God’s Command to the Church
It is important for all Churches and believers to understand that discipling others is not optional, but it is a responsibility and a calling from God. So what is the purpose and nature of this “discipling” process? After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His followers for a time. As He prepared to ascend to the Father in Heaven, He delivered a command we call The Great Commission. Jesus’ instruction was not only to the disciples of that day, but to all believers for all time. We know this because His command in the following verse is to “make disciples of ALL the nations…even to the end of the age”.
Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the 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.” Amen
The original language of this Scripture is Greek, and it is very specific. “Make disciples” is the translation of the verb, and the rest of the sentence supports that action. Go, baptizing and teaching are all participles that refer to the making of disciples. The main emphasis of Jesus’ command is an imperative verb that indicates “to do and continue to do.” Therefore, God wants us to be intentional about discipleship. It should be an ongoing discipline for every believer in every Church that truly believes in and professes to follow Christ’s teaching.
What we find now, in general, is this Scripture being taught in reference to sharing the gospel of salvation with others, or encouraging people to consider the mission field as an area of Christian service. Yes, it certainly refers to all that, but there is another equally important truth revealed in this verse, one that has been somewhat lost among believers and Churches today.
Go– is poreu-somai in Greek, which means to be in motion or to be about doing.
We see Churches and mission boards supporting believers as they “go” out to preach the gospel to those who are perishing in sin, but what about the continuing ministry to those struggling within our Churches and homes? This sphere of influence is included within Jesus’ command. Not only does Jesus’ life illustrate His discipling of those around Him, but look also at His apostles; they continuously poured their lives into others, teaching and exemplifying God’s will.
Paul spent three years at Ephesus (Acts 20:31), personally discipling believers in “the whole counsel of God” (v. 27), so they would become mature in Christ. He also discipled leaders and taught them to do the same, to spend their energy and time teaching other believers (2 Tim. 2:2). Paul and Barnabas returned to the believers in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch for the purpose of “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith.” (Acts 14:21-22). Strengthening means they shared the Word of God and exhorted believers to obey and endure. The list of examples is self-evident; discipleship is a pattern set by Jesus Himself, and continued by His faithful followers.