Updated: Sep 4, 2019
Question or Topic
What is the meaning of the words "observe all things I have commanded you" in Matt. 28:20?
The Disciples of Christ were also commanded to go and make disciples; to preach; to travel from city to city preaching; and to heal the sick and raise the dead? Does this mean that all of the followers of Christ today are required to keep all of these specific commandments?
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo,I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
In order to put this passage in context we must go back and include verses 16-18; "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."
By doing this we see that these instructions were given to the eleven apostles remaining after the death of Judas Iscariot and not to his followers as a whole.
There is another passage that is relating the same incident and we find it in
Mark 16:14-18: "Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
Was this Instruction to all disciples?
These verses have been used many times while trying to prove that all believers have been commanded to go out to preach and baptize, but again we must examine what is said and the context of it.
This was during the last hours preceding Jesus' ascension to heaven when he was gathered for the last time with his Apostles giving them, as we would say, last minute instructions. Only these men who were shortly to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit could have fulfilled Christ's instructions and accomplished the things He said they should do. Only his Apostles could perform the miracles mentioned above along with a chosen few to whom the Apostles passed the Holy Spirit, a practice that ended with their deaths.
The End of the World
We should also notice the words in Matthew 28:20 where He says; "and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." We know that those to whom he was speaking have all died, so how could he have been with them always unto the end of the world? What could Jesus mean here?
In order to find out we need to look back to Matthew 24:14-15 to see a comment Jesus made at that time. He said; "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)".
This abomination spoken of by Daniel was the desecration of the Jewish Temple by the Romans when they suppressed the Jewish rebellion in AD 70. According to what Christ says this event was future to his day. However, it had to be fulfilled by AD 70, as there was no temple after that time even until our present days.
This marked the end of the Jewish world at which time the preaching of the gospel to the entire known world had been accomplished by the followers of Christ. We see this from the words of Paul in Colossians 1:23. "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;"
The Gospel of Christ
Christ, through the Holy Spirit he had given them, was with the Apostles until the end of their lives although not personally present with them. They were able to pass this Holy Spirit on to a chosen few in order for them to be able to also do the miracles needed to further the teaching of the gospel but by the time of the Roman suppression this was almost over if not completely.
When we compare Matthew 28:19-20 with Mark 16:15-16 we note that the word "gospel" is only in the Mark account. Matthew expresses the same thought placing his emphasis on an observance of the commandments of Christ. We conclude then, that the preaching was to be a spreading of comprehensive information concerning all things needed to come into the new Covenant as well as live in it.
As we find out in other scriptures the gospel means the good news concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. This would involve not only the fundamental doctrines of the promises made from the Garden of Eden, to Abraham and to David, but the way of entering into the covenant of salvation through belief and immersion through faith into Christ Jesus. By necessity there would be a strong need to teach the way of life that the believers were to live after entering into that covenant.
Entering into the covenant of salvation is only the start for believers: their hope for eternal life depends on how they live from that time on until the Judgment. This brought on the need to teach the transition from the Mosaic system to the new Covenant of immersion into Christ through faith.
It would involve the explanation of so many of the prophesies of the Old Testament times which were being fulfilled in their time with the coming of Christ and his death as the sacrifice for sin. There was the need to explain how God was now turning to the Gentiles due to the Jewish rejection of their Messiah.
It would involve the explanation of the future return and the kingdom he would set up at this return. Even with all this knowledge the believers would need to be informed of God's requirements for the way of life he wanted them to live which is so opposite to man's nature. This still holds true for believers of our times.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:37 says; "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." All we have to do is read the writings of the NT writers and see the tremendous amount of exhortation in how to conduct themselves they have given us which is just a repeat of the lessons Christ gave his followers while he was personally teaching on the earth.
Our Walk in the Faith
Without commenting on them I would like to include the following passages which are just a tiny bit of what the Apostles had to say about this very thing.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-2; "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus."
2 John 1:6 "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it."
Just how important the purity of the gospel is we find in Paul's words in Galatians 1:8-9; "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
Although we are not commanded to go out and teach the gospel in the same way that the disciples were, we are told not to put the light or lamp, that we have been given, under a basket. We should let it shine around us to help light the way for others.This can be done in two ways:
Spread the gospel among those with whom we work and live.
Live our lives as living examples of that gospel in hopes of attracting attention of those around us.
There have been many that have come into contact with the Truth through association with believers in schools and jobs. This places a responsibility for us to always conduct ourselves in such a manner that we are preaching the gospel in the way in which we live. We should never lose an opportunity to talk the Truth with anyone who shows a real interest for it.