“Follow, Change, Disciple”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 28.18-20
Matthew 28. What does it mean to be a success? I remember when we began potty training Paxton …. Strange intro, ok. , ahem.… he showed some interest and was really motivated, so we went for it. He was not perfect, of course. His diaper still got wet, but he had some great success and yet many failures also… but overall got better and better. When he used his ‘big boy potty,’ successfully, we give him a piece of dried fruit, a date. As parents and as a family, we could think about this, “What will it look like for him to be a success?”
I think it was when we no longer had to buy him diapers! But even then, he’ll still make mistakes, fail, and grow again.
We’re all like that individually; but we’re also like that corporately, as a church.
So, when is a church successful?
Like anybody trying to do anything right, as a church, we want to succeed and grow. So when is a church successful? If you own a business, you contemplate success also, and you have different stepping stones of success. But what about a church?
Are we a success when we have more people in the doors? When people join? When we baptize more?
What if only one person is doing all the church work, baptizing and teaching. Are we successful as a church? No, we all have to obey… Matthew 28:18-20
Matthew 28:18–20 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Success in a local church will look like this: follow Christ, change to be like Him, seek to produce disciples. Success is when you, as a follower of Christ, grow to the point that you can and attempt to make other disciples by your life and teaching. Again …
Success is when you grow to the point that you can and attempt to make other disciples by your life and teaching.
Jump back 3 days before Jesus’ command here … While Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins, with Mary and the apostle John beneath Him, He turned to his own mother and said…
“Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to John, “Behold, your mother!” Jesus wanted John to take care of Jesus’ mother Mary. And you better believe it, from that hour the apostle John took her into his own household. What would you have done if you were Jesus’ disciple? Would you have taken Mary into your household?
When Jesus makes a final wish as He’s dying, you follow it. But what if He rises from the dead! And indeed He has! And what if after rising from the dead, He issues this command to all disciples… “Go therefore and teach or make disciples of all the nations…” And indeed He has! How much more should we obey that command?
Jesus’ last command is the church’s first priority, but unfortunately the Great Commission has become the great omission.
There is something to say about God’s sovereignty in the decline of faith in America, but there is also something to say about human responsibility in it, also.
Fact is, the number of followers of Christ is declining in America.
“The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.”
What’s more disturbing is what is replacing following Christ. It’s the rise of the ‘nones’ those who are either atheist or agnostic or just unaffiliated. But also Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. We could describe the difficulties with these two worldviews in detail. But the truth is, these folks are lost and content with it.
Many young people couldn’t tell you what Christmas is all about …
I had that experience when I was mentoring a boy in the public school in Canada… I asked a young boy “what is Christmas all about?” “His reply was family, friends? Presents? I don’t know.” I said “It’s somebody’s birthday…” He couldn’t get it. That’s probably not uncommon.
Because of the great decline of the church, now more than ever we need to be ready to do the mission of the church. What is the mission of the church? To make disciples of Jesus Christ.
The direction, the trajectory of any true New Testament church is to be better conformed to Jesus’ Great Commission in our character and in our actions.
We need to … display God’s truth to the world, to make true disciples of Jesus Christ, who disciple others and who build up and cause the growth of His church.
This is why we exist. We exist to make true disciples of Jesus Christ who disciple others.
It’s great if you are sharing the gospel individually. And we know also that the Great Commission is more than that. Are you helping someone be a disciple? Are you teaching someone what Jesus commands? So, how can the church help you get there? We need to disciple each other to help each other make disciples.
The Great Commission passage is centered on that one command Teach the nations… or the idea is to “Make disciples” of all the nations. We need to disciple each other.
What we do is take everyone where they are and help move them to the next level, where Jesus wants us to go. That’s going to take specific actions in order to follow Jesus.
And so a church is successful when every member is maturing into a disciple who can and is making and teaching other disciples. I’ll repeat that … a church is successful when every member is maturing into a disciple who can and is making and teaching other disciples.
How are we going to get there? Follow Christ, be changed to be like Him, make disciples. This calls for Christians being actively involved in other Christian’s spiritual growth.
We’re all to be involved; no one sits the bench.
ILL: When I was a boy, I played sports: baseball, basketball, football, soccer. There were times when I didn’t play much b/c I was so small. So I rode the bench …. by design of the coach.
But that’s not the church! Everyone is to be in the game…Everyone is to be in the game… following Christ, changing to be like Christ, making disciples of Christ.
