Implications of the Study: How to Make Disciples according to Matthew 28:19–20
One of the most revelatory aspects of the above grammatical and syntactical analysis of Matthew 28:19–20 is that it reveals how to make disciples. If all the participles take on the imperatival value of “make disciples,” then the relationship between “going,” “make disciples,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” is unclear and the reader does not know how the apostles or s/he is supposed to go about making disciples. However, thanks to the grammar and syntax of Matthew 28:19–20, the reader knows that the way one makes a disciple is by baptizing the person in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and teaching the person to observe/obey everything that Jesus commanded the apostles.
Understanding that baptizing and teaching a person to observe/obey everything that Jesus commanded the apostles as the way to make a disciple should direct the focus of evangelism and missions of individual Christians, the church, and mission/evangelism organizations. First, baptizing those who profess faith in Jesus should be a key goal of every church and mission/evangelism organization. A focus on baptism has particular implications for mission/evangelism organizations. Since baptism is usually done by a local church, mission/evangelism organizations must be associated with a local church in order for their missionaries to baptize.
Churches also need to be prepared to baptize those who profess faith in Jesus and not neglect this vital aspect of disciple making. Last year (2020), I visited a local Baptist church. In one particular service, the church announced new members to its congregation. The senior pastor then proceeded to tell the church that two of the three new members were not baptized. For a Baptist church, accepting someone as a member who has not been baptized is highly unusual. After asking around, I discovered there were a lot of members who had never been baptized. When I asked one non-baptized member why he was not baptized, he told me that he was never encouraged to be baptized. Further, he had inquired about it multiple times, but either no one from the church addressed his query or when it was addressed, it did not make sense to him. If the interpretation of the Great Commission in this series is correct, then every church, regardless of denomination, must be ready and able to teach on the importance of baptism and must strongly encourage all believers to be baptized if they wish to be disciples of Jesus. Baptism should be a non-negotiable for every church.
Second, teaching a person to observe/obey everything that Jesus commanded the apostles should be the second key goal of every church and mission/evangelism organization. The implications of this aspect of making disciples is quite heavy in my estimation and not as easy as baptizing. In order to accomplish this aspect of disciple-making, there must be a process by which every person who has professed faith in Jesus is accurately taught everything that Jesus commanded the apostles for the purpose of obedience. This means that churches and mission/evangelism organizations must know everything that Jesus commanded and be ready to teach for obedience everything that Jesus commanded. I am not advocating that every individual Christian be able to teach everything that Jesus commanded the apostles, but that churches and mission/evangelism organizations must be ready and able. The apostle Paul is very clear in Ephesians 4:7–12 that Jesus gave gifts to the church, such as the evangelist and the teacher. As such, not everyone is going to be great at evangelism nor equally great at teaching. However, the church or mission/evangelism organization must enlist those who are given to the church as teachers to be ready to teach all who profess faith in Jesus (both new converts and seasoned ones) to observe all that Jesus commanded the apostles, which is recorded in the Gospels and the New Testament letters.
In order to teach someone all that Jesus commanded the apostles, each church and mission/evangelism organization must have at least one person who is gifted to the church as a teacher and knows the entire New Testament, its content, proper interpretation, how to properly appropriate/apply it, and how to teach the New Testament in order that those who have received Jesus will obey all of it and so be a disciple of Jesus.
The implications of teaching all that Jesus commanded for obedience means that more than a 20–30-minute Sunday sermon is necessary from all churches and missionaries/evangelists. It is not possible, in my opinion, to teach someone to obey all that Jesus commanded in weekly 20–30-minute sermons. There must be much more intense and frequent teaching in the church. This can take the shape of one-on-one discipleship, multiple Bible-studies throughout the week, small groups that are focused on teaching obedience of all that Jesus commands, or other avenues. Regardless of the shape/mode of teaching, it is incumbent on the church to provide this teaching for all of its members, especially new converts. Personally, I feel too many churches in the West have failed in this regard in my lifetime and there needs to be a renewal for teaching and obedience of all of that Jesus commanded in the western churches.
Adam Robinson holds a PhD in New Testament with a minor in Old Testament. He is the Instructor of Biblical Studies at NewLife College located in Queensland, Australia. Adam’s goal in teaching is to help develop mature disciples of Jesus.