Calvary Road Baptist Church

OUR GREAT COMMISSION Part 7

“TEACHING THEM”

Matthew 28.16-20

 

There is a proliferation of Bible teachers everywhere. Everyone offers an opinion of what the Bible teaches and almost no one exercises care and caution about the authorization or the qualifications of the supposed teacher. Consider this trend in light of God’s Word. My text is Matthew 28.16-20:

 

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.

 

This is the 7th in a series of messages dealing with our Lord’s Great Commission. To this point we have concerned ourselves with what could be called the first half of our Lord’s Commission, which is to make disciples by going and by baptizing those that we have good reason to believe are genuinely converted. This message is concerned with the second half of our Lord’s Great Commission, which has to do with teaching those we believe to be baptized disciples. The Lord willing, I will soon deliver the final message of this series on our Lord’s Great Commission.

I draw your attention to verse 20, and the phrase

 

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

 

In the sequence of events the Lord Jesus Christ has set forth to be followed, what must first happen is that a sinner is brought to hopeful conversion. This, of course, is frequently an arduous process of witnessing, preaching, and generally applying the truth of his sinfulness and lost condition to a sinner, while guiding him through an exploration of his predicament that culminates in the pricking of his heart, which is followed by his hopeful conversion to Jesus Christ.

After the miracle of the sinner’s crisis conversion (and all genuine conversions are to some extent crisis conversions, even if all crises do not result in conversions) and a careful examination of his personal testimony and pattern of life, the hopeful convert is then baptized. All of this is involved in the making of a disciple. What comes now is the “rest of his life” part of our Lord’s Great Commission, and we find this described by our Lord in the first half of Matthew 28.20:

 

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

 

There are three things I would like to bring to your attention with respect to this second half of our Great Commission:

 

First, THERE IS THE NOTION OF TEACHING

 

This phrase begins with the words “teaching them.” Three particulars are worthy of note:

First, there is the scriptural requirement to be a teacher. Please turn to Titus 1.6-9, where the Apostle Paul explains to his co-laborer, Titus, who is qualified to teach the Word of God:

 

6     If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

7     For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

8     But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

9     Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

 

Let’s look at verse 9, first. What the teacher of God’s Word must be able to do is “hold fast the faithful word.” He needs to “be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” That is, to be qualified to teach God’s Word you have to be able to get the job done in adverse circumstances. And the only way the teacher of God’s Word will be able to do that is, verse 9, “as he hath been taught.” The first requirement, then, of teaching the Word of God is that you, yourself, must have been taught the Word of God, so that you can hold fast the faithful word and so that you can be sound in doctrine to both exhort and convince the gainsayers. Adherence to this requirement alone would have prevented the unwilling to be taught by anyone Charles Finney from doing any damage to the cause of Christ. However, even if you are well taught and highly skilled in communicating Bible truth, you are still not qualified to teach the Bible until you are qualified in other ways. And those other ways we read in verses 6-8:

 

6     If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

7     For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

8     But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate.

 

Second, there are the scriptural restrictions placed upon teachers. Let’s say you are well taught. Let’s say you are skilled at teaching God’s Word. Let’s also say that you are qualified insofar as your morals and maturity and experiences of life are concerned. That doesn’t mean you have the green light from God to teach God’s Word to God’s people. Turn, please, to James 3.1:

 

“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”

 

This word “master” means teacher.[1] Thus, James is warning those who are, presumably, well qualified in terms of life and lifestyle, in terms of experience and expertise, to not presume to teach God’s Word. Men, teach your families, but be careful about teaching anyone else’s family. Ladies, be careful about teaching a Bible study to other women. This notion of everyone presuming to teach God’s Word just because you are comfortable doing it is a late Plymouth Brethren development in church history, and is without ancient precedent. But what if you are skilled, you are qualified, and it is God’s will for you to teach the Word of God? There are further restrictions. For example, in First Timothy 6.20, Paul warns Timothy, “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” In other words, Timothy, don’t stir up needless controversy by teaching useless things. Stick to God’s profitable Word. And in Second Timothy 2.23 Paul wrote, “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” Again, Paul restricts Timothy in the same fashion.

