Calvary Road Baptist Church

OUR GREAT COMMISSION Part 4

“TEACH ALL NATIONS”

Matthew 28.16-20

 

My text is Matthew 28.16:

 

16   Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

17   And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

18   And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19   Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20   Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

During this message we will focus our attention on the phrase “teach all nations.” This phrase represents the core directive of our Lord’s Great Commission, and translates that phrase in the Great Commission which contains the only verb in the Great Commission. This phrase consists of four Greek words, maqhteusate panta ta eqnh. Let me make some comments on these four Greek words before we take a step back and look at the big picture.

Maqhteusate is an aorist active imperative, second person plural. That is, it is a verb. It’s a verb that is a command, a directive, orders are being given. And the orders are being given to the “all of you” group the Lord Jesus Christ was speaking to, second person plural. But what does this verb, which is translated “teaching,” actually mean? It means “to cause one to be a pupil, teach,”[1] with the noun form of the Greek word maqhthV meaning disciple, or “one who engages in learning or instruction from another.”[2] So you see, our Lord’s Great Commission is not a commission directing us to teach people things so they will know stuff, but to engage in an activity which will result in them in turn becoming disciples. And we engage in an activity that will result, not in people becoming our disciples, but in them becoming what we are, disciples of Jesus Christ. That is what we are to do. But who are we to do that to? To whom are we to do that? This is where the remaining three words of this phrase come into play: panta ta eqnh. The word eqnh refers to the nations, and is the word from which we get our English word “ethnic.” To paraphrase, this statement could be translated “of all the ethnic groups.” Thus, the scope of our commission to make disciples is expansive, is worldwide, and encompasses every ethnic group on the planet.

These four words understood a little better; let us now take a step back to lay out some considerations for further reflection and contemplation:

 

First, There Is OUR RIGHT TASK

 

Our goal, our job, our responsibility, our task, is to make disciples. This is not an optional assignment, but has been given to us by the One Who has all power in heaven and in earth. And when He issued this assignment He did not suggest that we make disciples. Neither did He ask us to make disciples. This task was issued in the form of an imperative. We have been ordered to make disciples. You and I have been ordered to make disciples.

Implicit in our Lord’s Great Commission is resistance to the completion of our assignment. After all, the Lord Jesus did tell us “go ye therefore,” did He not? And why did He direct us to go forth to make disciples? Because man’s sinful nature, his inherent depravity, means that men would not come seeking to be made disciples. Rather, mankind’s essential nature results in avoiding and hiding and escaping from our efforts to make disciples of them. So, you can mark it down that those who are not disciples of Jesus Christ will not want you to involve yourself in making them or anyone else disciples of Jesus Christ. Left up to them, they would just as soon you left them to their sins so they can go to Hell in hand baskets. It is not so unusual to see them also wanting to so preoccupy you that you have little time to reach anyone else besides. As well, there will always be those who pose as Christians who, too, will greatly resist engaging in the making of disciples. Despite their profession, they will so demonstrate their unwillingness by their refusal to be a disciple who in turn is engaged in making disciples, that they are very willing to let folks go to Hell in a hand basket. It should terrify you to come to the stark realization that you know a Christian who simply refuses to act like a disciple of Jesus Christ, and who is perfectly willing to do whatever he or she can get away with to avoid participating in efforts to make disciples for the Savior.

Our task is to make disciples, against opposition . . . of all nations. Thus, the scope of our Great Commission is worldwide and diverse, extending to every nation, tongue and tribe. There is no one who does not need our ministry. There is no one who does not need our message. There is no one who is so well off that he does not need to be improved by becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.

This church, then, in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission our Lord Jesus Christ gave to us, will find herself comprised of every sort of person, as God blesses our efforts and as we see disciples of Jesus Christ made. It is reasonable to expect that our greatest success will be among people who are like us. It is unreasonable to expect that our success will be limited to people who are like us. Indeed, if we do not remain an ethnically mixed group of disciples, and succeed in some measure in penetrating each ethnic group that lives within driving distance of this auditorium, then we are disobedient to our Lord and Master’s commission. This is our right task.

