The command here isn’t in “Therefore go” it’s in the next phrase “and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus isn’t calling his disciples to hit and run evangelism. But he gives them the authority to disciple people from first hearing of Jesus through to mature Christlike discipleship.
We unhelpfully divide the two. We talk and think about evangelism or evangelistic events as one thing and discipleship as another. It’s dangerous because it means we decouple them, and too often evangelism then becomes disconnected from relationship and discipleship becomes an optional extra. We run Christianity explored courses and baptism courses but then leave disciples to find out how to grow on their own.
But the Bible doesn’t draw that distinction. Instead the picture is of disciples making disciples. Jesus commissions them to make disciples, but what does that mean? Jesus reveals three stages or three parts of making disciple making disciples.
Firstly we go(19). Disciples are lizards not frogs. A frog sits and waits for the fly to come close by and snatches it out of the air and feasts. But a lizard is mobile, he goes looking for food. Jesus says disciples are lizards not frogs. God’s mission has always been about gathering from every nation, and the good news is that the king has come. The apostles are to go with that message. They’re to scatter into the world and tell people, exercising the authority they have been given. Stage one is that we go where God has put us. We go into work or the neighbourhood, or the football or netball team, or the college or school.
Secondly we baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We share the good news of the gospel and lead people to accept Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. Baptising them as a sign of their following Jesus and joining the church.
Thirdly, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” That’s the third part of making disciples; seeing Christ formed in those who have professed faith. We’re to be disciple making disciples and that’s a lifelong process as we commit to helping one another grow in our understanding and love for Jesus, in our becoming together his body acting and going where he leads by his word.
It’s what we see Jesus do as he teaches and lives with his disciples. It’s what we see them do in the early church in Acts. It’s what every letter in the Bible is designed to. Not just see people converted but see them become Christlike. Is that our goal? That’s the commission Jesus gives us.
We do that as we gather on Sunday mornings, as we study the Bible together on Wednesdays and in smaller groups. As we walk and talk together about Jesus and reflect on what that looks like in our circumstances in our everyday conversations that point to Jesus.
Perhaps this morning we need to confess to having shrunk the great commission. We’re not just disciples, we are called and commissioned and authorised to be disciple making disciples. It’s not the responsibility of the few or even of the many but of all disciples.
But how on earth do I do that? Paul shows us a great example in 2 Timothy 3v10. We disciple those who don’t yet know Jesus as we talk to them about Jesus and live for Jesus in front of them, and we disciples believers as we talk to them about Jesus and live for Jesus in front of them. Not as we share our wisdom, or our way of doing things, but as we teach them to obey everything Jesus commands in every area of life, just as we are being taught and learning to obey Jesus in every area of life.But don’t we feel so inadequate? How can I do this? Don’t you think the Apostles felt the same? These are men who’d spent 3 years consistently getting it wrong. When Jesus wasn’t there their courage evaporated like the morning dew. Who just days before deserted, denied, and doubted. Who’d been told to get behind me Satan. Who’d argued about who was the greatest. Who’d failed to understand so much of scriptures promises about Jesus. How on earth can they do this? More on that tomorrow.