

    “In its original context, the Great Commission given by Jesus, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing . . . and teaching them’ (Matt. 28:19-20) WAS INDEED ORIGINALLY SPOKEN ONLY TO THE ELEVEN APOSTLES. But in the context of the whole New Testament we see that every Christian, as a member of the Priesthood of all Believers, has the responsibility to ‘declare the wonderful deeds of Him who has called [them] out of darkness into His marvelous light’ (1 Pet. 2:9 RSV).” (emphasis added)

    Baalam’s Ass asked the simple question: “TO WHOM is the “Great Commission” directed?”

    The answer is, TO THE ELEVEN.

    We’d do just as well well to stop with the foolishness of pretending a verse says something it plainly does NOT say, just as well as we’d ought never make wrong application or deductions based on that same verse which ignores other passages in the New Testament.

    The proclamation of the truth is NEVER well served by twisting Scripture to say something it plainly does not, whether that passage is the so-called “Great Commission” or not. That, good Vehse, is a key point that ought be well conceded by all sides of any debate of the matter, regardless their theological or political proclivities.

    Now TO WHOM are the priests to declare the praises / wonderful deeds is quite another question altogether, and well befitting another article perhaps — but in no wise particularly germane to the question Baalam’s Ass posted about Matthew 28?

  8. There appears to be agreement that Christ gave the Great Commission in the presence of the eleven.

    However, the original question was “to whom is the ‘Great Commission’ directed?” This is different from “to whom WAS the Great Commission directed?”, and opens the view that the eleven represent a group or groups of Christians even into today, rather than just the eleven (long ago sainted) apostles themselves.

  9. Carl,
    Clearly (and as indicated by the pseudonym which you have chosen), you are interested in protecting the Church from “Herr Pastor/clericalist/lord-it-over-them” type pastors. I am in full agreement. However, that is not the point with my question on Matthew 28. Also, you continue to conflate Matthew 16, 18, and 28. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. Our Confessions clearly teach that Jesus is speaking to every Christian in the former two passages. That is not the case with Matthew 28.

    As you quote Pres. Kalthoff: “Pastors need to recall this truth repeatedly as they function among God’s people. God has conferred their office to them through the congregation to whom Christ has originally given the Keys. The Office of the Keys is entrusted to pastors for ‘public’ administration of them. But every Christian, as a priest of God, may use the Keys in private by sharing the Gospel with unbelievers and by absolving a brother or sister who confesses sin to them. This clearly is the teaching of Scripture and the Confessions.” This is from Matthew 16 and 18, NOT 28. See Sasse’s quote; he does not include Matthew 28.

    I think Pres. Kalthoff is wrong here: “In our day, we occasionally hear of controversy brought on by some pastors who are insisting that the work of the Great Commission of Matthew 28, that of ‘making disciples of all nations,’ was only given to the apostles and that therefore lay persons should not assume this responsibility belongs also to them. Or that only pastors may carry out the Great Commission.”
    Part of the problem is that he divides Matthew 28. Jesus’ mandate is not only to make disciples; it is to “make disciples by means of baptizing and teaching.” To whom are the gifts of baptizing and teaching entrusted? To the Church. But it does not follow that since those gifts are entrusted to the Church (as a whole), therefore every Christian should baptize and teach! Just because one is the recipient of a gift does not mean he or she automatically is given the authority (exousia) to deliver those gifts to others. It is a mistake to equate the binding and loosing of sins (the Keys) with making disciples by baptizing and teaching. They are not the same, and that is why neither Scripture nor the Confessions say that every member of the Church should both forgiven and retain sins AND baptize and teach. In order that the gifts might be delivered, God has given the Office of the Holy Ministry (“holy” because it is God’s); see the first, dependent clause of AC V. Gifts (forgiveness of sins, specifically) that are not delivered are no good. Pastors are put in congregations by God to deliver His good gifts.

    Tim

  10. It’s an odd distinction our good Vehse makes when he suggests what WAS said yesterday in Matthew 28 now IS no longer the very same Word before us today.

    Yesterday, the Great Commission *WAS* directed to the eleven.

