And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
The angel at the sepulchre directed the women to announce the resurrection of Christ to his disciples and summon them to meet him in Galilee. Jesus himself afterwards appeared to them and repeated this instruction. The eleven accordingly repaired to the appointed place, and with them probably the five hundred brethren (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). "Some" of this number - some of those who had not seen him, like Thomas - "doubted" of the reality of the Resurrection, until they were convinced by the evidence of sense. In the words he addressed to them we have:
1. The commission he received from God.
2. The commission he gave to his disciples.
3. The promise of his presence with them. The commission to the disciples includes three particulars:
(1) The universal publication of the gospel.
(2) The baptizing of such as should embrace it.
(3) Their instruction in its doctrines and precepts. We shall now direct particular attention to two points, viz. -
I. CONSIDER BAPTISM AS A SIGN OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP.
1. This is evinced in its history.
(1) The Israelites were recognized as disciples of Moses when they were baptized "in the cloud and in the sea" (see 1 Corinthians 1:2). From that period, amidst all their rebellions, they never called in question the Divinity of his mission. In this baptism also they were separated from the abominations of the Egyptians, and initiated into the pure precepts and blessed promises delivered to them by the hand of Moses.
(2) Those baptized by John are called his disciples. So far convertible are the terms "baptism" and "disciple" that John's doctrine is called his "baptism" (cf. Matthew 3:1, 2; Luke 3:3; Acts 19:4).
(3) Jesus made disciples by baptism after John was cast into prison (see John 4:1).
(4) Baptism is clearly made a sign of Christian discipleship in the terms of the commission. The Greek term here translated "teach" differs from that afterwards rendered "teaching," and literally signifies "to disciple," and is accordingly in the margin construed "make disciples" or "Christians" of all nations (cf. Acts 11:26). "Make disciples" is the reading of our New Version in the text.
(5) This is recognized in the practice of the apostles (see Acts 2:37, 41; Acts 10:48; Acts 19:1-7).
2. Persons are baptized in order to being taught.
(1) This follows from what has been advanced. A disciple is simply a learner. Men are not baptized because they are instructed, though a preliminary instruction may be necessary. The Church, to which baptism introduces us, is a school in which the sons of God are educated for heaven. This discipleship continues to the end of life.
(2) The commission sets forth the subjects of our learning. "Teaching theme" etc. (ver. 20). The teaching is doctrinal and practical also. Life lessons in all good senses.
(3) Since Christian teaching is to follow baptism rather than to precede it, and since holy teaching cannot be begun too early, there is great propriety in the baptism of infants. Preliminary confession of faith is necessary for adults who have errors to renounce, but infants are happily not in this evil case.
(4) Hence because baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of God's covenant, baptism is called "the circumcision of Christ," i.e. of Christianity (see Colossians 2:11, 12). If baptism be not regarded as taking the place of circumcision, then the covenant has now no initiatory rite. The Lord's Supper is not initiatory, but of regular habitual observance, as the Passover formerly was.
II. CONSIDER THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH OF THE BAPTIZED.
1. It is a unity.
(1) Disciples are all baptized into one faith: "Into the Name," etc. The discipleship of the faith. Whatever diversity there may be in non-essentials, there must be unity in cardinals (see Ephesians 4:5).
(2) The baptized constitute one mystical body (see 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13; Galatians 3:27, 28; Ephesians 4:5, 6). Hence schism is represented as a setting up of human names in competition with the one great Name (see 1 Corinthians 1:12-15).
(3) Love is the badge of Christian discipleship (see John 13:34, 35).
2. It is catholic.
(1) The commission to baptize overarches ethnic distinctions. "All nations." This may have been at first understood to refer to the Jews, wherever dispersed among the nations; but it was soon taken in the wider meaning (see Galatians 3:27, 28). We are Christians first, then Britons, or Franks, or Germans.
(2) It connects heaven and earth. "All power," etc.; "therefore," etc. (see Ephesians 3:14, 15).
"One family we dwell in him,
One Church above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream of death."
(3) It extends throughout the ages. It is not strictly correct to speak of the patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian Churches. The Church of God is one under the successive dispensations so distinguished (see Galatians 3:16, 29). We are grafted into the olive that grew in Abraham's garden.
3. It has visible and invisible parts.
(1) There is no visible Catholic Church. We find no Scripture warrant for the idea. It would necessitate a division in the unity of the Church. It would introduce the monstrosity of two bodies to the one Head.
(2) The major part of the one Church is the invisible part. Disembodied saints from all the ages are in it. Hence it takes its name from its headquarters in heaven (see Hebrews 12:23). The spiritual members of it here on earth are the permanent members from amongst those thai are visible (see Romans 2:28, 29). But they cannot be certainly known until the judgment.
(3) The Church of the baptized is a very noble corporation. It is a great honour to be connected with it. To be permanently so connected, we must have vital union with Christ.
(4) This is that Church so built by a true faith in the Son of God, that the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). For the weeding out of the tares, at death, is a benefit, not an injury to it. The dissolution of the body does not for an instant interrupt the life of faith in Christ (see John 11:26). - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.