GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS
Matthew 28:16-20, key verse 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.”
Thank God for blessing our Romans Bible study abundantly. We learned what it means to live a life of faith practically. Starting the life of faith in God’s righteousness, we continue to be sanctified as we grow in the inseparable love of God, which enables us to live with the same attitude of Jesus and thus glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through meditating on this passage, we want to think about why we are study this topic of discipleship. Discipleship is not a UBF motto but the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. During the period of mass evangelism in America, Christianity spread widely but had little impact in the society. Many people say that the cultural and religious moral standard has degenerated, even sodomized. So we pray for the 3rd Great Awakening, turning this trend upside down. Let’s take the life reflection of the late Dr. Billy Graham, the last mass evangelist in America, who said that if he had another chance to serve Christ, he would devote himself to discipleship. May God bless the study of discipleship as our prayer offering for us to be obedient to Jesus’ Great Commission, refocusing our ministry on discipleship and raising 12 disciples of Jesus in 2020. Amen!
Why do we make disciples or emphasize making disciples in our ministry?
In this passage, the main actors are the risen Jesus and the eleven disciples. Yet, it is good to know the background of this passage. What was the disciples’ situation up to this point? When Jesus was arrested, the disciples ran away for their lives even though they said that they would never disown their master, Jesus. The top disciple, Peter, denied Jesus Christ three times, while Jesus was being tried. They were in mental and spiritual trauma. Their faith was very shaky from the ground. Even after Jesus rose again and sent Mary to testify to his resurrection and tell them he would meet them in Galilee, they did not believe. They did not know what to do next.
Look at verses 16-17. “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.” Even though they were fearful, helpless and even hopeless, they obeyed the command of Jesus and went to Galilee. Often, people obey Jesus’ word when there is no other way. Jesus is risen and glorious. They saw the divine nature of Jesus and worshiped him.
Yet, some doubted that Jesus was risen and alive in front of them. Why did they still doubt? We do not know now, but this reveals the human struggle between faith and doubt. Sometimes we also doubt even though God is present right in front of us. Last Sunday, I asked you to pray that God may send someone to help us for the application of rezoning the building. Through Mr. Anderson, God sent two lawyers to assist me to find the right people to help. On the one hand, I could not but give thanks and praise God for answering our prayer miraculously; on the other hand, I still doubt whether it will be done well or not. So I cannot but pray, and continue to pray to open the hearts of people and prayerfully follow God’s guidance. What about you? When and how do you struggle between faith and doubt?
What did Jesus say to the helpless disciples? Look at verses 18-20. “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.’”
This is called the Great Commission. Though there are many things we can take from these verses, let’s think of a few main points. First, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. When Jesus came to this world as a baby in a manger, he came to be a suffering servant. At this moment, the 11 disciples only remember Jesus who suffered and died on the cross tragically. Some even could not believe Jesus could rise again from such a horrible death. But when he rose again from the dead, God gave all authority in heaven and on earth back to Jesus. Jesus’ original glory and power is restored. Paul explained the reason why very well in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, saying, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” Everything should be under the risen Christ. All creation, every human being, the devil and even Satan will be subject to him in order that God may be all in all. God may rule everyone’s heart through Christ.
What does it mean to the disciples? This means that the disciples are under his power and authority. Under him, they are protected and provided for. From now on, the Great Commission is not depending on them but on Jesus’ power and authority. With Jesus’ power and authority, the disciples can carry out his Great Commission.
Secondly, go and make disciples of all nations. This is the reason why we are called to be disciples and disciple makers. Jesus commanded his powerless disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. In order to obey this, they should go to all nations. It seems impossible for them to do so. Yet, as disciples, they had learned from Jesus how to make disciples.
Let’s learn from Jesus, especially how he raised one person, Peter, to be a disciple and disciple maker. In John 1:40-42, Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, and Jesus predicted him to be called Peter. When Jesus took his boat and told to put his net into deep water, he simply obeyed and caught the large number of fish. Then, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8) Most biblical scholars believe this is the moment Peter was born again, realizing that he was a sinner and Jesus his Lord, who forgave his sins. While Peter was with Andrew cleaning the nets, Jesus called him to follow him. Both left everything and began to follow Jesus, living with him 24 hours and 7 days. This is the time when the true discipleship started. A disciple means a learner of one’s master.
