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"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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" Matthew 28:19-20.
This is the commission that Jesus gave His Church. This is the mission statement which underlies all ministry. It defines the purpose of God expressed through the Church (Ephesians 3:10) - the making of disciples among all nations.
Multiplying the Gospel
God created within every living creature the ability to reproduce "each according to its kind" (Genesis 1:11,24). When we make disciples, we are reproducing after our own kind.
"Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times" Mark 4:8.
After the Flood, God told Noah and his sons to "be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it" (Genesis 9:7). But when Jesus told us to "go and make disciples of all nations," He was telling us to do the same thing: multiply!
"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" 2 Timothy 2:2.
God wants to multiply the Gospel through our lives. What we have, we can pass on to others (Matthew 10:8; Colossians 3:16). We can only do this by coming alongside other people's lives, just as Jesus came alongside us (John 1:14). Discipleship is through person-to-person contact - not just hearing about the life of Christ, but seeing it in operation (1 John 1:1-3).
"In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power" Acts 19:20.
The Apostles' Teaching
"Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" Acts 2:41-42 (see also 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2 John 9-11).
The teaching of the apostles was written down in the New Testament. It includes a number of unchanging themes:
The person of Jesus
"Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ" Acts 5:42 (see also 28:31).
All the purposes of God have been focused in the person of Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10; 3:11). He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) and the focus of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
The finished work of the Cross
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" 1 Corinthians 1:18 (see also verses 23-24; 15:3-4; Galatians 3:1).
The Cross is the foundation of the Christian life. The message of the Gospel centers around the finished work of the Cross.
The pattern of godly living
"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness" Romans 6:17-18 (see also Ephesians 4:21-24; Titus 2:1-15).
The making of disciples involves "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19). Everywhere Paul went, he spent time teaching the disciples how to live a godly life (Acts 18:11).
"...Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples'" John 8:31 (see also 14:23-24; 15:20).
The Way of the Gospel
The Gospel is about entry into a whole new pattern of life - "a new and living way" (Hebrews 10:20), also called "the new way of the Spirit" (Romans 7:6).
"...because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake" 1 Thessalonians 1:5 (see also 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 3:10-11; Hebrews 13:7).
There are two patterns a Christian can live by:
The pattern of this world
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is..." Romans 12:2 (see 1 Peter 1:14).
We are called to live in the world, but not of it (John 17:14-16). The discipleship process begins with a repentance from regarding the world as a pattern for living.
"With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation'" Acts 2:40 (see also James 4:4; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
The pattern of God's Son
"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" Romans 8:29.
Jesus is "the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). He is the starting point and the ending point of discipleship. But this is not just an individual experience. We learn to follow Jesus as we join with other Christians who are also committed to follow Jesus. It is a learning experience together.
"Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you" Philippians 3:17.
Discipling in the Gospel
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" Matthew 24:14.
The process of discipleship is through one-on-one contact - discipling the individual (Colossians 1:25-29). But the end-goal of discipleship embraces the nations of the world - the discipling of all peoples.
"Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ...so that all nations might believe and obey him - to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen" Romans 16:25.
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