Make Disciples Who Make Disciples
Theses are the final words of Jesus after He was resurrected from the dead.
16 The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In order to understand the Biblical context we need to go all the way back to the very beginning of the story in Genesis 22:17-18.
If you’ll remember, God had made a very special promise to Abraham. It was a promise like no other. Genesis 22:17…
17 I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies. 18 And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.
Abraham didn’t see the promise fully fulfilled in his lifetime. He died, faithfully believing that God would keep His word.
A few thousand years later God kept his promise through Jesus, the offspring of Abraham, but even in Jesus’ day not all of the nations were reached.
In fact, Jesus didn’t travel very far. Even though he walked a lot, He only traveled about 100 miles from his hometown, and certainly not to all the nations. So the fulfillment of the promise to bless all nations was begun by Christ but, again, not completed. The church is fulfilling God's promise.
So, as he prepared to leave the 11 disciples, and this earth, He gave these words of commandment and comfort.
And as you can imagine there were mixed feelings…
16 The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted.
Jesus told them to go to a mountain and they did. They waited for Him to arrive and when He did they worshipped because it is right to worship Jesus who is fully God.
But some doubted or lacked confidence. Maybe these were people were some of the 11 or perhaps others. Thomas doubted for a while but he got over it when he saw Jesus in the flesh. Despite the resurrection, and all of Jesus’ miracles some still hesitated.
Perhaps we hesitate, too. Are you sure Jesus is the Son of God or do you just hope he is? When it comes to evangelism do you doubt that this is a part of your calling?
Well, despite the people’s doubting, Jesus came near to them. And I’m sure as Jesus’ came closer to them He filled them with confidence regarding what He was about to command them.
18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.
So, there’s no good reason to doubt.
No one has more authority than Jesus. No one has more authority to give orders than Jesus does. A policeman has the right to turn on his lights and tell you to pull over, but even his authority is limited by the laws of the State.
But Jesus’ authority is unlimited over everything and everyone, and especially over those who follow Him. He has the right to tell us what we should do. And He does, in love, knowing what is best for us and what is best for the whole world.
The Great Commission is not the great suggestion. It is a command that those who love Jesus will want to obey.
1) The Command:
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 everything I have commanded you.
There are four verbs in this command: Go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. But there is only one main verb and really only one command with three subparts.
The main verb of the Great Commission is “make disciples.” Participles are what the other verbs are called and by definition participles help to define the main verb.
The main verb tells us what our goal is and the participles tell us how do it.
So, Jesus tells us to…
Make disciples…by going, by baptizing, and by teaching.
SO, first of all, what is a disciple? The 11 disciples Jesus was speaking to would have known exactly what Jesus was talking about because they had just spent three and half years being disciples.
They had just been with Jesus everyday going where Jesus went. When Jesus performed miracles, they were present. When He taught the multitudes, they had a front row seat. When he debated the pharisees they witnessed it all. They ate together. They slept together. They prayed together. They read the Scriptures together. They did life together.
So a disciple is more than just a convert. He is more than someone who has only made a decision. He is a pupil, a learner, a student who spends a lot of time with his master in order to become like his master.
Jesus didn’t say go into all the world and lead people to make decisions for Christ. He told us to make disciples which implies spending time, lots of time, with people.
The passage gives us three ways to make disciples. We are to go, baptize and teach.
1) Make disciples…by going
Jesus had 12 disciples who followed Him but before they followed He sought them out. He had to go to where they were.
He only choose 12 and of those He concentrated on three: on James, Peter, and John.
So, as we obey Christ’s command to go we don’t need to think it is our individual responsibility is to reach all of the nations. Instead, as we individually obey, collectively, we reach the whole world.
But He does expect us to go and make disciples of those closest to us. Some will be called to overseas missions but for most of us we don’t have to go very far, just like Jesus didn’t go very far from home during his earthly ministry. There are opportunities to make a disciples right in your own family, in your own house, at work, in your neighborhood.
But you must go. You must make the most of the opportunities God gives you, not just to make converts but to make disciples.
2) Make disciples…by baptizing
Now, you may not personally baptize, but the Church does and I think this emphasis upon the church is the point. We go and make disciples, but we do so with the support of the church.
As we baptize into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we bring disciples into a church community.
Community is an essential part of making disciples.
Sometimes I think we treat baptism as if it were a drivers’ license and the church a DMV office. Some show up to church to get a baptism license and then only occasionally return to get a renewal.
But Baptism is not meant to be like that. It is meant to be a public profession signifying the least of which that you now belong to a Christian community.
Baptism is a church activity. It is how we make disciples. But sometimes we view baptism as the most important thing and then forget the greater command of making disciples. It is a tragedy when a baptized person doesn’t also become a disciple and the church fails to obey Christ when we do one without the other.
3) Make disciples…by teaching
Make disciples by teaching disciples to observe everything Jesus has commanded.
Obviously, this can’t be done with a few brief meetings. It’s going to take time. And, again, how are we going to do this in isolation of a church? Many of the commands of Christ cannot be kept without being connected to a church.
If your were on a deserted island how would you obey the command to carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)? How are you going to obey the command to do good, especially to the household of believers (Galatians 6:10)? How will you express the fruit of the spirit? How will you express love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22)? Only with yourself?
Can you obey the command to take communion by yourself?
Let me return to the DMV analogy for a minute. When someone isn’t connected to church and thinks it’s enough to just turn on the TV and watch a sermon it’s like we walk up to the DMV counter, get our renewal and then continue our independent lives.
But that’s not Christianity. Making disciples involves the community activities of baptism and obeying all of Christ’s commands. Being a Christian isn’t just a yearly, or even a weekly, activity it’s a daily way of living in community with others.
OK, so, we’ve been given a command to make disciples by going, by baptizing, and by teaching.
That may seem a bit overwhelming, so here’s the confidence…
2) The Confidence:
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age..
These last words tell us at least two things.
First, they tell us that Christ’s command is for all of the followers of Jesus, not just the 11, because He expects people to be making disciples until the very end.
It’s not our business to try to figure out when He’s coming back but to be faithful doing what He commanded ‘till He does.
Second, and the major point, we can be confident that Jesus will always be with us through the Holy Spirit and it is the Spirit that will accomplish these things through us.
In fact, Jesus said it would be better for us, having finished his earthly work, to return to the Father and send the Comforter to come and take his place (John 16:7).
Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you.
Also, the Holy Spirit is so important that Jesus told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit before beginning to fulfill the Great Commission. Luke 24:49
49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.
So, we dare not set off to make disciples without the Spirit.
As essential as the written word of God is we must never forget that the Holy Trinity isn’t Father, Son, and Holy Bible. God, himself, is with you as a person, not just as a power, or as inanimate words on a page.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Christ is with us, always, through the Holy Spirit. He promises to be closer to us now than when He was with the disciples in His earthly ministry. That should give us confidence.
And it should, especially, give us confidence to obey Christ’s command to go and make disciples, of those the Father draws into the church to be baptized and taught.