When Jesus commanded his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations,” he was issuing a call to action that has echoed through the centuries. But what did he really mean by this directive?
And how can we apply it to our lives today? Let’s explore the meaning behind this powerful statement.
The Great Commission
The command to “go and make disciples” is often referred to as the Great Commission. Jesus gave this commission to his disciples after his resurrection, just before he ascended into heaven. The full text of the commission is found in Matthew 28:18-20:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, 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 command is at the heart of Christian evangelism. It is a call not just for individuals, but for churches and communities as well.
So what does it mean to “make disciples”? A disciple is a follower or student of a particular teacher or philosophy. In this case, we are talking about followers or students of Jesus Christ.
Making disciples involves more than just converting people to Christianity. It means helping people grow in their faith by teaching them about God’s love, sharing biblical truths with them, encouraging them in their walk with Christ, and providing support as they navigate life’s challenges.
To make disciples effectively, we need to be intentional about building relationships with others – both those who are already believers and those who are not yet part of God’s family. We need to be willing to share our own stories of faith, listen empathetically when others share their struggles and doubts, and model the love of Christ in all we do.
Jesus’ commission to “make disciples of all nations” was a radical departure from the ethnocentrism of his time. In Jewish culture, it was customary to pray for the welfare of one’s own people and to avoid contact with Gentiles (non-Jews).
But Jesus broke down those barriers, reaching out to people from all walks of life – including Samaritans, Romans, and even prostitutes and tax collectors. His message was for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or social status.
Today, we are called to continue this work of breaking down barriers and sharing the gospel with people from every corner of the world. That means being willing to cross cultural boundaries, learn about other religions and belief systems, and seek common ground with those who may seem very different from us.
Teaching Them to Obey
Finally, Jesus’ commission includes a call to teach new disciples “to obey everything I have commanded you.” This means not just sharing the good news of salvation but also helping others grow in their relationship with Christ by teaching them how to live out his teachings in their daily lives.
This involves not just learning about God’s commands but also putting them into practice. It means showing love to our neighbors, forgiving those who wrong us, living humbly and serving others sacrificially – in short, embodying the character of Christ in all we do.
“Go and make disciples” is not just a suggestion or a nice sentiment – it is a command that should shape everything we do as Christians. Whether we are sharing our faith with friends and family members or ministering in far-off lands, our goal should be to help others grow in their relationship with Christ so that they can experience the fullness of life that he offers.
Let us be bold and obedient in carrying out this commission, trusting that Jesus is with us every step of the way.