Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making Disciples (part 5)

The Great Commission
Studying the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is the beginning of our journey to find principles of discipleship. Looking inductively at the Great Commission reveals several things in regards to making disciples.

Matthew 28:18-20
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."

Verse 18 – “All Authority” Here Jesus addresses His disciples gathered to see Him after the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus has revealed His authority and power in both heaven and earth. Death no longer has a hold on Him and forgiveness is available to all willing to receive it. Nothing is off limits to Jesus now. D.A. Carson in his commentary on Matthew states, “The dawning of the new age of messianic authority changes the circumstances and impels his disciples forward to a universal ministry he himself never engaged in during the days of his flesh.”[1] Because Jesus has been given all authority by the Father He commands His disciples to make disciples. This authority gives Jesus the right to ask this of His disciples.

In Greek the word for “authority” is exousia and it means freedom, power, authority, and right to do something.[2] In the Old Testament and classical Greek this word was used to refer to the enacting rule of a king, father, or tenant in authorizing officials and messengers to carry out his orders.[3] Here Jesus Christ is authorizing, with power from the Father, the church to carry out the order of making disciples of all nations. Jesus is not charging specific individuals with this task, but the entire group. His ministry will expand to new places and people as the Spirit moves through the church. However, some waiting will be required before the disciples can fulfill the Great Commission.

Acts 1 teaches us that Jesus’ disciples were asked to wait for the Spirit (Acts 1:8). The people of God received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost while gathered in the upper room praying (i.e., Acts 2). A few moments later Peter preached his first sermon which led to thousands of new converts. The book of Acts teaches us that God wanted a community of disciples. God equipped His church to make disciples and live for Him. If we explore this issue further we discover in Paul’s writings (e.g., Romans 1:11, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-13) that God the Spirit gifts His people with spiritual gifts for the purpose of making disciples and building up the church.

Two key principles (to be elaborated on later) emerge from verse 18 for making disciples.
­ 1. Discipleship involves God the Father, Son, and Spirit
­ 2. Discipleship involves the entire church working together

[1] D.A. Carson, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Matthew, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984) pg. 595.
[2] William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006) pg. 47, 48.
[3] Verlyn D. Verbrugge, NIDNTT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000) pg. 191.

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