Where is it you need to start? What is hindering you from being discipled or discipling others? Is it some selfishness, some sin? Are you a follower of Jesus? Are you changing? Are you helping to make someone into a more faithful disciple?
That’s what this passage is all about; making disciples.
Responses to the Resurrection
But the chapter begins with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And throughout the chapter, we’re presented with responses to the resurrection.
The ladies arrive at the tomb on the first day of the week and there’s a great earthquake because of the angel of the Lord who descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.
The angel was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow… And the guards were shaking with fear but the angel comforts the women and says, “Jesus is not here for he has risen. Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead.”
And they leave and here’s their response … verse 8-9 …
Matthew 28:8–9 8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
They fear and have great joy and report it. They report it; when Jesus appears to them, they worship Him.
Worship and reporting the good news; that’s a good response.
But we have another response…rejection. The guards in verse four shook for fear because the angel… Now verse 11… the guard comes into the city and reports all that happens to the chief priests.
And so when the chief priests and the elders assembled together to discuss this, they gave the guard a large sum of money and they say, verse 13-14,
Matthew 28:13–14 13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. 14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
And that’s what they did. The chief priests and the elders rejected the fact of the resurrection, explained it away, suppressed the truth. Rejection is their response.
The third story is kind of a mixture of responses from the disciples. Verse 16, Matthew 28:16 16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
…we’re talking about the 12 disciples minus Judas equals 11 disciples.
What are the responses? Verse 17, Matthew 28:17 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
Two responses here are worship and doubt. The disciples worshipped him but some of those worshiping him were doubtful.
The ladies worshiped him and reported the resurrection to the disciples. The chief priests and the elders rejected the truth. And the 11 disciples worship him while some worshipping were doubtful.
So you have the worship of the ladies and the disciples. You have the doubt of some of the disciples. And you have the rejection, denial, and cover up by the chief priests and elders.
Rejection, doubt and worship. And the doubters in this story are worshippers.
And Matthew’s major point is not to simply give the history of what happened. This is designed to give you the reader…you… a starting point to determine where you are with Jesus. Are you a worshipper, do you doubt and worship, or do you reject the truth?
And those three responses usher in the Great Commission. Jesus has a special command for you if you are a worshipper of Jesus.
He is Lord of all, and is deserving of all worship and praise!
Now, Jesus came up and spoke to them…to disciples of Jesus. Are you a worshipper of Jesus, His disciple, do you follow Him? He’s speaking to you… “make disciples of all the nations.”
This is a great commission, not in the sense that it is wonderful, but in the sense that it is important, or highly significant. Why is it highly significant? It is highly significant because of the authority of the One who gave it!
The Universal Nature of Jesus’ Command
You’ll notice in verses 18-20, that there is one word that occurs 4 times. It’s the word “all.” You could underline these in your Bible, if you haven’t already, and number them.
First, verse 18, “all” power/authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Second, verse 19 go therefore and teach/make disciples of “all” the nations.
Third, verse 20 teaching them to observe “all” things that I commanded you. And at the end of the verse I am with you “alway” literally “all the days” even to the end of the age.
The word “all” describes the universal nature of Jesus command. This is the Universal Commission of Jesus.
First, Jesus bases His command to us to make disciples…He bases His command on His authority in verse 18.
Matthew 28:18 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power [authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Because Jesus has all authority in all those nations; we’re to make disciples in all those nations, including ours.
Jesus has been given all the rights to govern over heaven and earth. Without that authority, Jesus’ major command in the passage to make disciples is pointless. But He does have all power, all authority!
But how did Jesus get this authority? The answer is found back to Daniel chapter 7. And I would like us to turn back there together, Daniel 7. So we’re asking the question, how did Jesus get his authority?
We’re turning back here to see Jesus receiving this universal authority. I really want this to be weighty to us. Sometimes we read these words of Jesus authority and we really don’t let them sink into our ears. But if you’re in Daniel chapter 7, Daniel is relating to us a vision that he has had in the night. The first part of Daniel chapter 7 he recounts his vision of the four beasts.
And then in Daniel chapter 7:9 we read of the reign of the Ancient of Days, God the Father. We’ll read verses 9-10 and then some other verses. Just let the majesty and the wonder of these verses sink into your heart so that as you consider Jesus’ Universal authority and His right to command us to make disciples, you will give all the more weight to them.
Daniel 7:9–10 9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
Daniel 7:13–14 13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man [that’s God the Son] came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
The Son of Man approaches the Ancient of Days. And He receives all authority … dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is everlasting.
