Go Make Disciples: Sermonic Application of the Imperative of the Great Commission
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This dissertation argues in light of a careful hermeneutic of application that preaching the Great Commission necessitates exhorting every believer in the congregation to go and engage intentionally in both evangelism and discipling less mature believers among all the nations of the earth. Chapter 1 states the thesis and explains the need for this study. Chapter 2 establishes the hermeneutic of application used in the dissertation. Rather than principlization, this chapter argues for the advantageous use of Abraham Kuruvilla’s conceptualization of the world in front of the text for determining sermonic application. Chapter 3 begins the interpretive analysis of verse 19 by attempting to answer the question of for whom the Great Commission is intended. After summarizing five main views, the chapter argues that Matthew intends the imperative to apply to every believer; this conclusion derives not only from interpretation of the pericope, but also from Matthew’s overall narrative and rhetorical purpose in the gospel. Chapter 4 seeks to answer three remaining exegetical decisions which are necessary before determining contemporary application: what Matthew means by “make disciples,” the best translation of πορευθέντες, and the meaning of πάντα τὰ ἔθνη. Using linguistic analysis, rhetorical criticism, and narrative criticism, the chapter concludes that Matthew’s conceptualization of “make disciples” involves both evangelism and discipling less mature believers, πορευθέντες has an imperatival function, and πάντα τὰ ἔθνη includes both Jews and Gentiles. Chapter 5 takes the conclusions drawn from chapters 3 and 4 to explain the transhistorical intentions and contemporary exemplifications that a preacher may extrapolate from Matthew’s intended meaning. The imperative is for every believer, obedience requires intentionality, disciple-making includes both evangelism and discipling less mature believers, and the context is both one’s community and the nations. The final chapter summarizes the preceding material and offers a brief explanation of how a preacher can apply this passage in a sermon. It also suggests additional lines of inquiry for further study of preaching the pericope. In order to further illustrate the homiletical implications of the conclusions of this dissertation, an appendix provides a sample sermon of Matthew 28:16-20.