INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY OF EXEGESIS
Posts 17 and 18 set forth my exegesis of Matthew 28:18-20, a text used by some to support the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Post 17 examines the following issues: (1) the preliminary and background matters and (2) the meaning and relationship between the main verb mathēteuō (“make disciples of”) and the participle poreuomai (“go”).
In summary, the dominant context of Matthew 28:18-20 is evangelism carried out under the authority of Jesus Christ. The participle poreuomai (“go”), which means to travel or journey, takes on the imperative mood of the main verb mathēteuō (“make disciples of”). The main verb mathēteuō means to make converts. Jesus’ commands to “go” and “make disciples of” are evangelistic in nature.
Post 18 completes my exegesis of Matthew 28:18-20, as well as briefly considers one argument in a book written by Dr. Jack Cottrell entitled Baptism – Biblical Study (College Press Publishing, Joplin, MO (1989) [7th printing in 2006]) in which he uses Matthew 28:19-20 in an attempt to support the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.
EXEGESIS OF THE TEXT – MATTHEW 28:18-20: PART 1
The Text – NASB95
Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB95) is the text-under-study, and it reads:
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Preliminary & Background Issues
Early in the morning of the day after the Sabbath, the women went to Jesus’ tomb. They encountered an angel who gave them instructions per Matthew 28:5–7 (NASB95)
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”
According to Matthew 28:16–17 (NASB95), the disciples went to Galilee:
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.
Next, Jesus gave them what most believers call “The Great Commission”, which is in our text of Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus’ instructions were given in the context of reaching the lost with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. His instructions were consistent with Luke 24:44–48 (NASB95) [emphasis added]:
44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 “You are witnesses of these things.
They were also consistent with Acts 1:7–8 (NASB95) [emphasis added]:
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.“
The Gospel of Matthew ends with “The Great Commission.” Overall, the evangelistic mandate of Jesus’ instructions impacts the interpretation of Matthew 28:18-20.
There is Comfort in Jesus’ Command to “Go”
In verses 18 and 20b, Jesus sets out the reality of His all-encompassing authority, as well as that He would always be with them:
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. … 20b and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
There is no question that Jesus had been given all power (v. 18) so that in His power and presence (v. 20b) His disciples were to carry out the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.
The “therefore” in verse 19 references Jesus’ power per verse 18. The website precptaustin.org (link: Matthew 28:19 Commentary | Precept Austin) comments on the Greek conjunction oun (which the NASB95 translates as “therefore” ):
Therefore – Since I have all supernatural authority, do what I am commanding not in your natural strength but My supernatural power (manifests in the Acts of the Spirit, cp Acts 1:8). An impossible task is Him-possible! We are to be faithful, but only by the indwelling Spirit of Christ can we be fruitful.
Kistemaker on therefore – Briefly it means: Go, a. because your Lord has so ordered; b. because he has promised to impart all the needed strength; and c. because he is worthy of the homage, faith, and obedience of all men. (Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew)
In reference to “go” in verse 19, the NASB95 translates the Greek verb poreuomai as “go,” and it means, “to move a considerable distance, either with a single destination or from one destination to another in a series—’to travel, to journey, to be on one’s way.’” See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 183). United Bible Societies. Grammatically speaking, poreuomai is a participle that fits the structural pattern for the attendant circumstance participle and, therefore, takes on the imperative mood of the main verb mathēteuō. See Dr. Daniel Wallace’s book Greek Beyond the Basics (1996), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 645 and the study notes (note L on page 1852) from the NET Bible (NET Bible Full Notes Edition, Thomas Nelson, Nashville TN)
In summary, Jesus commanded His disciples to move out and preach the gospel under His authority and presence.
Jesus’ Command to “make disciples of”
The main verb is mathēteuō, which the NASB95 translates as “make disciples of.” One cannot lose sight of the evangelistic context of its usage.
In reference to word meaning from language resources, Louw et al. defines mathēteuō to mean, “36.37 μαθητεύωb: to cause someone to become a disciple or follower of—‘to make disciples, to cause people to become followers.’” See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 470. Emphasis added. Arndt et al. [Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 609). University of Chicago Press] defines mathēteuō to mean, “to be a pupil, with implication of being an adherent of the teacher … to cause one to be a pupil, teach.” Emphasis added. The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek defines mathēteuō in the active voice to mean, “to instruct, make converts, make a disciple.” Emphasis added. These Greek language resources teach that in this context mathēteuō refers to actions that results in converts, i.e., believers or saved persons.
