What Christ Has Commanded


What Christ Has Commanded

February 23rd, 1969 @ 10:50 AM

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Print Sermon
Downloadable Media
Share This Sermon
Play Audio

Show References:


Dr. W. A. Criswell 

Matthew 28:16-20 

2-23-69    10:50 a.m. 



If you would like to know how a preacher preached two thousand years ago, it sounded like that.  They sang a passage out of one of the sermons of James, the Lord’s half brother, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jerusalem, 1950 years ago.  That is what they sang.  

On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of a modern First Baptist Church in Jerusalem, located here in Dallas.  And this is the bishop of the church, sometimes in the Bible called an elder, sometimes in the Bible called a pastor.  Whether he is called a bishop or a pastor or an elder, all three terms refer to the same officer in the church.  And this is that pastor bringing God’s message this holy hour.  It is entitled What Christ Hath Commanded, and you are going to find the text in the passage I read in the last chapter of Matthew, Matthew 28.  I am going to read three of these passages, one in the last chapter of Matthew, one in the last chapter of Luke, and one in the first chapter of Acts.  Now this is the passage in Matthew: 


Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.  

And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him . . . And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power, exousias, authority, all authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.  

Go ye therefore, and make disciples, mathēteusate, literally, make disciples of all the peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God:

Teaching them to observe all things (and my text) whatsoever I have commanded you; (what Christ hath commanded): and, lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the age.  

[Matthew 28:16-20] 


What Christ hath commanded. 

Now we read again in the last chapter of Luke, beginning at verse 46: 


And Jesus said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  

And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  

And ye are witnesses of these things. 

 [Luke 24:46-48] 


And once again, in the first chapter of the Book of Acts.  Acts one.  I read verse 8: 

But ye shall receive power, when that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me, witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  

[Acts 1:8] 


What Christ hath commanded.  He has asked us, mandated us, commanded us, appointed us, set us, established us, sent us to be witnesses, to testify to the saving grace of His death, and burial, resurrection, intercession, mediation, and His triumphant coming again.  We are to testify to these things.  We are to witness to these things, what God hath done for us in Christ Jesus. 

Now the purpose of the sermon, as the purpose of the sermons during this season of the year, is to prepare us for the most tremendous evangelistic soul-winning appeal our Baptist people have ever made.  We call it the “Crusade of the Americas.”  It is a hemispheric effort on the part of our people and churches of North and South America, the two continents that make up this hemisphere. 

We can measure the depth of our commitment by our willingness to prepare, to get ready for that appeal.  And we are in it now.  We are encouraging all of our people to share in this day of preparation.  One of the strategic things has been announced to you, this personal evangelism institute, the first of the days in March, and our effort there is going to be described in the sermon this morning.  What God would have us to do.  

What Christ has commanded; where would you find what the Lord commanded?  For He wrote no books and He erected no monuments.  The answer to that is found in the word the Lord said to His disciples in John 14:26: “But this Paraclete, the Comforter, the Paraclete, He is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”  The Lord, not writing it down, not inscribing it upon some great stone monument, the Lord said the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in the name of Christ, “He will teach you all things, and He will bring all things to your remembrance, what I have said unto you” [John 14:26]. 

So I have here in this Holy Book, I have the inspired, inerrant, heavenly words of our Lord.  I hold in here in my hand—and not only do I have the inerrant word of Jesus in the infallible Scriptures that I hold in my hand, inspired, theopneustos, God-breathed by the Holy Spirit [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21], but I have in my hand the interpretation of those words, what Christ meant by them. 

Now I am going to illustrate that for you.  What Christ said, the apostles by inspiration wrote down, and what Christ meant, the apostles demonstrated and set forth before us here in this Holy Book.  Now I am going to illustrate it.  In John 13:14 the Lord said, “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Now what did the Lord mean by that?  There are those, of course, who say that there are three ordinances in the church: the ordinance of baptism which the Lord commanded [Matthew 28:19-20], the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper which the Lord commanded [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26], and the ordinance of the washing of feet which the Lord commanded. 

