Today’s Bible reading includes Jesus’ “Great Commission”. Jesus has spent about three years with his disciples and is commissioning them for their ministry. Grammatically speaking, there is one command with several participles that describe how the command is to play out.
He begins with “As you go”. He assumes that His disciples will go. Because He has all of the authority, He gives them this great commission.
Next is the command to make disciples.
The next set of participles describe how to make disciples:
- by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, fully identifying them with the Trinity.
- by teaching them to obey Jesus’ teachings. Jesus gave a lot of commands. But in John 13:34–35, He gives them a new command: Love each other. Jesus’ new command wasn’t really new, he was just giving the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36–40) a new emphasis. In John 13:35, He says that people will recognize His disciples by their love for each other. This isn’t to discount so many other things about them, but their distinctive was to be love. Not an ooey-gooey squishy love, but a real — almost tangible love that Paul describes in 1Corinthians 13:1–13.
That’s it! That’s all it means to make disciples. The Great Commission is simple. But it isn’t easy. Teaching people to obey Jesus’ teachings is a life-long journey.
When Jesus linked teaching with how the command is to be applied, He isn’t talking about taking something from one person’s brain and transferring that to someone else’s brain. In the New Testament times, a disciple wasn’t just a student of a teacher. A disciple was a learner, much like an apprentice under a mentor who poured his life into the apprentice’s life.
Jesus’ commission isn’t to get people to make decisions. The commission is to make disciples. There is a world of difference between these two!
Unfortunately, a lot of leaders in the church at large don’t get this. It’s much easier to get someone to “bow your head and repeat after me” than it is to make a disciple. Decision-making is very quick. Disciplemaking takes time. Unfortunately, churches are full of decision-makers, and lacking on disciples.
In 2Timothy 2:2 Paul adds another dimension to disciplemaking: Make disciple-making disciples. Until a disciple passes his/her own walk down to a younger (in the faith) believer, we haven’t completed the task to make disciples. Unfortunately, most church-goers have never been “discipled” and are therefore incapable of making disciples.
Have you ever been discipled? Maybe you need to talk with your pastor about growing deeper in your faith by meeting regularly with a more mature believer who can pour his/her spiritual life into yours.
Have you made a disciple? The commission wasn’t just for Jesus’ immediate disciples. The commission is for us, too!
I once heard someone wisely say that every Christian needs a Paul (a more mature believer who is discipling you), a Barnabus (someone on about the same spiritual growth level as you), and a Timothy (someone you are discipling).