 

Next, There Is OUR WRONG TENDENCY

 

A term that has gained popularity over the last few decades is “mission drift.” “Mission drift” is the tendency for organizations of every kind to deviate from the purposes for which they were established.[3] Churches, which are in some respects like other organizations, are very susceptible to “mission drift.” Our mission, which was given to us almost 2000 years ago, is to make disciples for Jesus Christ. But what has happened in the intervening 2000 years that can be ascribed to “mission drift”? Churches of all stripes and persuasions have run down rabbit trails so far that it seems they exist for anything but making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Even among churches most like our own there are the terrible fruits of “mission drift.” How else can you explain ministries that have resorted to counting the number of “souls saved” each year, or the number of “baptisms” each year, or the number of members who have “joined” that year, or the total number of “members,” or the total number of “decisions” at special meetings? Such efforts to measure a ministry’s success by tabulating numbers cannot only give evidence that “mission drift” has occurred in a church, but can actually cause “mission drift” to occur.

Churches and pastors need to be extremely careful of “mission drift.” As well, we need to keep in mind that Charles G. Finney’s efforts to subvert orthodox ministries succeeded, in great measure, by his use of numbers and statistics to “show” that his methods were superior to those he was supplanting. And if we are not careful, a pastor who finds greater numerical success in one area of ministry will tend to focus on that area in which he enjoys apparent success . . . leading him off in a direction that will result in “mission drift.”

Thus, a pastor and church can focus on stewardship more than making disciples, or can focus on decisions more than making disciples, or can focus on attendance goals more than making disciples, can focus on professions of faith more than making disciples, or can even focus on seeking to reach certain ethnic groups to the exclusion of others instead of making disciples. But remember, what the Lord Jesus Christ told us to do is make disciples, something that’s much harder to track statistically than baptisms and professions and new members or attendance.

 

Third, A SAFEGUARD AGAINST DECLENSION

 

How can we avoid declension, which is the gradual moving away from our assigned task of making disciples? Three suggestions:

First, look down. Shortly after I became your pastor I was talking on the phone with one of the late Zig Ziglar’s associates in the Dallas, Texas area. As he signed off he said, “Well, pastor, as Zig says, ‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.’” That was 30 years ago. And for 17 of those 30 years I accepted what he said as true. But as I thought about that statement, I came to the conclusion some years back that Zig Ziglar, as much as I loved the guy, was wrong. The main thing is not to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is to do the main thing. Keeping the main thing the main thing is the second most important thing to do. More important than keeping disciple making our central focus is to actually make disciples, to actually reach people, to actually seek their conversion, to actually introduce them to Christ, to baptize those who seem to be genuinely saved, and to actually see them become students and learners at the Master’s feet. So, why do I say “Look down?”

 

Psalm 119.105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

 

You have to look down to see where you are standing, whether you are an individual or a church. And when you look down the Word of God will shine the light of truth on your feet and on your path, so you can see where you are and so you can see where you need to take your next step without stumbling and falling badly. Our church needs to do that so we can guard against “mission drift.” Are we on the right path of disciple making? Or are we counting stats and pleasing ourselves with the number of professions we get, the number of baptisms, and the number of decisions? Let’s be very, very careful.

Next, look back. Some pastors and churches don’t like to look back, but want only to look ahead. But anyone who reads Louis L’Amour books knows that you must always look at your back trail, to see if you are being followed, and as a way of making sure you’re going straight. I wonder if such pastors and congregations who don’t want to look back have been influenced by evolution, and thereby think there is nothing to be learned from the past. They think we are somehow evolved socially and spiritually, and cannot learn from those who have gone on before us. Still other pastors and congregations, frequently those who think themselves to be conservative and old fashioned, look to the past, but they look only to the recent past. This, of course, limits them to seeing Christianity only since the deleterious effects of Finney’s decisionism have so radically changed the face of American Christianity.[4] Because they don’t look back far enough they think their approach to ministry is the way it’s always been done. How wrong they are. Better than looking to the recent past would be looking back to those times centuries ago when God visited His people with revival and great numbers of souls saved, times like the First and Second Great Awakenings. Those were times when sinners were converted to Christ, and their conversions changed the faces of nations, altering the course of human history, and even bringing about the eventual end of slavery in the Western hemisphere. But those were the effects of pastors and congregations who rightly saw their duty and task before God to glorify Him and to seek to bring individual sinners to Christ. If pastors and congregations today would learn from those Puritans and old English Baptists, who were concerned with real conversions, and had no thought of generating big numbers for number’s sake, the state of Christianity would be much improved, I promise you.

