Disciple-making Disciples ~ 20110102 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/02 Make Disciples by Immersing and Teaching
Last time we took a good hard look at who Jesus made himself out to be and some of the amazing claims that he made. If he really is who he says he is, then we would do well to pay careful attention to what he says. Today I want to look at Jesus' final command to his disciples before he left the planet.
In this passage, Jesus claims to be the fulfillment of a passage we looked at briefly last week. Jesus claimed to be the 'Son of Man'. We find that title in Daniel:
Jesus, after his crucifixion and resurrection, claimed that this prophecy in Daniel had been fulfilled in him. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The Ancient of Days had given to the Son of Man “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him”.
Jesus himself connected his title 'Son of Man' with an authority that he possessed:
Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, has always been and will always be God, and retains the authority of God. But he became human so that he could bear our sins and become the Savior of the world. In Peter's preaching recorded for us in the book of Acts, he pointed to this new role as Savior
Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth, specifically to be the savior and judge.
When Jesus prayed as he anticipated the cross, he said:
So Jesus, in claiming that he has been given all authority, authority to be the savior and judge, was fulfilling Daniel's prophecy, that he “was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.”
And he was claiming this authority as a basis for the command that he would give to his followers in Matthew 28. Before we look at what Jesus commanded, let's look at who he was talking to. It says 'Jesus came and said to them'. We have to look back a few verses to see who the 'them' is. If we drop back to verse 16, we see:
So what Jesus said was addressed to the eleven disciples. But we learn more about them if we are paying attention to the details. These are the twelve, the disciples whom Jesus had selected after praying all night, minus Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. And we see these are disciples who are still following Jesus; still obeying him. Verse 16 tells us that they went to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. So they were still obeying Jesus, still doing whatever he commanded. That is what a disciple is. We learn something else about these disciples. They were worshipers of Jesus. When they saw their resurrected Lord, they bowed the knee. They paid homage to him as their king. They acknowledged that he is the one who is in charge, in control. They declared that he is most valuable, of the highest worth. But some doubted. They had questions. They worshiped and they obeyed, but they didn't have all the answers. Some doubted. But Jesus spoke to all of them.
Another thing we can say about who it was that Jesus addressed is although it was primarily addressed to his eleven obedient worshiping doubting followers, it was not limited to only those eleven. We know this for several reasons. First, the command to baptize and teach was carried out by a much wider circle than just the eleven. We see, for instance, in the book of Acts, Philip the evangelist, who was not one of the eleven, teaching and baptizing. (Acts 6:5; 8:38). Throughout the history of the church after the eleven apostles, we see teaching and baptizing going on, and this is just what Jesus intended, because he instructs his disciples to make disciples and teach them to obey all that he has commanded. That must at least include his command to make disciples by baptizing and teaching. So his disciples were to make disciple making disciples.
And his concluding promise indicates that his purpose is exponentially bigger than this initial group of eleven. Jesus says 'Look, I am with you always, to the end of the age'. Jesus' promise is for successive generations of disciples. Jesus is about to leave the planet. He is about to ascend into heaven and disappear from sight. But his promise is that he would be with us always, to the end of the age. His presence was not limited to the original eleven. That promise is for us today! “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Although Jesus is not physically or visibly with us, he is truly with us in a real authentic way. We have his promise on that!
We can also see that Jesus purpose reaches far beyond his original disciples when we see how he prays for those disciples. Look at John 17:
Jesus is praying here specifically for us – for those who will believe in him through their word – through the word of the original eleven. I'd like to come back around to this passage in a few minutes to reinforce what we are seeing here.
So far we have established who Jesus was addressing when he gave his great commission command – doubting but worshiping disciples who would follow him and do what he commands – including us! And we have established what kind of authority Jesus was given by his Father – specifically authority to save and authority to judge all flesh – people of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Now let's turn our attention to what it is that Jesus commands them and us.
What Jesus Commands
Our English translation can be somewhat misleading here. 'Go' is not the focus of the text. The imperative verb in the sentence is 'make disciples', and it is modified by three participles. Going is simply a necessary part of discipling all nations. Make disciples is the central command Jesus gives to his disciples. A disciple is one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.
Every disciple was called to leave everything.
Jesus doesn't have weekend disciples – those who have other priorities but follow Jesus in their spare time. Jesus demands to be first in everything. That doesn't mean that if you follow Jesus you will automatically quit your job.
