by Ronnie Rogers, pastor
Trinity Baptist Church
Ed.’s note: Pastor Rogers is on sermon research/study sabbatical and will not be responding to comments on this blog post.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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”’ (Matthew 28:18-20). (underline and embolden added)
Most often, this passage is referenced in order to emphasize missions and evangelism, and those are indeed vital components; however, the teaching task is often, albeit unwittingly, reduced to a secondary or tertiary status. Additionally, the essentialness of the breadth and depth of the teaching component is often obscured by our words and practice.
As is often noted, the main verb and actual command is “make disciples,” whereas “go” “baptizing” and “teaching” are participles. Thus, the command is “make disciples;” although I do believe that the participles’ relationship to “make disciples” provides them with imperatival force.
My focus here is on three words “teaching” “observe” and “all.” These words are both daunting and humbling when truly considered. They remind us of the breadth and depth of the teaching required in order to make mature disciples and thereby fulfill the mandate of our Lord. These words preclude the legitimacy of reducing the command “make disciples” to merely teaching Christ’s people the basics. While the basics and elementary qualities of being a disciple are crucial, they are woefully insufficient to produce thoroughly converted disciples.
The mandate is nothing less than producing mature, stable, and fruit bearing disciples. Paul said equipping continues, “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, see also vs.15).
The breadth and depth of what it means to make and be a disciple is reiterated again and again in Scripture. For example, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). (underline and embolden added)
Thus, the church is to be a place that prospers in authentic worship, sacrificial service, intimate fellowship, sense of mission and evangelism, and biblical teaching and training that affords believers the opportunity to reach maturity along with the challenge for everyone to continue “to grow up in all aspects into Him” (Ephesians 4:15).
In order for this to become a reality, the pastor must seek to lead the church in providing a conducive atmosphere for mature disciple making of those who have become disciples. The following are a few of the essentials for affording such an atmosphere:
While deemphasizing the comprehensive teaching aspect of our Lord’s words may seem prudent in this moment of vast lostness, the lack of producing mature disciples by teaching them to “observe all” not only necessarily misdefines missions and evangelism, but also most assuredly portends an even bleaker missionary future.