Finally, look way back. Look back to the gospels and the book of Acts, when the Lord Jesus Christ issued His Great Commission and men acted upon His directive. Is there any indication that the Lord Jesus Christ wanted His early disciples to do anything other than make disciples? No. Therefore, let us not change the ancient landmarks.[5] Modern day pastors and congregations explain away the vast difference between what Jesus Christ commanded and what they do by saying “the culture is so much different, and we are adapting to the culture.” To be sure, the culture is different. And we should adapt to the culture. But differences in the culture do not cause differences in the basic nature of sinful men. Neither do they justify in any way an alteration of Bible doctrine or gospel ministry.

 

The reason Jesus Christ commanded us to make disciples 2000 years ago is that the successful making of a disciple is predicated upon a genuine conversion taking place. As a consequence, if we deviate from the single task of making real disciples of Jesus Christ we will, thereby, not see sinners converted. Because so many churches have deviated from the simple but difficult task of making disciples, those same churches, as a direct result, are not seeing real conversions take place. And most of their members are lost. Let us, as a church, take our lessons first from the Bible, while also keeping an eye on the past. After all, Christianity is a faith that was delivered once and for all long ago.[6] Amen? As well, there is nothing about human nature that has changed which would require any reevaluation of the truth of God’s Word. As Solomon would say, “There is no new thing under the sun.”[7] Therefore, let us seek the conversion of the lost the old fashioned way. Let us serve God the old fashioned way. And let us be content to do what they did in the old days, simply seeking to glorify God by making disciples for Jesus Christ.

 

SERMON:

 

“Teach all nations.” The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary has this note about the phrase we are considering:

 

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations--rather, ‘make disciples of all nations’; for ‘teaching,’ in the more usual sense of that word, comes in afterwards, and is expressed by a different term.”[8]

 

Albert Barnes in Barnes’ Notes has this to say:

 

Teach all nations. The word rendered teach, here, is not the one that is usually so translated in the New Testament. This word properly means disciple, or make disciples of, all nations. This was to be done, however, by teaching them, and by administering the rite of baptism. All nations. The gracious commission was the foundation of the authority to go to the Gentiles. The Jews had expected that the offers of life, under the Messiah, would be confined to their own nation. Jesus broke down the partition wall, and commissioned his disciples to go everywhere, and bring the world to the knowledge of himself.”[9]

 

Let me also read to you the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia entry under the word “disciple”:

 

(1) Usually a substantive ([maqhthV, mathetes], ‘a learner,’ from manthano, ‘to learn’; Latin discipulus, ‘a scholar’): The word is found in the Bible only in the Gospels and Acts. But it is good Greek, in use from Herodotus down, and always means the pupil of someone, in contrast to the master or teacher ([didaskaloV, didaskalos]). See Matthew 10:24; Luke 6:40. In all cases it implies that the person not only accepts the views of the teacher, but that he is also in practice an adherent. The word has several applications. In the widest sense it refers to those who accept the teachings of anyone, not only in belief but in life. Thus the disciples of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14; Luke 7:18; John 3:25); also of the Pharisees (Matthew 22:16; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33); of Moses (John 9:28). But its most common use is to designate the adherents of Jesus. (a) In the widest sense (Matthew 10:42; Luke 6:17; John 6:66, and often). It is the only name for Christ’s followers in the Gospels. But (b) especially the Twelve Apostles, even when they are called simply the disciples (Matthew 10:1; 11:1; 12:1, et al.). In the Acts, after the death and ascension of Jesus, disciples are those who confess Him as the Messiah, Christians (Acts 6:1,2,7; 9:36 (feminine, mathetria); Acts 11:26, ‘The disciples were called Christians’). Even half-instructed believers who had been baptized only with the baptism of John are disciples (Acts 19:1-4). (2) We have also the verb, [maqhteuw, matheteuo], ‘Jesus’ disciple’ (literally, ‘was discipled to Jesus,’ Matthew 27:57); ‘Make disciples of all the nations’ (the King James Version ‘teach,’ Matthew 28:19); ‘had made many disciples’ (the King James Version ‘taught many,’ Acts 14:21); ‘every scribe who hath been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven’ (the King James Version ‘instructed,’ Matthew 13:52). The disciple of Christ today may be described in the words of Farrar, as ‘one who believes His doctrines, rests upon His sacrifice, imbibes His spirit, and imitates His example.’ G. H. Trever”[10]

