I recently taught a Bible study on the Great Commission. I wonder how many times I've read or studied or taught or heard someone else teach on or preach on those verses. Obviously, this was not unchartered territory for me. But God used that opportunity to help me think through this passage in a new way.
First, if we study Matthew 28:19-20 without digging into verse 18, we've skipped the most important part. The power of the passage is found in verse 18––"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," Jesus said. Think about it––all authority for all things in all places belongs to Jesus. Outside of His authority, we are nothing.
Second, verse 19 begins with the word "therefore." We do what we do––make disciples––because of the authority that is His. Think cause and effect. Because He has the authority, He has therefore given us an assignment to do.
Third, Jesus commanded up to make disciples (Mt. 28:19). But, do we have a clear understanding of what He has commanded us to do? When Jesus used the word, it included some uniquely first-century components. In the first century, disciples were always involved in an educational process that involved both a teacher and a student. The disciple lived with or near his teacher and spent all his time with the teacher, even when the teacher traveled. As a part of his learning, the disciple even adopted his teacher's way of life and his philosophy about life. It wasn't a short-lived experience!
For us today, we could use the synonym of apprentice to help us get the idea of discipleship. What would that mean today if believers became apprentices to Christ? How would that impact not only their personal growth in becoming like Jesus, but the way the church reflects Christ to the world? When we think about discipleship, how can we begin to thinking about the process of growing, rather than a goal to be obtained?