And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ESV
I am very familiar with this Scripture referred to as “the great commission.” It is usually taught as a call to missions… the emphasis on “go.” But recently I came to a slightly different point of view. We are told to make disciples, which is generally defined as learners of Christ. [See notes at the end of this manuscript for a more in-depth definition.]
This was clarified in a commentary by Chuck Smith who wrote:
“The primary purpose of the Church isn’t to convert sinners to Christianity, but to “perfect” (complete and mature) the saints for the ministry and edification of the Body.” [Ephesians 4:12]1
While living in Sacramento, California a few decades ago I had the chance to serve at a Billy Graham Crusade. Billy Graham was a gifted evangelist and during his crusades he taught the gospel message and many people professed faith in Jesus Christ.
Each person new to the faith received a pamphlet that contained the teaching of the book of John from the Bible. However, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association knew the importance of discipleship and connected with churches throughout the region to conduct follow-up. In this way those who came forward during the altar call had opportunity for further instruction and guidance to become mature saints fit for ministry and the edification of the Body.
So how might we make disciples, help the saints become complete and mature?
Here are three ways I have identified.
–Remember the proper use of Scripture.
2 Tim 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. ESV
To mature in Christ for the work of the ministry and edification of the body we learn Scripture for it is the tool we need to teach, reproof, correct, and train in righteousness.
As we each grow and mature, we can help those who are a few steps behind us in their spiritual growth.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. ESV
To exhort is emphatically urging someone to a particular action. As a Christian, we urge brothers and sisters in Christ to follow Scripture and to stay alert for deceptive teaching. In deceit we begin following the ways of the world and soon our heart is hardened to the ways of God. Our thinking is skewed. We believe man rather than God, which is unbelief.
–Use words that build up
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ESV
If your mom was like my mom, she told you to think before you speak. This Scripture is a little like that only you need to have your thought process transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
In his commentary, Tony Evans writes: “When God has all of us, and when the world has none of us, God does the work of renewing our confused minds. He brings our thoughts in line with his own so that we think God’s thoughts after him. We are given the mind of Christ so we can receive God’s instruction and perspective. (1 Cor 2:16)2
In this way we can use our words to build up rather than tear down, give wise counsel, and speak in a way that is beneficial to all within earshot.
I appreciate the work of the Spirit in expanding our thinking. Helping us to grasp a more complete picture of a concept, such as the great commission.
1-In what ways do you make disciples? How are you involved in the edification of the body of Christ?
2-What has helped you grow and mature as a Christian?
1-New Testament Study Guide by Chuck Smith published by The Word for Today in Costa Mesa, California.
2-The Tony Evans Bible Commentary by Tony Evans published by Holman Bible Publishers in Nashville, Tennessee.
A disciple of Christ is one who (1) believes his doctrine, (2) rests on his sacrifice, (3) imbibes his spirit, and (4) imitates his example (Matt 10:24; Luke 14:26,27,33; John 6:69). (from Easton’s Bible Dictionary, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
©2022 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved