"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
The disciples where already in a 'gathered' state when Jesus commanded them to 'Go and make disciples'. These words would have reminded them about being sent out before, when Jesus sent them out during His 3 year ministry (Matthew 10, Luke 9). Rather going out to 'proclaim the Kingdom of God is a hand' they are now commanded to make dicsiples, followers of Christ.
This was a call to disperse from the gathered state theu were in, alone with Jesus, to go into the world/all antions to make followers. We want to follow suit. When we gather together as a group of followers (generally Sunday & Tuesday evenings), we are the gathering as Matthew 16 speficifies and Jesus is among us. Come the rest of the week, we are sent out or going out to make disciples and as Jesus promises here in Matthew 28, He is still with us as we do it.
In short, we are either 'gathered' as a body of believers or 'sent' out to make disciples.
Sometimes our view of this has moved from disciple to 'converts'. They are completely different meanings and the desire of Jesus is to have the former not the later.
It is true that to become a disciples, somebody must first convert from their old life and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and saviour of their life. Lord, in terms of He is God (second person of the trinity) and all things are made in Him, by Him and through Him. Saviour is the recieving of forgiveness of our sins against God, which was only made possible by Jesus death on the cross.
However, Jesus desires followers. People who are willing to follow Him. Jesus defines this to His disicples by saying; "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24). A disiple follows and obeys Jesus commands and seeks to serve Him through everything, even to death. Being a biblical disciple reveals our true desire and heart in following Jesus.
Many in our modern world would say that the gospel is not inclusive of everyone and is one of the reasons they reject the cross. Well, all nations means 'everyone'. The gospel is very inclusive because it is for all nations or the whole world.
God, in the Old Testament, chose Israel to be His people and He to be their God. However, God always wanted to reach out to the others nations. Abraham was to be a blessing to all nations, not just Israel. In the New Testament, through the work of Jesus on the cross (which was God ultimate plan anyway), the chosen people of God spread to the gentiles, which to a Jew meant 'everybody' else who wasn't a Jew.
The work of God always was, is and will be for everybody and the work of Jesus on the cross paved a way for that to happen, if people receive and follow Him. And here lies the problem. We all have to change!! Everyone who has ever received Christ as Lord and saviour has had to change and have been willing to. We need to change, because we all need forgiving. Before accpeting Christ, the very fact that we are breathing stops us from having a relationship with God. It has nothing to do with what we have done or what ethnicity we are. Even the Jews had to change their thinking in order to receive Christ.
Although no matter how inclusive the gospel and message of God is, not everyone will want to be included. The bible states that it is God's desire that all men to be saved. Therefore, we are to expect all people, who receive Christ as their Lord, to be made disciples for Him.
Every time someone became a believer in the New Testament, baptism closely follows. They held it in high regard, as they should, because they understood the importamce of it. In modern church, baptism has become something to debate, fall out about and something the individual decides to do or not. This is so far removed from the biblical understanding.
Peter refers to the waters of the flood in Noah's day as a link to baptism (1 Peter 3:15-22). He is quick to point out that the waters did not save Noah and his family but the waters brought seperation by wiping out the sin and revealing a new, fresh life. Paul also refers to this speration by reminding the Corinthians that the people of Israel were baptised when they passed through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-5). They escaped the land of slavery and by crossing through the sea, they became separated from Egypt (slavery) and began a life in complete reliance on God to provide and to lead.
Paul also describes baptism as clothing yourself with Christ. A believer has not just received Christ (salvation) but clothes themself with Him through baptism.
All this fits with the command that Jesus gives in the great commission and its importance. True believers are disciples (followers) and true disciples are baptised (clothing in Christ and separated from slavery to sin). Being a disciple and being baptised is just as a command as the 'go' and the 'make'.
The disciples were to make more disciples. They had everything they needed to make disciples because they first had received it from their relationship and obedience to Jesus. Jesus commanded them to simply share that teaching and at the heart of the teaching is to obey His commands.
Every true believer should spend their lifetime making other disciples. This is part of everyones works of service to the Lord. First be an obedient disciple then look for someone to disicple. This is not a role for those who are 'gifted' or 'paid' or 'really mature'. This role is a responsiblity for everyone who calls themself a follower of Christ.
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