The primary objective for every disciple of Jesus is to disciple others. We follow Jesus and we want everyone else to follow Jesus. The two participles that come next give us the 'how' of discipling. Disciple making happens through immersion and teaching.
I use the word 'immersion' because that is the translation of the Greek word 'baptizo'. Make disciples of all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The immersion of a convert into water was a symbolic statement that they were leaving their old belief system behind and were turning from it to follow a new path. That is what the bible word 'repent' means – to have a change of heart and mind. Being immersed in water was the public declaration to family and friends and the community that a radical change had taken place.
And this is at its core a trinitarian commission. Jesus commands that we immerse disciples into the one Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A name in the bible stands for the character and reputation and authority of the person. So we are to immerse followers of Jesus in the one authority of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are to be immersed into the character and personality of the one triune God. We are to be saturated, drenched with the Name.
One part of the disciple-making process is the public proclamation that a person is abandoning self to become immersed as a follower of Jesus. The other part of disciple-making is teaching. The disciples referred to Jesus as their rabbi or teacher, and they were to pass on his teaching to the coming generations of Jesus' disciples. There is a content that is to be communicated. The apostles refer to it as 'the teaching' or 'the doctrine' (Acts 2:42; Rom. 16:17; Eph.4:11-15; 1 Tim.4:6, 16, 6:1-3; Titus 1:9, 2:1, 10; 2 Jn.1:9-10). This is why the bible is written with words. There is concrete objective historically anchored truth that is to be kept pure from error and can be communicated to others. There is content to the teaching that we can lay on the table and evaluate biblically to determine if it is true or false. But teaching encompasses more than just the passing on of accurate information. A disciple was to imitate his rabbi. Discipling is relational and passes on not only truth but also character and passion. This presupposes that God's words are true and that they are transformational. Jesus said:
So teaching is not merely passing on information. Teaching in the disciple-making process is bringing a person into interaction with the words of Jesus in such a way that they are personally transformed. Making disciples should transform the thinking, the feeling, and the acting of the disciple. Teaching must convey information, character and passion and translate into a changed life.
Disciple-making requires that we 'teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded us.' This is more than subscribing to a particular belief system or reciting a prayer. To be a disciple is to be a follower of Jesus, to submit to him as Lord and to do everything he tells us to do.
Let's look back at John 17 and see what we can learn from how Jesus prays for his disciples. Jesus claims that those eleven had been given to him by the Father, and he had kept and guarded them in his name. Jesus says:
So they have been given specific content: God's words; they have received, believed and kept them. He says again in verse 14:
And Jesus asks that the Father would sanctify them with the word of truth.
The disciples are to receive, believe and keep Gods word, to be sanctified by it, and Jesus sends them into the world just as the Father sent Jesus into the world. The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the disciples equipped with and transformed by his word, and then he prays for those who would believe in Jesus through their word – for us.
Jesus prays with the ultimate purpose that the world may believe in Jesus through his word spoken by future disciples.
So we see that Jesus has been given all authority. As a result of this he commands his disciples to make disciples of all nations. We are to make disciples by immersing them in the trinitarian Name of Father, Son and Spirit. We are to make disciples by teaching – conveying information, character and passion that will translate into a transformed life. Every Christian is to be a disciple-making disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are no exceptions. Jesus doesn't say that we should convert everyone and disciple some of them. He doesn't say that some Christians will make disciples and others will warm the benches. This is a command. It is from Jesus and it is to each one of us who claims the name of Christ. We all must be disciple-making disciples of our Lord Jesus.
So what does this look like? We can gain some insight from Luke's version of the great commission:
So the Scriptures are foundational. And the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is central. The message to be proclaimed is repentance and forgiveness of sins. And discipling is to be done not with human wisdom or ingenuity, but empowered by the Holy Spirit. So we need to be bible-saturated, Spirit-filled, and gospel-centered as we point all people to Jesus.
Let's look at some bible examples of disciple-making in action.
So be a disciple-making disciple. Saturate yourself in God's word, follow Jesus completely, and humbly, prayerfully, empowered by the Spirit, you teach and admonish one another, use God's word to encourage one another, set the example in your attitude of gratitude toward God. Make disciples of all nations! This comes back around to Jesus as the fulfillment of Daniel's vision.
To Jesus is given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. We, his disciple-making disciples are given the privilege of inviting men and women into this indestructible kingdom; into relationship with the King!