Course Notes: Disciple Making, Discipleship and Leadership Training (I)

February 12, 2010

(Note: These are the notes for a course I will be teaching on Sunday afternoons through mid-May, except for Valentine’s Day and Easter.  See what you think.  I also will be posting a bibliography of what I have published in these areas.)

THE GREAT COMMISSION IN “FIVE-PART HARMONY”:

WHY CHRISTIANS ARE RESPONSIBLE TO MAKE DISCIPLES


It is news to many Christians who have long heard about “the Great Commission” that there are actually five complementary statements that can, in some sense, be called “the Great Commission.”  The version in Matthew 28:18-20 is, far and away, the most well-known.  Also, it is the specific reason why Christians are responsible before the Lord to make disciples.  That is, we don’t just do it because Jesus did it.  We make disciples because Jesus commanded us to do so… and to keep doing it until He comes again.

I. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 (written in the late 40s [or 60s] A.D.):

(v. 18) Jesus’ basis for giving His command: Universal authority (after His resurrection)

(vv. 19-20a) What Christians are to do (the general activity) and how they are to do it (the specific activities involved)

One command: “Make disciples”

Three steps to carrying out Christ’s climactic command:

1)      “Go(ing),” i.e., with the gospel message to unbelievers

2)      “Baptizing” the converts soon after their profession of faith

3)      “Teaching” the new believers not only content, but the need for full obedience

(v. 20b) Jesus’ promise of His ongoing presence for fulfilling the Great Commission

II. *The Great Commission in Mark 16:15 (written in the 50s A.D.:

What to Do– “Go” (the same Greek word as Matthew 28:19) and “preach the gospel” (which clarifies the nature of what is involved in “going” in Matthew)

Where to Do It– “All the world”… “the whole creation” (which coincides exactly with “all the nations” in Matthew)

(*Mark 16:9-20 is included in the so-called “longer ending of Mark.  This passage is not found in several of the oldest manuscripts [i.e., those dated closest to the New Testament Era] and, thus, may not have been original.  It is in these verses that such particularly problematic ideas as baptismal regeneration [v. 16] and snake handling and drinking poison [v. 18] are found.)

III. The Great Commission in Luke 24:46-49 (written about A.D. 60):

(v. 46) The Basis for Christ’s Promise: His death and resurrection

(v. 47a) What is to be Proclaimed: “Repentance for forgiveness of sins” (see Mark 16:15)

(v. 47b) Where it is to be Proclaimed: Among “all the nations” (see Matthew 28:19), “beginning in Jerusalem” (see Acts 1:8)

(v. 48) The Role of the Hearers: “Witnesses” (see Acts 1:8)

(v. 49) The Promise of the Father: Power “from on high” (see Acts 1:8)

IV. The Great Commission in Acts 1:8 (written about A.D. 62):

The Source of the Power: “the Holy Spirit”

The Location/Sequence of the Witnessing: “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (see Mark 16:15)

V. (?) The Great Commission in John 20:21b-23 (written about A.D. 85-90):

(v. 21b) What’s happening here: A sending with authority (see Mathew 28:18-19)

(v. 22) What’s the empowerment: the Holy Spirit (see 14:16-17; 16:12-13; see Acts 1:8)

(v. 23) What’s at issue theologically: the forgiveness of sins (see Luke 24:47)

([?] This passage actually seems to have more to do with the remaining 11 apostles—though only 10 were present here [see v. 24]—being ready for the events of the Day of Pentecost [i.e., Peter being prepared to preach his message] than anything else.  In that regard, it probably should be understood more as a key step toward the Great Commission than an aspect of the Commission itself.  However, most of those who have studied the Great Commission closely lump this passage with the others.  Since its message is definitely important, I have chosen to do the same.)

Conclusion– Much like the differences between the 4 Gospels adds considerable richness to our understanding of Jesus than they do confusion, the same is true with the 5 statements of the Great Commission.  Most notably, if all we had was Matthew 28:18-20, we would know for sure the message to “go” with or the empowerment by which we are enabled to carry out Christ’s command (i.e., the Holy Spirit).

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