Third, there is a proper environment for teaching God’s Word. Please turn to First Timothy 3.15:

 

“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

 

Please take note of the last two phrases:

 

“the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

 

The keeper and the custodian of scriptural truth is the local church, not Christendom at large. And what is “the house of God?” This church and other churches like ours. The proper environment for teaching disciples is the local church . . . and nowhere else. Not the building, mind you, but within the context of the local church. After all, it is to the local church that disciples are added when they are converted and baptized, Acts 2.41 & 47:

 

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. . . Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

 

We frequently see imitations of Christianity outside the local church in this day of apostasy that we live in, but you don’t find such sanctioned in the Bible. In the Bible Christians gathered for fellowship, for instruction, and for service. It was in the congregation that they were taught God’s Word, and not in isolation (and I am again not referring to a building). No Lone Ranger Christians in Paul’s day, my friend. Ephesians 4.11-12, if you will:

 

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

 

Please continue reading on in this passage in your spare time, but the essence and the thrust of what Paul is saying is contained in these two verses. From verse 8 we see that Jesus Christ gives gifts. The gifts that He has given to congregations are gifted men, who are listed in verse 11. The function and purpose of such gifted men is to perfect the saints (which means to equip Christians), so that they will be capable of doing the work of the ministry, so that the body of Christ will grow. There are many pastors who want to teach the lost and have thereby grown their churches. I choose to confine my activities to seeking the conversion of the lost first, then teaching those who have been made disciples. It’s a much slower process. It’s far less impressive than the improper way of reversing the sequence of events. But equipping real Christians for ministry is so much more pleasing to God, and beneficial in the long run.

 

Next, THERE IS THE NOTION OF TRANSMISSION

 

Look at that portion of our text which reads

 

“all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

 

Two considerations at this point:

First, the Lord Jesus Christ clearly has in mind here that what is taught to others be what He taught to them. Thus, what we have here is a compelling directive to teach only what Jesus Christ has taught. And remember, Paul wrote to Titus that those appointed should only be those who themselves have been taught. What we have here should warn us to avoid those who are creative, who find things in scripture that are new, and who come up with notions never before known or practiced in Christianity. The Great Commission involves the transmission of truth from one generation of disciples to another. Our task is not doctrinal innovation, but the transmission of that which has been preserved!

Accompanying the idea of not putting anything new into what we pass on to the next generation of disciples is the prohibition against leaving anything out. This is why Paul was very clear in mentioning to the Ephesians that “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God,” Acts 20.27. Let us, then, be careful not to put anything new into what is taught to the next generation of disciples, while at the same time being careful not to leave out anything that should be taught.

This is a recognizably immensely difficult task. It’s a task that I am not sure even lifelong Christians appreciate fully. This is the reason why the primary task of teaching God’s Word falls upon the God-called gifted man. And this is why the God-called gifted man must be, first and foremost, a student of God’s Word. Second Timothy 2.15 is familiar to most of you:

 

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

 

It should also be noted that there is provision for the delegation of the pastor’s God-given charge of teaching the Word to others when it is appropriate.[2]

I pray that God will someday raise up under my ministry young men who are called to preach God’s Word. They will need to be men who are willing to spend the necessary years preparing to be students of God’s Word, so they can faithfully execute the ministry they have been called to of transmitting “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” Jude 3, as well as earnestly contending for that same faith. I pray also that those of you who have joined with me in the ministry of mentoring and discipling others will at all costs continue to engage in this vital aspect of our church’s ministry. More on this.

 

Finally, THERE IS THE NOTION OF TRAINING

 

Please take note of the fact that the second half of our Great Commission is not discharged by merely teaching all things Christ has commanded, but by

 

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

 

This means that the task before me is far more complex than simply teaching everything Jesus Christ has taught, though I certainly must be about the business of doing that. Insufficient is the pastor who merely teaches God’s Word, for “Knowledge puffeth up,” First Corinthians 8.1. Those who have only been taught think they know so much. How mistaken they are. God would not have us learn His Word, and the Lord Jesus Christ would not have us to learn of His ways, so that we might know . . . but so that we might do. “If any man will do his will” our Lord Jesus said in John 7.17. Teaching, then, is but a single step toward a more important goal. That important goal, that lies far beyond merely imparting factoids to someone’s mind, is to then escort them along life’s path to the faithful discharge of duty. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Now therefore perform the doing of it.”[3] There are three questions, simple questions, that are therefore important to our understanding of training disciples:

First, who is authorized to train disciples? I think the best passage in the Bible for dealing with this issue is Second Timothy 2.1-3. Please turn there and read along with me:

 

1     Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2     And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

3     Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

 

As we look at these three verses, I want you to notice a few things: First, notice that Paul is directing his comments to Timothy, a gifted man, a pastor. Next, notice that what Timothy would need to effectively train disciples is strength from God’s grace. It is not an easy task to be a lead discipler, which is to say, a pastor. Third, verse 2, we see here the same pattern of transmitting truth to faithful men (who will then pass it along), that we see in our Great Commission. The description “faithful” means they are men who are not just learning, but they are men who are observing what they have been trained to do. Finally, verse 3, as if to reinforce Timothy’s understanding of how brutally disappointing the ministry of training others can be, Paul encourages him to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” So, it is demonstrably clear from this passage that the key figure in advancing and being ultimately responsible for this process of training Christians, teaching disciples to observe all things our Lord Jesus taught, is the God-called preacher.

