Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

We’re so glad you could join us for episode 185 of Missions on point. We are several episodes deep now in a series on the church in the Great Commission as seen in Matthew 28.  We have been using a definition of discipleship as the Christ-commanded, Spirit-empowered equipping of all true believers everywhere through the church to fully know and obey Jesus.  We’ve considered the authority of discipleship.  It’s Christ-commanded.  We’ve considered the scope of discipleship.  Making disciples of all true believers everywhere.  We’ve considered the beginning of discipleship in baptism.  Discipleship is done for all true believers through the church.  And now at last we reach the goal of discipleship that disciples are taught to fully know and obey Jesus.  This is probably the aspect of discipleship that most people think of when they think of what Jesus commands us in the Great Commission.  He tells us in Matthew 28 that we make disciples by “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  We’ve reached our third participle, our third “i-n-g” word, describing how we are to make disciples.

We cannot help to have already talked about the goal of disciple-making.  Our goals are all about our motivations, our desired outcomes.   We need a vision of the future that is different than the present.  Ultimately that goal is in heaven.  We’ve considered the goal when we thought about the scope of discipleship in Revelation 5 and 7 and that glorious scene of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation praising the Lamb around the throne. 

Yet while we wait for that glorious day, we’ve got a lot of work to do today.  And that is because we have come to our third universal qualifier in this passage.  We’ve got a lot of teaching to do because we see the word “all” used.  The first two uses of “all” we have already seen.  Jesus said that he has all authority.  And second, we are told to go and make disciples of all nations.  And now we have our third “all”.  We are to teach our disciples to observe all that Jesus has commanded us. 

The main point to be made here is that the church is the only institution that can truly obey this command to teach disciples to observe all that Jesus has commanded.  There may be many other organizations and gatherings of people who seek to teach obedience to Jesus’ commands.  But none of them can get close to teaching everything.  The reason for this is that only the church has no limitations on its membership other than faith in Jesus Christ.  As we noted last time with the beginning of discipleship as baptism, all those who have faith in Jesus Christ are welcomed into the church.  Every other institution is limited in its demographics, whether that be a Christian school, a campus ministry, or any other parachurch ministry.  The church, though, disciples people from the cradle to the grave.  Furthermore, there is no limit to obeying Jesus.  No one masters the curriculum.  For their whole lives, everyone continues to grow up into Christ, until he returns and we are finally transformed into his image.  We only graduate at the grave or when Jesus returns.  This is why I think that missions endeavors that do not have a clear focus on planting and establishing healthy churches are at best short-sighted.  If we are going to obey the Great Commission to teach all that Jesus commanded, then it’s going to require the life-long discipleship of which only the church can fulfill. 

Before we unpack this aspect of the Great Commission in more detail, we need to pause here for a moment and remember our need for Jesus to save us.  And we also need to remember that this command to obey all that Jesus teaches us is ultimately given to those who have already put their faith in Jesus Christ.  For those joined by faith to the eternal fount of life, we have his resurrection power coursing through us.  But without Christ, if you just tell me to obey all his commands, I will quickly collapse in defeat, for my sin is evident and I have no ability in myself to obey.  But our true hope of a sanctified life is that we are first resting in the wonderful truth of the gospel that Jesus has fulfilled every righteous requirement of God’s law on our behalf.  So, to those who have already been saved by grace alone and not by works of righteousness, Jesus then speaks to these disciples and tells us that he has made us as new creations for the purpose of doing good works.  This is not a futile command to obey all that Jesus has commanded. 

With that gospel reminder as our foundation, I now want us to consider some specific implications of this aspect of the Great Commission.  Of course, as we go along, we will especially have our eye on the church that desires to obey the Great Commission as they send a missionary for cross-cultural church planting.  Hear are 5 implications of the goal of discipleship in “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” 

  1. We must teach.

This point might seem obvious, but you might be surprised at how many ministries do not have any aim at teaching.  They may be doing a lot of humanitarian good; valuable, worthwhile and commendable work.  Yet, if they are not teaching the Bible in any sense, then it is hard to call it a ministry.  There may be many activities that support a teaching ministry or lead people into a teaching ministry.  But they must not take precedence and they must always have their goal of bring others under the teaching of Christ.  Paul’s logic in Romans 10 is clear.  “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”  We must teach.

  1. We must teach Christ.

Furthermore, there are many ministries that do teach, but in order to faithfully obey the Great Commission, we must teach people about Jesus.  Jesus in his own teaching leads us to himself.  This is why Jesus begins his commission by drawing our attention to his authority.  Jesus demonstrates this well after his resurrection on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24.  The Apostle Paul tells the Philippians that he is pleased that at least Christ is preached, even if by selfish and insincere preachers.  The gospel is central to the Bible and Jesus is the central message of the gospel.  Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone.  And so above all, we must teach Christ.

  1. We must teach obedience to Christ.

Jesus makes a special emphasis in the Great Commission of teaching disciples to obey his commands.  His commands not only show us our need for a savior, for we all fall short of God’s glory.  But his commands also give instruction for believers to grow in sanctification.  According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  Jesus demands no less than absolute, complete devotion to him, to love and obey him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.  We must teach obedience to Christ.

  1. We must teach the whole counsel of God.

We emphasize again the universal qualifier here.  Jesus demands that we obey all that he has commanded us.  We cannot pick and choose which parts to teach.  And we must be wary of emphasizing only what we want to.  Often this means that preachers work their way through entire books of the Bible in their regular exposition of scripture.  This is one of the main reasons that the life-long teaching ministry of the church must be in view.  The Apostle Paul boasts to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:27 saying, “for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”  We cannot unhinge ourselves from any part of scripture.  It’s all breathed out by the Spirit and it’s all Christ’s word to us.  We need to teach the whole Bible.

  1. We must not go beyond scripture.

When it comes to demanding obedience to Jesus’ teaching, not only must we teach all of Jesus’ word to us, but we must only teach Jesus’ word to us.  One of the greatest dangers of any teaching ministry is for the preacher, like the prophets before him, to say, “thus saith the Lord,” when the Lord has not said so.  The greatest sign of a false teacher is to claim revelation that has not come from God.  And an even more subtle temptation for believers is to seek the world’s wisdom apart from God’s.  There are many secret things that belong to the Lord alone, but what has been revealed in the words of scripture belongs to us, and the words of scripture are sufficient for our salvation and godly living. 

In review, we must teach, we must teach Christ, we must teach obedience to Christ, we must teach the whole counsel of God, and we must not go beyond scripture.  Now, there’s plenty more we could say about the goal of our discipleship to teach all that Jesus has commanded us, but this is a good overview.  Our doctrine of scripture is important to missions.  We must understand its authority, necessity, sufficiency and clarity.  Without this clear goal in our mind, we are likely to miss the target of what Jesus would have our missions endeavors aim at.  And this is why the missionary cannot accomplish this mission without the church.  The teaching needed to obey the Great Commission is far more comprehensive than any one man.  It requires several faithful elders in a church working together, receiving the teaching of the church handed down to them, contending together for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  Jesus has designed the church to be the pillar and buttress of the truth, protecting the gospel and the word of God.  Let us pray together for more workers to go out into the harvest, for more faithful men to be trained to teach and preach God’s word in the church.  And let us pray for healthy, vibrant, sound and theologically rich churches that are able to teach all of Christ’s word to all of God’s people in the world, because Jesus has authority over all.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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