Peter was living with Christ, learning from him every moment, being protected, provided for, and trained. He often asked Jesus the meaning of a parable he did not understand. When the disciples were attacked by the Pharisees for picking up grains in the open field, Jesus defended them. Jesus always provided physical and spiritual food, even when they fell into worrying about bread. In the midst of storm training, Peter could experience the power of Jesus, walking on the water. When Jesus called him to be one of the 12 apostles and gave him power and authority, he could go out and drive out demons and heal the sick. Yet, he was still fighting with the topic, “Who is the greatest?” and being rebuked by Jesus as Satan for telling Jesus not to die. Going up to the resurrection mountain, he saw the glorious transfigured Jesus, yet he spoke what he did not understand, revealing his earthly desire again. Jesus prepared his failure when he was crucified, and restored him with a char-broiled sandwich after the resurrection. What a roller coaster life of faith! Then, Jesus gave Peter the Great Commission though he was at the lowest point of his life of faith. When he was anointed with the Holy Spirit, he was able to overcome fear of death and became a powerful witness of Jesus’ death and resurrection, raising innumerable disciples of Jesus.
Jesus wants us to make disciples of all nations. “All nations” means everyone from every nation; not only Americans, but also Latin Americans, Africans, Asians, and Oceanians, including either young or old, men or women, poor or rich, from low or high position in society. When I came to America, at the beginning I did not know why God sent me to a Christian country. But the more I prayed and learned that America is a modern-day Rome that all nations come to America, so this is the most ideal place to make disciples of all nations in our backyard and send them to the whole world. In this way, we can obey Jesus’ command and reach out to the world.
Thirdly, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What does it mean? Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The prerequisite of baptism is repentance, and the water baptism is the public announcement of returning to God’s love in Christ. When a person truly repents, he is ready to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then he will receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we receive the forgiveness of Jesus, we taste the kingdom of God and receive the imperishable seeds of the Holy Spirit. Just as Peter’s life as a disciple started after repenting of his sins and accepting Jesus as Lord, so the life of a disciple may start after the baptism of repentance. In other words, the discipleship training may not start before a person repents and accepts Jesus as Lord.
After receiving the seeds of God’s word, we need to water it to grow until we bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Gal 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” We are sanctified by the word of God and bear much fruit, fruit that will last, as we learn to abide in the word of Jesus.
Fourthly, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Obedience is the key. Yet, obedience is almost taboo to most Americans, but carefree and rebellious guys are considered cool. It is not only in America but also all sinful human beings. Then, how can we teach them to obey every Jesus’ command? How did Jesus help his disciples to obey? This is a good question. Obedience requires denying oneself. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The disciples could not accept Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus thanked God for revealed them certain truth but also waited for them to understand the meaning of his suffering, death and resurrection through the help of the Holy Spirit. In order to take the cross, even Jesus had to struggle through prayer until his sweat became drops of blood. I believe that this is what Jesus has been doing to each one of us. So this is what we should do in raising disciples of Jesus. We teach them to obey Jesus’ command, and give thanks to God when they obey his commands but wait for them patiently until they understand and obey through the help of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, we may have to teach one thing over and over again, just as Jesus did to his disciples about his suffering, death and resurrection.
There are two fundamental commands; the first command is loving one another just as he loved us, and the second, the Great Commission, go out and make disciples of all nations. In fact, we can obey these two commands when we remember the love given to us. Those who are loved much will love much. Paul could obey Jesus’ command as he remembered the grace of God upon himself and dwell in the power of Jesus’ love. We must obey everything Jesus commanded and teach disciples to obey them, beginning from these two commands. Amen!