Morris (see Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (p. 746). W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press) describes a disciple as a believer [emphasis added]:
In this Gospel a disciple is both a learner and a follower; a disciple takes Jesus as his teacher and learns from him, and a disciple also follows Jesus. The life of a disciple is different because of his attachment to Jesus. The Master is not giving a command that will merely secure nominal adherence to a group, but one that will secure wholehearted commitment to a person. In the first century a disciple did not enroll with such-and-such a school, but with such-and-such a teacher. Jesus’ disciples are people for whom a life has been given in ransom (20:28) and who are committed to the service of the Master, who not only took time to teach his disciples but who died for them and rose again. Those who are disciples of such a leader are committed people. And, of course, this is the kind of disciple that he looks for his followers to make
In a June 9, 1985 sermon entitled “Making Disciples of All Nations – Part 2“ [link: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/2405/The-Making-Disciples-of-All-Nations-Part-2 ], John MacArthur describes making disciples as resulting in believers [emphasis added]:
And so, we are to be about making disciples of all nations, all peoples, all ethnic groups, all tribes. The idea of making a disciple is a beautiful, beautiful term. The word mathēteuō, the verb that is used here, carries the idea of a believer and a learner. I suppose we could say it is a believing learner, or a learning believer. Make believing learners of all nations. Make learning believers. It is not simply one who believes, or you would have had another word. It is not simply one who learns, or you would have had another word.
It is a believing learner; one who places faith in Christ, and who follows in a life of learning. As Jesus put it, in John 8:31, “The one who continues in My Word is the” – is the mathētēs alēthōs – “the real disciple” – the genuine disciple, as opposed to the false one. So, the mission of the church in the world can singly be defined as making believing learners, or learning believers, out of all nations. We are here to seek those that are lost. The Father first sought true worshipers.
Language resources and commentators support the interpretation that mathēteuō refers to actions that results in converts, i.e., believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The verb mathēteuō is used three other times in the New Testament, i.e., Matthew 13:52; 27:57; Acts 14:21. My brief explanation below shows that each usage refers to believers, i.e., saved people.
The first usage is Matthew 13:51-52 (NASB95), which reads [emphasis added]:
51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” 52 And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of [mathēteuō] the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
Morris [Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (pp. 362–363). W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press] indicates that the “scribe” is the equivalent of a believer:
But here it is not such scribes who are in mind, but one whose studies proceed from a genuine humility and lead him into a true understanding of the things of God. Jesus speaks of him as having become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven, which points to the truth that the scribe in question has not only applied himself to the teaching Jesus has been giving but has also committed himself to all that the kingdom stands for.
Weber [Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, p. 205). Broadman & Holman Publishers] confirms that the scribe-in-question was a believer:
Jesus left the disciples with one more brief parable. Not many scribes had become disciples of the kingdom, especially because of their investment in the Jewish religious establishment. But any scribe who could say, “Yes, I commit,” as did the disciples in the preceding verse, would bring with him a rich knowledge of the treasures of the Old Testament. A scribe was a specialist in the knowledge and teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures. At the same time, as a disciple of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed, he would acknowledge the new covenant inaugurated by Jesus the king. He would embrace it while still appreciating the value of the old. Jesus’ arrival on the stage of history and his death and resurrection would complete God’s covenant, offered to any who would respond in faith.
The second usage is in Matthew 27:57 (NASB95), which reads [emphasis added]:
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of [mathēteuō] Jesus.
Robertson [Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mt 27:57). Broadman Press] appears to confirm that mathēteuō was used in reference to a believer:
We know little about this member of the Sanhedrin save his name Joseph, his town Arimathea, that he was rich, a secret disciple, and had not agreed to the death of Jesus. Probably he now wished that he had made an open profession. But he has courage now when others are cowardly and asked for the personal privilege (ᾐτησατο [ēitēsato], middle voice, asked for himself) of placing the body of Jesus in his new tomb
Constable [Constable, T. (2003). Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Mt 27:57). Galaxie Software] appears to make the same reference:
Evidently Joseph was a follower of Jesus from a distance, since John wrote that he was “a secret one for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38). Matthew noted that even a member of the ruling body that condemned Jesus believed on Him, another testimony that He was indeed the Messiah.
The third and final usage is in Acts 14:21 (NASB95), which reads [emphasis added]:
21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples [mathēteuō], they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,
The usage of mathēteuō in Acts very clearly references believers. Note the way the NIV translates Acts 14:21 (NIV) to read:
21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples [mathēteuō]. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,
The UBS translation handbook [Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1972). A handbook on the Acts of the Apostles (p. 284). United Bible Societies] reveals that mathēteuō refers to believers [emphasis added]:
After winning many disciples there, the two apostles returned to Antioch by way of Lystra and Iconium. The expression won many disciples frequently cannot be translated literally. The Greek itself simply means “cause to become disciples,” and it is this form which can most generally be employed. The equivalent in many languages is simply “caused many people to believe in Jesus” or “caused many people to become followers of Jesus.”
