May 11, 2011
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The Post-Resurrection Ministry of Jesus
“Go and Make Disciples”
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I often have wonderful talks with my friends at the beach. Yesterday, I was speaking with a friend of mine about his activity at a table. He has witnessed the Lord Jesus Christ bring many people to that table to talk, read their Bibles, and share their lives together. My friend, however, feels somewhat overwhelmed with the number of people who want to spend time with him. I mentioned to him that Jesus taught His disciples to make more disciples, because no one can reach everyone, but a team ministry can reach the entire world. Following the process of each disciple making new disciples, Jesus laid down a plan that caused people to say the disciples had turned the entire world upside down for Christ (Acts 17:6). Now we let us look at the Great Commission Jesus gave His disciples before He ascended.
All Authority. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus proclaimed to the disciples that all authority had been given to him in heaven and on earth. Jesus spoke to the eleven disciples as they gathered on the mountain Jesus had designated (Matthew 28:16). When they first saw Jesus, they worshipped Him, but some were doubtful. Jesus always speaks to our doubts, and He will always take appropriate steps to help us deal with our doubts. We have already seen Jesus deal with the doubts of Thomas (John 20:24-29). We need to remember that Jesus knows and understands our doubts, and often pushes our lives ahead to overcome our doubts. On that mountain in Galilee, before He ascended, Jesus commissioned His disciples because He had received all authority both in heaven and on earth. As God, Jesus has always had such authority. As man, Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and lives in harmony with the Father and Holy Spirit at all points. We should keep in mind that Jesus describes this gift of authority as a completed, punctiliar act. I mean that Jesus received this authority in total. Furthermore, He describes the scope of His authority here as spanning heaven and earth. We should compare this authority with Acts 1:7: “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;”. While Jesus claimed all authority had been delivered to Him, the Father had fixed the time for restoring the kingdom, and by implication, ending one time or epoch, and beginning another. So we see that the authority Jesus was speaking about in the Matthew 28:18 must be related directly to the commission to follow.
Go Therefore. When we see the word “therefore” in a verse, often at the beginning of verses, we should be careful to understand how the present verse relates to the previous verse. Usually the word “therefore” tells us that God is now drawing a conclusion from the preceding verses. In this case, because all authority on earth and in heaven has been given to Jesus, He now tells His disciples to go. So often we like to stay, and not move out of our familiar, regular routines, or move out of our normal places we like to stay. Jesus command His disciples to Go. Notice it was a command.
Make Disciples. Jesus now explains that they need to go into all the nations for a particular purpose: to make disciples. In the New Testament, Jesus had made disciples of the eleven men He called. Judas Iscariot had denied Christ, and had always been the son of damnation (John 17:12). Each of us today has a duty to make disciples. We only make disciples by the power and authority of Jesus Christ. He alone saves people, by giving them faith to believe that He died for their sins on the cross, and lives now within them. To be a disciple means that we learn from Jesus. He alone is our Leader and Teacher, and He does not have anyone else given that title (Matthew 23:8-10). We give our lives to Him, so that He will lead us and live within us all day, every day. We can say that we no longer live, but Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Every day we should be devoting time to training and teaching other faithful believers to learn from Christ and we should enjoy fellowship with them. With our families, we should be talking about Christ and teaching our children and spouses diligently, and do so when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down and when we rise up (Deuteronomy 6:7).
Baptizing. Jesus tied baptism to making disciples (Matthew 28:19). Only believers should be baptized, and so infant baptism misleads people into thinking they have already been baptized. Infants lack the capacity to have saving faith, although very young children can understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, believe in Christ for salvation, and be baptized. Baptism never washes away sins, but does provide for identification with Christ, and follows His command for every believer to be baptized (see First Steps, Step Three, Baptism). The New Testament church saw thousands baptized at a time, as God rapidly expanded the church in Jerusalem under the preaching of Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4). Believers came to saving faith in Christ and were immediately baptized. Jesus explicitly taught baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Teaching. Jesus also told His disciples to teach the nations all that I commanded you (Matthew 28:20). Jesus did not tell them to spread their own ideas and opinions, but focused upon the things they had received as commandments from Christ Himself. They were to teach the nations to observe all the commandments. In this case, the word observe does not mean just look at or understand, but it means to practice and embrace. The disciples of Jesus all over the world should learn and practice the things commanded by Christ. But Jesus never intended us to follow practices mechanically, but rather by His direct, personal leading.
I Am with You Always. Jesus promised the disciples on that mountain that He would be with them always, even to the end of the age. He did not say that after the end of the age He would leave them, but He implied that they would be with Him and He would return (see Acts 1:7-8). Jesus would return to earth to reign in His kingdom and they would be with Him. In fact, all believers will reign with Christ when He returns in His kingdom (2 Timothy 2:12). This promise of His presence with us always keeps my heart warm in Him. I love to remember this promise because of the hope, joy, and life it brings to me.
So we learn more about the Post-Resurrection Ministry of Jesus.
● Jesus disclosed the full extent of His divine authority–heaven and earth. Because of that authority given to Him, Jesus commissioned His disciples to be active for Him.
● By His authority, Jesus commanded His disciples to make more disciples, and each of us should take that command to heart every day. We should share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and as people believe, we should teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded them. We should baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and help them practice all the commands of Christ.
● Jesus promised to be with us always. In this passage, Jesus commissioned the disciples to be worldwide in their outreach, and personally aware of His authority and presence. They would be acting under His guidance, and they must follow Him. We must do likewise, staring today.
Application for Today
I hear Jesus speaking to me about the Great Commission today. I should be going to my friends, my neighbors, and everywhere Jesus sends me in the world. I need to make disciples, and not just share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I need to see believers baptized, and taught to practice all the commands of Christ. They need to be reassured that Jesus will be with them every day. Are you making disciples of Jesus Christ today?