Because Jesus has been given all authority in all the nations…because the Father has given to Jesus a kingdom that people from every language might serve Him, we’re commanded to go into all those nations and make disciples of them. He has every right to tell us to make disciples in every nation because He has been given authority over every nation!
Response? Your response? Look, He has all the rights! We worship Him; we submit to Him in every way…He has all the rights.
TRANS: And so we submit to Him to make disciples. Back to Matthew 28.
Jesus Commands to Make Disciples
Now, this universal commission from Jesus has 4 simple statements: Go, make disciples, baptize them, teach them.
So these are the 4 things that we do to do the Great Commission.
“to go” or “going” in verse 19 carries the idea of this being active. We don’t wait for people to come to us, we go to them.
We must pursue this activity of making disciples. It’s the type of thing that you fit into your daily, weekly, or whatever schedule; or it’s the type of thing that you are doing throughout the day with your kids, family, coworkers, and neighbors. But whatever it is, it’s you going and pursuing. Maybe you’re on the receiving end and you need to get with a more mature believer to help you grow. Take some steps, pray about it, and make a phone call!
Maybe you see someone in need of Christ or in need of growth to get to the point of making disciples… make a phone call!
To make disciples requires you to get out of your safe space and to pursue those outside Christ and those in Christ out of your love for Christ. In other words, Christians make this an active part of their life. But it takes following Christ, changing to be like Him, while making disciples. We need each part.
TRANS: So as we go about our daily lives, what are we to be doing?
Make disciples of all nations
What we’re to be doing is to be making disciples.
Matthew 28:19 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
To ‘teach’ all nations means to make disciples.
When you put together this passage; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8 which are all the Great Commission passages, what you come away with is that the Great Commission is this: an active pursuit of lost people to preach to them forgiveness and repentance from sin, to baptize them, and to continue teaching them what Christ has commanded.
This should be done in the power of the Holy Spirit, progressively throughout all regions of the world, first locally then further and further out into all the world and to all people groups regardless of ethnicity according to Acts 1:8.
And we’re making disciples…A disciple of Jesus is someone who follows Jesus; he is saved, born again, by the power of the Holy Spirit. He’s trusting Christ.
And we’re to make disciples. But being a disciple not only includes becoming a believer, but it also includes in it the idea of growth and commitment. Every born again person is also committed. For example, Jesus says things like…
Luke 14:26 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 9:23 23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
So a disciple is not only someone who starts the relationship with Christ, but is also somebody who daily denies himself …daily he takes up his cross…and follows Christ.
This is part of the very definition of being a disciple, someone who starts and continues his relationship with Christ, daily denying himself and is committed to growing to the point where he or she is producing disciples. A disciple-making disciple.
So, that’s what it is to make a disciple from Matthew 28. You win them to Christ and you strengthen their relationship with Christ. You pursue this; this is active; this is part of what it means to be a disciple of Christ…that you yourself make disciples.
ILL: “Too often” says author Jim Putman, who’s authored a number of books on discipleship, he says… “too often our idea of being on a mission with God (if we think that is even our job) is inviting our unbelieving friends and family to church so the pastor can convince them to accept Christ. If we believe that these new converts should be taught at all, we certainly don’t think we are qualified to teach them.”
ILL: “Tragically,” he says, “most believers do not know or do not accept that we [the local church] are God’s Plan A for reaching the world and that there is no Plan B.”
That’s you and me. So it’s not parachurch organizations, as helpful as they may be, but it’s not God’s Plan A…God’s Plan A for reaching the world is not InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, not disaster relief programs, not Navigators, not Christian Motorcyclists Association, and not even biblical parachurch Bible colleges! God’s Plan A is the church! And that means us!
Are you committed to growing to the point where you can make disciples? How is so and so member going to get there? How is that person over there going to get to the point where they can make a disciple? It’s going to take…follow Christ …changing to be like Christ…and making disciples. What do we have to do as a church to get each member and attender of our church active in the next step they need to take so that some day they can and do make another disciple?
Follow, change, then make disciples… Encouraging each other like I’m doing now, in being a part of the Great Commission.
ILL: Of course, we leave the saving and the growing up to the Lord. We can’t save people; we can’t grow people. But God can use us to do that work.
My wife and I have had opportunities to get to know people on a long term basis and have seen some come to Christ. Other times, it’s been that we’ve just had a few moments to share Christ. Others, we have a long term relationship with lost people and the Lord is still working on them.
And then others the focus is discipling Christians from week to week.
