19 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,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20
We call it the Great Commission! One of the most prolific and used passages in the pulpits of our churches. As well it should be, but let us take another look at this passage as we consider the eleventh month of our evangelistic series. So often, I have heard a speaker exhort his audience to the mission of evangelism, and then he often quotes Matthew 28:19-20. Such a use of the passage is accurate and correct but it may not be thorough. In this brief section, I cannot exhaustively deal with explaining in its entirety the text of the Great Commission, but I would like to focus on the concepts that are found in the four phrases “go,” “make disciples,” “baptizing,” and “teaching.” “Go” may not be in command form, but the intentionality of the need to “go,” or bear witness “as we are going” through our many and varied activities is clearly communicated by Jesus. The verb form of “baptizing” infers that one who chooses to follow after Christ will reveal his or her commitment to the Lord wholeheartedly and completely through the physical act of baptism. “Teaching” magnifies the need for followers of Christ to be instructed on a regular basis in the things of God through the Word of God.
Finally, we turn to the concept of “making disciples,” which is the primary verb among the other four in this text. This concept encompasses both evangelism and what we know traditionally as discipleship. “Making disciples” is a very broad term that relates to all the functions of Christ’s church. It may surprise you that this idea includes fellowship, praise, benevolence, prayer, discipline, as well as teaching and outreach. As my Greek professor, Dr. Matthew Black, used to say on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, “Making disciples is exactly what we do on this campus and in these classrooms.” Now, in order for us to accomplish all these functions of the church, we must first perform evangelism. We must share the good news of the gospel with the nations, that is with those in our immediate vicinity and the regions abroad. Sean O’Donnell writes.
To “make disciples” is a broader concept than simply “to make a convert”—evangelizing a stranger in five minutes. The word “disciple” is a “slow, corporate, and earthy” word, as are “baptizing and teaching.” It is an educational term. We are to enroll people in the school of Christ and tutor them therein, meticulously mentoring them month by month, helping them mature in Christ.
Therefore, the next time you think about the Great Commission or hear someone allude to Matthew 28:19-20, remember that the mission of Christ emphatically calls us to evangelize and share the gospel with a lost and dying world. However, also remember that “making disciples” includes so much more. When we send out Operation Christmas Child boxes all over the world, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we go out on GROW visitation or perform a GROW project by sharing the gospel at a coffee house, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we preach the gospel at the annual block party, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we visit the ill in hospitals or the widows in their homes, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we conduct our prayer meeting on Wednesday night, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we perform Biblical church discipline in a spirit of love and compassion, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we assemble together weekly on Sunday morning and Sunday night to praise God through song and listen to a message from God’s Word, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. When we offer opportunities for the folks in our congregation to meet the physical and emotional needs of others through the food pantry and the meal ministry, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. And when we conversationally tell someone else about how responding positively to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection through faith and repentance will lead to salvation from sin and death, we are being faithful to the Great Commission. I like what Sinclair Ferguson writes, “being the church is doing evangelism.” Therefore my beloved, let us continue to go and “make disciples” as we even now are involved in this great mission that was given to us by our Lord.
Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”