The Great Commission begins with just that, a commission. According to Webster’s online, a commission is, “an authoritative order, charge or direction.” Another definition is “the act of committing or entrusting a person or group with supervisory power or authority.”
The Great Commission, therefore, is a calling and a command by nature. This is its essence: it is a calling and a command to go and disciple-make. The Great Commission is best seen in the clearest text of scripture on the subject, Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV):
“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 the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
When you boil it down, making disciples is the Great Commission and the Great Commission is making disciples. This text is the basis for discipleship (we’ll use “disciple making” and “discipleship” interchangeably throughout this series). The command from Jesus to ‘disciple-make’ is the commission.
Specifically, this commission sets apart every disciple of Jesus to accomplish the work that He has sent them to do in His power and authority—to go and proclaim the gospel to the entire world. This commission is binding on all who profess the name of Christ. None of us are exempt. It’s incompatible to profess Christ and dismiss making disciples as “not for me.” The Great Commission is why we are still here on this earth. It’s why our heart still beats and our lungs still breathe. That’s why it’s so important we understand it well so that we can carry it out!
This series is intended to show the unified reality of discipleship. The first article dealt with the basics of what disciple making is so that we would know that it is, at its core, something we do. We disciple make. This article will lay the foundation for the structure of the Great Commission so that we will see how disciple making is actually accomplished. This is defining the doing of the Great Commission. My hope is that by the end of this series, you will find yourself better equipped to go and do what Jesus has called you to.
Parts of the Whole of Discipleship
Last time I said that “the nature of true, biblical discipleship is seen ultimately as a holistic way of life.” I argued that it’s a verbal reality meant to be lived out in every aspect of our lives. Matthew 28:18-20 gives us the clearest vision of how Jesus wants us to live out this commission—the structure of the command. That being said, there are actually five total Great Commission verses in Scripture that, when put together, give us the complete picture of what it means to go and make disciples. The other four are:
- Mark 16:15 (ESV) – “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
- Luke 24:47 (ESV) – “…and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
- John 20:21 (ESV) – “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
- Acts 1:8 (ESV) – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
These five verses give us the parts of the whole concerning the Great Commission. Therefore, we are going to be deriving the structure of the Great Commission as Discipleship from these texts. We’ll start by looking at three realities that form the foundation of the structure of discipleship."Discipleship is a verbal reality meant to be lived out in every aspect of our lives." @reesehammond #collegiatedisciplemaker #mbcollegiate #discipleship Click To Tweet
The Foundation of the Structure of Discipleship
Before we begin doing anything, we must first understand that our doing is only possible by what has already been done. Matthew 28:18, John 20:21a, and Acts 1:8a give us the foundation that we are to walk upon when we make disciples. All of these realities must exist prior to any step we take toward the work of disciple making.
The Authority of Jesus
In Matthew 28:18 we see the first reality: Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth. If this was not the case, we would be powerless to accomplish the commission He has given us. If He isn’t resurrected and seated at the right hand of God, our work is futile because the powers of sin and darkness have not been defeated.
We get to rest in the gospel as the foundation of our disciple-making. Jesus’s authority and power go before us. This gives us the confidence to go anywhere in the world and know that Christ will save sinners. We should be absolutely rock-solid in this understanding. The Great Commission won’t be lost because of my weakness, my lack of lofty speech, or my social stumbling because it is only dependent on the faithful, loving proclamation of the power of God for salvation, which is the gospel."The Great Commission won’t be lost because of my weakness, lack of lofty speech, or social stumbling; it is only dependent on the faithful, loving proclamation of the power of God for salvation, which is the gospel." @reesehammond Click To Tweet
The Peace of God
John 20:21a tells us that we first must have the peace of God in order to accomplish the mission. Now, I’m not saying that we must have a sense or feeling of peace in order to make disciples. I’m talking about the kind of peace that comes through believing the gospel ourselves. We receive peace with God because of Christ’s reconciling work on the Cross, as Romans 5:1 says: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Without that peace that comes through Christ, we don’t stand a chance—in fact, we stand as enemies of God (see Romans 5:10 and Ephesians 2:3). We cannot help reconcile others to God if we ourselves are not at peace with God.
The Holy Spirit
For the final piece of our foundation, we see in Acts 1:8 that we must have the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit comes with believing the gospel and being disciples ourselves; His indwelling is a promise for every believer.
The text says that we will receive power when we receive the Holy Spirit. This is where we must live as disciple-making Christians! You must have the power of God in order to accomplish the work that only He can do. If we don’t have the power of the Spirit, we are hopeless, and everything we do has no real saving power. Many believers like to attract the world with worldly means rather than the actual power of God for salvation. This is wrong. Pragmatism and mere attractional methods only tend to exchange the power of the gospel for the power of our own strength. This is an infinite regression and must not be done.
The Biblical Nature of Discipleship
So far, we’ve defined the biblical nature of discipleship: it is a binding and authoritative commission for every believer to make disciples, and it is a verbal reality meant to be lived out in every aspect of our lives. And we’ve laid the foundation for the structure of discipleship: it is rooted in the authority of Jesus, it begins with the peace we ourselves have with God, and it is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Join me next Monday as we start answering the question, how do we go and make disciples?