What Does the Bible Say?
With Part 1 of this series as our introduction, let us now support our statements by referring to Scripture.
We will begin by examining two passages:
Matt 28:19-20 (The Great Commission) Jesus commanded the apostles: 19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you...”
Rev. 2:4-5 Jesus warned the church in Laodicea: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”
What it means to “Make Disciples”
Notice that the first portion of Christ’s command is “make disciples”. But what is a disciple? The Greek word is mathētḗs, which is defined in Strong’s Concordance: to disciple, i.e. helping someone to progressively learn the Word of God to become a matured, growing disciple (literally, "a learner", a true Christ-follower); to train (develop) in the truths of Scripture and the lifestyle required, i.e. helping a believer learn to be a disciple of Christ in belief and practice. (Emphasis ours)
There is no reference here to what may be called “mass microwave evangelism”: Altar calls given at large crusades or at the end of every service, where unbelievers are urged to say the Sinner’s Prayer (i.e., “repeat after me…”) and be instantly saved. This is not how disciples are made, according to Scripture. It is estimated that less than 3%-5% of these “conversions” last.
No. Instant conversion is not even hinted at in the definition of the Greek term. The words “progressively”, “matured, growing”, and “learn” are the active terms that describe the process required to properly make a disciple.4
In verse 20 of Matthew 28, Christ commands that we “teach them to observe…”. The word teach in the Greek means "cause to learn; to instruct, impart knowledge (disseminate information).” This, again, suggests a process which requires time for the learner to critically think through the propositions and principles of Christianity, and for the Holy Spirit to convict and convince the heart/mind/soul of the Gospel’s truths, opening his eyes to see and his ears to hear.
But what is Christ commanding them to teach? “All that I have commanded you.”
Wait a minute? Christ gave commandments? I thought this was the covenant of grace? No more laws, right?
WRONG! (we’ll explain this in detail shortly)
And more to the point, Christ is not commanding them to merely teach new converts all that He has commanded, but to OBSERVE all that He has commanded. The Greek word for “observe” means to “keep, guard, observe, watch over”. There is a huge difference between telling someone, “Christ says that every man who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery in his heart,” and actually teaching them HOW TO keep, guard, observe, and watch over their heart so that they will make it their LIFESTYLE to keep this commandment.
To put it even more simply, it is one thing for the instructor of an auto mechanics class to teach line-by-line through the parts catalog, defining the function of each part. But without someone to assist them in the assembly of an engine, the class may never get the car started. Theory without application is useless.
When we are teaching HOW TO, we are teaching PRACTICE or PRACTICAL APPLICATION. And once again, this takes time. But the point here is that teaching the Gospel means teaching law (all the commandments of Christ). More specifically, teaching the Gospel means teaching (discipling, training) a new Christian HOW TO be vigilant of his own heart so that he will be constantly implementing the commandments (laws) of Christ within his practical day-to-day living.
It is the Holy Spirit, through the power of the Word that saves souls. He saves! Our greatest responsibility is to disciple them from that point. The real task – discipleship – begins after salvation.