Now how am I to know?  I am to know by the inerrant word of God.  For not only did the Holy Spirit inspire the apostles to write down what Christ said [John 14:26], but the Holy Spirit also inspired the apostles; “He shall teach you all things” [John 14:26].  The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to understand the meaning of what Christ said. 

Now when I follow through the example and the teachings of the apostles, I find that the ordinance of baptism they faithfully performed [Matthew 28:19-20], and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper they faithfully observed [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26].  But in no sense and no instance and in nowise did they even approach the observance of an ordinance in the church of the washing of feet. 

So I know by that that what the Lord meant was this: He meant that in humility and in meekness we are to serve one another [John 13:14].  No man, not even the pastor, the bishop, the elder of the church is to lord it over God’s heritage.  “But he that would be greatest among you let him be the servant of all” [Matthew 23:11].  So in this Word I learn what Christ commanded, what He said, what He taught.  And in this Word, by inspiration in the apostles, I learned the meanings of those commandments and those words, what Christ has said [John 16:13]

Now I am going to choose the heart of all that the Lord said, and the very center of all that the apostles did.  I am speaking this morning of the commission of Christ for His people.  Now listen to it.  “Ye shall be witnesses unto these things.  And you are to be witness of these things in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” [Acts 1:8].  “You are to mathēseusate, make disciples, win to Christ all the people, baptizing them, teaching them what I have commanded” [Matthew 28:19-20]

First, let’s look at the tense of that word.  “What I have commanded” [Matthew 28:20], not “What I am going to command.”  “What I have commanded.”  Therefore I know that I am not to look for some commandment to be revealed in the third or the fifth or the sixteenth centuries, nor am I to look for a new theology developed by some liberal professor in some Christ-dishonoring divinity school in the twentieth century. 

The tense is in the past, “What I have commanded” [Matthew 28:20].  I am therefore to know that the word of our Lord is applicable to all time and to all generations.  There is never to come a time, nor is there ever to arise a generation, a culture, a social order, or a civilization in which the words and commandments of Christ are inapplicable.  There is never a time when this Book is antiquated.  There is never a generation to which the words of our Lord are not pertinent and apropos.  Whatever the day, the hour, the crisis, whatever the advancement of learning and knowledge, whatever the social order or political environment, the word of our Lord is for ever “Yea, and Amen,” through all time [2 Corinthians 1:20].  It never changes.  It is as eternal as God Himself. 

Another thing, “What I have commanded” [Matthew 28:20]: I am not to look then for another voice, or another prophet, or another messiah, or another Christ, or another leader.  The final word and authority is found in Jesus, the Son of God.  I am therefore a man under authority.  My assignment is to deliver the message of Christ.  I am to be a voice and an echo.  I am not to invent my message.  I am to deliver what Christ has said.  And however other men may rise, and other men may speak their opinions, their speculations, that is of a man.  But my assignment and my calling and my directive is to deliver what Christ has said.  He has no successor.  

Again, I am to know by this that there is never to be another gospel.  There is never to be another time when the words of Christ are not applicable.  There is never to be another leader or voice or prophet to take His place. 

And third: there is never to be another gospel.  When Jesus bowed His head and said, “It is finished” [John 19:30]; He meant by that the great purposes of God in atoning grace through history had come to their final fruition in His death for our sins on the cross [1 Corinthians 15:3].  There is never to be another gospel. 

In the eighth verse of the first chapter of the Book of Galatians Paul says:


Though we, or an angel from heaven, were to preach to you any other gospel than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema (accursed).  

—Then the next verse he repeated it—

I say, though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than you have received, let him be anathema (accursed).  

[Galatians 1:8-9] 


There is one gospel.  We are not to add to it.  We are not to take away from it.  We are to deliver it.  This Holy Book closes with these words: “If any man adds to the words of this prophecy, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book: If any man shall take away from the words of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city” [Revelation 22:18-19]

There is one gospel, the gospel of the grace of the Son of God.  Like an angel it has no posterity, and like the eternal priest after the order of Melchizedek it has no successors.  This is the Word of God for human hearts and human souls and human nations, and by this Word shall we be judged in the great assize in glory.  “What I have commanded” [Matthew 28:20].  

