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02 August 2014 | Devarim

The Messianic Great Commission / April 2008

The Messianic Great Commission
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Yeshua had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Yeshua came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16–20

Many believers have heard of the Great Commission, the final instructions of Yeshua to the disciples. We call it the Great Commission because the Messiah instructs His disciples to go to all nations and to make disciples. The church interprets this to mean that we are commanded to spread the Gospel to all peoples. But is that all there is?

When I was a young man in the Navy, I became involved with an organization called the Navigators. It is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado and was started by a man named Dawson Trotman. Before World War II, he began to invite sailors to his Long Beach home and teach them the Scriptures and how to walk out their faith. He taught these men the basics of prayer, studying the word, witnessing to unbelievers, and fellowshipping with believers. It was from these basics that he “discipled” those men. But then he went further: he instructed these men to teach other men just as he had taught them. Their numbers grew dramatically, each began to teach other men (making disciples) who taught still others.

I became involved with the Navigators in 1970. The young man who initially spent time with me was Bob Michaels. Later, the Navigator representative in San Diego who oversaw my discipling was Cecil Davidson, a man who was originally taught by Dawson Trotman. Another man named Mike Shorb also played a significant role at that time. I stayed in Mike's home for a short time. I mention these names specifically because they all stressed the same understanding of the Great Commission. They all shared one vision and purpose: to make disciples in accordance with the Great Commission of Matthew 28.

However, there came a time when their teaching came to an end. I learned about the need to walk faithfully, even if no one else was, and how to lead other men to the LORD and teach the basics. But once I completed that, I was left with a staggering sense of loneliness. “Is that all there is?” Jokingly, we young guys used to refer to the Navigators as the “Never Daters” since we were well disciplined in our training. Once a guy went off to find a wife, the Navigators' ministry essentially ended.

When I became more involved with a local church, it didn't help. Churchmen were in need of the basics I had already learned as a young man and, therefore, they did not advance my spiritual instruction very much.

But then I became aware of the Messianic Movement and there was suddenly many things to learn about: Sabbath, Feasts and holidays, kosher, and Torah. I soon learned that the original disciples knew all those things. My spirit was exhilarated to learn the same things that the original disciples had learned – to hear the Messiah as if He was instructing me also. That is when I made an incredible discovery that has changed my whole spiritual life from top to bottom.

The Messiah was teaching the Law of God. His teaching was neither new nor different from the original teaching—He was teaching the Torah.

Let's go back to that Matthew 28 passage again. There is something in there only Messianic believers can see and understand.

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Yeshua had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.

You would think that the eleven disciples (minus Judas) would have thoroughly believed that Yeshua was the Messiah given all that they had seen and experienced: the miracles, the teachings, the crucifixion and death, and finally the resurrection. The person speaking with them on the mountain was a real person they had spent time with. He was speaking with them after the fact of the resurrection…and yet some were doubtful.

Consider this for a moment as a Hebrew believer. God directed Moses to bring the children of Israel to a certain mountain. Why does the Gospel of Matthew ensure that Yeshua's direction includes a mountain that He designated? Isn't this the same pattern when God gave the commandments to Moses and the children of Israel?

Do you want to know why the message and hope of Yeshua has not swept over the whole world with everyone believing? The answer is simple. Some doubted at Mount Sinai as well. Doubting chokes faith and never gives it a chance.

What did they doubt? They themselves had seen the miracles and the activities of Yeshua. I believe their doubt had more to do with what Yeshua said in Matthew 28. Consider Yeshua's next statement.

And Yeshua came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

When you stop and think about it, this is a very profound statement. Simply restated, Yeshua is saying that He is God Almighty. All authority is a lot of authority. It is more than mankind has; it is the kind of authority that only God has. Yet, Yeshua said exactly that. He said that He has the very authority of God.

Isn't this the reason why so many “believers” doubt God themselves? Aren't we still arguing over the deity question with some struggling to understand how Yeshua is Adonai and Elohim? Many believers just don't believe what Yeshua said about Himself. It is the same kind of doubt when God spoke earlier at Mount Sinai and 40 days later they made a golden calf.