Next, where are disciples supposed to be trained? Some preliminary questions first. Who is authorized to baptize? Only a church. Where are Christians supposed to regularly and routinely gather? Only at church, Hebrews 10.25. Where were new Christians placed on the day of Pentecost? They were added to the church, Acts 2.41 & 47. Where is one to find these gifted men who equip saints for the work of the ministry? At a church. Where else would they be, unless they are out starting a new church? Thus, the undeniable reality, from even a cursory reading of God’s Word, is that Christianity is simply not found outside the context of the church congregation except when they are reaching out to the lost around them. The place where Christians are to be trained to know and then obey what their Lord and master wants them to do is the church. Some would send them off to Bible college, but in the Bible we find them trained in churches. Others would send them off to seminary, but in the Bible we find them trained in churches. “But pastor, you went to Bible college and seminary.” My pastor sent me to Bible college. I did what my pastor told me to do. But I went to seminary to get a degree so I could write books that people would read. Period. And I did not leave my church or abandon my place of ministry to pursue my advanced degrees. I repeat, the place where disciples are to be trained is the local church. I can’t help it if pastors disagree with the Bible. And I wish God would someday give me some young men who were interested in me showing them how to preach, how to study, how to counsel, how to guide sinners to Christ. I trust that He will someday, but I am running out of time. I see the end of my road as your pastor, though I do not know how long it will be, time wise. And I desperately want to train the man, or the men, who will replace me someday, if God permits me to do so. I may even direct someone to seek additional training by other means. But one’s primary training should occur here, and those of you who are now engaged in discipling others play a vital role in the entire process.

Finally, to what proper end are disciples to be trained? “ . . . to observe all things whatsoever” Christ has commanded. This word “observe,” translating threw, means “to persist in obedience, to keep, to observe, to fulfill, to pay attention to.”[4] Doesn’t this sound like what you would expect a bond slave to do? Remember, Christians are bond slaves to Jesus Christ. Disciples are servants of God. But what do servants do? We do what we are told. The Lord Jesus Christ spent some 3 ½ years training His disciples to do what He told them to do. When He suffered and bled and died, He was then buried. After three days and nights He rose from the dead in a glorified human body. And what did He do before He ascended to His Father’s right hand in heaven?[5] He told His disciples to do with others what He had done with them . . . after those new disciples had been brought to faith in Christ and baptized. What are those new disciples then charged with doing? What was done to them. They then repeat the cycle. And on it goes, with varying degrees of success, down through the centuries, to where we are now. Let me quickly remind you that when a disciple is made, when a disciple is truly made, it is done by seeing a sinner converted to Jesus Christ and then baptizing him. The second half of our Great Commission is for the purpose of propagation, for the purpose of delivering the Christian faith and the message of the saving gospel to the next generation of disciples. And all of this planting and germinating and growing and fruit bearing takes place in the green house of the local church, under the oversight of the pastor. Acts 20.28-32 is where Paul sums up pastoral duties to the Ephesian elders, showing them that diligence is required, and danger is ever present, because the devil wants to disrupt this process of folks being saved and then trained to propagate the faith to the next generation. Let me read the passage to you before I conclude:

 

28   Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

29   For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

30   Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

31   Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

32   And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

 

 

The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a commission, in that we are charged with a high and holy task, a noble and honorable duty. Not us as individuals, mind you, but we as a church have been commissioned, therefore each of us has a part to play. Since this commission has been delegated to us by none other than the Son of God, it can only be described as Great. Think of it, the Great Commission! Our Lord’s Great Commission! We have been charged by the risen Savior, the Son of God Himself, to represent Him to a lost and dying world. Our goal? To preach the gospel to every creature. Those who are hopefully converted we baptize. Then we bring those disciples into our congregation so we can train them to obey what Jesus Christ commanded us to do.

__________

 

[1] Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 731.

[2] 2 Timothy 2.2; Titus 2.3-5

[3] Second Corinthians 8.11.

[4] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 1002.

[5] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

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