Now we shall look at the basis upon which Jesus orders, mandates those commandments.  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 28:18].  There is none to stand beside Him.  He is unique and alone the appointed heir of all creation [Hebrews 1:2].  To Him history flows in all of its streams, and in Him time finds its ultimate and final consummation.  “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 18:18].  

As Paul would say it:


He, who being in the form of God, the morphos, of God—

I don’t know what form God has, but whatever the form of God, Jesus being in the morphos, the form of God—

thought it not a thing to be held onto to be equal to God: 

But poured Himself out, and made Himself of no reputation, and humbled Himself, and was made in the likeness of a man:  

And being found in fashion as a man, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name above every name:  

That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things in the netherworld—

Even the devils in hell shall someday bow before Christ the Lord.  

And that every tongue should confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

[Philippians 2:6-11]


All authority in heaven and in earth [Matthew 28:18], and on the basis of that authority the Lord issues His commandments and His mandates [Matthew 28:19-20].  Never to be changed.  Never to be challenged.  The same yesterday, and today, and forever, applicable to all generations and to all time and to us in this twentieth century [Hebrews 13:8].  

Now we turn to the apostolic obedience to that command.  How did they carry it out?  They were commanded to be witnesses, to be soulwinners, mathēseusate, imperative, to make disciples, to win to Jesus [Matthew 28:19-20].  How did they carry it out?  I have opportunity to take one part, just one instance.  As they stood there, Peter and John, they finally said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].

Now look.  They were before the Sanhedrin, before the leaders of the nation.  And when they saw the boldness [Acts 4:13], the outgoing spokenness, nothing of apology, nothing of doubt, nothing of equivocation.  Well, maybe He is the Son of God; well, maybe He is not the Son of God.  Maybe He forgave me my sins; or maybe He didn’t forgive me my sins.  Maybe God raised Him from the dead; maybe God didn’t raise Him from the dead.  Maybe He ascended into heaven; maybe He didn’t ascend into heaven.  Maybe He is the great Mediator, pleading for us at the bar of justice; maybe He is not.  Maybe He is coming again; maybe He is not.  Maybe He can save souls; maybe He cannot.  

There is nothing of that in the Christian faith.  Nothing.  There is nothing that approaches it. The philosophical equivocation that you find in modern preaching is an unsounded, unknown note in the Bible.  Always it is with great conviction and great assurance: on this Rock I stand [Matthew 7:24-27]

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].  Well, maybe a man can be saved by being good.  Maybe a man can be saved by being a Mohammedan.  Maybe a man can be saved if he is an honest infidel.  Not in the Bible!  Now that is the human speculation, I know.  But it is not in the Book.  

Now when they saw the boldness, the commitment of the spoken testimony of Peter and John, and looking at them perceived that they were agrammatoi kai idiōtai.  In the King James Version out of which I always preach it is translated, “And perceived that they were unlearned” [Acts 4:13], agrammatoi [Acts 4:13].  Now what that word means, they were not graduated from the theological schools.  They hadn’t been to the school of Hillel or to the school of Gamaliel.  They were agrammatoi.  They were not school men. They were not theologians. They were not graduates of a seminary.  They were agrammatoi kai idiōtai.  They were private men.  They were not professional men.  They were not learned men.  They were peasants.  They were fishermen. They were despised tax collectors.  When they saw them, agrammatoi kai idiōtai, “they marveled at them; and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” [Acts 4:13].  

I want to pause here to say something.  We hate that education is, “Look at all these degrees.  Look at all these scholastic achievements.”  You can be a fool and have all those degrees, be graduated from some of the greatest universities in the land.  These men were the finest educated men the world has ever known because they had studied at the feet of Jesus.  Any man, whatever his scientific achievements, any man whatever his academic attainments, is an untaught and an uneducated man unless he knows the mind of God in Christ Jesus. 

