Friday, 25 September 2009

so what does a disciple need to do?

This brings us to the second element of the way in which we are to 'disciple the nations'. A disciple is technically 'a learner' who learns at the feet of a master, but what does he learn? There is a kind of instinct in evangelical circles that there is an irreducible minimum of doctrine that a person must learn before they can be considered a Christian. In the Second century there were definite things which must be learned and those who were learning were called 'catechumens'; people who were under instruction and ultimately people had to 'know their catechism' before their full initiation into the new covenant community. But is this what Christ is referring to in the Great Commission? Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age. Amen. Matt 28:19-20

We need to recall to mind that a 'disciple' is one half of a relationship. Primarily he is following a 'teacher' rather than a 'teaching'. Christianity is not, primarily, a doctrinal system. It is not, primarily, a code of ethics. It is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is why Christ made the bold assertion; I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6. It is not possible to be 'right with God' other than through the the sole agency of Jesus Christ. If we desire to come to God we must come to Jesus Christ; there is no exception to this.

The Great Commission is fulfilled as men and women become disciples of Jesus Christ. Nothing short of this can be allowed. Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ involves a full hearted surrender to him in water baptism and an undertaking to 'observe' what he is teaching. 'Observe' here does not mean taking on the role of an interested spectator. The word means to actively guard what has been entrusted; it is the picture of an armed guard or watchman. Those who would be disciples are not those who subscribe to a doctrinal statement but those who actively guard what has been entrusted to them. Let me illustrate...

Christ had been preaching and some of the Jews who listened believed him. To those who had 'believed' Christ spoke these words; Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32 Those words, 'the truth shall make you free'. have become a slogan used by many but they are not true... not in isolation from the rest of the sentence. If we work our way backwards perhaps you will see my point. The truth only frees those who know it and the only ones who know it are true disciples of Jesus Christ, and true disciples of Jesus Christ are those who 'abide' ie 'continue' in the truth that he has revealed to them. So reading it forward again... those who hear the word that Christ is speaking and who continue in obedience to that word are genuine disciples. (the word 'indeed' is the word 'true' and the word 'true' often means 'the genuine article' in the New Testament) So in order to be a genuine disciple I must continue in my obedience to what Christ has said to me. Such genuine disciples will know the truth and knowing that truth, as genuine disciples, will set them free. Freedom depends upon discipleship and discipleship depends on 'holding onto' and 'working out' the things which Christ says to us.

This Great Commission is a wonderful repeating cycle. We 'disciple' the nations by bringing individuals to the place where they surrender to the person of Jesus Christ and set their course to obey what he has said to them. How does he speak to us? In many ways, but particularly through the testimony of those men to whom he originally committed this Great Commission. All newly 'discipled' men and women are to 'guard the things that I have commanded you'. They are to guard the things that I have committed to you. This includes the command to 'go and disciple the nations'. In other words this Great Commission passes on in its entirety to each new generation.

The life truth committed to the disciples is now committed to the new 'disciples', and part of that commission is that they also embrace the Great Commission. The result of that is that each new generation of disciples also receives this Great Commission. It means that every genuine disciple of Jesus Christ is automatically invested with the same responsibility... to go into all the nations and to 'disciple' them. There are no exceptions; if I am a disciple I have a commission.

1 comment:

KingJimmy said...

Good thoughts on a subject near and dear to my heart Ron. Are you aware that Luther and many of the early reformers thought that the Great Commission was already fulfilled? Pretty shocking.