To be completely accurate, some believers do believe that God did speak at Mount Sinai, but they don't believe that it applies to them today. Take specifically the case of the Ten Commandments. I know of many brethren who profess a strong faith in God, instruct others to obey the LORD, and yet deny that the fourth commandment (of the ten) is applicable today. They offer explanations and excuses to explain away the commandment(s). They even argue that Yeshua is the One who changed everything. So, can you truly say this is doubt? Or, is it more accurately called error or false teaching?

One thing is for certain, they don't understand that the Messiah is the Creator and the Lawgiver. They don't connect the commandments of God to Yeshua. Therefore, when He says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” they don't hear the voice from the mountain that spoke the same thing.

On the basis of His authority, Yeshua commissions us to:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;

There are seven components to this Great Commission. Let's list them before we explain each.

  1. Go
  2. Make disciples
  3. Of all the nations
  4. Baptizing them
  5. In the name of…
  6. Teaching them
  7. To observe all that I commanded you.

Going somewhere means you are leaving somewhere. It is a deliberate direct action on your part. Making disciples is a bit more difficult. One of my previous teachers explained discipleship this way. You cannot take a person any farther than you already are. The same is true of training another to walk before the LORD. Discipling another person means that you teach him what is already in you. Every believer can help disciple another believer, but it will be limited to what they know or are able to do. Therefore, most brethren are discipled over time by several teachers.

Of all the nations is specifically intended to include the Gentiles (the nations – goyim). This is the original intent of the covenant made with the fathers of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). In your seed, all the families of the earth will be blessed. The original intent of God's covenants with the fathers was for the benefit of all people, tribes, and tongues of the world. It was not reserved just for Israel or the Jews. Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, commissioned His Jewish brethren to carry the teaching to all nations. This is not a new thing, this is what God said from the beginning.

Baptizing them… really should say mikvahing. The ancient mikvah originated at Mount Sinai when God instructed the children of Israel to “take a bath” before hearing the voice of God. We are instructed to mikvah all of the people before discipling them and before they hear the voice of God for themselves. However, baptism over the years has become a church ritual, losing much of its meaning. In the Hebrew way of things, the mikvah was performed at the same time that a proclamation of faith was made. It wasn't a religious ritual after one becomes a believer nor done to become a believer. It was preparation to hear the word of the LORD.

The Apostle Paul also saw the prophetic picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah and ourselves in obedient faith. The Hebrew mikvah also used special waters—they had to be living (flowing) waters. A mikvah bath, therefore, had water flowing into and out of the mikvah. John the Baptist and Yeshua chose to use the Jordan River. A typical church baptismal container does not qualify as a proper source for baptizing. It would if water flowed in and drained out at the same time. But most churchmen don't know where baptism comes from nor what it means.

“Baptismo” is a Greek word meaning immersion. When the New Testament was being translated into English, churchmen were in a quandary about the word. The reason was that by this time the church only sprinkled or poured water on a person. They did not immerse anyone. So, to keep their methodology intact they simply did not translate the word “baptismo.” They made a new English word “baptism” which came with new definitions and explanations … Now you know the rest of the story.

In the name of… the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God told us from the beginning that He is One God. Judaism tries to express this as an absolute one. The Hebrew expression, however, emphasizes the unity (parts becoming one). The God we serve is a Unified One. With the basis of understanding that comes from the Torah, it follows that Yeshua's instruction would include all of God and not just part of Him. If one is going to make a proclamation of faith in God, it follows that it would proclaim the One, Unified God.

Teaching them… the Torah (the Torah IS the teaching). I find it most fascinating (and I did this earlier) that we lead a new person to the LORD and we begin their instruction of the Scriptures somewhere in the New Testament. As everyone knows, the New Testament did not exist when Yeshua gave this commission to His disciples. The New Testament, in fact, did not come into existence as we know it today until 300 AD plus. Yeshua must have been referring to a different source than what churchmen understand today.

