Theme: Going out with the good news.
This week’s lessons teach that proclaiming the gospel is a requirement for Christians.
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
The second great universal of this text is “all nations.” It refers, as I have just anticipated, to the universal authority of Jesus over all people and thus also to the worldwide character of Christianity.
It is a bit surprising that Matthew should end on this note. Each of the Gospels has its unique character, as commentators have frequently noted. John’s is most universal; it presents Jesus as “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). Luke’s is a gentile or Greek book; it is usual to think of Luke presenting Jesus as the ideal man (as well as God incarnate). Mark seems to have written for a largely Roman audience; he stresses Jesus as a miracle worker, giving less attention to his discourses than the others. By general consent, Matthew is the pre-eminently Jewish Gospel. It is written to show Jesus as the son of David and the fulfiller of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. No other Gospel is so limited to the immediate historical and ethnic climate into which Jesus was born and in which he ministered. Yet it is this Gospel which ends on the most universal note. In this commission we learn that those few Jewish disciples who had followed Jesus through the days of his ministry and who were being commissioned formally to his service were not to limit their operations to Judaism, as we might expect, but were to go to all the people of the world with this gospel.
Whenever the church has done this it has prospered. When it has failed to do this it has stagnated and dried up. Why? Because discipleship demands evangelism; it is an aspect of our obedience as Christ’s followers, and Jesus blesses obedience. If we are following Jesus, we will go to others for whom he died. A disobedient church is one that does not evangelize, begins to dry up, or even dies.
What does it mean to evangelize? Jesus does not allow this to remain vague. He tells us how to do it. First, he tell us to “make disciples.” In the King James Version this is rendered “teach all nations,” but the word that is translated “teach” is not the same word as the “teach” that comes later. The later word (didasko) actually does mean teach. It is the word from which we get our word didactic. However, the first word is matheteuo, which literally means “to make one a disciple.” This is the way the New International Version renders the phrase: “make disciples of all nations,” that is, “make them disciples of Christ.” And that means, preach the gospel to them so that through the power of the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit they are converted from sin to Christ and thereafter follow him as their true Lord. In this commission evangelism is the primary task.
On the other hand, without what follows, evangelism is at best one-sided and perhaps even unreal. For Jesus goes on to show that those who are his must lead their converts to the point of baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This does not mean that empty rites or ceremonies are to take the place of a vital relationship with Christ. It means rather: first, that at some point ones commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord must become public; for baptism is a public act (it is a declaration before the world that a person intends to follow Jesus); and, second, that the person is uniting with the church, which is Christ’s visible body. This is both natural and necessary. For if a person is truly converted, he or she will want to join with other similarly converted people.
What is indicated by all nations?
What is the specific emphasis of each one of the four gospels?
Why is it surprising that Matthew’s gospel ends on a universal note?
How do we make disciples?
Why is a public declaration of faith important?
Ask God to strengthen your evangelistic heart for the lost.
True discipleship always includes evangelism.