These other three NT usages of mathēteuō refer to believers which is consistent with the interpretation of mathēteuō in Matthew 28:19 to mean actions that result in converts, i.e., saved people.
In Post 18, I will complete my exegesis of Matthew 28:18-20. Also, I will comment on Dr. Jack Cottrell’s interpretation of Matthew 28:19-20 that he uses to support baptismal regeneration.
VERY IMPORTANT IF YOU BELIEVE IN BAPTISMAL REGENERATION
Finally, let me quote gotquestions.org (lonk: https://www.gotquestions.org/baptism-Mark-16-16.html ):
If you believe in baptismal regeneration, you would do well to prayerfully consider whom or what you are really putting your trust in. Is your faith in a physical act (being baptized) or in the finished work of Christ on the cross? Whom or what are you trusting for salvation? Is it the shadow (baptism) or the substance (Jesus Christ)? Our faith must rest in Christ alone. “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Please read and take to heart what I write in the section entitled “IF YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN.”
IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT YOUR SALVATION
If you are unsure about your salvation, you need to check out my book The Salvation Meter: Biblical Self-Diagnostic Tests to Examine Your Salvation and Spiritual Growth (book link at Xulon Press: https://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781662828638 ). At Amazon the book link is https://www.amazon.com/Salavation-Meter-Biblical-Self-Diagnostic-Spiritual/dp/1662828632 . I also have a website in which I am updating the content in the book. The link to my website for the book is https://thesalvationmeter.com .
IF YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN
… please (1) read through “God’s Plan of Salvation” so you can understand what God did for you through His only unique Son, Jesus Christ, and (2), from the bottom of your heart, pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” meaning every word. If you do, you will be reconciled to God – saved – through Jesus Christ.
God’s Plan of Salvation
In the beginning, God, who is holy, created the entire universe. As a part of His creative actions, He made humans in His image to know Him. For a while, everything was right between God and our ancestors, Adam and Eve. But Adam sinned, and his sin was passed down to all of humankind whereby we became separated from God. Nothing we could do on our own could bridge that separation so that without God’s intervention, hell would be our eternal destination.
Fortunately for us, in His great love and mercy God provided humankind with the only means of salvation, which is through Jesus Christ who is God’s only unique Son. While retaining His deity, God the Son became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law Himself and taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever repent and trust in Him for their salvation. Jesus rose from the dead, showing that God the Father accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us has been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and trust alone in what Christ did to save us.
If we repent of our sins and completely trust in Christ alone that He died for our sins and rose to life from the dead, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.
Scripture References: Genesis 1:1, 27, 31; Habakkuk 1:13; Genesis 2:7, 18, 21-25; Genesis 3:1-7, 23-24; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:19-20, 23; 5:17-19; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 John 4:10; John 3:16-18; Mark 1:15; Romans 1:4; 4:25; John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:3.
Lord, Jesus Christ, the only unique Son of God, thank You for Your free gift of eternal life. I know I’m a sinner who cannot save myself no matter what I do, and I deserve to spend eternity in hell. But, I know that because You loved me so much, You voluntarily died on the cross for me taking my sins upon Yourself, and You physically bodily rose from the grave showing that Your sacrificial death was sufficient payment to give me eternal life in Heaven. I now repent of my sins and trust alone in what You did for my eternal salvation. Please take control of my life as I now receive You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You so much for saving me. I am now Yours forever! (Scripture references: John 1:1-4, 11-14; John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:21-26; Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 10:27-29).
Upon your salvation, you must find a spiritually solid Bible-believing church that (1) teaches that the sixty-six books of the Bible are the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God, (2) believes in the doctrine of the Trinity, which means that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct Persons — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and each Person is fully God, and (3) teaches that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works (e.g., water baptism by immersion).
ONE CAUTIONARY POINT. Please do not make the mistake of thinking that once you become a Christian, your life will become easy. Most likely, it will become more difficult. God’s blessing of salvation and life’s difficulties are not mutually exclusive. Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” John 15:18 (NLT). Always keep in mind that you have an eternal home in heaven waiting for you per John 14:2–4 (NLT):
2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
NOTICE OF PERMISSIONS
I am mindful of and respect the rights other authors and/or publishers possess in their works. I thus try my best to not violate any copyright rights other authors and/or publishers possess in their works. The below copyright permission statement is the result of my best efforts to understand that limited usage or “fair use” is available and/or to secure direct permission for specific works. The quotations from commentaries are considered to be “fair use.”
Scripture quotations marked “ESV” are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked “NASB95” are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”
Scripture marked “NCV” is taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
The Scriptures marked “NET” are quoted are from the NET Bible® http://netbible.com copyright ©1996, 2019 used with permission from Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved”.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked “GW” is taken from the God’s Word Bible that is a copyrighted work of God’s Word to the Nations. Quotations are used by permission.