23 October 2010 (Shibi'i/Sukkot)|
Day #221, 5934 AM
The Great Commission
Your Part in It as a Disciple
Shabbat shalom! This familiar verse of scripture, known as the 'Great Commission', and beyond question written in Hebrew for an Israelite audience, is what Yahweh would have me share with you today.
"'Go therefore and make talmidim (disciples) of all the nations, baptising them (doing mikvah upon them - RSTNE; giving them a tevilah (immersing) in a mikveh mayim (body of water) - OJB) in[to] haShem (the name) of the Father and of the Son and of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy/Set-Apart Spirit), teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen" (Matt.28:19-20, NKJV).
This is a scripture for everyone, from apostle to layman. Every one of us has been called to partake in the discipling of the nations. For Jews who thought that they alone were to receive Messiah, this must have come as quite a shock. Until then, Israel had been an exclusive club until such a time as the borders of the Kingdom could be extended to encompass the whole world.
Ironically, there are many Christians like Zionist John Hagee of Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, Texas, who are teaching that the Jews don't need the Messiah at all because they have their own 'special salvation' by virtue of their birth and matriarchal lineage. Irrespective of who you think the Jews are or aren't, Yah'shua makes it very clear here that the Gospel is for "all nations" and all the people in them, including the Jews. The message is for everyone living no matter whether they believe they are exceptions or not. You can't be saved without Yah'shua the Messiah. You have no eternal future without Him and there are no exceptions to this rule (Jn.14:6).
This passage of Scripture also makes it plain, along with numerous others, that baptism or full immersion in a body of water - is absolutely required of those who want to follow the Messiah, and using the formula given, if they are physically able to (obviously the saved thief on the cross demonstrates an exception clause). There are many Christians who say that baptism is not necessary, or that full immersion isn't necessary. Orthodox Christians, Catholics, the older Protestant denominations like the Lutherans, Anglicans, Reformed Church, Methodists and others who practice 'baptism' by sprinkling, are all walking in rebellion against this passage. Immersion means complete submersion in water, in likeness of death to the self, so the believer can arise as a totally new person in Christ. By only being sprinkled they are sending out a spiritual message that we do not have to completely die to self and don't need to be completely reborn. Worse, in some respects, these denominations expect baptism of babies, when baptism is for those old enough to make a personal choice for Christ. So many Christians are walking in disobedience in respect of this and related passages of Scripture.
Finally, there are various Protestant groups who don't even bother to baptise and admit people into church membership by simply shaking hands. Some, like Messianic Jew David Stern and author of the Complete Jewish Bible make the point that the Greek eis means 'into' rather than 'in' so that baptism is not 'in' the Name of the Father, Son and Ruach but 'into' that Name. He argues that baptisting 'into' a name cannot describe a literal act and so he says the passage is better rendered, "immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach haKodesh" (JNT/CJB). Unfortunately, all Hebraic versions of this passage (e.g. DuTillet, Münster Hebrew and Peshitta Aramaic) disagree and clearly point to a literal water baptism in the Name of the Godhead. That's not to say that Stern's sense is not also the intention because there is no doubt that literal water baptism points to the even more important spiritual realities of being regenerated and of entering into the reality of Yahweh's own world.
I begin with this short theological exercise today to emphasise the importance of always first beginning with the p'shat or literal meaning of Scripture. We are to fully immerse converts in water in the Divine Name (which I will mention more of in a moment). We have no choice but to be obedient if we want to be counted as true talmidim or disciples. So be careful of translations like Stern's which go beyond what the text actually says even if they are giving a bona fide additional insight for we are indeed to be totally immersed into the life and reality of Yahweh-Elohim.
When Yah'shua gave this instruction to disciple all nations and baptise them in "haShem" or "the Name", he wan't being mystical - He had a particular Name in mind, a Name that belongs to all three members of the Elohimhead (Godhead). What did He mean?
