The Great Commission -- By: Cleon Rogers

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 130:519 (Jul 1973)
Article: The Great Commission
Author: Cleon Rogers

The Great Commission

Cleon Rogers

[Cleon Rogers, Field Director for Germany, Greater Europe Mission, President, German Bible Institute, Seeheim, Germany.]

It is almost unnecessary to speak of the importance of Matthew 28:19–20, “the Great Commission,” and the role these words have played in the molding and making of history. The purpose of this study is to re-examine the structure, the setting, and the significance of this passage, and to suggest certain aspects which are not generally given much attention.

The Structure

In order to gain a clear perspective of the passage at hand, it is necessary to see the grammatical structure of the sentences and also the meaning of this structure. Although the basic structure is often not clear from various translations it is at once obvious in the Greek text. The main verb is an aorist imperative μαθητεύσατε (make disciples) which is then supplemented by three participles—one aorist πορευθέντες(going) and two present βαπτίζοντες1 (baptizing) and διδάσκοντες (teaching). The problems arise in trying to determine the significance of the participles in their relation to the main verb. Particularly difficult is the first, πορευθέντες. There are two views which have arisen in this connection. One is an emphasis on the imperative character which has led to a strong “go” in the missionary command. The other is a reaction in which the “go” receives a secondary status even to the point of omission in

translation.2 The prime support for the latter view is that the form is not an imperative but rather a participle.3 However, a closer examination of the grammar shows that the imperative idea is to be preferred. Although it is true that the participle does not have mood in and of itself it is also true that “its modal junction will be apparent only from the context.”4 The discussion carried on by grammarians regarding the use of the participle as/or “for” the imperative has primarily to do with participles which are used independently of a main verb and occur in a context where the imperative would “normally” appear.5 However, the passage here does not fit the example, presented in the discussion. T...

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