Renewal Journal 11: Discipleship
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
We know the Great Commission well. The closing verses of Matthew give Jesus’ commission to his followers during a resurrection appearance on a mountain in Galilee. Usually we hear it used, and have used it ourselves, as an evangelistic mission mandate. It is that, and much more.
The focus is not merely on the task, but on the reason for the task – the reason for the “therefore”. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus announced. “Go, therefore, and make disciples.” This commission concerning discipleship stems directly from who Jesus is as Lord of all. We are commanded to make people his disciples.
Not make converts – though conversion is integral to the task.
Not make decisions – though life-changing decisions are involved in the task.
Not make church members – though incorporation in the church is essential to the task.
But make disciples.
Jesus’ disciples are to make disciples from all people groups – ta ethna – from all the ethnic groups – from all the nations. They are his disciples, baptized into him, and obedient to him.
Jesus’ discipleship commission does not focus on information but on formation; not on teaching knowledge but on teaching obedience: “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Naturally that involves knowing what he taught them but the great commission, the final command, is to obey. That’s breathtaking!
What did he command them to do? Love God totally. Love others. Repent. Forgive. Serve. Pray. Believe. Heal the sick. Cast out demons. Proclaim the astounding good news of the kingdom of God. The reign of God has broken into this world, shaking everything, transforming everything.
The great commission is the strongest evidence against a cessationist theory – that what Jesus did and what his disciples did was only for the establishment of the church or only for the first century. Jesus’ final instruction to his disciples is that what he did and what they did must not cease, but must be passed on to all generations – to the end of the age.
Impossible? Certainly it is impossible through our own resources: “Without me you can do nothing.” Hence, the incredible final promise “Lo! I am with you always – to the end of the age.”
Disciples of Jesus
Discipleship, then, is the total process of making disciples of Jesus who are obedient to their living Lord.
That involves evangelism, mission, and equipping those new disciples for obedient mission. This issue of the Renewal Journal looks at a few of those tasks: evangelism, mission, making disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus.
I reproduce reports on transformation in the South Pacific in the 21st century.
Brian Medway applies lessons learned from revival in Argentina to the Australian scene.
Rodney Howard-Browne talks about God doing what he said he would do. Lindell Cooley describes the impact of revival on his own discipleship and that of others.
Robert McQuillan surveys fresh moves of God’s Spirit across England.
Peter Earle examines mentoring as it relates to discipleship.
Charles Taylor reflects on the meaning of discipleship.
Paula Sandford reports on a gathering from among the nations – the ethnic groups – seeking to obey the Spirit in one body. Stephen Milstead provides an overview of John Dawson=s approach to discipling cities, an approach well illustrated in Argentina today as indicated in the first article in this issue.
Nothing is so radical as making disciples of Jesus. Jesus and his early disciples proclaimed and demonstrated the reign of God in all of life. The kingdom of God has broken into this fallen world through Jesus, God’s Son, the Anointed One. His life, death, and resurrection change everything. The first are last and the last are first. The least are the greatest and the greatest are the servants of all.
This issue of the Renewal Journal only begins to explore such radical changes. The great commission still confronts us all with the implications of Jesus’ authority in heaven and on earth – his total Lordship.
As you read, pray with us the prayer Jesus taught us, including, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What can be more radical than that?
(c) 2011, 2n edition. Reproduction allowed with copyright included in text.
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