 

I hope you noticed something that the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, Albert Barnes, and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia mention, but lightly. A disciple is a student or a learner of the Master. But our Great Commission is to make disciples. It must be recognized that you do not, strictly, make disciples by teaching them. Once a person is a disciple he is a learner and you, therefore, teach him things. But a Christian disciple does not become a disciple by only being taught. If that were the case then someone could become a Christian by learning things. However, that is not how one becomes a Christian. One becomes a Christian by being born again.[11]

A person becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ by first becoming a Christian. But how do you and I, members of this church, get people to become Christians? How do we evangelize sinners? How do we obey Christ’s command to make disciples? Let us answer that question by asking another question: How did the Apostle Paul do it? To the Corinthians he wrote,

 

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God,”

 

First Corinthians 1.18. And in verse 21 he wrote,

 

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

 

So, preaching is a crucial component in this task we seek to accomplish of making disciples. But what do we preach? In First Corinthians 9.16, Paul wrote these words:

 

“Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”

 

Then, in 15.1, he wrote these words:

 

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand.”

 

So, though preaching is crucial, the message that is preached is even more crucial, because you can preach all you want without delivering the right message and no one will be saved. I have shown to you that we are commanded to make disciples. But to make disciples we are to preach so that sinners are saved. Yet, preaching void of proper content is insufficient. What we are to preach to obey Christ’s command is the gospel. And this parallels exactly what our Lord Jesus Christ said in Mark 16.15:

 

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

 

For the rest of our time together, let me preach on the subject matter of our preaching, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Three thoughts:

 

First, THE GOSPEL IS UNIVERSAL IN ITS SCOPE

 

Let me first point out that all men are the objects of the gospel message. The Lord Jesus told His disciples to “preach the gospel to every creature.” He told His disciples to “teach all nations,” which is to say, “make disciples of all nations.” Let me ask you a question: Are you a creature? Yes, you are. Another question, if you will: Are you a member of any kind of ethnic group? Yes, you are. Then you are the object of the gospel. That is, you are a proper target of gospel preaching. You are a proper target of disciple making activity and effort. You are someone to whom the gospel of Jesus Christ can be applied.

Let me next point out that all men are the subjects of the gospel message. What’s the difference between being an object of the gospel and being a subject of the gospel? Being an object of the gospel means that you are an intended target of the gospel, of Christ’s saving work, of the death, burial and resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ. But being a subject of the gospel means that not only are you the intended target, but you can also be the target that’s actually hit, the sinner who is actually reached. If you describe yourself perfectly, down to the last detail, omitting no sin, leaving out no blasphemies, acknowledging every act of foolishness and stupidity, I know without checking that I can find someone just exactly like you, even worse than you, who has obeyed the gospel to the saving of his or her eternal and undying soul. Therefore, enough of this Christ-denying hogwash and this pitiful nonsense that questions whether or not someone like you can be saved. Isaiah 59.1 tells us,

 

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save.”

 

Do you know what that means? It means that no sinner is so low that God cannot reach down and save him. Wherever you are, whatever you’ve done, God’s reach is long enough to reach all the way from heaven to where you are, to save your soul from sin. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. So, if you are a sinner you are a qualified object of the gospel. And you may, in fact, be a subject of the gospel . . . if you end up converted.

Let me in the third instance point out that all men are the beneficiaries of the gospel message. Of course, those who obey the gospel to the saving of their souls are the greatest beneficiaries of the gospel message. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth, Romans 1.16. But even those who are unconverted have benefited tremendously from the gospel message. If the gospel is to be preached to every creature, then all creatures stand equal in the sight of God. This is a concept that was unknown among men before the coming of the gospel. All men are equal? Only the gospel shows that to be true, a benefit you have received from the gospel even if you are not a Christian. Who has not in some way benefited by the gospel? The gospel presupposes the existence of right and wrong. The gospel presupposed the equality of all men before God, and the need of all men before God of salvation from their sins, because of the sinfulness of all men before God. Apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ no sinner has opportunity to be forgiven, to have new life in Christ, to have standing before God, to have a part and to enjoy a place in God’s great unfolding drama of redemption. But with the gospel every sinner has such an opportunity, because the gospel is universal in its scope, reaching down from heaven to every man, every woman, and every child on earth.

