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Please take time today to join us in praying for the unreached people group featured on the left below. If you are interested in learning more about one of the nations they live in, you can explore statistics and more at the link on the right below. We also want to encourage you to open your Bible and join us as we learn from God's Word below. Please pray, read, mediate, and share!
Here is the final portion of Bro. Robby's 3 part series on the first and last commands of Christ. If you missed the first two installments you can go herefor part 1 and here for part 2. Below is the third and final part. Read and share!
Imperative 3- Make Disciples. The very last command of Jesus’ earthly ministry was recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’”
Of all the commands of Christ, no other has been more expounded upon. This final command serves as a mission statement for the bride of Christ and all the ministries associated with her. Pastors, lay leaders, mission directors, mission board presidents, seminary presidents, even local food pantry directors tout this, the Great Commission, as their operating mission statement and do their level best tie it into every public relation’s talk. Some aspects of Christ’s last command have been lost due to its frequent and sometimes reckless handling.
First, the authority of Christ is the thrust behind the command. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given me, therefore…” The word “therefore” is a conjunction that connects the command (“Go and make disciples”) to its cause. The cause of the Great Commission and the reason why His followers were to “make disciples,” was that “all authority” was given to Jesus.
At the time that this command was issued, Jesus had lived a life of perfect submission to the Father. He had died on behalf of all who would believe, and He had been raised from the dead. His resurrection was a testimony to the fact that God had affirmed Him as His son and had given Him the name that was above all names. Jesus had subjected Himself to all things and had risen again to claim the victory.
We are commanded to make disciples because Jesus won. All authority that has ever existed or will exist now rests in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The world needs to be put on notice. Just as Jesus came into the world preaching that the Kingdom of God is at hand, we are to go into all the world with the same message. We are to bid the world to repent and follow Jesus.
While it is true that repenting and following Jesus comes with great benefits, namely the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, those benefits are not why we go. We do not go into the world as salesmen. We go as ambassadors of the King, seeking to inform His subjects that His Kingdom is at hand.
Second, the command is to “make disciples.” You will hear other Bible teachers say that the command is to “go,” but that is an error. In the original text, the only verb in the Great Commission that is in the form of an imperative is “make disciples.” The Greek word for “go” is in the form of a participle, a verb that acts as a noun. It would be better translated “going.”
Verses 18 and 19 literally translated read: “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore going, make disciples of all nations…” Again, the imperative is to “make disciples of all nations.” Going is something that the disciples are already doing. They are going to work. They are going to school. They are going to the store. They are going on vacation. As they are going, they are commanded to “make disciples of all nations.”
This means that whether or not we are planning to go on a short-term mission trip at home or abroad, we are to be intentional about making disciples in all of our day to day goings. When the Great Commission is preached as if “go” was the command, the hearers will come to view disciple-making as something to be done outside of their daily lives. This could not be farther from what Jesus communicated in the Great Commission.
Third, the goal should be to make disciples, not converts. A disciple is a person who devotes their lives to following Jesus and being joined to Him in His death as well as in His life. By contrast, a convert is one who assents to a set of propositions hoping to find a way out of their brokenness.
Disciples are not easily made. It took Jesus three years to make eleven. He did not just preach to them. He lived with them. They proved to be thick-sculled at times and were rarely if ever full of faith. Add to this that one of the men, in whom He invested His life, betrayed Him.
Making converts, on the other hand, is much easier. To make a convert, all one has to do is tell a person that God has a good purpose for them and that His purpose is for their prosperity. If they are told, “He wants to lift you up… make you happy… fill the void in your life… help you win… give you a long life…,” they are usually more than happy to repeat the “sinner’s prayer.”
Disciples differ from converts in that disciples grow to become more and more like Christ. In contrast, converts rarely become more than a tally mark on an evangelism report. Most are never again heard from. The few converts who stay around do not grow in grace, and it is unusual for them to become true disciples of Christ.
The key to making disciples rather than converts is in the other two participles in Jesus’ final command… “baptizing them” and “teaching them.” When a new disciple is baptized in “the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” they are brought into the fellowship of the church. A pastor is set over them to feed and shepherd them. They are given a family to encourage them and hold them accountable. They become a functioning member of a larger body and are given a role to play in the ministry of the Church.
In the teaching of new disciples, they learn all the commands of Christ. For example, I explained in an earlier lesson that Jesus commanded all people to repent. Well, new disciples learn what it is to walk in repentance from those who walk in repentance. Also, from the previous lesson, Jesus commanded those who would believe in Him to also follow Him. New disciples learn to follow Jesus from those who follow Jesus. They learn to make disciples from those who make disciples. This learning does not merely come from sermons and Sunday School lessons, but from other believers investing their lives in them.
One last detail often overlooked in the frequent expounding of the Great Commission is this promise that punctuates the command. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” How precious is it to know that the King whom we serve is ever with us as we seek to make disciples?
When Peter preached the first sermon at Pentecost, Jesus was there with Him. When he was arrested Jesus went with Him into the prison. Jesus was with Ananias as faced the terrifying thought of facing Saul, the persecutor, and baptizing him as a disciple. He was with John on the Island of Patmos in exile.
Even today as we near “the end of the age,” Jesus is with every obedient follower of the Great Commission. They are not alone as they face ridicule from their friends, the loss of their livelihoods, arrest, imprisonment, and even death. He is just as present with the present day disciple makers as He was to those of the first century.
May we ever renew our “yesses” to His calls to repent, follow Him, and make disciples. May we discover the blessings of the abundant life lived in obedience to the King. May we be bold, passionate, and steadfast in our proclamation of His commands so that the whole world might hear, and so that He might be glorified in us.
Until next time...