At the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus gave what has been called “The Great Commission.”
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)
This morning I italicized all the verbs in this passage. I’ve been told that the main verb is not ‘make disciples’ but ‘go’ which could also be translated, ‘go, and as you are going . . . .’
I’m not a Greek scholar (and likely know just enough to be dangerous), but have read many commentaries on this passage. The main idea is that every Christian is to be involved in helping those who have believed to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ.
In other words, Jesus is not telling His disciples to go and save souls. As Chambers says, the salvation of souls is the supernatural work of God. I cannot do that job; it is totally beyond my skill set! Instead, I am to teach or make known to others what God has taught me, and I can do that by words and/or example. I do this by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ who promises to be with me as I obey Him.
The great purpose of God is that His disciples live as obedient examples to the world of what it means to be a child of God, living in His kingdom as His children and His servants. By my life I am supposed to stand out as holy (other than), giving people a small but genuine glimpse of Jesus Christ. This will arouse in them either one of two responses; interest or revulsion, a desire to find out what makes me tick or a hatred that can lead to various levels of persecution.
Of course the building of disciples by teaching them will only be accepted by those whose hearts are drawn to Christ. This is a work of the Holy Spirit. I cannot control it but I can count on Jesus to be with me all the time. If other people are affected favorably by Him, He will enable me to do what He asks. If they respond with the same resistance to me as they do to Him, He will give me what I need to deal with that as well. Some would say that we are co-workers with God.
For me, the challenge has always been to remember that Jesus Christ has not only the authority to tell me the purpose of my life, but also the power to make it happen. I find it far easier to drift along, forgetting that I am His ambassador and forgetting that I represent His presence in this sinful world.
This is why spending time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer is so important. I am on vacation right now, and it would be easy to just skip daily devotions and skip prayer. Instead of having the Lord speak to me and remind me of what I’m here for, it would be easier to go shopping, sight-seeing, and so on rather than keep my heart open to His leading. Yet He has taught me that taking the easy way is a slippery slope. By putting myself out of His will and ignoring His grace and blessing, my vacation would be spoiled with a horrid dose of conviction. That would ruin this wonderful time of loafing in the sunshine and being with family.
When Jesus said, “Go . . . and as you are going . . . .” He knew that no matter where I am, the needs of others never changes. A hunger for truth can always be in human hearts whether I’m on vacation or not, and if it is not, my life is supposed to stir it up.