Matthew 28:20 “Equipping the Saints with the Bible”

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church Manhattan KS, 09 Feb 2014

Introduction: 4 E’s

·         For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at the Great Commission, to go and make disciples of all the nations.

·         Now, Matthew 28 is not the only time Jesus gave the Great Commission:

o       The Commission recorded in Mark 16 appears to be given in the upper room in Jerusalem,

o       whereas the one in Acts 1 occurs on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem,

o       but in Matthew 28 it is in Galilee, almost a hundred miles North of Jerusalem,

o       so Jesus said this sort of thing more than once:

·         Two weeks ago, I approached the Great Commission from the angle of evangelizing the whole world, which is one of the four vision points of Christ The Redeemer Church. We exist to glorify God through bringing His good news to all the world, baptizing and making disciples.

·         We also glorify God through worshipping Jesus in a reverent and focused way. That is also one of our congregation’s vision points, and in the last sermon, I approached the post-resurrection appearances of Christ recorded in the Gospels in terms of how His followers worshipped Him.

·         In this sermon, I want to approach the Great Commission from one more angle, and that is in terms of the way that the Scriptures equip believers to do God’s will, which is also a focus of our particular church – “we exist to glorify God… by equipping the saints with the Bible.”

Translation & Exegesis

·         2 Timothy 3:16-17 states  “Every scripture is God-breathedNIV [inspired by God] and beneficial [profitableKJV/ [usefulNIV] for teaching [doctrineKJV], for testing (to see if things are genuine) [reproofKJV/ rebukingNIV], for straightening up [correcting], for training in righteousness in order that the Godly man might be a minute-man, having been outfitted for every good work.”
πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, πρὸς ἐλεγχόν[1], πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν, πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, ἵνα ἄρτιος ᾖ ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος, πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἐξηρτισμένος.

·         This Greek root word “arti-” is not a common word in the Greek Bible, but it is the key word used twice in this passage to speak of the result of using the scriptures: “in order that the man of god may be arti-, having been made ex-arti- for every good work.”

o       This arti root showed up in the Gospel of Matthew many times, and was usually translated “now.” It has to do with what is going on at this very moment.

o       The only other time in the Greek Bible that “artios” shows up is in that same sense: 2 Sam. 15:34 – David tells Hushai to tell Absalom, “I used to be your father’s servant, but now (artios) I am your servant.”

o       That concept of being in the moment “now” made me think of a minute-man. A soldier during the War for Independence who could be ready to fight within 60 seconds of being notified. That kind of soldier doesn’t have time to go looking for misplaced gear, doesn’t have time to buy a new clip for his pistol if it is jammed; he doesn’t wait to sharpen his sword; no, his backpack is already packed; he is already dressed; his training is already complete, and all he has to do is throw on his pack and run out the door to the action. He is ready! He is perfectKJV/completeNKJ/adequateNAS (unfortunately, the NIV omits this word).

o       The second occurrence of this Greek root is part of a longer word translated “thoroughly furnished/equipped” for every good work. It actually has the Greek word for “out” added as a prefix, which is why I chose “out-fitted.”

o       The only other place in the Greek Bible this word occurs is in Acts 21:5 where it describes a week-long stopover of a ship at a port to unload and reload cargo.

o       This is what the Bible does; it gives us everything we need in order to think and do what is good in any circumstance – at any moment in time.

o       A soldier may need a hundred-pound backpack full of supplies in order to be equipped, but God’s word says that for a Christian the Bible is all the equipment we need. While seminary degrees can be useful in growing in Bible knowledge, we don’t need degrees to be equipped for Christian service; all we need is the Bible.

o       These verses also tell us that the Scriptures are good for teaching, for figuring out right from wrong and correcting our course when we get off, as well as good for everyday practical application.

o       If Scripture is this beneficial, this valuable, then we should prize it and use it!

o       How do we learn how to use it? From the Bible itself. I want to now provide an extended example of how Jesus used scripture as the equipping tool for His disciples:

Jesus’ example of equipping using Scripture

·         I want to do this by recognizing Jesus’ approach to the Great Commission as it is recorded in Luke 24.

·         On two different occasions in Luke 24, the resurrected Jesus meets with His followers, once on the road to Emmaeus, and once in the upper room in Jerusalem, and both times He points them back to the Scriptures:

o       In Luke 24:25-27 He said to Cleopas and his buddy, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (NASB)

o       Then in Luke 24:44-47 He said to the disciples in the upper room, “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.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem…” (NASB)

o       Do you see that? He had already spoken to them the words of the Old Testament scriptures (the Law and Prophets and Psalms) which laid out God’s plan for His Messiah to suffer death and rise again, and for the good news about this to be proclaimed to all the nations!

o       Jesus did not wait until after His resurrection to give the Great Commission to His disciples; He had, in effect been giving the Great Commission to His people throughout all of history!