To observe all that I commanded you. This is a very difficult statement for many believers to hear today. I remember when I was first being instructed in the Great Commission. We got past these words as quickly as we could. Why? Because we knew that we weren't supposed to keep the Old Testament commandments. At least, that was what everyone said. But there was a lingering question with no apparent answer – what commandments were we supposed to keep?

If you ask an average believer today what are we to observe and what have we been commanded by Yeshua to do, you will get a variety of answers, but he might answer this way, “We are to love God with all of our soul, heart, and might. And we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.” What were the disciples, those standing then and there, commanded to do?

According to the Law, loving God and everyone else is the greatest and next greatest commandments of the Law. On this the whole Law hangs, according to Yeshua.

I have heard many preachers in my day say that we are to obey God just as the Bible says, but then they jump through hoola-hoops to avoid the commandments given in the Bible (the Torah). This reminds me of a story of a father with two sons. One son was obedient and faithful to his father. The other was not. One day the father conveyed to both sons what he wanted his sons to do. One son was joyful and asked how soon he could do it. The other son questioned the standards and conditions that had to be met. It is not difficult to discern the obedient from the disobedient. The same is true here in Yeshua's Great Commission.

An obedient man wants to know all of the commandments of the LORD and seeks to learn how to keep them. A disobedient man wants to know about the commandments only to devise a way to avoid them all together.

Let's be honest. The church today does teach that we should obey the LORD. The rub comes when we try to define the commandments of the LORD. Specifically, churchmen will not use the words all that I commanded you to include the commandments given at Mount Sinai to the children of Israel.

What Christian believers need to keep in mind is that the eleven disciples of the Messiah had been instructed in the Torah—all of the commandments of the LORD and they had been taught to worship God in the temple by bringing sacrifices and keeping all of the Torah commandments. The same Torah also gave specific commandments as to how Gentiles (those from the nations) were welcome in His temple and that their sacrifices and worship were to be accepted just as any native born was; there was no distinction.

Yeshua quoted Isaiah the prophet on this very point. Make no question about it, Yeshua did not agree with keeping Gentiles out of the temple.

And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers' den.”
Mark 11:17

Here is Isaiah's full quote which Yeshua was citing:

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.
Isaiah 56:6–7

Churchmen will argue with you today that there was a distinction made of who could enter the temple, and to be completely accurate, there was. The religious authorities in Jerusalem and the temple wanted a clear distinction between themselves and the Gentiles. So, they built a wall of partition outside the temple courts in the court of the Gentiles. They warned that if a Gentile went beyond the wall, he would be killed. The Apostle Paul was arrested in the temple and accused of bringing Gentiles into the Temple. Where in the Torah is the wall of partition? Is it part of the pattern that Moses brought to the building of the tabernacle? No. Is it part of David's design of the temple? No. Did Solomon construct such a wall? No. So, when did this wall of partition first appear? No one knows for sure, but it was present when Yeshua and His disciples came to the temple.

To this day, I have met churchmen who thought that God put up the wall of partition.

The Apostle Paul tells us that Yeshua did not agree with this partition and that by His redemption for all (including Gentiles) the wall of partition no longer remains. The son of David (Solomon) built the temple in Jerusalem and the Son of David (Yeshua) built the temple in our hearts. Paul makes the case this way:

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,
Ephesians 2:14

Yeshua didn't change the Law of God; He tore down a dividing wall of the precepts and traditions of men. Yeshua commanded the eleven disciples, and us, to teach the Torah to all believers, that there is to be no distinction in the levels of faith or observance. We are further instructed to teach every commandment to every believer (all of them!)