    Today, I pick up my Bible and discover it still *IS* directed to the eleven.

    My guess: When I open my Bible tomorrow and read Matthew 28, I’ll discover it *WILL BE* directed to the eleven then too.

    God grant us grace to hear His Word speak what it will to us, and ears eager enough to simply hear what it has to say before we quickly jump away from the Word to a fearful response of how that Word might be abused or misapplied. We have neither need nor warrant to rewrite Christ’s words in order to make them say what we wish he’d have said, and to whom we’d rather hear him say it.

    Perhaps it is enough, then, that we learn to deal with the words he spoke and believe it. He who has all authority in heaven and on earth bids those eleven disciples go and “disciple” others.

    Though I am not, were I standing in your shoes and holding your opinion, Sir Vehse, I would not press the matter of “To whom IS the commission given in Mt. 28?” Rather, I would ask about this:

    • When Jesus entrusts the eleven to “make *disciples*” and especially directs they be “teaching them *all things* I have *entrusted to you*,” does Christ here command the formation of a stratified discipleship, wherein some teachings or “things that had been entrusted to” the eleven were to be withheld from the new disciples they made?

    For then the question lets the text be the text and say what it plainly says, asking only “Who and what and how inclusive is the phrase ‘make *disciples* of all nations…’? What is a *disciple* — insofar as such baptizing and teaching makes one?

  11. Tim

    “Pastors are put in congregations by God to deliver His good gifts.” OK. So can you tell me where, in God’s Word, the delivery of His “good gifts” is the exclusive province of pastors? The fact that Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 28 to the eleven is not in question. The question is whether those words can be interpreted to be meant EXCLUSIVELY for the eleven. I remain unpersuaded.

  12. “It’s an odd distinction our good Vehse makes when he suggests what WAS said yesterday in Matthew 28 now IS no longer the very same Word before us today”

    “Clearly (and as indicated by the pseudonym which you have chosen), you are interested in protecting the Church from ‘Herr Pastor/clericalist/lord-it-over-them’ type pastors. I am in full agreement. However, that is not the point with my question on Matthew 28”

    Strawman and red herring arguments are not convincing.

  13. Vehse reports, “Strawman and red herring arguments are not convincing.”

    Neither, one might observe, is playing little games with tenses when the explicitly exegetical question inquires about direct objects.

  14. The question is all wrong. Matthew 28 is not normally called the “Great Commisssion” in most religious literature (apart from American Evangelicalism). That title is reserved for the last chapter of Luke.

    Furthermore, talk of the “Great Commission” was unheard of in the Missouri Synod until the middle part of the previous century.

    Luther and the Lutheran Confessions recognize Matthew 28 in one of two ways: the institution of Holy Baptism; or the institution of the Pastoral Office.

    Matthew 28 isn’t the “Great Commission.” Not if you want to be Lutheran. You’ll have to use other passages of Scripture to prove that Christians can (and should!) share their faith with others, just as they should speak the Word, absolve, etc.

  15. Jim wrote:
    “‘Pastors are put in congregations by God to deliver His good gifts.’ OK. So can you tell me where, in God’s Word, the delivery of His ‘good gifts’ is the exclusive province of pastors? The fact that Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 28 to the eleven is not in question. The question is whether those words can be interpreted to be meant EXCLUSIVELY for the eleven. I remain unpersuaded.”

    I did not say (or, at least, I never intended to say) that the delivery of God’s gifts (i.e., forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ) was the exclusive province of pastors. All Christians are indeed to be ready to “give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). I think the real question is, to whom is the mandate to deliver God’s gifts _publicly_ given (i.e., in and before the congregation of those made priests/disciples by baptism)? Nowhere that I know of is such a mandate given to the priesthood of the baptized, or, even more specifically, to individual members of that priesthood. However, there is much instruction to the pastors to do this. Read 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus; also 1 Corinthians 12:29 and, very important for this discussion, Romans 10:14-17–pastors cannot arrogate authority to themselves, they must be sent–; also, Acts 13:2-3; Jeremiah 23:4; on usurping the valid call of God, see Numbers 16!).