·         Think about it; if the Great Commission which Jesus gave after His resurrection was a novel idea intended to organize the lives of His disciples after He ascended into heaven, then why didn’t any of the New Testament authors refer back to that as the basis of their ministries? I believe that the reason the Apostles didn’t refer back to the Great Commission is because Jesus told them it was already there in the Scriptures.

·         Now, how many of you think that when Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures, He only used the Old Testament? How many think He only used the New Testament? How many think Jesus used the whole Bible – Old and New Testament? Well… there was no New Testament written at that point, so Jesus only used Old Testament scripture passages to teach His disciples about his death and resurrection and the spread of the Gospel into all the world. You see, the Old Testament, just as well as the New Testament is useful, just as the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16!

·         Now, Acts 1:3 tells us that Jesus taught His disciples for 40 days – the same number of days Moses dwelt with God atop Mt. Sinai, receiving the law and instruction from God (Ex. 34:28), except this time, instead of the human representative going up into God’s presence, God the Son had come down to dwell with men and instruct them!

Which O.T. passages did Jesus use to support the Great Commission?

·         We only have one quote from Jesus that I can find, and that is Mark 11:17, where Jesus quotes Isa 56:7, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.”

o       The worshippers of God must prepare for at least some people from every nation to worship God with them. How do we do that? Preach the Gospel so that they will pray to God and enter His house, which is the church. There it is in the Old Testament!

·         Were there any other passages might Jesus have used? What about the passages that the apostles referred to later when they talked about discipling the nations? What O.T. scriptures did the Apostles use to substantiate the spread of the Gospel to Gentiles?

o       At Pentecost, Peter told the crowds in Jerusalem,"You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways," (Acts 3:25-26 NASB) implying that after first evangelizing the Jews, the Gentiles would be next (Acts 13:46). So Peter quotes the Covenant God made with Abraham back in Genesis to speak of God’s blessing all the families of the earth.

o       Later, the Apostle Paul writing to the Gentiles in Galatia, also referred to the Abrahamic Covenant, warning the Galatians not to equate Jewish traditions with Christianity: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘all the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer” (Gal. 3:8-9 NASB).

o       QUESTION: Who quoted it right, Peter or Paul?” Peter said “families;” Paul said, “nations.”
ANSWER: Both quoted it right! The Abrahamic Covenant was given five times in the book of Genesis, twice with the Hebrew word for “families” and three times with the Hebrew word for “nations!”

o       Judging from the proof texts that Peter and Paul used, I think it’s entirely reasonable to conclude that Jesus probably used the words of God’s covenant with Abraham from the book of Genesis to show His disciples that the blessing of the Gospel was to be preached to all the nations.

o       Paul also quoted from the book of Isaiah when he explained to the Jews in the synagogue of Psidian Antioch why he would preach to the Gentiles in town after preaching to the Jews. In Acts 13:47, he said, “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed you as a light for the gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth’” (Quoting Isa 49:6).

o       And later when Paul instructs the church in Rome about how to live in light of the judgment to come, he says, “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess” (Romans 14:11, quoting Isaiah 45:23).

o       One more apostle who gives us a scripture proof is James. During the first church council in Jerusalem, James looked for an Old Testament basis for allowing Gentiles to become followers of Jesus without having to become Jews first, and he landed upon this saying in Amos 9:12, “‘After these things I will return, And I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen; And I will build again the ruins thereof, And I will set it up: That the residue of men may seek after the Lord, And all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called,’ Saith the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.” (Acts 15:16-18, ASV) Note that God made this known from OF OLD – since Abraham’s time!

o       Since the apostles quoted these verses from Genesis and Isaiah and Amos when they wanted to substantiate the global mission of the church, I think we can safely infer that Jesus was the one who gave them this idea.

·         So when we look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28, it should be no surprise that it too is deeply rooted in the fabric of Old Testament scripture, “All authority in heaven and upon earth was given to me, therefore once y’all have proceeded, start discipling all the ethnicities, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to keep all of whatever I commanded y’all, and see, I myself am with y’all all your days until the conclusion of the age.”

Old Testament phrases in the Great Commission

·         The phrase “all the nations” occurs 23 times throughout the Old Testament, particularly in

o       the covenants with Abraham (which we’ve just looked at – Gen. 18:18, 22:18),

o       Moses (“so that all the nations will see” – Deut. 28:10; “all the nations will know that the hand of the LORD is mighty” – Josh. 4:24). Even back in the early days of Israel, God wanted the other nations to worship Him!

o       David (Ps. 72:17-18 “May his name increase as long as the sun shines; And let men bless themselves by him; Let all nations call him blessed. Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel…”),

o       and the prophetic discourses on the New Covenant (Jeremiah 3:17 “…all the nations will be gathered… to Jerusalem, for the name of the LORD; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart.” – NASB). And who would gather those nations to the name of the LORD but the Apostles and their generations of disciples!

