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The Simplicity Series #6

The Commission We Have Not Kept

 
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
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 things that I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” MAT 28:18-20
 
This popular passage has long been known as the “Great Commission.” Its inherent greatness will be noted along several lines. The great tragedy is that today, nearly two thousand years after it was given, we who belong to the Savior have fallen woefully short of our calling.
 
The Tragic Facts
 
Only about one in ten of the 300,000 missionaries in the world today is working among unreached people.
 
With 16,000 people-groups identified throughout the world, about 7,000 are still unreached.
 
Almost one-third of the world has never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists make up half of the world’s population. Yet, 86% of these people do not even know a Christian.
 
Today, one billion people—one in every seven in the world—live in slums, and one hundred and forty million of them are orphaned children.
 
(The above figures have been taken from the video “Tears of the Saints.” I recommend you watch it on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtQbzRmmMfk.)
 
The Comfort-Killing Commission
 
The basis for the commission is fundamental to its success. Jesus declares that He has been given sovereign authority, both in the realm of Heaven, and on Earth. The authority here is exousia, that is, authority which is inherent in one’s being. To utter a command with such universal authority should cause our souls to tremble.
 
The command itself is “make disciples.” The tense of the verb (aorist) contains a sense of urgency. From the highest authority comes a command of greatest import. Jesus is speaking to the eleven remaining disciples (MAT 28:16). It should not escape our notice that only disciples can make disciples.
 
A clear-cut methodology is given by Jesus, the very one which was given Him from the Father: “go[ing] … baptizing … teaching.” Since these are participles, I add the “ing” to give the true sense. Disciple-making is an ongoing, never-ending work of love. It cannot be done from our comfort-zone. It demands leaving, laboring, praying, giving, sacrificing, and sometimes even death.
 
Although the work of evangelism is not mentioned here, it is assumed that we lead people to faith in Christ before we baptize them. The Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John fill in the gaps (MAR 16:14-20; LUK 24:44-49; JOH 20:30-31). I often wonder if the commission given here, in Matthew, is constructed, in this way in the first of the Gospels, to warn us never to assume the work is done simply by leading a soul to Christ. The work of evangelism is to bring people to faith in Jesus as “the Christ” (JOH 20:30-31), which means, “God in the flesh,” “the Savior of the world” (see ISA 9:6; MAT 1:23; JOH 4:42). Evangelism is the beginning of the work, but discipling is always the goal.
 
What Is A Disciple?
 
The word “disciple” is mathetes, and speaks of both a “learner” and a “follower.” The first step of this process—after the message of Christ has been believed—is baptism. This has nothing to do with obtaining eternal salvation, but everything to do with the new believer understanding the fundamentals of his or her salvation. In baptism, we have a “re-enactment” of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Water baptism reviews what the baptism of the Holy Spirit has already done in the soul, in uniting us with Christ (ACT 1:5-8; ROM 8:9-11; 1CO 12:13).
 
The early Church called this baptism a “sacramentum.” This was the “oath of loyalty” taken by every recruit into the Roman Army. In baptism, we are acting out an oath of loyalty to Jesus Christ, saying, “Now that I am united with Him, I will become His disciple.” Baptism should always be accompanied by instruction as to its meaning.
 
This process of “becoming,” following this oath, is two-fold; there is an ongoing process of both teaching/learning and growing obedience. The advanced disciple teaches the new disciple and, by example, sets the standard for growing obedience to the teaching received.
 
No disciple should ever stop learning, growing, and obeying. This is the life-long process of practical sanctification—being transformed into the likeness of our Lord and Savior (MAT 10:25; LUK 6:40; ROM 8:29; 2CO 3:18).
 
There is a curious dynamic in this teacher/learner relationship. No one who ever stops learning and growing is able to “make disciples.” In order to make one, we have to be one. Both the being and the making come with a cost. There will always be the inevitable crisis of “He must increase, but I must decrease” (JOH 3:30), and “not I but Christ” (GAL 2:20). If I am unwilling to “be” His disciple, it is certain that I will not be able to “make disciples.”
 
The Powerful yet Invisible Presence
 
“Behold [ESV], I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Gospel of Matthew introduces the Son of God as “Immanuel, which is translated, God with us” (MAT 1:23). The Gospel concludes with the promise of His abiding presence and strengthening power, as we go about our Father’s business.
 
Are you “becoming” a disciple? Are you “making disciples”? The command is urgent, and the need is great. You can do something—what will it be?
 
Gene
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