Discipleship's goal and beginning are rooted in the Master's call
As we finish out this blog series on the meaning of discipleship, I want to review what we have discovered over the course of the past six blogs - namely discipleship includes:
1. Calling from Christ (Luke -28)
2. Cross and self-denial (Luke -24)
3. Counting the Cost (Luke -30)
4. Commitment to the text of scripture (John 6:68)
5. Church-life is essential (Matthew )
6. Communion or prayer, the oxygen of the faith-life (Luke 11:1ff)
As we look at the final element of discipleship - Christ's commission to go and make other disciples, the remarkable truth is that the Master's call provides the basis for this final element, just as it did in the first. Why is it that Christ's commission is the proper reference point in motivating the forward movement of discipleship? Consider the following thoughts below:
1. Christ is Sovereign - Matthew 28:18
When we speak of God's Sovereignty, we are referring to His final and mediated authority over all people, places and times. (Job 42:2; Romans 11:36) Notice what Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew 28:18 "All power has been given to me on Heaven and on earth". In the original Greek of this text the idea is that "All authority, dominion, power to perform" was given to Christ. In the Latin Bible the word used for power is the one from whence we get our word "potent". Thus the Master has the potency, the resources and the strength to work through His disciples to carry out this great commission.
Christian involvement is the means used by Christ in fulfilling His great commission
Now you and I may be tempted to say: "well if Christ has all power and authority, then why doesn't He just point and zap people into salvation?" The reason is because in His Sovereignty, His reign is based not only upon His final authority (see definition above), but also the means through which He mediates that authority. You and I dear friend are that means. God is a God of both means and ends. His Sovereign purpose is accomplished by Him, and it is accomplished through His disciples.
2. Christ is the Sovereign Savior - Matthew 28:19
As you consider what Jesus says next here in verse 19, three commands are given: "Go"; "make disciples" and "baptize". The "Go" part is being issued forth by the King to you and me, His ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:15-21) The term "make disciples" is the message we have outlined here in this blog series. Note, Jesus is not saying "make converts". Rather He is saying: "make through the grace and the gospel another person who will want to become like me through self-denial and God-centered desire".
Why Baptism is important for the disciple in communicating the Sovereign Savior
Now what about that third command: "baptize"? Baptism has to do with an act of obedience, identification and participation on the part of the disciple. As obedience, baptism is what I refer to as the "first major step of Christian obedience" following one's conversion by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Since Jesus commands it to be done, and since my love for Jesus is expressed in doing what He says, then it follows that baptism's motive is rooted in delight for the Master. Though not essential to salvation, baptism is nonetheless essential to obedience. (John 14:15, 21,23)
As identification, Baptism's mode is that of immersion. The mode gives the most accurate picture of the disciple publically identifying in Christ's death (standing in water), burial (under water) and resurrection (out of the water). Then as participation, baptism communicates to all that discipleship is not a spectatator affair, but a daily, radical effort to make the Triune God, revealed through Christ, the central focus of the disciple's life.
3. Christ is the Sovereign, Saving Missionary - Matthew 28:20
As Sovereign, the Master has full and unlimited rights over the disciple in commissioning him. As Savior, the Master is the central message and reason for discipleship's commisioning. But now, who is it that is doing the work of this commission? The English word "missionary" comes from the Latin term "missio" meaning "missle, arrow, messenger". Thus God Himself not only sends people, but through those people He pledges to be the One, who like a missle, can infiltrate and break down the heart of unbelief. When Jesus speaks of "teaching" here in Matthew 28:20, he is not merely referring to impartation of information. Rather the idea of teaching includes the outcome of transformation.
The Sovereign, Saving Missionary is the confidence in accomplishing the mission
Jesus then gives this promise: "and I will be with you always, even to the end of the age." Therefore as true as it is that every disciple is a missionary, it is really God Himself, in the Person of Jesus Christ, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the discipleship that is accomplishing the mission. (2 Corinthians 5:15-21). Because He is Sovereign, He alone can transcend the time and space to fulfill the condition of "being with us always". As Savior, His never-ending desire to go to those upon whom He has set His love. His aim is to compel the lost through us to be reconciled to Him by faith. Then as Missionary, Christ Himself is making the appeal to come, follow Him, and be a disciple.