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Two action words describe how we make disciples.

The first is baptizing which we dealt with in the previous post.   The second is teaching – a particular kind of teaching – that we’ll deal with in this post.

Here are the nine words from Matthew 28:18-20 we'll examine:

… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

How does teaching make disciples?

1.       them

‘Them’ is a plural word referring to an indefinite number. It could include anyone, potentially.

‘Them’ is also a limited number. It is not ‘all’ – it is an identifiable group.

‘Them is that indefinite number of identifiable people who are the objects of “make disciples.” They are now baptized, and are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.

Who are these people in your life?

2.       teaching

‘Teaching’ has a wide spectrum of meaning in our culture, as well as others.

Is lecturing teaching?

A cynic described lecturing as the process of transferring the notes of the professor to the notebook of the student, without going through the head of either.

Is relationship teaching?

One church’s idea of discipleship was “pray and play.” I think they meant that discipleship was relational in various areas of life. To some extent that is true – but the teaching that makes disciples is more than simply being relational.

Making disciples involves teaching that goes far beyond transferring information or having a relationship – as we’ll see.

In The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer writes (p. 97):

to  teach is to create a space in which the community of truth is practiced.

This gives us greater insight into real teaching. Such teaching is:

  • Communal – its relational. It can’t be done alone; it’s done with others.
  • Intentional – it has a goal or purpose. In this case, becoming like Jesus Christ.
  • Flexible – it “creates space” in which to grow. Rather than a rigid or formulaic course of study, it allows for the differences among us.
  • Effective – it manifests itself in our lives. Are we becoming more like Jesus in how we worship, think, and behave?

This teaching is even more.

3.       to obey

The Greek word translated “to obey” in Matthew 28:19 is tēreō. It means “to persist in obedience, keep, observe, fulfil, pay attention to” (BDAG).

As mentioned earlier, this teaching is not simply conveying information. In addition, it needs to be modelled or demonstrated in the lives of those who are making disciples – just as Jesus did for the Eleven.

Jesus does not say, “teaching them to know,” or “teaching them watch,” or whatever. 

We are to teach them to [persist in obedience, observe, fulfil]. It is a teaching that results in putting into practice what the Lord commands, like the wise person in Matthew7:24-25.

What is the content of that teaching?

4.       everything I have commanded

First, what has Jesus commanded? 

This entails the careful hearing and reading of Matthew’s Gospel. As you read, identify what Jesus commands his disciples.

What is his first command to his disciples?

My initial thought was: “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19) – but it isn’t. That was an invitation and does not use the Greek form of command, the imperative. 

The first command – the first use of the imperative toward his disciples – surprised me. It is (5:12): 

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven … 

Once you have identified the imperatives to the disciples in Matthew, there are others in Mark, Luke, and John.

Second, we are to obey “everything” he has commanded. I’m still learning how to obey the command: “rejoice and be glad.” 

‘Everything’ means that we can’t pick and choose. Sometimes we may try to say, “This doesn’t suit my culture,” or “This isn’t part of my life-style.”

We aren’t given the luxury of fulfilling only those commands we find convenient.

Which leads me to my next point: Why do most existing discipleship programs teach certain commands (e.g., read your Bible, pray, go to church, tithe, and a few others), but not other commands (e.g., fasting, dealing with conflict, and many others)?

We’ll leave that for another post.

Whats your take-away?

What have you ‘heard’ as we looked at “… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”?

  • Who are the ‘them’ in your life?
  • How does your ‘teaching’ need to change?
  • What does ‘obey’ entail?
  • What does Jesus command that you’re now beginning to hear?

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Photo credit: pipcleaves via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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