16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
All Christians have been commissioned to make disciples, but what does that mean? First we need to understand the difference between traditional disciples and Jesus' disciples. Then we can look at the who, where, how, why when and what questions of the great commission.
In the traditional sense, a disciple would choose his teacher and study under that teacher. Later after the disciple had learned all she could, she would leave to start her own school. The disciple may even change the teachings or philosophy of his teacher and stat a similar but different branch of those teachings, religion or philosophy. Whereas Jesus chooses His disciples and His disciples follow Jesus and know Him. Jesus never leaves His disciples and His disciples do not change Jesus. The disciples of Jesus must have a relationship with Jesus while traditional disciples can only study the teachings of a philosophy or religion.
We are to go to all nations and make disciples. These are the strangers, neighbors, family and even church members. Anyone who would follow Jesus Christ and call him Lord, we are commissioned to train them in obedience to God' word and teach them everything Jesus has taught us.
We need to disciple others and be discipled so that we would remain in Jesus and know Jesus.
In his book, Discipleship, David Watson states, "Without obedience there is no faith; and without faith there is no discipleship." This is seen in John 15:5-8 which talks about how Jesus as the vine produce fruit through us in our obedience. This fruit demonstrates we are true disciples and brings glory to God.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
Another reason why we must make disciples is to create community as is seen in Acts 2:44 since we need to share our lives with Jesus and other disciples. This is one of the greatest challenges Christians face today in the church. We need to love others like Jesus loves us. We need to know ourselves as Jesus knew himself to have genuince relationships with the Father and with others. It is not easy to do this as Jeremiah 17:9 points out.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
When a Christian has reached maturity, not perfection, in their spiritual understanding and faith, they are ready to go and make disciples for Christ. The relationship with the disciples to make is for a life time. The training Christians go through is for a long time and requires deep and meaningful relationships. This continues until the return of Jesus.
11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Members of the church need to be ready to disciple those followers of Christ who need teaching. We are all called to this mission and service will bring joy to Jesus and expand His kingdom.