Most Christians know The Great Commission, the final words of Jesus before He ascended into heaven. These words were said to the disciples, but they are marching orders for the whole Church. There is great importance in clearly understanding what Jesus meant through His words. However, it is possible to know these words by heart and still miss the depth of their meaning by simply failing to pay attention to a secret hidden in the grammar, more specifically, the four verbs contained in the text. So, let’s read it again:
The English version is somewhat confusing. There seem to be four separate commands here. Are we to go, make disciples, baptize, or teach? In other words, which is the imperative of The Great Commission? The Gospels were written in ancient Greek; if you look at the original language, you will find there is really only one imperative in the words Jesus spoke.
You have that one right. The only command — imperative — is to “make disciples.” The “go” can also be read like “as you go.” The baptizing and teaching are included in the process. Let’s dig a little deeper…
Not Just Converts
Notice Jesus didn’t say “make converts.” The Great Commission is not about converting people from one religion to another, but about making disciples — faithful followers of Jesus Christ. The first followers of Jesus understood this clearly. After all, they had been following Jesus on the dusty roads of Palestine for three years. Thanks to their diligence in making disciples, you and I are here today following Jesus just as they did, though our roads may not be as dusty.
What is a Disciple?
In Jesus’ time, Rabbis had disciples — young people who walked around with their masters, entrusting their spiritual lives to them, serving and learning from their wisdom and knowledge. So, a disciple of Jesus is a person who trusts Christ inwardly and lives outwardly according to His teachings. Simply said, a disciple is a learner, someone who:
- Has a Heart for God: Disciples have a heart turned towards Christ. Their desire is to grow, learn, imitate, and ultimately become like Jesus. This is the conversion part of the discipleship process.
- Is Available: Discipleship cannot be a forced process. It is not a program one goes through, or a spirituality school. Discipleship is reflected in the lives of Peter, John, and Matthew. When Jesus called them, at once they dropped what they were doing and followed Him. They were available, so when the calling happened, they simply went.
- Is Faithful: Discipleship is a process, it takes time and persistence. I once heard from an experienced disciple-maker that it takes at least three years of walking together intentionally and intensely to develop the faithfulness in a new disciple.
- Has a Teachable Spirit: If discipleship is a learning process, only teachable spirits will have the ability to learn, even from Jesus Himself. Perhaps this was the problem with Judas. He didn’t seem to learn anything about grace and mercy with Jesus.
- What kind of a disciple are you? Do you have a heart for God that is available, faithful, and teachable?
- Do you know someone who shows at least the seeds of these characteristics in their lives? How can you invest in their discipleship?
by Norival Trindade