In a recent conversation I had someone pointed out to me that the word “go” in Matthew 28:19 was not an imperative in the Greek but rather simply a participle hence it was not a command but rather expressed something like “while you’re going.”  I appreciated her comment but said that there was more to the story than what she had heard. I’ve heard this many times before but had read some commentators who, while appreciating the truth to what is being said, offer some caveats. I give you four examples:

D.A. Carson in his commentary on Matthew writes,

“When a participle functions as a circumstantial participle dependent on an imperative, it frequently gains some imperatival force (cf. 2:8, 13; 9:13; 11:4; 17:27 . . . Only the context can decide the question. While it remains true to say that the main imperatival force rests with ‘make disciples,’ not with ‘go,’ in a context that demands that this ministry extend to ‘all nations,’ it is difficult to believe that ‘go’ has no imperatival force.” (“Matthew” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 666)

Grant Osborne in his commentary on Matthew says,

“The circumstantial participle ‘go’ followed by the main verb is a common Matthean stylistic trait, and it becomes in effect another imperative, ‘Go and make disciples.’ In fact, the two participles that follow (‘baptizing’ and ‘teaching’) are also circumstantial and are imperatival in force. Still, the main verb ‘make disciples’ dominates, and all are aspects of that central part of the commission.” (Matthew in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 1080)

Daniel Wallace in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics,

“Second, there is no good 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!” (p. 645)

In his commentary on Matthew David Turner says,

“One sometimes hears preaching that stresses that the imperative πορευθέντες is the only command in the passage. But surely the activities described by the three participles, though not grammatically imperatives, are not optional.” (Matthew in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 689n.3)