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MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations

Discipleship Texts

There are some basic Bible texts that are fundamental to the understanding and practice of discipleship. In order to gain a preliminary understanding of discipleship, read over the texts below and then you can look over the brief summary. Much more information can be gotten from the research documents which greatly expands the texts discussed below.

Matthew 28:16-20

"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Therefore as you go make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The "Great Commission" which is given at the climax of the book of Matthew has often been divorced from its immediate context in its own gospel and the rest of Scripture. For this reason, the dynamic meaning of its central phrase to "make disciples" has often been overlooked and misunderstood.

The Great Commission is linked to its immediate context through the introductory verse in Matthew 28:16. While most of the disciples positively respond to the report of the women, some of the disciples doubted as a result of the commission given to the soldiers by the Jewish authorities. In connection with its broader context, the gospel is constructed in order to give meaning to the major terms found in the commission itself through the stories and teachings which precede it.

As such, the Great Commission acts as an index or summary of the entire book of Matthew. At the heart of the commission is the main verb "make disciples" which the two participles "baptizing" and "teaching" modify.

Matthew uses the word disciple more than any other gospel or book in the New Testament and the term centers around the relationship and experiences people share with Jesus as they respond to the invitation to follow Him. It is apparent that Jesus chose to focus on the twelve disciples during the very heart of His ministry so that they would be equipped to carry on His missionary discipleship after the resurrection.

Mark 3:13-14

Jesus went up on a mountain-side and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.

He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and send them out to preach.

A short but very descriptive text about how Jesus discipled people is recorded in Mark 3:13-14. First of all the passage tells us that Jesus called those whom He wanted to disciple. Discipleship is best achieved when the leader personally selects and calls the core group upon which ministry efforts will be focused.

The primary method of discipleship is also mentioned. He called them "that they might be with him." Jesus discipled the Apostles by spending ongoing quality time with them. Through focusing on the few, Christ purposed to reach the many. After a time of mentoring, He sent them out to reproduce His ministry in others.

Luke 4:16-22

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Luke 4:16-22 has been widely recognized to serve as a most important preface or introdcution to the twin volume of Luke-Acts. In this sense, it has often been seen as programmatic in significance.

As such, this section of Scripture called the "Nazareth Pericope" (pronounced per-rick-co-pea), contains the essential elements of Christ and His disciples mission. Through the catchword “release” Luke envisions the heavenly “Anointed” One’s ministry to “proclaim” the “favorable year” of the release of the “poor” and those on the margins of society.

Responding by faith to this proclamation of release would become the essential gateway into which a person would be incorporated into the community of disciples (cf. Acts 2:38).

As such, Luke 4:16-30 provides a number of important themes for Luke’s understanding of the disciples and their mission. The Nazareth pericope shows both the profound Christological and universal character of their community. Their ministry was to be imbued with the same Spirit which prompted Christ to proclaim the release of the prisoners of all nations and ages.

The theme of the Sabbath is brought forth in this important Scripture both by the definite day it was proclaimed and the theological themes expressed. The themes of the Sabbath and Jubilee in some significant ways informed and directed the understanding and the practice of redemptive release and forgiveness, both within and outside the discipleship community.

Just as Jesus was rejected by the synagogue in his hometown, the disciples and Paul face constant resistance from those who think they are rich and increased with goods because of their biological connection to Abraham and knowledge of the law of Moses. Turning from the chosen, Christ and His disciples make their most dynamic impact with the those who are poor in spirit.

Isaiah 37:31

Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.

Jesus told His disciples that others would "know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). We bear fruit by abiding in the Vine and thus developing a strong faith relationship with Jesus. This particular text in Isaiah hints that although a disciple's life of faith is necessarily focused on growing the deep roots of faith and abiding in Christ, the fruit will be evident above ground.