Friday, May 11, 2012

The Great Commission of Discipleship

The Great Commission is the command of Jesus, the divinely-appointed Messiah, for the church to engage in the important task of calling upon all people everywhere to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ, the risen King (see “The Great Commission of the King”). The Great Commission serves to explicate the significance of the lordship of Christ for humanity, and to promote submission to his lordship on a worldwide scale. Because Jesus is the risen King with authority over the nations, everyone from every nation is to submit to his lordship.

If Jesus is indeed the King over all, that means that this planet, and everything on it, in it, above and around it, belongs to Jesus. That means that you and I belong to Jesus. In fact, every single human being, every cockroach, every fly, every kangaroo, every piece of gold or silver, every single mobile phone … these all belong to Jesus. And if we belong to Jesus, honesty demands that we acknowledge this fact, and submit to Christ’s rule.

According to Jesus’ language in Matt 28:19, everyone is expected to submit to his kingship. This is why Jesus says “having gone, make disciples of all the nations.” From this we can see that Christ’s lordship is realized throughout the world as people become disciples of Jesus.

Contrary to what many evangelicals naturally think, Jesus’ focus in the Great Commission is not on preaching the gospel per se, but on discipleship. Matthew 28:19 does not mention preaching the gospel; but it presupposes (as shown through the use of the aorist participle πορευθέντες having gone) that, as Christians go out into the world, the gospel will be proclaimed to all the nations. Every person in every nation needs to bow down and acknowledge the truth that Jesus is the risen King as proven by his resurrection. The focus of the Great Commission is on discipleship, but discipleship at this point includes both initial conversion and subsequent indoctrination.

The Greek word μαθητής disciple, which is implied in the verb μαθητεύσατε make disciples, is related to the verb μανθάνω learn. This lexical connection clearly indicates that a disciple is a learner, a student. In the ancient world, a student submitted to the wisdom and authority of his teacher. In the case of Jesus, the master teacher is also the King of heaven and earth. The task of a disciple of Jesus is to submit to Jesus’ lordship by following his teaching.

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