Sunday, February 20, 2011



This week I want to revisit what it means to follow through with what Jesus commanded us to do. It has been called the "great commission." Don't get sidetracked from the primary command here. The only command is to "make disciples of all the nations." He offers three participles on how we are to make disciples-(1) by going, (2) by baptizing and (3) by teaching. Today I want to only deal with the command and tomorrow with the three participles.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "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 the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Who is the target on which we are to focus for making disciples? Who are we to disciple? Note that Jesus makes it clear that we are to disciple "all of the nations." Nations would be better to translate as "cultures." We are to make disciples of people from all of the cultures of the world who are not now disciples. Disciples of what? A certain religion? A specific theological system? No, we are to make disciples of Jesus-followers of Jesus. Our audience is made up of all people everywhere who are not now followers of Jesus.

The initial exposure to the nations of the world happened on one day at the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 2:4-6: And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. So, instantly the seed of the message of Jesus was planted in the hearts of men and women from the nations of the world.

Peter, trying to stick to his cultural traditions and religious Law was confounded by God to realize that God was willing and able to work with every nation or culture of the world. Check this out: Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus the Christ (He is Lord of all)-you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:34-43)

NOTE Peter realized quickly that "in every nation or culture the man who fears God and does what is right is welcome to Him." By the way, that means from every religion as well. God is already at work in people's hearts all over the world in every culture, not to join our culture and religious expression, but they are welcome to God for themselves!

Paul and Barnabas entered the city of Lystra, healed a man and the people believed they were gods-Zeus and Hermes, who had come to the city. Then after hearing them speak and reject their worshipping of them, the Jews attacked them. The crowds were stirred up to attack Paul and they actually stoned him, leaving him for dead. With the disciples there in Lystra, he amazingly had the strength to get up, went back into the city with the disciples and moved on with Barnabas the next day to another city, Derbe. NOTE that their end game was to make disciples of Jesus there: After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith. (Acts 14:21-22)

When Paul spoke to the people in the marketplace of Athens, he said, "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this." So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

NOTE God gave all people life and breath, making every nation or culture of the world. He determined each culture's boundaries and activities in order that they might seek God-by groping and finding Him, since God is not far from anyone. Then Paul says, since all created people are the children of God, we ought to be able to discover and connect with God through His further revelation. This revelation is not through some image or idol, but is in fact a man who was raised from the dead. His name? Jesus.

On several occasions in the book of Revelation the message of Jesus is said to have gone out to "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues." This can only happen if we are focused on making disciples of Jesus everywhere, not converting people to become a member of one of our religious systems. Jesus is above all of man's religious systems. Jesus, the incomparable and irresistible Jesus!