Agrammatoi, that’s right, they were not graduates of the seminary.  Kai idiōtai, that’s right, as Amos said, when the high priests of Jeroboam, the first court at Bethel, confronted him and said to him, as Amos was delivering the word of God, “You go back to the clod, and you go back to Judea and you preach the Word of God, but don’t you do it here.  For this is the king’s court and this is the king’s house. You unlearned picker of sycamore fruit and shepherd after sheep, you go back where you belong, down there in the wilderness of Tekoa” [Amos 7:10-13]. 

And Amos replied, “It is true that I am no prophet. I never went to a prophet school.  It is true that I am not even a son of a prophet.  My father was an uneducated man who lived in the wilderness and who picked sycamore fruit” [Amos 7:14].  To make little buds that ripen into fruit and followed after sheep, that’s right.  But Amos said, “The Lord God took me from following the sheep and the Lord God said unto me, Go, prophesy to My people Israel [Amos 7:15].  The Lord God sent me with a message in my soul.”  Then he added, “The lion hath roared, who will not fear?  And the Lord God has spoken, who can but speak?” [Amos 3:8].  

That’s what I am talking about; the boldness of Peter and John.  “And they marveled at them, being unlearned and ignorant men”; and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” [Acts 4:13].  

Well, to follow the story through, they were commanded not to speak anymore in that name [Acts 4:18].  Then my text again, “And Peter and John answered, We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” [Acts 4:20].  Isn’t that something?  These ignorant and unlearned men just witnessing, just testifying to what they had seen and heard, why, you never saw such a thing in your life!  

I have been reading this for fifty years. I have been preaching it for forty-two years.  These are the men who unhinged civilization.  Before them the whole mountainous systems of error fell into disaster and decay.  Idolatry in the Grecian and Roman temples fell apart.  And they literally, actually, really set civilization in a new course.  They had no swords to brandish, and no flags to unfurl, they had no printing presses, they had no organizations.  They had no money, they had no status, they had no prestige.  They had no armies and no navies  Yet they subverted the world!  

And this is the way they did it.  Witnessing, testifying to the things they had seen and heard.  Did you know we had somebody stand in this pulpit one time and said, “I had rather hear a man say ‘I seen’ if he has seen something than to hear a man say, ‘I have seen’ if he ain’t seen anything.”  Agrammatoi kai idiōtai.  Unlearned and ignorant men testifying, witnessing to the things they had heard and seen. 

Now bless you.  When we face a pagan, materialistic, secular, unbelieving and infidel world, how do we do it?  By swords, and by marches, and by all of the accouterments known in the power structure of this civilization?  No sir, no sir. Just say, just testify what Jesus has done for me.

Why, we don’t have to be theologians.  These men were not theologians.  They were not products of any seminary or school or system.  They were just testifying, wherever anybody would listen to them, what Jesus had done for them. That’s all that is required.  And God takes the word and shakes the foundations of hell and damnation with it! 

For in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation, I read, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” [Revelation 12:11].  God does it.  Just that humble, simple testimony.  What Jesus has done for me.  What the Lord means to me.  And that’s a simple word all of us can say.  

We all feel the burden of sin and guilt.  He can forgive us [Ephesians 1:7].  We all face the burdens and sorrows of life.  Illness, frustration, despair, disappointment.  He sees us through.  We all face an inevitable hour of death.  If I were to die today, I would die trusting Jesus.  And beyond the darkness of the grave we look up to that heavenly time when the Lord shall bring victory to this earth [Revelation 19:11-21], when He shall raise us from the dust of the ground [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].  What Jesus means to me.  That simple word, what God does for us.  

I came back from an encounter crusade.  And I brought with me the simplest little song that says exactly what I am preaching about today.  No heavy tomes of theology.  No dry, musty books of learnedness.  Just the simple gospel of what Jesus means to me. It went like this. 


God is so good, 

God is so good, 

God is so good, 

He’s so good to me. 


