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18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 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)
In this passage we see that disciples make disciples. Making disciples is what we do because of who we are.
We use the word “disciple” here because of Matthew 28, but also because it is the word used most often in the New Testament to speak of Jesus’ followers. Followers of Jesus are referred to as “disciples” over 290 times. In comparison, we find the word “Christian” used three times. (Acts 11 & 26, 1 Peter 4) The Bible also refers to followers of Christ as “saints” because it refers to the newfound position and relationship a believer has with God through Christ.
We as Christians often refer to ourselves as “just sinners saved by grace.” But God refers to us throughout the New Testament as “saints”, “disciples”, and “little Christs” which is what the word “Christian” means. We have been transformed, saved, and justified by the blood of Christ. As a result, we are called to follow the command of Christ and make disciples of all nations. Making disciples is what disciples do because of who we are. We are sinners who have been saved by grace, but praise God we have been saved by grace to live a new life of obedience and faithfulness to the Lord!
In Matthew 28:18-20 we see the following:
1. Disciples make disciples who make disciples.
To be a follower of Christ or a Christian involves living your life to accomplish God’s mission. His mission is for you is given here in Matthew 28- to make disciples. Not only are we to be disciples who make disciples, but each person who comes to Christ is to be a disciple who make disciples. It’s what we do because of who we are.
2. Disciples make disciples as they are going through everyday life.
Verse 19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples.” The word translated “go” can also be rendered “as you are going.” Jesus calls us to make disciples throughout our everyday lives. It is in the ordinary that God intends to use us to share the extraordinary message of the gospel.
3. Disciples make disciples of all nations.
The truth about Jesus came first to the Jews. As Jesus was preparing His disciples to continue his ministry He makes it clear that the message of hope was to be delivered to all people. This included the Gentiles, who according to Jewish law were unclean. But in sending the gospel message to all nations and all people, he fulfills the promise God made to Abraham. God promised Abraham that through his son all nations would be blessed. This promise is true through Jesus Christ as we make disciples of all nations.
4. Disciples make disciples by evangelizing.
Making disciples involves sharing the life changing message of the Gospel with unbelievers. As they come to faith in Christ we are commanded to baptize them and then to teach them to follow the Word and ways of Christ.
5. Disciples make disciples by teaching.
Once a person is saved by faith in Christ, we are to teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded. Making disciples doesn’t end with a profession of faith in Christ, it is just the beginning. As disciples we are called to share the gospel, baptize new believers, and then walk with them to maturity by teaching them to understand and live according to the Word.
6. Disciples make disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has promised to be with us in our effort to share the gospel and teach others. What an amazing promise we can rest in! God is with us, and He is working alongside us in the hearts and minds of those with whom we are sharing the gospel.
A few final thoughts on this passage:
Jesus’ call to make disciples is for all believers. To help the church accomplish its mission of making disciples God has called pastors to equip and train the church to accomplish its task. In Ephesians 4:11-13 we see that God gifts each church with leaders who are assigned the role of making the church ready to make disciples and grow spiritually.
The Gospel is for all people in all places to hear and believe. Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations opens to the door for all to hear, and leads us to break down all walls that hinder us from sharing the gospel.
God has not sent us into our everyday lives to live for Him and share the gospel on our own. He has promised to be with us, even to the end of the age. The Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to empower us and to indwell us. In the same way that Jesus was God with us, or Immanuel, the Holy Spirit is now God in us. There is no point or place in the life of a Christian where he or she is alone. God is always with us, and He is working through us in our effort to make disciples.