Mat 28:19 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,
Mat 28:20 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.
Few verses are as popular as the two verses above, now known as the great commission. In an earlier article: The Gospel, the Church, and the World, we talked about the need for the church to take up this instruction more seriously in order to reach the entire world.
In this article, we explore in greater detail just a few words from this profound instruction. A careful reader would see that in verse 19, we haven’t been instructed to simply preach to all the world, we were told to make disciples of them.
Let’s go a little Greek, shall we? The word ‘make disciples’ or ‘teach’ as it is put in the King James Version is the word mathēteuō in Greek and it simply means to make someone a student through teaching, literally.
The same way we spend four or more years in the university to master our chosen “discipline”, Jesus expected His apostles and by extension the church to go into the world and disciple people, basically, enroll them as students and through constant teaching, make them true followers of Christ.
There should be no surprises here, Jesus had just spent the past 3+ years doing the very same thing to His disciples, now apostles, the very people He was giving this instruction to. The idea was basically this: The same way I have taught you for three years, day and night, in the things I said and in the things I did, you do likewise. Teach people and groom them to maturity. You’d realize that this is the core of ‘the great commission’. We aren’t to stop at proclaiming the gospel to all men, our instruction and our vision should be to see them come to maturity through consistent teaching and training.
That explains why in verse 20, Jesus simply continued His train of thoughts. How were they to make disciples of all nations? First by getting them saved a.k.a baptizing them, and then teaching them to observe the very same things Jesus instructed the first set of disciples.
As believers, therefore, we have to realize that our discipleship is God’s idea. Every believer is expected by Christ to be discipled into maturity, ultimately to a point where they in turn begin to disciple others.
It’s no surprise then why this flow is littered all across the epistles:
Act 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
This was immediately after Peter preached his first sermon. As soon as three thousand souls were saved, they didn’t stop there. They knew there was more work to be done. Luke summarized it as ‘they continued’. They were discipled into maturity.
Eph 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
Eph 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
Eph 4:13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
Eph 4:14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
Eph 4:15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–
Eph 4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Here, we see this same theme elaborated in more detail. Paul explains that God placed spiritual leaders in the church for the church. They exist to help the church come into unity and perfection (which means maturity). But thankfully Paul didn’t stop there, what is the goal of this? It was and still is to ensure that we are stable and not just that, ultimately able to supply to the same body we’ve received from. We see in verse 12 how it is so that we, ourselves, would be equipped to carry out the very same ministry we’ve have received from.
Christianity is Christ replicating Himself in Men who in turn replicate Christ in others.
Paul says it beautifully here:
2Ti 2:2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
From just one verse, we see four layers of discipleship and teaching. From Paul to Timothy to Faithful men and then to Others, who would also continue the cycle and so on. You get the point.
Discipleship was and still is, how God intended the Church to function and accomplish His desire to the whole world.
We all need to be discipled into maturity and then carry that same training to the lives of many around us.
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