Randy Pope

March 20, 2023

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28: 18-19

Hopefully those of us in the PCA will agree that a church’s focus should be on health, not growth. We too would agree that if the church is healthy, it will grow to its appropriate size, determined by God’s design for that church. And lastly, we would hopefully agree that the most important growth is that which comes from making new disciples.

It is this last hopeful agreement that brings us to our text, Matthew 28:18-19. It is best known as “The Great Commission.” Allow me to begin in part one by addressing “The Meaning of The Great Commission.” In part two, we will discuss “The Priority Of The Great Commission.”

The Meaning Of The Great Commission

As many well-studied PCA family members would know, our text is comprised of one imperative and three participles. For those who have forgotten middle and high school grammar, an “imperative” is “something of utmost importance” or “a command”. A “participle” is defined as “a verb used as an adjective”, and often referred to as an “ing verb”. In our text, it is used to describe how one goes about accomplishing the imperative of making disciples.

To make a disciple of Christ is to make a follower out of a non-follower. Our text in no way suggests that this is making a strong believer out of a weak one (as important as that may be). 

There are three participles in our text telling us how one goes about making true followers (which is actually telling us, His disciples, how He makes new disciples using us). The three step process is as follows:

1) “Going”

Literally, our text says, “As you are going”. We must initiate the process, not waiting for the lost to come to us, asking us to make them into disciples of Jesus. 

I refer to this step as initiating by means of “greeting” and “befriending”. 

2) “Baptizing”

When studying the etymological meaning of this word, it refers to “identifying with”. In the context of Matthew 28, it means to identify with Jesus as to His claim to be the one and only savior.

This second step in making disciples almost always requires an attractive “invitation” to investigate the claims of Jesus. This “inviting” could have numerous options:

  • To read something which explains the gospel,
  • To attend something where the non-follower becomes attractively exposed to God’s Word and God’s people, or
  • To investigate the claims of Christ – either one on one or in a small group.

The “invite” to investigate is, in my opinion, the most fruitful of all – and definitely is preferred when seeking to make disciples of non-religious, secular, humanists. 

3) “Teaching”

Notice our text says “teaching them to observe all things”, not “teaching them all things”. Thus, the non-follower must first agree with the claims of Jesus, that He is the true Savior who alone can forgive sin. But notice in our text that he must also submit to actually following Jesus, making Him Lord of his life. 

Thus the one sharing this “good news” must make sure that the non-follower has been clearly taught the necessity of following (submitting to) Jesus – thus the requirement “to observe whatsoever Jesus commands.” I like to say it this way, “You can’t be a follower without following.” 

I was recently asked by an out-of-town friend if I would try to meet a non-Christian friend of his living in Atlanta near me. His hope was that I could lead him to Jesus. I agreed to do so. Immediately, my first step was “to go”. This meant “meeting” and “greeting” him. I then took the necessary steps to “invite” him to have lunch with me. Fortunately, I was equipped with what I call an inviting “tool” which enticed him to meet with me for four consecutive weeks to investigate the claims of Jesus. After three weeks, he came to the place of believing that Jesus was the Son of God and the only Savior of sinners. Thus, he now had identified with Jesus’ claims.

Next, I had the task to make very clear to him that to become a true follower of Jesus, he must come to the place of following Jesus (a work of God’s grace). 

At our fourth luncheon, He told me he had bowed the knee to Jesus and that he believed he had become a true follower. He is now in my discipleship group and preparing to join our church. 

How helpful to follow God’s plan for making disciples given in Matthew 28. This plan to “go”, “baptize” and “teach” is easily utilized when embracing a simple strategy such as “greet”, “befriend” and “invite”. 

It is my opinion that every church’s leadership must make certain their church is providing the three mentioned options for “inviting” – something to read, something to attend, and the equipping necessary to enable non-followers to investigate Jesus’ claims. 

So let me ask, have you had the privilege to make disciples, seeing them embrace the incredible love and forgiveness of God? If a pastor or ruling elder, does your church offer the equipping necessary for your people to become effective disciple makers?

I encourage all who are using these devotional readings to ask God to provide whatever is necessary to use you and your church to make new disciples of Jesus – not “in order that” God will love you, but “because He loves you”. 

Randy Pope is Founding Pastor of Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, Georgia and President of Life on Life Ministries.