Jesus’ final command to his disciples is found in Matthew 28: 18-20. It says:
‘Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”’
“Go and make disciples…” is something that is often quoted in evangelizing churches and by Christians to go and preach the Gospel and also in some cases to force the Gospel upon people. In some cases, the body of Christ has used this as a means to even politicize the word of God.
I believe that there are essential contexts that must be understood about these words from Jesus that we quote often.
- Jesus is speaking to his disciples and giving this instruction to them specifically.
- Jesus is calling His disciples to go and make more DISCIPLES.
To me, this suggests that Jesus is telling those he believes are mature in Christ to “be fruitful and multiply”. If you accept this as truth, then the prerequisite for following Jesus’ command is to first become a disciple of Jesus yourself. After this has been accomplished, then you should go about the process of creating more disciples.
In keeping up with our “sermon on the mount” references over the last couple of posts, and aligning ourselves to the example that Jesus preaches about and set himself, we must first look to ourselves to heal before we can heal others:
Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.
Defining What It Means to Be a Disciple of Jesus
We’re absolutely going to get to the word of God for a definition of “disciple” but I first wanted to share an example from an outside resource that God led me to. It’s a 1975 Pictorial Bible Dictionary and it’s been a tremendous resource for me (see the image below):
I’d like to focus first in the first section of this “the word implies the acceptance in mind AND life of the views and practices of the teacher. This seems fitting as it discusses that a disciple should not only think like their teacher but also live like their teacher. If you’re not familiar with the teachings of Jesus, here is an overview of the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus says this himself in Matthew 10:24 – 25 as he is speaking to his disciples about the persecutions they can expect (see Matt 10:16-25 for full context).
A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master. If they called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more the members of his household! ‘
Another assertion that the bible dictionary makes is that it refers to “…more often, simply to Christians” and cites Acts (6:1,2 &7, and then Acts 9:36).
There is extremely important context to Christians being called disciples, that is not true of today’s Christians or church as a whole:
- The early church Christians literally sold everything they had, compiled it together, lived in tents, and everything they had belonged to all of them to use as they needed. (Acts 2:42-45)
This is too important not to directly quote as well in this article, this is VERY different than the church we have become today, and I believe in my heart of hearts that this is the church that God is calling his people to become once more.
‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.’
It’s no surprise that the disciples of Jesus, who walked with Jesus, continued to build a foundation similar to the one that Jesus had made. After all, these disciples that Jesus had handpicked, left everything they had previously to follow Jesus.
Our church today, en masse, teaches about the blessings of following God and has attempted to adapt the word of God to the context of the world today. Absolutely not all, but many, have twisted the very words of Jesus to preach a prosperity Gospel, sharing with their church the gift of Jesus’s sacrifice without explaining the calling and command that comes with that gift of salvation.
Here is what Jesus has to say about what a disciple looks like:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, and even his own life — he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. “Now, salt is good, but if salt should lose its taste, how will it be made salty? It isn’t fit for the soil or for the manure pile; they throw it out. Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.”
These are powerful words. I think it’s important to discuss the original Greek of the word “hate” used here in this English translation, so I’m going to show you a screenshot of the interlinear Bible found at Biblehub.com.
If you’re not familiar, an interlinear Bible is a tool that shows both the English translation, with the original Greek/Hebrew, and also links to the definition of the word used.
The word used here is miseo from the greek (see below). Here’s a link to the interlinear for Luke 14:26 so you can double-check for yourself.
Now, by clicking on that “3404” above it will get you to the Strong’s concordance definition (see below), and here’s a link for you to check it out yourself.
There are multiple ways that this word “hate” can be translated. The translators of my Bible chose the most direct definition.
However, we know that when Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees on the greatest commandments in Matthew 22:34-40 here is what Jesus said:
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
In light of the second greatest command, we can conclude that Jesus doesn’t actually mean to hate the individuals mentioned, rather he means esteem them less or love them less than they love the Father, which points to the greatest command Jesus mentions as well.
So then, Jesus is saying that if we love anything more than we love God, all the way down to the command to renounce all of our possessions, we cannot be a disciple of Jesus.
Gut check time.
For you personally: If you were asked to give up everything that you hold dear to your life as you know it. Your relationships, your possessions, even your own life – would you do it? Not would be willing to do it, would you do it?
If the answer to this is no, then according to Jesus’ own words, we are not able to be his disciples.
For the church: why are we failing Jesus’ final command to us in Matthew by failing to preach the entirety of Jesus’ truth, to equip the followers of Jesus with the tools and resources necessary to become disciples? The foundation of this is to share the Truth, the Whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth.
Have we stopped doing this because we no longer believe in the power of God? Have we stopped doing it because we are worried about our church’s numbers and therefore our ability to meet financial obligations?
God made everything, the very air that you breathe, without a dime of money. Do we really believe that he will be unable to sustain his church today if we take the proper stand that Jesus called us to?
Where did our fear come from? It certainly didn’t come from the Holy Spirit. Jesus died, death is defeated, God has all the power, and we have received the Holy Spirit who will guide us into all truth, all power, and all-purpose for the glory of God. How can we fear? Not even the death of our earthen vessels can stop the power of God from being realized in this world if we will stand on the truth, power, and authority that was given to us in Christ.
It’s time we stopped running and started living the life that we were called to as the church to restore the Kingdom of God in this world. I declare it in Jesus’ name and by the power of the Holy Spirit, it will be so in my lifetime.
So What Do I Do Now?
If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior yet, and this message has spoken to your spirit in a way that you are ready to make that commitment today, simply pray this prayer as the first step towards becoming a disciple.
“God in heaven, I need you.
I repent of doing things my own way and ask that you would forgive me today.
I believe that your son Jesus died, and he rose from the grave, for the forgiveness of my sins and I ask that you would cover me with the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins.
Today, I am committing the rest of my life to following your way, that you revealed through your son Jesus. Father please come into my life, renew my spirit, and teach me your ways so that I may walk with you in relationship.
Holy Spirit, please direct the steps of my path and lead me into all truth.
Not only for the promise of eternal salvation, but to bring your Kingdom glory on earth through my life which you have given me.
Thank you Father for creating a way, thank you for your love.
I ask this of you in Jesus’ name – Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer today, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d like to rejoice with you, pray for you, and see if there is anything that I can do to help you on your journey.
If you have already done this previously, have been baptized, and have received the Holy Spirit, then your next step should be to review the gut check from above with God. I know what God has been saying to me, I know what God has been saying through His word to me – but that doesn’t mean that your purpose is the same as mine, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I should be your source of information and Truth. There is only one, we both have access to it, we just have to make sure that we use it properly.
Pray, read, listen & do. That is how simple our instructions are after we’ve received the Holy Spirit. We just have to get our will out of the way.
If you’re in this position, and you’d still like prayer, please feel free to email me or reach out in the prayer requests section of our contact us page. God’s got you, I believe in you, and I know that if you’re willing to submit to the will of the Father, your life will be fruitful for the Kingdom.