And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
This passage of Scripture is referred to as the “Great Commission”. These are the words Jesus says to His disciples before He ascends into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father. There has been much written on this passage. There has been much discussion on how we are to live out this commission. That is what I would like to address in this post. How are we to go about making disciples and baptizing them and teaching them to observe all the commandments of Jesus? First lets take a look at the statement Jesus makes before the commission.
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus is clearly telling the disciples who is in charge. He is not stating that some authority has been given to Him. He is not saying that He has some now and will get more later. Jesus says that He has all authority now! He is King and is ruling now at the right hand of the Father.
This statement is just as important as the last statement. “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end the age.” The King of all is with us as we go out and do what He commissioned us to do. We are not alone as we go and make disciples.
So how are we as Christians in this century supposed to go and make disciples? Where can we look to see how this is done? Perhaps there is a model for us in Scripture.
Let’s look first to how Jesus made disciples. Jesus went out. He went from town to town. He went from town to town preaching. He went from town to town preaching the good news of the Kingdom while often quoting Old Testament Scripture as well as performing many miraculous signs.
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:30-32
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26
These are just a few examples of what Jesus said to those who followed Him and wanted to become His disciples. He did not hold back the truths of what it takes to be a true disciple of Jesus. It starts with a repentant heart and then total trust in Jesus and leaving behind all selfish ambition. Abiding totally in Jesus means a converted heart. This will lead to the second directive in the great commission of baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Jesus preached truth the result was many following and many leaving. The more He called the religious elite out, the more they plotted to kill Him.
What examples of disciple making do we have from people other than Jesus? For that we will look at a few passages from the book of Acts. In the book of Acts we see the Apostles and other disciples spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom. We see numerous people coming to faith in Christ repenting of their sins.
How did Peter make disciples? Peter preached the Word. He told the people who Jesus is using the Scriptures. He boldly proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom as well as sometimes accompanying this with miracles by the Holy Spirit. What was the result?
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:37-47
Now let’s take a look at how Paul made disciples. Also in the book of Acts, lets go to chapter 17.
Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. Acts 17:1-5
Here we see Paul, as we did with Peter, preaching to the Jews. These were people who were familiar with the Scriptures. This apparently wasn’t the first time Paul went to the places where the people were who Paul wanted to reach as we see it says it was his custom. We also see the result as many believed and many didn’t. Some joined Paul in following Jesus and some wanted to stop him from preaching the Word.
Let’s take a look at how Paul reached the gentiles also in Acts 17. The following is Paul preaching in the Areopagus, but what lead to this was Paul preaching in the open marketplace. He was open air preaching and as a result he was able to deliver this sermon to an even bigger crowd.
So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:22-31
What was the result?
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. Acts 17:32-33
So by Paul preaching the Word of God, the Scriptures, to those who were familiar with the text had some people come with him and some not. Then Paul preaches to unbelievers not familiar with Scripture using what they know, the creation, and takes them to the cross of Christ saying that God has revealed Himself and is declaring that all repent. The result is the same. Some believe and follow while others think he is crazy.
What can we learn about making disciples from the examples of Peter, Paul, and Jesus Christ Himself? When the Word of God is preached people come to repentance and faith and are baptized, then they can learn to observe all the commandments of Jesus Christ. The other result is unbelief, anger, and people wanting to shut up the Word of God. But this is the primary tool to making disciples. The proclamation of the Word of God. The proclamation of the Gospel. It is what the apostles preached. It was what Jesus Christ preached.
But He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” Luke 4:43
Jesus preached about Himself and what He was doing for those who believe. He lived the life He preached. He died for those who believe and rose for those as well. This is the message preached that the Holy Spirit uses to bring about repentance and faith. It is from the Word of God that we get this message.
How do we make disciples? Pray for the lost. Go to the lost. Tell them the Gospel. Love them whether they receive the message or not. Rely totally on God to make the seeds grow!!! Do not wait to tell them when you are comfortable. That is not in the Scripture. Do not think you must invest years of friendship before you can tell them the most loving message ever. Life is too short. Jesus came with urgency. The Apostles preached and moved around with urgency. If we believe what we claim to believe we must preach the Gospel with urgency. Yes with wisdom, courage, lead by the Holy Spirit and always with the love of Jesus. But if they do not hear they can not be saved and can not be a disciple being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holt Spirit learning to observe all the Jesus commanded. Making disciples without preaching the Gospel is just a human attempt at behavior modification.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
If you are not a believer and made it to this part through all the Scripture, thank you. I want you to know the good news. We can’t earn heaven. In fact we deserve hell. Wait….. Where is the good news? Here it is… God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life that we are supposed to live but all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and the penalty of sin is death. Then Jesus Christ died on a cross being tortured along the way before He was nailed to the tree. That is the death you and I deserve. Then He rose after 3 days in the grave proving He was who He said He was and now when we repent (turn from our sin) we are forgiven. We get eternal life like Jesus. We then follow Him as Lord putting of our old life of being a slave to sin and we are free in Jesus Christ. Now on the day of judgment we stand before a Holy and just God and He doesn’t see our ugly sins. He sees His beautiful Son who paid our penalty with His blood. He paid our fine. We are free. Free in deed. This is good news!!!! This is the best news ever!!!!! This is the Gospel!!!! Hear it!!!!!
I pray you believe this. I pray you are free to be a slave to Jesus Christ. I pray He takes your heart of stone and gives you a heart of flesh to repent and believe. In the saving Name of Jesus Christ Lord and Savior I pray. Amen!
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16