·         Likewise, there is another phrase at the end of the Great Commission which is repeated throughout the Bible[2]; it is the phrase, “I am with you.”

o       It’s in God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Genesis 26:3&24,
(Genesis 26:2-3 The L
ORD appeared to him [Isaac] and said… Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham… 24 I am the God of your father Abraham; Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you, and multiply your descendants, For the sake of My servant Abraham." – NASB)

o       It’s in God’s covenant with the people of Israel under Moses in Exodus 3:12,
(Exodus 3:11-12 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” –

o       It’s in God’s covenant with David and his descendants in 1 Kings 11:38,
(1 Kings 11:38 “Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” [The prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam] –

o       And even in God’s word to Paul on his missionary journey in Acts 18:10.
(Acts 18:9-11 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city [Corinth].” –

o       Jesus is indeed “Immanuel” – God with us – which is what Matthew told us back in 1:23.
(Quoting Isaiah 7:14 in regards to Jesus, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”)

·         The next phrase in the Great Commission, “all the days,” is a literal rendering of three words in Greek translated in most English versions with the single English word “always,” but this also has tieback to about seventy Old Testament passages, such as Psalm 23 – “I shall dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life”[3]

·         Even the concept of the “end/close/conclusion of the age,” permeates the Gospel of Matthew[4]:

o       We saw this phrase in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in chapter 13:39-49: “the harvest is the conclusion of the age” when “the angels divide the righteous from the wicked” and “the tares are burned.”

o       The disciples also showed by their question about when the end of the age would be in Matt. 24:3 that they associated it with the destruction of the temple and the start of Jesus’ open reign as Messiah.

·         There are other additional words in the Great Commission, such as

o       “authority” (which ties back to Daniel 7), and

o       “the name[5]” into which disciples are to be baptized, and

o       “the commandments” (such as the 10 Commandments and 353 other times where the Old Testament speaks of the LORD and His commands)

o       which we don’t have time to explore now.

·         But can you see it? The verdict is in. The Bible – even the Old Testament –

o       is beneficial for training (as 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us);

o       it was Jesus’ way of equipping His disciples (as Luke 24 tells us);

o       and therefore it should be our way of equipping others to understand and obey all of our Lord’s commands (as the Great Commission of Matthew 28 tells us)!

o       So how do we go about that practically?


1.      Fight the lie that the Bible is not that important.

o       Media companies go to extravagant lengths to hype up the greatness of the latest book, the latest game, the latest music album, the latest movie, and the latest issue of their magazines. Even Christians do this to sell their stuff.

o       And while there is value in books and media, nothing – absolutely nothing – can compare to the Bible in value.

o       Let us follow the example of the Psalmist who said God’s word is worth more than gold (Psalm 19:10), and follow the example of Jesus who prized God’s word. Cultivate an eagerness to look forward to Bible reading time or Bible teaching time. It is precious!

o       Then, once you have the right attitude…

2.      Familiarize yourself with God’s word.

o       Make regular time to read your Bible – or to listen to others read the Bible – so that you know what it says.

o       It has been a common practice among followers of God for thousands of years to set apart some time each morning and each evening for devotions. Perhaps one for a private devotional time all by yourself and one for a devotional time or Bible study with others. I’m not saying to be legalistic about it, but try to find times that work for you.

o       David said that a righteous man meditates on God’s word day and night (Psalm 1:2); and David even memorized it, hiding God’s word in his heart (Psalm 119:11).

o       I think there’s value in reading fast through the Bible – like the reading lists that get you through the whole Bible in a year or two. (I recommend two years unless you have lots of time to put into it.) This gives you a broad knowledge of the Bible and the ability to locate where different things are. But there is also value in going in deep, meditating on a verse phrase by phrase to draw out all you can. You’ll find riches that will thrill you that way too!

o       By the same token, having a love for God’s word will play itself out in wanting to spend more time together with God’s people too. I would encourage every one of you (if you haven’t done so already) to find a second point of contact with fellow-believers in addition to Sunday morning worship. I’m not saying to max yourself out with church meetings every night (that’s the opposite extreme), but keep a balance that demonstrates an eagerness for God’s word.

o       I know what it’s like to have a busy life, so I know this may not be the easiest commitment to make, but then again, sometimes we’ve got to let things go when they do not reflect our highest priorities.

o       As God’s word begins to equip your mind with the understanding of who He is and how to worship Him – as the Bible furnishes your mind with the patterns of how God thinks and communicates, and perfects your understanding of right and wrong, and how relationships ought to be, then…

3.      Obey God’s word – flesh it out!

o       Each time you read the Bible, if you listen, the Holy Spirit will speak to you about something. It may take time to recognize His voice, but He works together with the Bible upon the minds of believers

§         to help us understand something about Himself and His work,

§         to convict us of ways that we are out of line with God’s word,

§         and to convince us of what God wants us to do.

