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 28:19 – 20.
The Greek term for “disciple” in the New Testament is mathetes, which means more than just “student” or “learner.” A disciple is a “follower,” someone who adheres completely to the teachings of another, making them his rule of life and conduct. The Pharisees prided themselves in being disciples of Moses – John 9:28. Jesus’ followers were called “disciples” long before they were ever called “Christians.” Their discipleship began with Jesus’ call and required them to exercise their will to follow Him -Matthew 9:9.
Jesus was quite explicit about the cost of following Him. Discipleship requires a totally committed life: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” – Luke 14:33. Sacrifice is expected: “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” -Matthew 16:24.
Not all of Jesus’ followers were able to make such a commitment. There were many who left Jesus after a while. “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).
Biblically speaking, a Christian is a disciple of Christ. A Christian is someone who has placed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ -John 1:12. A Christian has been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit -John 3:3. A Christian “belongs to Christ” and is daily being transformed into the likeness of Christ – 2 Corinthians 3:18.
A true Christian (and not one in name only) will have to be a disciple of Christ as well. That is, he is someone who has counted the cost and has totally committed his life to following Jesus. He accepts the call to sacrifice and follows wherever the Lord leads. The Christian disciple completely adheres to the teaching of Jesus, makes Christ his number-one priority, and lives accordingly. He is actively involved in making other Christian disciples.
A true Christian disciple is a believer in Christ and possesses new life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because he loves Christ, a Christian will also be an obedient disciple (John 14:15). Paul describes the reality of being a Christian disciple: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
These words are referred to as Christ’s Great Commission (i.e., His primary command, instruction and task – along with the authority to carry it out). This command applies to all His followers of every generation. Christ states the goal and responsibility of His church. We are to take His message to people of all nations and cultures. Thus spread the message of Christ as revealed in His own teaching and through the teaching of His apostles.
The primary purpose of Christ’s commission was to make disciples – disciplined “learners” and followers of Jesus who live by His commands and are continually growing in their relationship with Him. To make disciples is the only direct command in this passage.
Christ’s words are really a commission to the deeper aspect of discipleship – which goes beyond evangelism and on to solid teaching and continual spiritual nurturing that produces growth and progress. We should not intend make converts to Christianity but train and mentor (train by teaching and example) other people who will faithfully follow Christ and lead other to Him as well. A church’s spiritual energies and efforts must not be focused merely on enlarging church membership, but in making true disciples – life long followers of Christ who avoid evil, follow Christ’s commands and pursue His purposes with all their heart, mind and will.
Those who believe in Christ – who accept His message by faith and actively yield their lives to Him – are to be “baptized” (being immersed or put completely under water.) It represents a person’s spiritual pledge to turn away from sin and immorality, to die to one’s on sinful nature and, with God’s help, to be raised up to live a new life. In this new life we are completely committed to Christ and His purposes, and through the presence of the Holy Spirit we will be able to fulfill the task to take Christ’s message wherever we go.
It has always been God’s desire to reach the whole world and so we should be under no assumption that this command is something new. God, in the very beginning intended to bring mankind into fellowship and relationship with Himself. It has always been God’s desire to reach the world of lost people and bring them to fellowship with Himself. In 1 Timothy 2:3 – 4 we read, “God our Saviour who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Knowing who a disciple is, a simple definition in Pastor Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life which I find useful says:” A life of discipleship is understood in terms of living out the five purposes. A disciple is one who:
1. Is pleasing God every day, this is true Worship.
2. Is an active member of a local body of believers, which is Fellowship.
3. Is learning to be more Christ-like in their behaviour every day, which is Discipleship.
4. Is serving sacrificially within the local body of believers, which is Ministry.
5. Is sharing God’s love, forgiveness and hope with people who do not know Christ, which is Mission.
SAVIOUR WHILE MY HEART IS TENDER – MHB 395
1 Savior, while my heart is tender,
I would yield that heart to Thee;
All my powers to Thee surrender,
Thine and only Thine to be.
2 Take me now, Lord Jesus, take me;
Let my youthful heart be Thine;
Thy devoted servant make me;
Fill my soul with love divine.
3 Send me, Lord, where Thou wilt send me,
Only do Thou guide my way;
May Thy grace through life attend me,
Gladly then shall I obey.
4 Let me do Thy will or bear it;
I would know no will but Thine;
Shouldst Thou take my life or spare it,
I that life to Thee resign.
5 Thine I am, O Lord, for ever
To Thy service set apart;
Suffer me to leave Thee never,
Seal Thine image on my heart.
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