I wish that when I was a young man someone in the faith would have instructed me the way Yeshua instructed the eleven. Why didn't they? Because they weren't instructed themselves. Do you remember that little axiom I mentioned about discipling that they taught me? You can only take a man as far as you are. My previous teacher didn't have a teacher that understood these things; he was subject to his previous teacher. Dawson Trotman, the man who started the Navigators, didn't have anyone explain Sabbath to him. He didn't know the commandments of clean and unclean. He didn't know about the feasts of the LORD, nor the weekly Torah teachings. He didn't know that to disciple a man you teach him the Torah. Instead, he was a product of churchmen and the historical church. That teaching began with the church fathers authorizing themselves to change the meaning of the Messiah's words. That doesn't absolve us of our responsibilities but it does help to understand how we got here. It also illustrates the words of Jeremiah when he spoke of us in the nations at the end of the ages and that we have been lied to.

O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, and my refuge in the day of distress, to Thee the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our fathers have inherited nothing but falsehood, futility and things of no profit. Can man make gods for himself? Yet they are not gods! Therefore behold, I am going to make them know—this time I will make them know My power and My might; and they shall know that My name is the LORD.”
Jeremiah 16:19–21

To break out of this traditional teaching that has attached itself to the Great Commission is not easy. The Gospel has become something other than the Torah. The commandments of the LORD have become something other than the Torah. Somehow, we need to start fresh and shed the previous baggage of past teaching when it comes to the Messiah's Great Commission.

We need to erase our doubts about who Yeshua is. We need to see Him as a full part of the Godhead. He was there in the beginning. He was there at the burning bush. He was there at the mountain with Moses and the children of Israel. He was there all along. The commandments of the Torah ARE the commandments of the Messiah.

We need to believe that Yeshua has all authority in Heaven and Earth (and He didn't give that to any men to change His commandments). We need to learn the Torah ourselves and how to observe the commandments before we can teach others.

There are many Messianic ministries that have emerged in recent years, which is good. But I am concerned that there is no substantive difference from past churches and ministries. How can you claim to be a Hebrew Roots/Messianic ministry and yet not take a position of keeping Sabbath and the festivals? How can you still eat what is unclean and not keep any manner of kosher (fit and proper)? How can you fulfill Yeshua's instruction to all nations by allowing the mixture of pagan religions with the worship of the God of Israel? I don't think you really can. But today, many do exactly that – they say they are Messianic and yet do not teach or keep the Torah. It is a theme and icon at best.

The letter to the Gentiles in Acts 15 says that the Gentile believers must not mix idolatry with the worship of the LORD. It continues that things strangled and blood (both unkosher) must be stopped and that sexual perversion in its various forms must be separated out. The prophet Ezekiel says that the House of Israel must be joined to the House of Judah only if they stop any form of idolatry, stop eating the detestable, and stop transgressing the Law.

And they [the house of Israel] will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.
Ezekiel 37:23

There is no difference for a native born or an alien (Gentile) to be part of the House of the LORD. They must do the essentials of the Torah and be instructed in how to observe all of the commandments of the LORD. This goes for the House of Ephraim and for all Gentiles.

To break this stranglehold of the past and to show the brethren that Yeshua wants all people, including the lost sheep of the House of Israel and the Gentiles, to be instructed in the Torah, we need a whole new perspective on the Great Commission. We need to see it as the Messianic Great Commission.

I propose that when we go out from our Messianic communities and reach others we tell them that Yeshua is King over all. Let's help them with their proclamation of faith with a mikvah so they can hear all of the commandments from God's own voice at the mountain. Then let's teach them to observe how to worship the LORD properly by keeping Sabbath and the festivals. Let's teach them the difference between clean and unclean, kosher and not kosher, profane and holy. Let's teach them all of the commandments of the LORD.

What a novel idea! Let's just teach them what the LORD said. I know it will be scary and difficult. Others will say that it doesn't match their theology or their church's teaching. It will be okay, because Yeshua gives us encouragement as His final word when He gave the Great Commission:

and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

God is with us, therefore, anyone opposed will not prevail.

The tribulation saints, the ones whom Yeshua is coming back for, have a testimony of Yeshua and are known for keeping the commandments of the LORD. Let's get on record now. Your reward in the kingdom is directly tied to this:

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:19