The Unfinished Commission

Many people enjoy starting a project, but very few will actually complete it. A quick survey of the garages and basements and Facebook marketplace deals of our country will prove the point. I’m guilty of it too. There are still those final pieces of trim missing from the basement railing, a few blog articles unfinished, and a few too many books with bookmarks half-way through.

But those unfinished projects will not matter much in eternity. It is not a sin to stop reading a book half-way through, to abandon an article in formation, or to leave a few pieces of trim off – at least as long as you didn’t promise someone you would do it.

There is, however, something Jesus called His followers to do that must not remain unfinished and that matters very much for eternity: The Great Commission. The Gospel of Matthew records this commission in chapter 28 verses 18-20. It says,

“18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”.”

Much could be said about these amazing and powerful verses, but, for now, I want to focus on two little words that often get missed or forgotten. They are the words “to observe” found in verse 20.

Two Words

The more I think about it and observe Christian culture in the west, the more I am convinced that these words are not on the radar for many Christians. As such, we risk leaving the Great Commission as an unfinished project.

Think of it this way. A driving school takes a 16 year old, gives them a card that says they are eligible to drive, communicates the rules of the road, and even pops the hood and explains, in great detail, the inner workings of a combustion engine (or nowadays perhaps the inner workings of a lithium-ion battery). The student is tested on their knowledge rigorously and passes with flying colours, but the school never puts the student behind the wheel and shows them how to drive the car. That school has not done its job. They have left the project unfinished.

When we engage in the process of making disciples for the glory of God, we must remember each part of the commission. Disciples are not made if we do not recognize Jesus’ authority and go. Disciples are not made if we fail to baptize them. Disciples are not made if we fail to teach them. And our teaching is not Great Commission teaching if there is no application. Let me say it this way. If the Christians we teach aren’t applying truth, then we aren’t doing Great Commission teaching.

If the Christians we teach aren’t applying truth, then we aren’t doing Great Commission teaching.

Our call is not to fill minds with glorious thoughts that stay forever locked up between their two ears. Our duty is not to impress others with our vast experiences or personal abilities. Our duty is not to entertain or to “check the box” by getting the words out or reading the lesson plan. Our duty is to be concerned with outcomes. As disciple makers empowered by the Spirit of God, we are to teach other people to actually obey what Jesus commanded – to observe.

The Measure of Christian discipleship

How do we know if we’ve taught them? We know if they do it. How do we know if they’ve learned humility? Not because they can recite the definition but because they humble themselves when corrected. How do we know if they’ve learned to hate sin? Not when they can rage on social media about the sin they see in others but when they take serious steps of sacrifice to cut it out of their own lives. How do we know if they’ve learned to be an unafraid witness? Not when they can write a paper on the superiority of the Christian worldview but when they have shared the Gospel with a coworker.

The words “to observe” are challenging words because they challenge the life of the disciple maker just as much as the disciple. We too are called to observe all that Jesus has commanded. It is so much simpler to gather with our small group and talk about the things that Jesus commanded. It is so much easier to preach a sermon and simply communicate what Jesus commanded. Nothing needs to change. No accountability is needed. But the project, the Great Commission, will be unfinished.

So I encourage you, do not be satisfied with an unfinished commission. Do not lead others to think that application is optional. Get creative in your teaching. Evaluate outcomes and pursue fruitfulness since that is what glorifies God (John 15:8).


Keep your eyes on Christ! (Hebrews 12:1-2)