These last three verses of the Gospel of Matthew contain one of the most important words spoken by Jesus. These words are generally known as the Great Commission. While Jesus gave the Great Commission to the eleven apostles, it is meant for everyone who professes to be His follower and disciple.
The Great Commission is a command. That is what the word, commission, means. It is a command given to the church corporately and the individuals that make up the church. The Great Commission is not a suggestion, and we cannot conveniently ignore it. Unfortunately, many Christians do not take it seriously. They do not bother about it. But you must not disregard it. To put it bluntly, to ignore it is to disobey God’s will and one of His most basic commands.
The reason for the continual spread of Christianity throughout history – beginning in Jerusalem and Judea, and moving on to Samaria and the Roman Empire, and then to the rest of the world – is a testimony of the disciples of Jesus Christ taking the Great Commission seriously. Many willingly make sacrifices, and some fearlessly lay down their lives so that the gospel is preached. Will you be counted among the faithful ones?
Our church will have our usual Christmas evangelistic service. We are mobilising everyone to pray for five unbelieving family members and friends. We want to see these unsaved people come into the kingdom of God. Lay hold of this opportunity as we join our hearts together in unity to pray and believe God for a good harvest of souls.
Many Christians mistakenly equate the Great Commission merely with evangelism, that is, preaching the gospel to the lost unbelievers. This is only partially correct. The Great Commission certainly includes evangelism. It begins with evangelism, but it does not stop there.
Jesus’ command is to make disciples. The biblical text for this pastoral reflection makes it very clear. Notice from the text that making disciples encompasses two things.
First, ‘baptizing them.’ Baptism is more than just a necessary ritual where believers act out what had transpired spiritually in them when they confessed Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. That is, their old selves are buried together with Christ in His death, and they rise in the newness of life in Christ. More importantly, in the context of making disciples, baptism is a pledge of allegiance to Christ. The world is behind us and the cross before us. Our allegiance is only to one God – our Lord Jesus Christ - even as we have forsaken all other gods. This is the mark of a true disciple.
Secondly, ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ In a nutshell, it is to obey Christ and all His teachings. This is what allegiance to Christ looks like. Obedience is the mark of allegiance. Mere profession with the mouth is not good enough. Sometimes, talk is cheap. How often had God accused the Israelites of drawing near to Him with their mouths but their hearts were far from Him! God is not impressed with people who merely say that they would follow Him. He is only interested in those who genuinely follow Him. We must show our faith with our works.
How do we make disciples?
The discipleship process begins with sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with unbelievers and bringing those who believe into the church community. It continues with training these new believers with the Word of God and equipping them for ministry. Different churches have different programmes and activities for these training and equipping purposes. Fundamentally, discipleship always involves a few things.
The biblical discipleship model is simple. There is nothing complicated about how the early church made disciples. The believers learnt from their leaders. They listened to their teachings and watched how their leaders lived. They had regular fellowship with one another. They spent time with one another. They talked about their lives, shared their testimonies and discussed the apostles’ teachings. They broke bread regularly, and they prayed constantly. Prayer is the missing element in the life of the modern church. I have observed that many Christians are afraid to pray with other believers. This should not be the case.
As the early disciples engaged in these simple God-ordained activities, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully in their midst. They witnessed many signs and wonders, and the church grew rapidly (Acts 2:43-47).
We can learn a valuable lesson here. The early church thrived because they were hungry for God and they sought Him with all their hearts. They also came together in the unity of hearts and purpose to make disciples. They had only one agenda, and that was to seek God and do His will. It was not some methodologies that propelled their phenomenal growth and successful disciple-making, but God’s response to their earnest pursuit of Him and His purpose.
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua