Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 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.”
When it comes to this text, it seems to me, that too often there is an overly strong emphasis placed upon the word “Go” and not enough emphasis upon the truthful and general call for us all, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, to “make disciples”. In fact, the word “go” is too often treated as an imperative or command in this passage, when in truth it isn’t. Rather it is a present participle. This means that the word go, means going. So when we put it in the context of this passage it speaks more clearly of, as you are going, going forth, or going out, along the way, make disciples. The implied assumption is that you, being a child of the Lord Jesus Christ are already going forth in this world, in your everyday life, and therefore as His Kingdom witnesses, He has a mission for you. The phrase, “Make disciples”, is the imperative or the command here, and not “go”.
It is true that discipleship gets a lot of writing. There are all kinds of books, classes, articles and messages upon this word, disciple, or even attempting to describe and encourage the process of discipleship. In Jesus day it was also a well known concept and practice. Today, this word may more closely resemble our terms for “apprentice” or “mentor”. I personally like the word mentor. It has over the years become very important to me. The idea is that of personally getting involved in the process of training and equipping others to do the same kind of job or fulfill the same kind of responsibility as the one who is doing the teaching, training, etc.
In ministry terms, it speaks of our mentoring, training and equipping others to do the same kind of work of ministry that we ourselves are doing or have done. It also speaks of our training and teaching others to have the same kind of relationship in and with the Lord that we ourselves have come to have over the years. It simply speaks of imparting to others all that the Lord Jesus has through the Word and Holy Spirit imparted to us over time loving, living, and walking with Him.
This commissioning of the Lord Jesus in Matthew, was given specifically to His disciples initially, who were now to go forth as His apostles (sent ones). They were to go forth and as they were going, they were to give to others all that He had given to them. Paul also passes this on to his younger mentoree Timothy (2Tim 2:1-3).
In truth, we can not give away more than we ourselves have received in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet all that we have received from Him we are called to give away to others who will receive it! The phrase, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” speaks to more than just His immediate disciples. It speaks to all of us who are genuinely regenerated in the Lord Jesus Christ, down through the ages!
While each and every one of us, are going forth in our lives, lived in and before the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to look for and expect that we shall be given opportunities to “make disciples”. This is genuinely the responsibility of each and every believer not just a few. The truth however, is that in most church situations, we simply hire church leadership for this responsibility. This call and process of discipleship is seen as a specific calling to a select few and not the general calling to and for us all.
The large congregation of the church in general seems to simply see their responsibility as being fulfilled in that they support those whose job it is to train and disciple others. We support them in attendance, and financially so they, those other guys, can do the actual “work of the ministry”. Yet, in truth, we are all called to do the “work of ministry (service)” in the Lord Jesus Christ. There genuinely is a general “priesthood of all believers truth”, that is taught in the scriptures. While we may not all fulfill this calling to the same degree, or extent, or even in the same manner or depth, we are all called to do our part in discipleship to the degree and depth the Lord leads and directs us to do so. Yes, there will always be those whose responsibility is to do this full-time or for extended periods of time with others. However, this should not serve to distract or excuse the rest of us from doing that which our Lord and Savior has called each of us to do, in and by His sufficient Grace and Anointing, as we are able in Christ to do so.
We are to teach our disciples, etc. to observe (obey), ALL, that the Lord has commanded us. There are many more commands than this great commission here in Mat 28 that we are called to observe and obey. Not as a point of legalism, under the threat of condemnation, but of Kingdom life and ministry. In fact, one author has discovered that there are 1050 commands for Christians in the New Testament alone (Dakes Study Bible pg 544-45). That is a lot, isn’t it? The point here is not to overwhelm us with the task but to simply make the point that if we disciple anyone at all, we will only be able to disciple them in what we ourselves have received and authentically grown up into the Lord Jesus Christ, His Word and Holy Spirit and not any more. However little or much that there genuinely is of these truths genuinely active in our lives, there still remains His Holy Life in each one of us that we can truly in the Lord Jesus Christ, learn to impart unto others.
I am convinced that if we would give ourselves to obeying this directive of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would grow leaps and bounds in the Lord, His Holy Spirit and in His Holy Word. No one grows more than when they are in a place of having to give away on a continuous basis to others, what the Lord has given and is giving unto them. It’s not easy but it is life-giving for certain, especially as we learn to obey and yield to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in this powerfully needed endeavor.
The Truth is that our congregations will never genuinely grow up healthy in the Lord Jesus Christ, without a genuine Holy Spirit empowered and provided opportunity to pour out His life and Word into the hearts and lives of others. As His New Creations in the Lord Jesus Christ, we were created in the Lord Jesus Christ anew to be and do as He is and does in the earth. The Lord Jesus Christ continues to lay down His life in the service of giving and giving and continuously giving of His Life and Word into the hearts and lives of others, chosen in Grace and saved in His Saving Faith. Each of us, genuinely regenerated by the Holy Spirit and Word of God, were created anew in Him to do and be as He is doing and being. Therefore, when we fail to yield to this, His Holy and Righteous calling, our development and growth in the Kingdom of God, personally and corporately is stunted, distorted and self serving. The Holy graces, giftings and anointings of the Kingdom of God, are and were given to advance the Kingdom of God in the hearts and lives of others and not simply for us to enjoy and keep for ourselves. Just for a small example of this, see and read 2Cor 1:3-7.
While it is true that we all are called to discipleship, far too many in the Church today, don’t really want to be discipled at all. This is simply because, genuine discipleship is not an authentic core value in most ministries, leaders and or pastors. Yet, let me throw this reality at you for a moment. Whether it is passively or pro-actively (intentional and purposed), every believer gets discipled in someway and to some degree. This becomes oh so negatively self-evident when we see the current state of far too many churches. We have discipled our people to sit in the pews as spectators, simply becoming satisfied to pay others to do the work of the ministry or they come ready to be served and ministered to for their own self-important needs and wants or desires. Most of the congregations then, all too passively, so readily let and indeed demand that the few, the select, the motivated, the newly regenerated, do all of the actual study for and work of the ministry for them.
Oh yes, we give high praise and verbal significance to the vital importance of the great commission, but in Spirit and Truth, it’s not really vitally important for most of us. We’re content to leave it to the “professionals”. As a result, we have far too much time to be and become critical, distant, apathetic, indifferent, lethargic and just plain lazy. Church and ministry becomes and remains all about us and our needs, wants and desires but not really about others or genuine Kingdom advancement. The Corinthian Church abounds today. Each generation of believers settles into the same all too familiar pattern, let’s just hire someone else to do it or leave it to the young or young in the Lord Jesus. After all, they have the energy. We’ve paid our dues, whatever that truly means.
We have so lost sight of this vital and deeply essential ministry calling that we don’t even disciple our children which we are again called to do so. As a result we have church staff or volunteers do that for us and wonder why so many of our children grow up resenting the church and or the hypocrisy of their parents. Really? We have given our callings and responsibilities away to others and feel good about it because we help pay the bill and show up for the service or children’s programs, giving our praise to those who sacrificially are striving to do what they can to fulfill our responsibility with our children. Really? Lord have mercy on us all!
Malachi 4:5-6 (ESV) “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.“
Just maybe, our nation is in the state that it is in because we as parents and leaders have failed to embrace the true call of each and every believer to disciple others, especially our children, in Spirit and in Truth. Just saying!
We need to humble ourselves and repent by the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and pray for us all to rise up and begin to embrace our genuine call in the Lord Jesus Christ to the discipleship of others in the Lord Jesus Christ!
If you earnestly would like to be discipled, trained and equipped, in what the Lord has taught and given to me over the years and are genuinely willing to pay the price, and no, I do not mean dollars, but the work and sacrifice of growing in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His Word, and in the Holy Spirit, then let me know. I am willing to give away all that I have in the Lord Jesus Christ to those who authentically desire it. It wont always be easy or convenient, but it truly worth it in the Lord Jesus Christ! Seriously. If this speaks to you, let me know and we can go from there, as the Lord leads and directs us, Amen?
Amos 3:3 (ESV) “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?