Teaching them to Obey
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is one of the most used passages in Scripture, and unfortunately it is one of the most misunderstood Scriptures as well. So much is left out in the majority of our churches and teachings. Let’s walk through each step of the commission together and examine its entirety.
First, we have Go. Now, this seems fairly clear to me. We are supposed to go. We are not commanded to stay. In America we have developed a weird theology that says we are supposed to stay until we are called to go. Scripture does not support that. Scripture supports just the opposite. We are commanded to go unless we are called to stay. So if you are staying, then you need to make sure that is what God has called you to do, because if not then going is the command. Satan likes to deceive Christians into believing they are doing well because they are doing “good” things right where they are. We are missionaries to our neighbors. Satan also knows that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. He can keep Christians from effectively taking the Gospel to peoples of every nation, tribe, and language by making sure you stay at home.
Next, we have make disciples of all nations. Some people get the go without the making disciples. We go and feed the hungry. We go and help the poor. We go and build church buildings and wells. A Christian’s purpose is not to be a humanitarian. We are supposed to be humanitarians, but only with the purpose of making disciples. That also brings up the question of just exactly what a disciple is, and we will answer that soon. Also, we see that they cannot just be disciples of our community but of all nations. And nations here is not to be confused with how we look at nations. The idea in the original text is what we would call people groups. People groups are basically groups of people that identify themselves together in ethnicity and language, but that can vary. Nonetheless, in our world today we have 11,342 people groups. 6,422 of those have less than 2% evangelical Christianity, and 3,133 others are completely unengaged with the Gospel. And remember, we have not fulfilled the Great Commission unless we make disciples of all of them. That puts our own communities with churches on every corner into perspective.
Third, we have baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This one is pretty straightforward. We cannot forget baptism. It is not just a good thing to do that the Bible suggests. It is a command. And in the New Testament, baptism was done right after conversion. Most of the times we see baptism, it was carried out on the same day, but that is just a side note. Also, there was not a special person that did baptisms. The only qualification is being a follower of Christ.
Finally, we have teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Now this one packs the biggest punch and is also the most misconstrued. Notice that it does not stop with just teaching. What are we supposed to teach? Well, generally what we example is that we are supposed to teach disciples to pray and to read and about theology and Baptist doctrine and tithing and what you are supposed to wear to church and how you are supposed to conduct yourself and how things are never supposed to change. This is when I am so thankful that God did not leave it up to us to pass down Scripture but instead gave us the Bible, so we can look at it and see what is true. And what is true is that we are supposed to teach them to OBEY. Teaching them about theology is fine if they obey it. Teaching them to pray is fantastic if they do it. Teaching is pointless without obedience. Therefore, we have not made a disciple until we have someone who is obeying…but obeying what? Well, thankfully Jesus clears that up when He says, “everything I have command you.” Commanded who? The disciples! Hmmm. This makes things difficult, because we are not supposed to do everything the disciples did, right? We are not them, and things that Jesus told them were specific to them…right? Well, that is not what Jesus says. He says to teach them to obey everything He taught His disciples. So this means that when we see something Jesus taught His disciples and it makes us feel uncomfortable or uneasy because it seems crazy or out of our comfort zone, we cannot get by with the excuse that Jesus was just talking to His disciples. Jesus taught His disciples to make disciples that obey everything He taught them, and that includes this commission.
So, now that we have walked through the commands in Matthew 28:18-20, what are you going to do? I have a suggestion, but Jesus kind of commanded it…obey.
Commanded and Called,