Posted by: Terry | November 30, 2015

Discipleship: Teaching, commitment, community

Great_Commission.280152817_stdWe call it “The great commission”- Jesus told his closest followers to, “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.” Jesus was clear that his mission was not to end with them, they had a mission to spread the message of his coming and why he came.

They were to make disciples. At its most basic root meaning a disciple is a learner, a student, but it is more than academic. A disciple is one who becomes attached to the teacher in both doctrine and actions. They so completely accept the teaching of the master (Jesus) that it changes how they live. Lest they be confused, Jesus emphasized two components of becoming a disciple: Baptizing and teaching.

The Jews baptized a person who wanted to convert to Judaism, Jesus modified baptism to be a public proclamation of one who accepted who he was, in addition it was a statement of commitment to embrace all he taught. Baptism is the conviction of belief expressing itself in confession and action.

Jesus instructed them that as they were making disciples they were to teach, specifically to “obey what he had commanded.” Observe might be a better rendering of “obey,” and “command” includes the idea of accomplish or a charge. They were to pass on all they had learned from Jesus about who he was, why he came and how they should live, that then would be the basis for their decision to become a disciple of his.

As they set out to spread this message the church was formed, how they did that provides insight into how we should carry on their work, some quick observations:

  • Acts 4 – They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, took communion (Eucharist), and prayed. They became a community.
  • Acts 6 – When administrative tasks grew they divided the work between the Twelve and newly appointed Deacons. The Deacons would handle administration, while the Twelve gave their attention to “prayer and the ministry of the word.”
  • Acts 20 – Paul is getting ready to leave Ephesus, he calls the elders of the church together and charges them with keeping watch over the followers as shepherds would, and to be on guard for those who would distort the truth.
  • Paul instructed Timothy to pass on the message that he had been taught regarding who Christ was and all that it entailed. He admonished him to, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”
  • Corinthians explains that God gave gifts, abilities, to people to be used in the operation of the church, and he gave instructions as to how these should be used in order.
  • Ephesians 4 says that God gave as a gift to the church roles and responsibilities. He gave the Apostles – the original 12 but when they died this role ended. He gave prophets who proclaimed the truth, most likely until the body of the NT was formed. Evangelists, preachers and missionaries not connected with a specific local church, and pastors and teachers to shepherd, care for, and teach the things of God. Some of these roles were temporary, Apostles and prophets. Today evangelists, pastors, and teachers carry on the work of equipping for service and maturity.

The common thread throughout the New Testament is, “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:39-43 NIV)

When a person believes this message to the point of confessing it publicly, demonstrated by baptism they became a true disciple. Then in the community of believers they were taught by pastors and teachers what Jesus taught, the Spirit works then to conform them to be like Jesus, this is the process of discipleship.

Community without teaching and commitment just creates an organization, teaching without commitment and community is just academic, commitment without teaching and community is baseless. Discipleship requires all three in balance. A balance that can only be accomplished by the working of the Spirit.



  1. This is what Christmas is all about. God’s love for us and that we can all be a part of the Kingdom of God.

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