The task of missions includes going and crossing into another culture, learning language and culture, evangelism, discipleship, teaching, encouraging, counseling, training, and raising up and appointing elders, which are all parts of what is known as “church-planting”; or establishing indigenous local churches within another culture that has its own national elders in leadership.
Seeing disciples growing in local indigenous churches in their own culture with their own leadership is what the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) points to.
Jesus commanded His disciples as a group to “go and make disciples of all nations”. The command is to the whole group who would later be the church. (Matthew 16:16-20; 18:15-20; Acts chapter 2)
So, today, the church as a whole has the responsibility to the great commission of making disciples of all nations, but not every indivdiual believer will be called to be a pioneer missionary church-planter. But every member of a Biblical church should own the vision of the great commission and be involved by praying, giving, encouraging, teaching on missions, and some will be the goers.
Our responsibility in missions is to apply Matthew 28:18-20. “Make Disciples of all nations” or “disciple all nations” points to seeing churches planted in each nation or people group.
Let’s look at Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 14:21-23 a little closer.
First, Matthew 28:18-20
A. The Sovereignty of the Commander (v. 18) – He has authority and sovereignty over every atom, every event, every circumstance, even sin and tragedy is not outside of His sovereign purposes.
B. The Strategy of the Command (v. 19)
1. Go and make Disciples of all the nations.
The main verb is “make disciples”, but it cannot be separated from the “going”, because one cannot disciple another nation without going. Going includes moving and crossing over into their territory and living among them and learning their language and culture and eating their food and experiencing their conditions in order to communicate and live out the gospel among them. See this article, which links also to work done by Dan Philips on the Greek construction of “go and make disciples”. It is not meant to be understood as “as you go” then make disciples. It is not passive. The going carries command force becasue it is connected to the verb and only makes sense because of the the direct object of “nations”. “Nations” cannot be reached without the going.
2. by baptizing (the doctrine of the Trinity is important to know and understand and teach to new disciples. One cannot be baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who does not accept the doctrine of the Trinity as Biblical and true.)
3. by teaching – Jesus said to teach them everything He commanded them, and He also said in John 16:12-14 that there are other things He has to reveal to them later. The rest of the New Testament is the “other things” that completed revelation. We are to teach the whole counsel of God as “all Scritpure is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”. (Jude, verse 3)
C. The Spiritual Presence of the Lord to accomplish the command. (v. 20)
He is with us to accomplish the goal of discipling the nations! His presence is with us by the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit. (John 14, 16) Jesus said the same thing in different words in Acts 1:8 – the Holy Spirit will give you power and ability to witness and evangelize with boldness, clarity, holiness, and love.
Acts 14:21-23 shows us how the disciples/apostles understood the great commission of Matthew 28:19
The verb “to disciple” or “make disciples” is used and Acts 14:21 is the only time after Matthew 28:19 that this verb is used again, and so that is instructive as to how the Great Commission is to be carried out.
a. they preached the gospel – Evangelism
b. they made many disciples
c. they encouraged them and taught them about persevering and suffering
d. they appointed elders for every church
So, this shows that the goal is not complete if we only preach the gospel alone. God is the one who causes conversion, and when some are converted, we are to disciple them, and teach them about suffering and perseverance and God’s character and then we are to appoint those who are spiritually mature to be the elders/leaders/pastors of that church that is gathering together in that particular culture and language. See also Titus 1:5.
We see God’s goal in Revelation 5:9 becasue He has already purchased and redeemed by the blood of the lamb (see also verses 5-6, about the lamb who is slain) some people from every tribe, and language, and people group or ethnicity. Our responsibility is to seek to do what we can in preaching, teaching, establishing churches, and appointing elders for each church, in each nation or people group, so that they can then preach the gospel and disciple others. But those that are going to believe in the future (the elect) cannot be saved without hearing the message. The apostle Paul said,
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)
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