 

Next, THE GOSPEL IS UNIFYING IN ITS EFFECT

 

What pulls the farthest reaches of mankind together as the gospel of Jesus Christ does? What else on earth would cause men and women, boys and girls, of all nations, cultures and colors, to come together in the family of God? Only the gospel is capable of that.

Some would say that Islam does that. But Islam does not do that, for Islam is a religion that reckons a woman’s testimony to be half the value of a man’s testimony in courts of law, and to have the negative value of a dog or a donkey in nullifying a man’s prayers to Allah should such an animal or should a woman pass in front of a man while he is praying. Islam calls upon men to beat their wives into submission, while Christianity calls upon men to love them with the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for the church.

Only Christianity brings together into the family of God men and women and boys and girls from around the world, uniting them in the kinship born of Christ’s precious blood and having in common the communion of the saints. Who can stand shoulder to shoulder before the throne of God but those who have in common their faith in Christ and their obedience to the gospel?

No one but those who have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ preached, and who have submitted to the gospel’s demand to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Only such a person as this has been evangelized, has been given and has received the good news.

 

Finally, THE GOSPEL IS UNIQUE IN ITS EFFICACY

 

What effect has the gospel of Jesus Christ? I’ve touched on this before now, but only the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. Only the gospel is God’s means for cleansing sinners of their sins, creating them new in Christ Jesus, His precious Son. There is no other way for a man to please God than by faith’s response to the gospel. Not by knowledge, for man can never know enough. Not by works, for man can never do good enough. The only way for a man to please God is by the gospel, because by the gospel man does not please God. Rather, by the gospel God’s Son pleases God.

Let me read First Corinthians 15.1-4 to you:

 

1     Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2     By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3     For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4     And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

 

The death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. By the doing and dying of Jesus Christ. He paid your sin penalty for you. He pleased God for you. He satisfied God’s righteous demand that you be punished for sinning against Him, taking upon Himself all the punishment that was due you. First John 2.2 declares, “And he is the propitiation for our sins.” This means, Jesus Christ is the satisfaction for our sins. What does this mean? It means that only by means of the gospel can a sinner become clean in the sight of God. It means that only by means of the gospel can a sinner who is dead in trespasses and sins become alive by the power of God. It means that only by means of the gospel can a place be secured for you in heaven when you die.

Thus, the gospel is unique in this respect. No philosophy, no religion, no set of personal accomplishments, no virtues, nothing can acquire for you the salvation from your sins that the gospel can. And what is the gospel? It is Jesus Christ doing for you what you cannot do for yourself to save you from your sins.

 

So, why are we a gospel preaching church? Three reasons: It’s all that Jesus Christ wants us to do, as the means to make disciples. It’s all that we know to do, as the means to make disciples. And it’s the only thing that God will bless, as the means to make disciples. Thus, the command to “teach all nations” is set in its proper context and setting, so we know what we do and why we do it. The only question now before us is whether or not you will join with the rest of us and “Go ye therefore.”

Will you go to your own neighbors, your own family members, your own coworkers, your own casual acquaintances? And will you who are physically able join with us next Saturday night at 6:00 PM, as we go out into the highways and byways? If not you, then who? And if not now, then when? Presuming you are physically able, what could possibly be more important to God than for you to obey His Son’s command? Answer those questions when you have a moment.

__________

[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 609.

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://mtprof.msun.edu/Win1994/McBroom.html 12/6/02

[4] Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinner’s standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.

[5] Deuteronomy 27.17; Proverbs 22.28; 23.10

[6] Jude 3

[7] Ecclesiastes 1.9

[8] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Vol 3, Part One, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1997), page 134.

[9] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[10] The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol II, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939), pages 851-852.

[11] John 3.3, 7

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org