Our Omission Concerning the Great Commission
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.
~ Jesus Christ as recorded in the book of Matthew
I am not sure how to best approach this topic except to do it head on. While it may be abrupt, it will also be forthright.
We live in a day and age that the purpose of the church appears to be about making converts. Those converts then are to invite more non-believers to the central staging area called the church where they too can be made into converts. The same scientific approach of mass production of everything from widgets to cars has been applied to the realm of spirituality. We are, in essence, a convert factory – bring in the raw materials and output a product in an efficient manner.
Something seems to be missing from our finished product.
Maybe in our rush to create quantity we have forgotten about quality. Efficiencies beg the designer to find shortcuts to producing something that used to take more effort to create at a lower cost. I would offer this example: which would you rather have – an Amish built table OR a table that you could pick up at Wal-Mart? How about a home-made apple pie OR one purchased at a Speedway gas station, which is more appealing?
We recognize the richness that is inherent in the things that take time and effort to create. Yet, we are willing to accept a substitute that is poorer because the effort or price seems more favorable.
I presented the verses of the Great Commission at the top of this post because they are well known and well used in support of evangelism. Our application of it could be boiled down to Come-Bring-Serve. Christ’s words contain a wealth of information that does not have an efficient model by which the real thing can be mass-produced.
Christ said GO, MAKE, BAPTIZE, TEACH. Let’s break these pieces down in order as Christ delivered them.
The Greek word is poreuō which has one meaning that states “to pursue the journey on which one has entered”. There is so much that could be taken from that definition of such a small two letter English word. A journey usually begins with a knowledge of where one is and where one is going and the method by which to travel between the two points. Pursuit of that journey gives an impression of focus to purpose and the qualifier of the last half of the description, “which one has entered”, presents the thought that the command was meant for people who had been prepared for that journey.
The Greek word here is mathēteuō. Its meaning is already qualified in the translated verse – make disciples. Ever tried to make something for which you had not received prior instruction? A child making pies from mud in the backyard recognizes that the creation has a form of the real thing but fails in the ultimate test – that of being edible. One day that child may be trained by a parent in the art and care of mixing the different ingredients that make a real cake. On that day they will have been schooled in the discipline of baking and through practice and effort they will learn it well enough to pass on the knowledge to a future baker. The key message here is that you can’t make what you don’t know.
This is a familiar Greek word, baptizō. The meaning is of water immersion, a dunking of a person under water. What I find interesting is that it can also mean to overwhelm. A note in the study helps that I refer to has this to say:
This word should not be confused with baptô (911). The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped’ (baptô) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ (baptizô) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change.
Can’t you just see the cucumber being overwhelmed by the vinegar to become permanently changed into a pickle? What a great picture of the meaning behind this word! And where does the permanent change come from in the believer? Christ qualifies that by naming the Father (pater), the Son (huios), and the Holy Spirit (hagios). How can we expect to be an agent in the actions of another person being overwhelmed by the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit when we haven’t been overwhelmed ourselves? And I am speaking of a knowledge of all three aspects of the godhead.
Finally, we have the Greek word, didaskō. I like this explanation of the word – “instill doctrine into one”. Christ more fully qualifies this directive by giving direction on what to teach. He told those listening to teach them to observe(tēreō) all that He had commanded them. That word observe means to attend to carefully. That’s a pretty heavy statement. How many of us believe ourselves prepared to instill the teachings of Christ into another person’s life with the proper level of respect for those teachings?
I am humbled by the instruction that is provided by these verses but I am also more driven to be a disciple and disciple maker for the express purpose of growing the kingdom of God. There are no shortcuts to this process. It is a way of life – it is an attitude and purpose of abiding in Christ. It is the entirety of the godhead overwhelming us.
Do you think we, as the church, have been too flippant about this command from Christ?