Who are the disciples? A Question about Matthew 28

In light of the recent questions about exegesis I would like to know what the more missionally minded of us say about the disciples in Mathew 28. Specifically is there any particular exegetical significance to the fact that Christ separates the disciples from the rest of the crowd before giving the Great Commission, and if so what are the implications for our understanding of missions? I ask this because this past week the sermon given at the Bridge was done on the Great Commission. Typical of a sermon given on this passage the conclusion given was that this passage addresses us all, but since some of us cannot go we are to be senders. Now exegetically, I see, this as an impossible conclusion. To clarify, I am not arguing against the idea of senders just that I can not see this being drawn from the text. This got me thinking specifically about what is going on in the passage, and being more of a historical guy I wanted to pose the question to you all. So what do you think?

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5 responses to “Who are the disciples? A Question about Matthew 28

  1. Z, that stuff looks cool. I could only give it a brief look-see due to time, but I’m love DW.

    Ben, good question bro. Here are some collected thoughts, correct me where I’m wrong:

    1, There is no ‘explicit’ mention of a separation. It was the 11 who went, so it was the 11 who were there. They were representative of the covenant community at the time, still unaware of exactly how the kingdom would expand. Headship baby.

    2, Of course, as a good presbo-bro you have a solid distinction (which we covenantal baptists agree with) between the specific apostolic ministry of the 11 (plus 1 in acts and Paul) and the disciples being referred to in verse 19. My point is that the 11 were charged with bringing the eschatological reality of the kingdom to the world (jew and gentile) in a specific outpouring of the HS during the formation and foundation of Christianity and the Cannon (see Vos, Ridderbos, and all other sexy dutchmen). However, they did not do this alone, the church is the full extension of the kingdom reality and it is a community effort. (with leadership depending on the age we’re in)

    3, So, I would say that this passage IS addressing us all in a very real sense. For one, the phrase ‘go’ (NIV) is actually participial in the greek. That is, as you are going, or as you go. Therefore, we can all be senders and goers in a very real sense. However, we must not omit the context, pre-pentacost, of this instruction. Jesus is referring specifically to the ‘Jerusalem, judea/samaria, ends of the earth’ ministry of the apostles. Because of redemptive history, current relevance of scritpure (in context) and progressive interpretation, we can apply these words to ourselves today.

    4, We see the ministry of the apostles being passed on in the NT (post-gospels). Not to other apostles, but to the officers of the church. The miraculous apostles were ‘replaced’ in a sense as the word was preached, the Spirit indwelled, and the cannon was formed. The preaching apostolic witness becomes the living bride.

    5, Thus I think it interesting that at this point in RedmpHist, Matt 18, they ARE referred to as disciples, not apostles. They have not yet officially been empowered for the latter office and are waiting on the Holy Spirit. Thus, in a sense, we are all disciples, trusting in God’s spirit, to make disciples (that is new converts & (see pratt here) disciple the saved) as we go.

    Again, I may be wrong…but I looked at Knox Cham, Pratt, and Gaffin who all seem to agree. This is Jesus proclaiming the work to be done in the time between the ages, this is a kingdom proclamation for all Believers until the consummation. I love this quote (sort of unrelated): It can be rightly said that Paul does nothing but explain the eschatological reality which in Christ’s teachings is called the Kingdom (Ridderbos).

    Let me know what you think.

  2. That is a massive clarification. Thanks Greg for doing more leg work and greater constructive thought then I could even think of doing.

  3. Greg,
    my Greek professor takes serious issue with the interpretation of the Go in Matthew 28 as “as you go.” He says the participle is an attendant circumstance participle and thus must take the mood of the verb which is an imperative. This would mean that in light of this conversation that we must all go, specifically with the task of making disciples of the nations by the means of baptism and sound teaching – discipling them to keep all things God has commanded. The words of Matthew 28 are all inclusive for all believers. All believers are to Go! This going is going to our neighbors and this going is going to the people groups of the world with the announcement that God saves through Jesus.

    As a side note when looking at this text, my prof believed it provides the strongest proof text of the Trinity by using the singular neuter of name instead of the plural names. “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

  4. J-Ed,

    I’ve seen this tension in several commentaries…I guess, as an exegetical conclusion, that I’d suggest the participle is imperative in command, and is geographically representative of both our local outreach paradigm as well as our global. This raises the issue of people groups, their definition, etc…which is another topic, but I definitely agree that this isn’t a mere suggestion.

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