We leave the fruit up to the Lord, but I can say that the most fruitful work that we’ve had outside the church is from being involved in some way in the community.
And then we appeal to them about their souls by steering the conversation to Christ. I like to talk about work. I ask them, “What kind of work do you do?” Then hopefully they ask, “And you, what do you do?” You can come up with a natural lead in also.
If it’s moms with kids playing, “It’s interesting that kids all have an innate sense of fairness. Where do you think they get that?”
So when we get into contact with people, ….we can be in prayer about how to start a conversation.
TRANS: How do we make disciples? We make disciples also by doing 2 things…by baptizing them and teaching them.
Matthew 28:19 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, [how? by…] baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
By baptizing them
Disciples baptize other disciples. Believe it or not, since making disciples is for all disciples, baptizing is for all disciples. This doesn’t say, “Let your pastor make a disciple out of them” and neither does it say, “let your pastor baptize them.” No, disciples are to baptize disciples. If disciples are to make disciples, disciples are to baptize disciples.
Baptism isn’t something only performed by the clergy anymore than disciple-making is something only performed by the clergy. Sounds radical, but show me the Scripture that only clergy baptize?
This is why I haven’t done all the baptizing. I’ve had dads baptize their kids; it’s all to be a part of the church! As long as the candidate for baptism is thoroughly examined regarding testimony and evidence of salvation, the act of immersing in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can be performed by any disciple. Any disciple can make a disciple; any disciple can baptize a disciple.
Are you baptized? You need to ponder: Am I a follower of Christ? Here’s His will for you: you need to be baptized.
TRANS: And any disciple can teach a disciple.
By teaching them
Matthew 28:20 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
This is simply instruction on what Jesus expects of us in belief and practice, which includes making disciples.
As a disciple, He wants you to be a part of the discipleship process! Are you willing to follow Christ, to change, in order someday to be able to make disciples? Are you willing to help others to follow Christ, change to be more like Him, and to help them make disciples? Are you willing to take someone in our assembly and pull them aside a few times a month and pour yourself into their life to get them to the point where they are able to make a disciple? Are you willing to be pulled aside, based on Jesus’ authority, to be taught to make disciples?
TRANS: Scared? Nervous about this? Don’t want to get deep into other people’s lives to regularly teach them what Jesus taught us, but you’re willing?
No worries….Jesus says…
Matthew 28:20 20 …and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Jesus’ presence empowers us for the task. The King of the Universe who has all the power and authority didn’t command us and then leave us. No, He’s with us to help us do the work.
!!That’s why I believe we can do this! Not because we’re unique or uniquely gifted people in any way. It’s because Jesus is with us! The youngest believer can do this; As someone wisely said, “This isn’t rocket surgery!”
It’s Christ’s presence … that’s what makes all the difference.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 28.18-20
When Hudson Taylor was director of the China Inland Mission, he often interviewed candidates for the mission field. On one occasion, he met with a group of applicants to determine their motivations for service. “And why do you wish to go as a foreign missionary?” he asked one. “I want to go because Christ has commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” was the reply. Another said, “I want to go because millions are perishing without Christ.”
Others gave different answers.
Then Hudson Taylor said, “All of these motives, however good, will fail you in times of testings, trials, tribulations, and possible death. There is but one motive that will sustain you in trial and testing; namely, the love of Christ…[Christ’s love for us controls us].”
He has loved us to the point to take on God’s wrath for us…He’s saved us through a simple faith….He’s delivered us from hell, given us eternal life, and we have great promises coming in glory!
But you say of the command, “I’m scared.” Get help to follow Christ, to change to be like Christ, so you can make disciples of Christ. You say, “What if I don’t say the right things?” Follow Christ, get help to change to be like Christ, so you can make disciples of Christ. You say, “What if I don’t have time?” Follow Christ, pursue change to be like Him, get help to make disciples of Christ. “What if I don’t feel equipped?” Follow, change, disciple. We can do this…Jesus is with us.
You might not like to make disciples…you might not enjoy sharing Christ or teaching a new disciple who has a very dirty past…but that won’t matter if you know Christ’s love. Do you love Him? He loves you! Do you worship Him as the ladies and the original disciples did? Then let’s Go!
I would love to do some personal discipleship with you.
If that interests you, we can make that happen.
Let me know after the service or you can give me a call, email, whatever.
Let’s follow Christ, be changed by Christ, and make disciples of Christ.
Jim Putman, Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches That Make Disciples (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010), 22. ↑
Jim Putman, Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches That Make Disciples (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010), 22. ↑