The Great Commission
“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.” – Matthew 28:19-20
Let me set the stage for you. Jesus has dramatically risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples. After a few days spent explaining the Old Testament Scriptures to Him and appearing in different places, He’s about to ascend into Heaven where He will go about building a place for us (John 14:2), and He has some final words for those who have gathered. Those words are listed above– go and preach the gospel to every creature. Well, not exactly. The command was to go and make disciples out of all the nations. We often misinterpret this command to mean that we should be witnessing to all nations or seeing people saved out of all nations. The real command is to make disciples.
In fact,if you wanted to get right down to it, this command is basically saying, “While you’re going out into the world, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey my commandments.” That’s the command. It’s to every believer and it’s for every profession. We are all supposed to be making disciples.
What is a Disciple?
According to Infogalactic – The term disciple is derived from the New Testament Greek word “μαθητής”. (mathetes), which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman), coming to English by way of the Latin discipulus meaning “a learner”. A disciple is different from an apostle, which instead means a “messenger, he that is sent” While a disciple is one who learns from a teacher, in other words a student, an apostle is one sent to deliver those teachings or a message such as the Great Commission to others.
When I think of apprentice, I think of the blacksmith. Blacksmiths didn’t learn through book reading, they learned from following someone who taught them. The apprentice worked his trade until he was good enough to go on his own. The apprentice became the master, and took on apprentices.
Disciples of Whom?
The Great Commission charges us to make disciples. The problem with modern American Christianity is that if we get as far as witnessing, we leave it at that, or send them to a church. Worse yet, we may think that we’ve somehow discharged this obligation by inviting someone to a club, group or concert where the Gospel is being preached, and don’t really do any discipling ourselves.
Christ was commanding us to make disciples, or followers, out of people, not to see them pray a prayer. If you will, the prayer may be the beginning of their spiritual journey, or part of their pathway to following God, but it is not the end. I think this is one of the things that the doctrine of “Eternal Security” does to hurt our ability to follow the Great Commission. If we can get them to pray the prayer (the thought goes), then they’re saved and they’ll never lose that salvation.
Goal achieved, move onto the next one!
However, this totally misses what Christ is saying– preach the Word, get them baptized and teach them to obey my commandments or be my disciples! Ultimately, all disciples are to be Disciples of Christ. This discipleship is a life-long process which will not be ended this side of Heaven. We will never get to a place where we can say that we’ve made it, because we have a sin nature, and we’re not yet made completely new.
We are also to be disciples of one another. My Pastor likes to say, we should all have a Paul, Barnabas and Timothy. The idea is that we should all be growing, have someone that we can share and be accountable to and someone we are discipling. 1 Corinthians 11:1 – Paul tells us to follow him as he follows Christ. This is a general pattern. We should be following someone just as we should have some following Christ.