Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
The Great Commission has never been lesser or greater than it is today. This commission or command given by Jesus was specific to His people. The expectation God has for His ambassadors has never waned, nor has the charge to go forth with the gospel ever been rescinded.
Spreading the gospel is only one part of the duty of the church, if all that was ever expected was the casting of seed, who would be there to tend to the crops?
Some people would say that all of the work of evangelism is the work of the Holy Spirit and often this reply is a way to avoid anything that moves people out of their comfort zones. Yes, God calls unbelievers to Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit and the process of sanctification is also lead by the Holy Spirit and continues until the day God’s people arise and meet the Lord in Heaven but until that day, there is work to be done.
What I find amazing is that God calls His people to partake in His work, whether it is sharing the gospel with the lost, or leading new believers in an understanding of what it means to walk in Christ.
This leads me to the questions….what does it mean to “make disciples”? Who was this command issued to? How do we go about fulfilling this commission?
Acts 14:21-22 “And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
Shortly after Paul was nearly stoned to death in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas continued to preach the gospel, making disciples.
It’s important to remember what the term ‘disciple’ implies. Helping someone to progressively learn the Word of God and become a mature, growing disciple of Jesus Christ is the objective. If that someone doesn’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the gospel is the means and the message to accomplish this goal. The gospel by definition is the Word of God, it’s just a specific message within the Word. We use the term ‘gospel’ because it implies a specific way to relate truth to people living in darkness.
The way people relate the gospel is as unique and broad as the people who compromise the Bride of Christ. As long as the message remains the same at its core, the way people express the gospel can be illustrated in a variety of creative ways.
Expressing the Gospel
2 Corinthians 5:20-21 “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
When expressing the gospel, Paul gave examples for which the people could often relate. He would talk about earthly tents, or jars for storage, the examples helped people relate tangibly to a message that was spiritual in nature.
If we are to reach the people of our influence, we have to be able to relate the gospel in way they can understand.
Galatians 1:11-12 “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The gospel has power because it is the message from God. God’s people are only heralds of His decree.
Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
For people to understand the importance of this message, they must first understand the measure of their sin. The righteousness of God is the measure of God’s perfection and it is this perfection by which we fall short.
Accepting the Gospel
Romans 2:13 “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”
If we want to stand in the presence of God, we cannot stand before Him as sinners. Our lives are affront to God’s holiness, a rejection of His glory, and a blasphemous insult against His name. If we could stand before God as sinners, God would have to be willing to accept an indictment against the very standard He represents. It would be like allowing a murderer to go free and then stand before the heads of state and be honored like a hero.
For a sinner to be made sinless, they must accept the righteousness that is in Christ alone. God’s perfection must become our perfection. The evidence of a changed heart is the obedience that follows. When a sinner recognizes their sin, they’ve heard the gospel that reveals God’s perfect law and they’ve acknowledged their offense against God.
The obedient act of repentance is the first act of a sinner that has been saved by grace.
The process of making disciples starts with sharing the gospel.
Go into all the World
Mark 16:15-16 “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
Believers who have been set free from the bondage of sin are to take the message of the gospel to others. What was freely received is to be freely given.
1 Corinthians 9:18 “What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.”
Once the word has been delivered and it finds those who receive it, the process of teaching people how to follow Jesus becomes the process of discipleship.
The character of a new believer is as important as the message they deliver. To effectively lead others in Christ it starts with modeling the attributes of Christ to others.
Colossians 3:12-17 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Notice the pattern Paul gives to the colossians?
- Bearing the attributes that Christ exemplified.
- Forgiving one another.
- Being drawn together in Christ-like love.
- Singing together in worship.
- Doing everything in Jesus’ name
To work or minister in Jesus’ name is to present it as if Jesus was delivering it Himself. The action is accomplished by a child of God, but the power and the right to accomplish it is not one’s own authority.
When a believer goes out to make disciples it is paramount they remember this is not their work…it is the work of Christ in them. It is by the power of God a person is called to repentance, it is by the power of God that person is transformed into the image of Christ, and it will be by the power of God that person will be received into God’s presence, made perfect by the blood of Christ.
If any part of making disciples becomes a practice in self-righteousness or gives way to pride, the fruit of that work will be reflected by the attitude of the heart.
The message may go out but they have received their reward.
A Culture of Discipleship
Ephesians 4:12-13 “to equip the saints for works of ministry and to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ.”
Fostering a culture of discipleship within the church requires preparation. It’s very difficult to develop growth without first preparing the field. Preparing people who have a heart for discipleship, helping them with the process of leading people in growth and maturity, and then connecting people with people is often done both intentionally and organically. For those who hunger to know Jesus more, creating the vision and understanding of the joys that await them as they draw near to Christ gives them the motivation to press on in this journey.
The joy of witnessing others grow is also very real. For those who have committed their time and resources into others, they are all too familiar with the sorrows that also follow. It takes time, a steadfast spirit, and ultimately a drive that is born out of a love for the Lord that keeps a discipler going, even when someones not responding.
Are you ready to accept the great commission?—I hope so, the world is spiraling into darkness every day….they need Jesus and you are the one to tell them.