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.”
Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
The life of Jesus is the most astonishing act in all of human history.
Because of our continuous sinning against God, we deserved nothing from Him except His wrath. As the Creator of everything, He demanded absolute perfection from us and even the smallest of sins bear eternal consequences because He is an eternal God. We were trapped in a well of sin with no hope of escape.
Two of the most beautiful words in the entire Bible are: but God. They appear whenever God intervenes on our behalf, which means they appear often. Sin and its consequences are bad news, but God intervenes, bringing good news.
The good news is that God came into the world as a man, Jesus Christ. Being fully human and full divine, Jesus lived the perfect sinless life that we were commanded to live. He then died a horrific death for us, even though He did not earn death. Jesus lived His life and died His death in substitution for us. But the good news doesn’t stop there. Jesus did not merely die for us; He also rose again to life, defeating death permanently.
It is from this position of death-conquering that we receive the Great Commission.
Before ascending to sit at God the Father’s right hand, Jesus gathered His disciples to Him for one final in-person teaching. He gave them a declaration of His authority and their final mission until He returns.
Notice that Jesus’ prefaces His commands with a declaration of His authority. Just as God gave Adam the First Commission as Creator, Jesus commissions His disciples as Lord of all, as the Re-Creator. We must, therefore, keep this authority in mind as we move forward to the commands.
As with the First Commission, Jesus issues four commands, but they are summed into one. The heart of the First Commission was the order to multiply. Being fruitful was accomplished through multiplying, and filling and subduing the earth could only be fulfilled via multiplication. Likewise, making disciples is the heart of the Great Commission. We go to all nations, baptizing and teaching, in order to make disciples.
We are called to make disciples, and this call comes from our Lord.
Making disciples, therefore, is not optional.
We can only either obey or disobey the command.
But why does Jesus call us to make disciples?
Jesus did not command His disciples to multiply simply for the sake of creating more disciples. Jesus never played the numbers game. John 6 gives the account of Jesus feeding the 5000. After doing so, Christ had more than 5000 followers because everyone loves free food. But seeing that they were not actually interested in His words, He told them that real food is found by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Almost everyone left because no one likes to get free food from a possible cannibal.
Jesus was never afraid to thin the crowd by separating the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. But still Christianity has become the most culture-shaping force on the planet, with Christians being found in every nation. How is this so?
We should note that disciples, being students, embody the characteristics of their teacher. It is a natural process to become like whomever you follow. This thought is captured in the word Christian, which essentially means “like Christ” or “little Christ”. As Christians, we desire to become like our Lord and Teacher, meaning the goal of creating a disciple is to create an image-bearer of Christ.
The First Commission and Great Commission, therefore, both have the same goal: the glorification and exaltation of God. Both accomplish this goal through multiplying and filling the earth with image-bearers.
Making disciples means creating more image-bearers of Christ. As disciples of Jesus, we should desire to make more disciples of Jesus. We should desire to make the good news that God saves known to the world, a truth which brings light into the darkness of the world. Jesus also called this the expansion of His kingdom against the kingdom of darkness.
As the Church (the collective followers of Christ), our aim and mission is to make disciples, which is the expansion of Christ’s kingdom, which is the exaltation and glorification of Jesus Christ.
Because local churches are composed of their members, each individual church congregation will change continuously with each member that goes and comes, but this mission does not and cannot.
The function of the individual Christian and the Church collective is to make disciples.
A Christians that does not make disciples is no Christian.
A church that does not make disciples is no church.