Fourthly, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Jesus’ command always comes with the promise. This is the promise of Jesus to those who obey his Great Commission. How valuable it is that Jesus is with you, to the very end of the age. Jesus’ cry on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” reveals the seriousness of not having the presence of God. When we do not have Jesus in our hearts, that is the time to fast and pray. In the Old Testament, God said that he would not go with the people of Israel because they were stiff-necked people. At that time, Moses responded that he cannot lead his people without God’s presence with his people. God was with them through the cloud during daytime and with fire during nighttime, protecting them day and night. Whenever they were hungry, he provided Manna, teaching them to come to God every day. When they complained that they did not have meat, he even gave them quails. At the same time, God trained his people in the wilderness for 40 years. God had done all these for them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. When God’s presence is with us, there is God’s protection and provision, and at the same time, his hope and training.
Matthew was moved by God’s presence, saying, “Immanuel, God is with us.” Matthew felt Immanuel God, as Jesus, was with him. After a father told his little son to put on his shoes and jacket, he went away, thinking that his son knows how to do them. But when he came back, he found nothing was done. Yet, when the father was with the child, the son somehow got his power to put on his shoes and jacket all by himself. Just as Jesus was with his disciples 24 hours for 7 days, he promised to be with us through the Holy Spirit, who will teach them all truth, sin, righteousness, and judgment. He is not leaving his disciples like orphans. Likewise, Jesus will convict us when we need to repent. He will encourage us when we despair. He will guide us when we feel lost. He will enable us to live before God and for the glory of God as we go and make disciples of all nations.
As we obey Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, we need to have this faith in his promise that he will be with us to the end. Without faith in his presence, the disciples could not even stay in Jerusalem because of fear of death. Without faith in his presence, we cannot fulfill God’s mission in our lives. Among many missionaries in history after Apostle Paul, the most impressive story is William Carey, who went to India as a missionary with the motto, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” His mission life; however, was not successful at the beginning but much struggles and failures. After being deserted by his closest friend, he contracted malaria, lost his 5-year-old son to dysentery, and his wife became mentally ill. He confessed, “This is indeed the valley of the shadow of death,” but continued saying, “But I rejoice that I am here notwithstanding; and God is here.” I wonder how he could see the presence of God in his situation. In the midst of all the tragedies, God used him to do great things. He and his team received the gift of tongues, translating the Bible into India’s major languages: Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit and parts of 209 other languages and dialects. He also sought social reform in India, including the abolition of infanticide, widow burning (sati), and assisted suicide. He and the Marshmans founded Serampore College in 1818, a divinity school for Indians, which today offers theological and liberal arts education for some 2,500 students.
Today, we meditate on why we want to be a disciple and disciple maker. It is not because our church emphasizes it but because Jesus commanded us to be and to do so: go and make disciples of all nations. In order to obey, we must deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow him through much training. When we obey his Great Commission, Jesus also promised to be with us to the end. May God bless this discipleship Bible study as our prayer offering for us to raise 12 disciples as each one of us to be a disciple and disciple maker.
Though I had made disciples who became fellowship leaders or missionaries from Korea, but in America I have been struggling to raise disciples who could commit their lives for God’s mission. I thought that it is just hard to help them to live a regular Christian life, not to mention to be a disciple-maker. I have tried to maintain, but it is not the way of Christ. It is because of my sense of failure and laziness, thinking that I do not have time to make disciples. I was a full-time minister in Korea, but I am working full-time as a biostatistician in America. In fact, I asked Dr. Abraham to make a program in HQ to do so, and he did. But I was still making an excuse. May God forgive me and help me to concentrate on a few who desire to be a disciple of Jesus. As I hold on to my key verse, Luke 9:23, God sent Julius Hagan, seeing the work of God through him encouraged me to pray for raising 12 disciples. Disciple making is not a good suggestion but Jesus’ Great Commission. As I started working full time, God gave me John 6:9, offering my five loaves and two fish. God has given me a vision to raise 1200 Bible teachers. By faith I should bring my five loaves and two fish, having at least one Bible study a day. May God bless my small offering to raise 12 disciples and use them to raise 1200 Bible teachers for this nation to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.