APRIL 9 – “I WILL NOT FORSAKE YOU!”

And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:20

 

Men without God suffer alone and die alone in times of war and in other circumstances of life. All alone!

But it can never be said that any true soldier of the cross of Jesus Christ, no man or woman as missionary or messenger of the Truth has ever gone out to a ministry alone!

There have been many Christian martyrs—but not one of them was on that mission field all alone. Jesus Christ keeps His promise of taking them by the hand and leading them triumphantly through to the world beyond.

We can sum it up by noting that Jesus Christ asks us only to surrender to His lordship and obey His commands. When the Spirit of God deals with our young people about their own missionary responsibility, Christ assures them of His presence and power as they prepare to go: “All power is given unto Me! I am no longer in the grave. I will protect you. I will support you. I will go ahead of you. I will give you effectiveness for your witness and ministry. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations—I will never leave you nor forsake you!”

 

Thank You, Lord, that You are very near to me and my loved ones at all times.[1]


Power

“and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (28:20b)

As crucial as are the first four elements for effective fulfillment of the church’s mission, they would be useless without the last, namely, the power that the Lord Jesus Christ offers through His continuing presence with those who belong to Him. Neither the attitudes of availability, worship, and submission, nor faithful obedience to God’s Word would be possible apart from Christ’s own power working in and through us.

Idou (lo) is an interjection frequently used in the New Testament to call attention to something of special importance. Egō eimi (I am) is an emphatic form that might be rendered, “I Myself am,” calling special attention to the fact of Christ’s own presence. Jesus was saying, in effect, “Now pay special attention to what I am about to say, because it is the most important of all. I Myself, your divine, resurrected, living, eternal Lord, am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

A helpful way to keep one’s spiritual life and work in the right perspective and to continually rely on the Lord’s power rather than one’s own is to pray in ways such as these: “Lord, You care more about this matter I am facing than I do, so do what You know is best. Lord, You love this person more than I do and only You can reach into his heart and save him, so help me to witness only as You lead and empower. Lord, You are more concerned about the truth and integrity of Your holy Word than I am, so please energize my heart and mind to be true to the text I am teaching.”

Always literally means “all the days.” For the individual believer that means all the days of his life. But in its fullest meaning for the church at large it means even to the end of the age, that is, until the Lord returns bodily to judge the world and to rule His earthly kingdom. (See Matt. 13:37–50, where Christ uses the phrase “end of the age” three times to designate His second coming.)

Jesus will not visibly return to earth and display Himself before the whole world in His majestic glory and power until the end of the age. But until that time, throughout this present age, He will always be with those who belong to Him, leading them and empowering them to fulfill His Great Commission.

Some years ago, a missionary went to a primitive, pagan society. She became especially burdened for a young wife and eventually was used to win the woman to Christ. Almost as soon as she was saved the woman told the missionary with great sorrow, “I wish you could have come sooner, so my little boy could have been saved.”ll When the missionary asked why it was too late, the mother replied, “Because just a few weeks before you came to us, I offered him as a sacrifice to the gods of our tribe.”[2]


“I Will Be with You Always”

The final universal of Matthew 28:18–20 is “al[l]-ways” or, as the Greek text literally says, “all the days, even to the consummation of the age.” This is a great, empowering promise, and it is wonderfully true.

In the first chapter of Matthew, Jesus was introduced as “Immanuel”—which, we are told, means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Here, in the last verse, that very same promise is repeated. John Stott adds:

This was not the first time Christ had promised them his risen presence. Earlier in this Gospel … he had undertaken to be in their midst when only two or three disciples were gathered in his name. Now, as he repeats the promise of his presence, he attached it rather to their witness than to their worship. It is not only when we meet in his name, but when we go in his name, that he promises to be with us. The emphatic “I,” who pledges his presence, is the one who has universal authority and who sends forth his people.

So ends the first and longest of the Gospels: Jesus will be with us as we go. We have been given a very great task, but we do not need to attempt it in our own strength. We have the Lord’s power at work within us as well as his promise to be with us to the very end as we obey the Great Commission.[3]


But the gospel ends, not with command, but with the promise of Jesus’ comforting presence, which, if not made explicitly conditional on the disciples’ obedience to the Great Commission, is at least closely tied to it. “Surely” captures the force of idou here (see comments at 1:20). He who is introduced to us in the prologue as Immanuel, “God with us” (1:23; cf. 18:20), is still God with us, “to the very end of the age.” The English adverb “always” renders an expression found in the NT only here—namely, pasas tēs hēmeras, strictly “the whole of every day” (Moule, Idiom Book, 34). Not just the horizon is in view, but each day as we live it. This continues to the end of the age (for this expression, see comments at 13:39–40, 49; 24:3; cf. Heb 9:26)—the end of history as we know it, when the kingdom will be consummated. Perhaps there is a small hint of judgment. The church dare not drift, because it, too, rushes to the consummation. The period between the commission and the consummation is of indefinite length; but whatever its duration, it is the time of the church’s mission and of preliminary enjoyment of her Lord’s presence.[4]


Then the Savior added a promise of His presence with His disciples until the consummation of the age. They would not go forth alone or unaided. In all their service and travel, they would know the companionship of the Son of God.[5]


I am with you always. Jesus was named Immanuel (“God with us”) at His birth (1:23), and now He promises to be with His disciples to the end of the age, as the Lord had promised His presence to OT figures such as Jacob (Gen. 28:15) and Joshua (Josh. 1:5–9) and to Israel as a whole (Is. 43:5). He is with them specifically in the responsibility of teaching His will to the world.

to the end of the age. As the promise of Christ’s presence extends beyond the apostles’ life spans, so the disciple-making commission first spoken to the Eleven is now entrusted to the church, which is founded on the apostles’ confession (16:16–18).[6]


The final words of the Lord recorded by Matthew were a promise that He would be with them always until the very end of the Age. Though the Lord did not remain physically with the Eleven, His spiritual presence was with them until their tasks on earth were finished. These final words of the Lord were carried out by the apostles as they went everywhere, proclaiming the story of their Messiah, Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews.[7]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 28:19–20). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 651–652). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 669–670). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1313). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1726). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[7] Barbieri, L. A., Jr. (1985). Matthew. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 94). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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