Subsequent to the resurrection and ascension, we find the talmidim baptising in the Name of 'Jesus' in our English translations even though this was not the Saviour's proper Hebrew Name. Orthodox, Catholic and older Protestant denominations (and even Mormons) simply repeat Yah'shua's words verbatim, saying: "I baptise you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost/Spirit". Some more modern denomination simply "baptise in the Name of Jesus". Which, if either, are right? If the name of Jesus is enough in the baptismal formula of this last verse of the Gospel of Matthew, why didn't Yah'shua, then, simply say: "baptising them in the Name of Yah'shua/Jesus" or "baptising them in My Name" or "baptising them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit - which is Yah'shua/Jesus" as United Pentecostals and others do? Why is there even this confusion? Or do we 'resolve' this problem by doing what the RSTNE version does by simply leaving the Father, Son and Holy Spirit out of the equation altogether and blaming the Catholics for adding a later Trinitarian formula, or trusting in one theologian called Eusebius who was anti-Trinitarian? Well, we can't blame the Catholics this time because this is the ancient scriptural baptismal formula! We are to baptise disciples in the Name of the three members of the Godhead.
What never seems to have crossed the minds of the denominationalists and anti-trinitarian messianics is that Yah'shua might not have expected us to simply repeat His formula verbatim. He might simply have taken it for granted that everyone knew the Name of the Godhead and so had no need to spell it out, perhaps not wanting of offend those of His listeners who believed in the superstition that God's Name should never be vocalised. For everyone knew that the Name of Elohim was YHWH or Yahweh (not 'Jehovah' which is a bastardisation of the True Name). When anyone spoke of "the name" or "haShem" or Adonai (Lord, Master) they all knew Who it meant. Therefore what Yah'shua was saying was "baptising them in Yahweh" which was the Name of the whole Godhead. How come, though, the disciples later baptised in the Name of Jesus or Yah'shua?
The answer is simple: the true Name of the Messiah or Christ is YAH'SHUA or YAHuSHUA which as you can see contains the Name of Yahweh in a Scripturally acceptable appreviated form, namely, YAH, which even the King James Version preserves in one verse:
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)'" (Acts 2:38, NKJV).
When the discples were calling for people to be baptised in the Name of YAH'SHUA the Name was pointing back to Yahweh, for Yah'shua means, literally, "the salvation of Yah[weh]". The Son is the Salvation of Yahweh, Elohim or God in the flesh. Accordingly we are at liberty to fulfil Yah'shua's Great Commission by using His basic formula in the way that we do, which is to "baptise in the Name of Yahweh the Father, Yah'shua the Son and the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)".
"Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH (YH in Hebrew, pronounced 'Yah'), and rejoice before him" (Ps.68:4, KJV).
The Great Commission, then, calls us to immerse or bury true disciples in a body of water in the Name of YAH. More than that, though, we are commanded to teach them all the mitzvot or commandments that Yah'shua taught. What did He teach? He taught all the commandments of Yahweh, His and our Father in Heaven, and some new ones. One who is therefore truly discipling in the Name will baptise and teach these things. Is that all? No, He also said that we will teach true disciples to "observe", "keep" or "do" these commandments. This is truly an 'action' Gospel, not one of mere passive belief.
Finally, He promises us that He will remain with those doing these things "even unto the Ketz haOlam Hazeh" or the "end of the age". People sometimes complain that they can't feel Yah'shua (Jesus) is with them any more, and if it's not because they aren't willfully breaking a commandment and not repenting, then it's probably because they aren't out making talmidim of disciples of the nations. In other words, if your heart and actions are in spreading the Gospel message, by whatever means are at your disposal (and there are always some means), then you will not only not feel His presence but probably won't be saved from sin yourself. Because someone who has a mind for evangelism really doesn't have time for the flesh and the temptations thereof - he is too busy being about winning souls. Those who are doing this are never bored because in this activity we have the sure promise that Yah'shua will be with us because this is something so deeply precious to His heart.
I am not saying that everyone should pack their bags and become a missionary overseas. That is only a part of the Great Commission and it does not concern the vast bulk of believers. Most discipling takes place back at home or in the work place or (for as along as we have it) the Internet. The winning of souls is to go on 24/7 wherever we are even if it is just by radiating the Saviour's love around us. We can do that, can't we? Not everyone is a teacher or a preacher but everyone is a witness in the circumstances where Yahweh has placed him:
"'You are My witnesses,'" says Yahweh, and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no Elohim (God) formed, nor shall there be after Me" (Isa.43:10, NKJV).
We are to witness of Yahweh through Yah'shua the Son by introducing people to the facts of the emet or truth as well as introducing them to the tavnith of pattern of the way of life which is the commandments (mitzvot) or Torah and by revealing by our own lives the chayyim or life that comes from being immersed in the reality of the One who is great than us all, reflecting that reality by radiating the ahavah or love that He imparts to us. This is what a talmid or disciple does. And this is what Yah'shua meant by His Great Commission.