The fourth command of The Great Commission is, in its complete sentence form, “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In my mind, this is the most amazing part of the Great Commission. It is absolutely brilliant.
In adding this fourth command to the other three commands of The Great Commission, Jesus has just insured that the Biblical Plan of Salvation will continue on throughout all generations. Let’s break it down and see what else we can discover.
The first word is, “teach.” This means sending information, passing knowledge, communicating enlightenment. It’s a drawing toward knowledge and wisdom.
Now, carefully notice. The apostles were not told to “teach the people everything.” They were told, “Teach them to ‘obey’ everything.” This is interesting. Jesus introduces obedience. Obedience is a response and it is always intrinsically linked to a command. Without a command, there is nothing to obey. This is why we say, “The Great Commission must be obeyed.” There are a series of commands contained in it. As a result, obedience becomes a critical part of the salvation experience because, the scriptures elsewhere teach us that we can not have a relationship with God, if we are unwilling to obey him. More about that in a moment.
Now, obviously… the things Jesus is commanding us to obey extend way beyond the first three commands of The Great Commission. He said, “Teach them to obey everything, I have commanded you.”
That’s a mighty tall order, wouldn’t you say. What was he talking about? “Love your enemies?” “Love your neighbor as yourself?” “Seek first the Kingdom?” “Give?” Yes, yes, yes and yes. But, in the context of The Great Commission, we must ask, “What has he just taught the apostles to obey?” Well… the first three commands! Go, make and baptize!
When Jesus says, “Teach them to obey everything,” that by definition, includes everything he has just finished saying. And, they should teach it exactly the same way he taught them. No one has ever been given a license or the authority to change anything in the Biblical Plan of Salvation.
Have you ever played the game “Telephone?” It’s a fun game, even for adults. The game is played by getting 15 or 20 other people together. The leader whispers a fairly complex sentence into the first person’s ear. The first person then whispers it into the second person’s ear and the message gets passed on from mouth to ear for twenty generations. It can be quite hilarious when we hear the final presentation of the original sentence. Things can really change and get messed up! When a message gets passed down from generation to generation people have a tendency to change things. But this process can’t happen with The Great Commission because we have the instructions… the original message… clearly presented in the New Testament.
Ongoing… without alteration
The apostles would have taught their followers everything, exactly as Jesus taught them. They taught their students the four crisp commands to Go, Make Disciples, Baptize them and Teach them to obey everything. Nothing changed. Now, think about the second generation of made disciples. What would they teach the third generation?
The third generation is taught to Go, Make, Baptize and Teach. There is absolutely no change. The commands are exactly the same. So, what would the third generation teach to the fourth generation? Exactly the same things… without alteration!
This process is handed down from generation to generation and, if we are in a church which practices the Biblical Plan of Salvation, this is exactly what we would be doing today.
If a disciple is taught, and called to obey, all four commands of The Great Commission, they would be making other disciples, exactly the same way. A disciple makes disciples. I’ve said it before, there is no other kind of disciple. There is no such thing as a disciple who does not make disciples. We must be about the Father’s business, just as Jesus was about the Father’s business. Consider this challenging passage.
1 John 2:3-6
“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”
Wow! Can I honestly say this is how I live my life? What a challenging verse! If we are not walking in obedience to the Lord’s commands, we do not know him. That’s a real slap in the face! But then, John follows up his first challenging statement with an even harder hitting second statement. If someone claims to know God but does not do what he commands, John says, “he is a liar and the truth is not in him.” How’s that for a warm fuzzy sermon? Folks, we must walk as Jesus did. That’s what The Great Commission insures and this is why earlier, I said we can not have a relationship with God if we are disobedient.
Why this command is amazing
The thing that makes this fourth command of The Great Commission, the most amazing command to me, is the way it brings the other three commands together, wraps it into a nice little package and then sets it up as eternally repeating loop. If we are in the loop, our walk should never change… and yet, it has.
Who really teaches this? Who really obeys this? Who takes The Great Commission seriously and practices it to the best of their ability every single day. Who has set their heart on seeking and saving the lost by using the pattern of The Great Commission as opposed to some other well meaning man made plan such as the Sinner’s Prayer? When was the last time anyone asked you, “Who are you teaching?” Is there any accountability, whatsoever, for these things in the church you attend?
What’s happened to in the church today? Many churches know The Great Commission well, but tragically teach it as a goal or an ideal, they don’t really practice it or hold their members accountable for it. We sacrifice active commitment to Christ’s commands for a warm fussy feeling which expects nothing and sure doesn’t ask for it.
What would happen if someone stepped up to the plate in your church and said, “Hey, you know what? We are not making disciples the way they did in the first century. We need to repent and start doing it like the Bible says.” In my experience, there is nothing like a team of mission minded disciples doing the work of the master; saving souls for an eternity of bliss in the Kingdom of God. This is why we are saved, to carry out the master’s business of making disciples.
The “A” Word
The one important ingredient, vital to make all of this happen, is the one ingredient most people reject. And without it, the entire process falls flat. What is this ingredient? Accountability! If we are actively involved in the mission of making disciples, you can bet we will be talking about it with one another. We should expect to see church programs and activities designed to support our efforts. And most certainly, church leadership would be interested in the results and create ways to monitor it. Look at this scripture, it’s…
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…
And it goes on…
God gave us leaders to prepare us for works of service which build up the church, both spiritually and numerically. The church is meant to grow, not stay stagnant. And leaders lead! They provide direction and guidance. They give us our marching orders, so to speak. Of course, this is where the friction begins regarding accountability.
Worldly Focus or Kingdom Focus?
No one naturally likes to be told what to do. No one naturally wants to be accountable for their actions… or lack of action. The thought of joining a church which would hold me accountable for evangelism seems distasteful somehow. Who wants to be annoyed by someone asking them how many people they reached out to on any given day or week? Is that how a church should work? Couldn’t some people be offended? Couldn’t some zealous leader get a little bossy about it and try to take control over my efforts? Yes! Absolutely, and it could really be a problem… if… we are thinking naturally. If we are thinking “in the flesh.”
Remember, as a converted disciple of Jesus, we don’t feel like we have to do anything. We feel like we “get” to so something for the Lord. We see the evangelistic efforts of our church as a divine effort and our own efforts as a contribution to the whole. We are not uncomfortable when someone asks us about our evangelism, if we have a healthy and vibrant walk with the Lord.
Remember. Evangelism is a very good indication of how a person is doing spiritually. I stop talking about God and inviting people to learn about Him, if I am not doing well. When our hearts and minds are not on heavenly things, we tend get off track and begin thinking about the things of this world, not the things of the Kingdom. This is the thinking of the natural man, not the spiritual man; and this is why accountability in evangelism becomes burdensome. This is a very real problem, for both the shepherd and the sheep.
Leaders need to possess a loving kindness which takes into account the fact that not every sheep will be doing awesome all the time. Likewise, the sheep need to be patient with the failings of the leaders. They will never be perfect 100% of the time in the way they take care of the flock. There will be times they make mistakes.
So, is there a way both the led and the leadership can share in a win-win experience? I think so. In fact, I think the answer is staring us in the face. We don’t see it because we forget the rest of The Great Commission!
We’ll talk about that next!Enjoy!