He saves and keeps, 

He saves and keeps, 

He saves and keeps, 

He’s so good to me. 


He answers prayer, 

He answers prayer, 

He answers prayer, 

He’s so good to me. 


Coming again, 

Coming again, 

Coming again, 

He’s so good to me. 


Isn’t that amazing?  How simple, but how wonderful.  Sing it with me.  


God is so good, 

God is so good, 

God is so good, 

He’s so good to me. 


He saves and keeps, 

He saves and keeps, 

He saves and keeps, 

He’s so good to me. 


He answers prayer, 

He answers prayer, 

He answers prayer, 

He’s so good to me. 


Coming again, 

Coming again, 

Coming again, 

He’s so good to me. 

[“God Is So Good,” anonymous] 


That’s all.  Just what the Lord has done for you, what He means to me.  What I’ve heard and what I’ve seen.  Why bless you, born of miracles, in this audience this morning, to make us want to praise God forever. 

Now may I take this moment and close it?  I have preached this morning the heart of the Christian faith.  “All authority” [Matthew 28:18], “Go ye therefore, and testify” [Matthew 28:19], witness these things, making disciples, winning to Jesus, inviting to the Lord; that is the great assignment, mandate, commandment for the church, for us [Matthew 28:18-20].  

A very discerning man, a few days ago, said to me, “It seems to me that the modern church is doing everything except what it ought to be doing.  It tries to be the Office of Economic Opportunity.  It tries to do the work of the Community Chest and the United Fund.  It tries to do all the work of all the different governmental agencies.  Everything except winning men to Christ.” 

There is no doubt but that there are endless organizations, political, civic, who have as their great goals these things of the amelioration of the ills of society.  Better jobs, better paying opportunities, better training, better housing, better race relationships, better all of these things. There are ten thousand organizations that are given to that.  But if the church gives itself to that alone, then who preaches the gospel? 

Paul defined the gospel as that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures: He was buried the third day; He rose again for our justification” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25].  Who preaches the gospel if we give ourselves to all of the efforts of those political and civic organizations.  Oh, you say the labor unions will preach the gospel.  Will they?  You say the national state bar association.  Will they?  You say our congress will.  Will it?  You say our great civic organizations will.  Will they?  If the minister does not preach the gospel, it is never delivered [Romans 10:14]; never. 

The world can do without the preacher who is marching in a civil rights demonstration.  The world can do without the preacher who is inciting students to riot on university campuses.  The world can do without the preacher who is joining some communist front organization.  The world can do without the preacher who is lobbying for some far out left-wing liberal legislation.  But the world cannot do without the man of God who stands in the pulpit preaching the grace of the Son of God [2 Corinthians 13:14].  He is the indispensable man. 

And the same for our church: the men in the pew, the church could get along without the man who makes money. They were poor.  “Silver and gold have I none” [Acts 3:6].  The church could get along without the man who offers, who brings to the church prestige, image.  The church could get along without the man who could deliver political and economic and social power.  They had no status.  They were outcast [1 Corinthians 4:13].  But the church cannot get along without the man who testifies, who witnesses to the saving grace [Ephesians 2:8] and the love of God in Christ Jesus [John 3:16].  He is the indispensable man.  This is the heart of the Book.  This is our great assignment [Matthew 28:19-20]. 

So, Master, as I have an open door, as I have an opportunity, let me speak a good word for Jesus; encourage, invite, witness, testify, and we’ll leave the result to God.  This is our dedication, these present and critical days [Matthew 28:19-20].  

We are going to sing our hymn of appeal now.  And a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, to give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], to put your life in the circumference, the fellowship of this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25], would you come and stand by me?  “Here I am, pastor.  I make the decision this morning, and here I come.  This is my wife and these are our children.  All of us are coming today.”  Or just you, make the decision now.  Decide for God now [Ephesians 2:8].  In a moment when we stand to sing, you stand up coming. The stairwell to the back, to the front, on either side, these aisles all lead here to the Lord.  Follow them to Christ and to us.  Come now.  Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.