OK Here goes:
First of all some general principles. Understanding Participles are perhaps the most difficult part of learning New Testament Greek. There are parts of them that are made easier by the presence of the article but in the case of Matthew 28:19 the participle Πορευθέντες does not have the article so it is either adjectival or adverbial. The context determines which one. In this case nearly everyone is in agreement that this is an attendant circumstance participle. More on two other participles later.
This then makes it important to consider how the participle modifies the main verb, which in this case is the verb μαθητεύσατε (make disciples). There is a textual issue here when comparing the Byzantine text to the Critical text but it doesn't make a great deal of impact on the contact. The critical text inserts the conjunction οὖν (therefore) which connects the actions of verse 19 to the statement Jesus made in verse 18.
A few Key facts:
- The Participle Πορευθέντες is in the aorist tense and the Nominative case
- The Main Verb is also in the aorist tense and imperative mood.
what then is the function of the participle Πορευθέντες (going)?
Wallace in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics says there are five rules for identifying a type of participle known as "attendant circumstance:"
- The tense of the participle is usually aorist.
- The tense of the main verb is usually aorist.
- The mood of the main verb is usually imperative or indicative.
- The participle will precede the main verb-both in word order and time of event (though usually there is a very close proximity).
- Attendant circumstance participles occur frequently in narrative literature, infrequently elsewhere
All five of the rules fit for the participle Πορευθέντες. Dean Deppe and James Boyer also suggested that Πορευθέντες is functioning as an attendant circumstance participle.
What does that mean for this context?
First, Wallace (643) stated the following:
The relative semantic weight in such constructions is that a greater emphasis is placed on the action of the main verb than on the participle. That is, the participle is something of a prerequisite before the action of the main verb can occur.
Wallace (646) specifically addressed this passage and the insistence that this is an attendant circumstance participle:
Several observations are in order. First, notice that the first participle, πορευθέντες , fits the structural pattern for the attendant circumstance participle: aorist participle preceding an aorist main verb (in this case, imperative).
Second, there is no good grammatical ground for giving the participle a mere temporal idea. To turn πορευθέντες into an adverbial participle is to turn the Great Commission into the Great Suggestion! Virtually all instances in narrative literature of aorist participle + aorist imperative involve an attendant circumstance participle. In Matthew, in particular, every other instance of the aorist participle of πορεύομαι followed by an aorist main verb (either indicative or imperative) is clearly attendant circumstance.
Third, we must first read this commission in its historical context, not from the perspective of a late twentieth-century reader. These apostles of the soon-to-be inaugurated church did not move from Jerusalem until after the martyrdom of Stephen. The reason for this reticence was due, in part at least, to their Jewish background. As Jews, they were ethnocentric in their evangelism (bringing prospective proselytes to Jerusalem); now as Christians, they were to be ektocentric, bringing the gospel to those who were non-Jews. In many ways, the book of Acts is a detailed account of how these apostles accomplished the command of Matt 28:19-20.
Finally, the other two participles ( βαπτίζοντες , διδάσκοντες ) should not be taken at attendant circumstance. First, they do not fit the normal pattern for attendant circumstance participles (they are present tense and follow the main verb). And second, they obviously make good sense as participles of means; i.e., the means by which the disciples were to make disciples was to baptize and then to teach. [bold added]
This picture of going as a prerequisite also fits the context. Many people make the mistake of starting the Great commission at the wrong place. The context begins in verse 16 where the disciples had first been told to go to a mountain in Galilee. Remember the entire upper room discourse with all of its commands had already taken place by this time. As you can easily imagine these 12 men are weighed down with the task that is before them as Jesus prepared to leave them. That is what they doubted in verse 17, not the person of Christ. They had already worshiped Jesus in verse 17 so the doubt was something else. Jesus has compassion on them because He states that He has all power, and by implication they will have the power to complete the task before them. That is where the conjunction οὖν (therefore) comes in.
Finally, the two remaining participles are adverbial participles of means. They explain how we are to make disciples -- by baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything that Jesus had taught them.
One theological point too: What is not talked about specifically is about getting them saved. Here is the order: (1) salvation by grace through faith, (2) Baptizing them in believers baptism, (3) teaching them to observe those things that that are needed in following Jesus.
Every disciple is a Christian but not every Christian is a disciple. This passages specifically states that disciples are made by means of baptizing and teaching. Reversing the order is a serious blow to the gospel of grace.
Wallace on Participles
James Boyer's articles and other Advanced Greek materials
Greek has a verbal structure that involves exhortations, they are called subjunctives and hortatory subjunctives. If Jesus had intended to mean an exhortation then He would have used a subjunctive or a hortatory subjunctive that carries more force in the exhortation.
A serious question is to whom is Jesus giving the command? Certainly it was directed at the apostles as they prepared to follow through on what they had been tasked with as apostles.
There is also the certainty that this was to be carried on by the churches but that comes from a combination of other passages. Taking the second means of making disciples first is the easy part. The apostles taught others various doctrines that Jude calls the apostles doctrine. Paul taught Timothy and many others what had been taught to him, then Timothy was to teach it to faithful men who could teach others also. So on and so as it was taught from from faith to faith. That was at least the plan until various practices and doctrines over Church history corrupted the apostles doctrine.
2 Tim 2:1-2 (KJV)
1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Remember it is by teaching them to observe all things Jesus taught disciples are made. How does the New Testament portray the teaching function within the Church. It is through the office of pastor/teacher. I argue that the other terms, Bishop, Elder, overseer, and Presbyter are all describing the same office and Paul was describing the process of selecting pastors in 2 Tim. 2:1-2.
I also hold that Eph 4:11 which describes the single office of pastor/teacher is tasked with the same thing Jesus was commanding in the Great Commission:
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come ind the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
As far as the baptizing part it is one of the areas where corruption came in very early in Church history. In the New Testament you have a deacon, Phillip, baptizing someone on the side of the road. Yet by the second century it is something that only the elders were doing. Baptismal regeneration also appears very early but it is against the teachings of Scripture, instead, being an early tradition apart from the Scriptures that continues in some places today.
Just because it is typically the pastor who baptizes some one based on tradition does not mean that Matthew 28 is not a command. Grammatically, the imperative of making disciples fits no other function in this sentence.