§         When those realizations dawn on you and you feel conviction about something, be sure to proceed in obedience to what He said.

o       We must “be doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

o       Now, of course, you will mess up; you’re not going to obey everything perfectly. But don’t let that dismay you; just ask God to forgive you in Jesus’ name, and He will, and then ask Him to help you to do what’s right, and it will be o.k.! (Remember, “I will be with you always…”!)

o       And finally, as you live out the Bible…

4.      Share it with other people!

o       As you pour God’s word into your mind, it will flow back out in your speech. Let God’s word pour out in the way you talk.

§         Let its figures of speech become your figures of speech.

§         Let its examples become your examples.

§         Let its priorities become your priorities.

§         When Bible verses come to mind that are relevant in your conversations with others, go ahead and quote snatches of them.

o       Step into the stream of what God is doing and tell this good news to other people.

o       How about teaching a Bible study? Start with people in your own house – your children your roommates or your little siblings, but maybe there are work associates or social contacts too that you could invite to sit down with you and read a few verses of the Bible. By the way, you don’t have to have a Bible degree. It’s o.k. if you don’t know the answers to their questions. You can always just say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out!” and then you can call me or look it up online and then get back with them.

o       Getting back to the 2 Timothy verse I started out with, I want you to notice how Paul points Timothy back to the Bible teaching that his mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois) had given him throughout his growing-up years (2 Tim. 1:5): “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is God-breathed and is beneficial for teaching, for testing, for straightening up, for training in righteousness in order that the Godly man might be a minute-man, having been outfitted for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:14-16, NASB & NAW)

[1] Critical texts, following a number of Greek manuscripts depart from the traditional spelling of this word by substituting μ for the χ, resulting in a root used nowhere else in the entire Greek Bible but which is assumed to be related to elegchon. In this case, I think it is better to stick with the traditional spelling of the word, although it makes no difference in translation.

[2]“‘For tell me not,’ saith He, ‘of the difficulty of the things: for I am with you, who make all things easy.’ This He said to the prophets also in the Old Testament continually, as well to Jeremiah objecting his youth (1:6-8), as to Moses (Ex. 4:10-12) and Ezekiel (2 & 3) shrinking from the office, ‘I am with you,’ this here also to these men.” ~Chrysostom See also Gen. 28:15; 31:3; Deuteronomy 31:23; Joshua 1:5; 3:7; Judges 6:16;1 Samuel 14:7; Isaiah 41:10; 43:2&5; Jeremiah 1:19; 15:20; 30:11; 42:11; 46:28; Haggai 1:13; 2:4; Matthew 28:20; John 7:33; 13:33; Colossians 2:5

[3] Genesis 3:14,17; 5:5-31; 9:29; Leviticus 13:46; 15:25-26; 26:34-35; Numbers 6:4-8; Deuteronomy 4:9-10; 6:2; 16:3; 17:19; 23:6; Joshua 1:5; 3:15; 4:14; 24:31; Judges 2:7,18; 1 Samuel 1:11; 7:13-15; 14:52; 25:7&28; 1 Kings 3:13; 4:21-25; 8:40; 11:25&34; 15:5-6; 2 Kings 13:22; 23:22; 25:29-30; 2 Chronicles 24:2&14; 36:21; Ezra 4:5; Job 14:14; Psalms 23:6; 27:4; 128:5; Proverbs 15:15; 31:12; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Isaiah 38:20; 63:9; Jeremiah 35:7; 52:33-34

[4] while not occurring outside Matthew except in Heb. 9:26.

[5] Genesis 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 16:13; 21:33; 26:25; Exodus 20:7; 33:19; 34:5; Leviticus 24:16; Deuteronomy 5:11; 18:5,7,22; 21:5; 28:10; 32:3; 1 Samuel 17:45; 20:42; 2 Samuel 6:2,18; 1 Kings 3:2; 5:3,5; 8:17,20; 10:1; 18:24,32; 22:16; 2 Kings 2:24; 5:11; 1 Chronicles 16:2; 21:19; 22:7,19; 2 Chronicles 2:1,4; 6:7,10; 18:15; 33:18; Job 1:21; Psalms 7:17; 20:7; 102:15,21; 113:1,2,3; 116:4,13,17; 118:10,11,12,26; 122:4; 124:8; 129:8; 135:1; 148:5,13; Proverbs 18:10; Isaiah 18:7; 24:15; 30:27; 48:1; 50:10; 56:6; 59:19; 60:9; Jeremiah 3:17; 11:21; 26:9,16,20; 44:16; Joel 2:26,32; Amos 6:10; Micah 4:5; 5:4; Zephaniah 3:9,12; Zechariah 13:3