    The point is not that a small caste of people is the only group capable of being pastors; rather, it is that God has called and will continue to call certain men to deliver His gifts. We ought not think that even if we desire to be, or feel, called that we automatically have that right. The calling of pastors belongs to the entire Church, and, therefore, it cannot be taken on by whomever _feels_ called. Even if I, who am in my fourth year at the seminary, were to finish my classes and do everything satisfactorily, if I do not receive a call from God through a congregation, I cannot be a pastor. I may be capable, but if God does not call me, it is not up to me to decide to preach and teach.

    Walther quotes Luther to this effect on preachers who have no call from God, either immediately, or mediately:
    “This I had to say of the sneaky, treacherous preachers, of whom there now are many, to alert the pastors and governments diligently to warn the people and to command them to take care of such intruders and vagabonds and to guard against them as the devil’s own sure messengers. _They must show their credentials and proofs that they are sent by God for such work in the parish; otherwise they are not to be admitted and heard, even though they wanted to teach the pure Gospel, indeed even if they were angels and Gabriel himself came down from heaven._ For God does not want to have anything done by our own choice or devotion but everything only by [His] command or call, especially in the holy ministry. …
    “And first you may well and easily convict them (the sneak preachers) if you ask them regarding their call, [namely,] who has commanded them to sneak in and come to preach secretly; that they cannot answer nor show their command. And I indeed declare that if such sneaks would have no other faults and would be true saints, nevertheless this one act, that they sneaked in without a command or request, must convincingly prove them to be the devil’s messengers and teachers. For the Holy Spirit does not sneak but comes publicly from heaven. Snakes sneak, but doves fly. Hence such sneaking is the way of the devil, and that never fails” (Walther, Kirche und Amt, Thesis I, 165 [Mueller transl.]).

    Tim

  16. Carl, I’m not sure how the comment of mine that you quote was either a red herring, or a straw man. In fact, I was merely saying that I agreed with you on that point; if that is not your motivation for arguing the point, I take it back.

    How about responding to the rest of my argument?

    Tim

  17. Tim,

    I’ll look at your Biblical references. I think I’ve already had a rather lengthy discussion about the “divine call” some time ago on your blog, with ChiChi. As I recall he was also unable to show the basis for the “call” with scriptural references, at least not to my satisfaction. You can cite Walther and Luther, and that’s nice, but I would prefer God’s Word. So, did the “churches” that the Apostle Paul visited know prior to his arrival that he was coming, i.e., did they “call” him? And if not, wasn’t he just a “sneaky snake”?

    (By the way, when I said “province” of pastors, that’s what I meant. You’ve been doing too much lucubration, maybe???? :-))

  18. Clearly!
    What about all those Biblical references? Why do you say, “also unable”? How many do you want?
    I cannot say what the congregations knew. But Paul did found a lot of them. Also, when Jesus spoke audibly to Paul, I think that’s good enough!

    Tim

  19. Well, it’s not necessarily the number of Biblical references so much as it is their actual relevance to the specific concept of the “call.” I wasn’t aware that Jesus told Paul to go to any specific “church” or “congregation.” In fact, if I’m not mistaken, Paul actually started those churches, so there wasn’t one there initially to “call” him. To the extent that there was a church in those towns, it was probably a synagogue. I have a feeling that synagogues don’t necessarily call their rabbis, but I don’t know for sure.

  20. Paul is relevant insofar as Jesus called him, and that call was for a specific task, namely, to be an apostle to the Gentiles (although he always started by going to the local synagogue). Jesus calls pastors to a specific task also, i.e., to serve a specific congregation. Both Paul and pastors are called to specific tasks, but that does not mean they are the same specific tasks. Paul specifically says that his main task is not to do things like baptizing (although he did a few baptisms–how many, he can’t quite remember); pastors are called to a different task. Or, pastors are called to a more limited task than Paul, since both tasks overlap in certain areas.

    In other words, Paul’s call as an apostle of Jesus is different than the pastor’s call to a specific congregation. The pastor’s call is much more like Timothy’s and Titus’s than Paul’s.

    By the way, I happen to think the passages relevant, or else I would not have cited them!

    Tim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s