Many Christians believe The Great Commission started when Jesus spoke about making disciples of all the nations (“people groups,” as we discovered previously) in Matthew 28. But when we look further back, we see that the purpose and intent of God in seeing His name exalted throughout all of His creation started in Genesis 1!
In Genesis 1, right after the account of creation, God gives His first command to man: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). We see that from the very beginning God made man to take His name throughout His creation.
After the fall, God passes judgment upon mankind and floods the earth, saving only Noah, his family, and a remnant of animals (Genesis 7:23). After the water subsides, God gives a command to Noah that is very familiar: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). As with before, man does not fulfill the commands of God, and things climax at the Tower of Babel. Man was told to extend outward, but instead he decides to gather together and build upward. It was here that God made all the people groups, confusing their speech and scattering them (Genesis 11:17-18).
The Abrahamic Covenant
In Abram, God reveals His plan of redemption. God said to Abram, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3; cf. Genesis 26:3-4, 28:14). God later renamed Abram to Abraham, which is translated “father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5; cf. 22:18). The “Abrahamic Covenant,” God’s promise to Abraham, is the instrumental event in the story of redemption.
Moses and the Law
God then sends Moses to free the Israelites from their captivity (Exodus 9:14; cf. 5:1-2, 7:1-5, 8:10, 16:11-12). God explains why He has let the Pharoah remain in power: “in order to show you my power and in order to proclaim my name through all the earth” (Exodus 9:16).
God delivers the Israelites and gives them His Law, with Moses as the mediator. He does so to ensure that others know of His great name (Deuteronomy 4:5-6), and He promises calamity for those who forsake His Law and His name (Deuteronomy 28:19-20).
The Historical Books
God raises up each patriarch in a strategic way to make His name known. Joshua tells the people that God’s purpose in drying up the Jordan River (and the Red Sea) is so that “all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever” (Joshua 4:24).
Samuel sheds light on the plans and purposes of God—that He is taking a people for His name’s sake. “For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself” (1 Samuel 12:22; cf. 1 Samuel 17:46).
Solomon wisely prays that whenever a foreigner comes and prays toward the temple he built to the Lord, that the Lord would listen and answer the prayer, “in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name” (1 Kings 8:41-43; cf. 1 Chronicles 16:23; 2 Chronicles 6:32-33). God also grants wisdom to Solomon so that all the nations would come to hear of the things God did for him (1 Kings 10:23-24).
The Psalmist continues in deep admiration for the intent of God by declaring, “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10; cf. 9:20, 18:49, 22:27, 45:17, 57:9, 67, 72:11-19, 79:10, 86:8-10, 96, 98:2, 102:15-22, 106:47, 108:3, 117, 126:2, 138:4). Clearly one of the major themes of the Psalms is the exhortation of God’s holy name among all the nations.
The Major and Minor Prophets
The prophet Isaiah continues to further his understanding of God’s purpose, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted” (Isaiah 12:4, cf. 2:2, 6:3, 11:9, 42:6-10; 60:3, 66:18-19).
Jeremiah also boldly records the purpose of God: “this time I will make them know my power and my might; And they shall know that my name is the LORD” (Jeremiah 16:21; cf. 1:5, 3:17).
In Ezekiel we see one of the clearest statements of God’s purpose in working with the Israel and ultimately all the nations, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went” (Ezekiel 36:22-23; cf. 5:5-8).
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were saved from the fire to make God’s name known as well (Daniel 3:28-30). The story of Daniel being sentenced to go to in the lion’s den is another great example of God giving a blessing so His name be known (Dan 6:25-26).
The prophet Habakkuk has a beautiful exhortation of God’s global purpose: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14; cf. Zephaniah 2:11, 3:9-10; Haggai 2:7; Zechariah 9:10, 2:11).
Malachi records the following: “‘My name will be great among the nations,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:11).