Home > Discipleship > 5 Discipleship Principles from the Great Commission

5 Discipleship Principles from the Great Commission

Moments before the Lord ascended into the heavens, he left his disciples with a simple mandate called, “The Great Commission.” At this point in Scripture, Jesus had completed his earthly ministry, atoned for the sins of the world and risen from the dead, victorious over Satan, sin and death. He then gathers his remaining followers for one final instruction, like a coach gathering his team for a momentum shifting half-time speech.

Matthew records the Lord’s words in the final lines of his gospel, which says, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and an earth has been given unto me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'”

Image via lindenwoodcc.com

Image via lindenwoodcc.com

When you view Christ’s commission in the context of his ministry, it’s clear that his instruction is about discipleship.  His instructions emphasize five important principles for this task.  These components can be experienced in any order, but I have listed them in the order that most people experience them, rather than the order they appear in the text.

1. Relationship. The Lord’s instruction is simple, “go and make disciples.” In that day, discipleship was a mentor relationship in which someone learning a trade, such as religion, would find a person, such as a rabbi, to personally teach it to them by example, instruction and experience.  If we want to be effective disciple-makers we must understand, like the first disciples, that discipleship is not a program or a curriculum, it’s a personal relationship with others as we journey in Christ together.

2. Learning. In Matthew 28, Jesus explicitly says that we are to teach our disciples about God.  This means that a disciple is always learning to live for God as he is also teaching others to live for God. It’s important to understand, however, that a person often learns about the Lord long before he ever comes to faith.  Learning happens before, during and after conversion. We are to disciple both those who are Christians and those who have yet to become Christians.

3. Faith. Baptism is the outward expression of inward faith in Jesus.  It is the way a person publicly professes that they have believed in Jesus for forgiveness and new life in God.  Discipleship, therefore, must progress to and be built on genuine, personal faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

4. Obedience. The text clearly states that disciples are to observe or obey all that the Lord has commanded.  This means that the goal of discipleship is not simply faith, but a faith and obedience. Faith comes first, but if it’s genuine obedience will follow. We must urge those we are teaching to live for God, not just to believe in him.

5. Reproduction.  Christ commands his disciples to go and make more disciples.  This implies our disciples will make disciples who make disciples.  We should strive to know the Lord as personally and deeply as we can, but we must be diligent to help others grow in Christ as well.

Discipleship, therefore, is about learning to live in obedience to God by faith in Jesus Christ through relationship with others over time.  As we grow as disciples, we then make more disciples by repeating the process with others.  This is the heart of the Great Commission.

This post is adapted from a sermon I preached at the Living Hope Church-Maryville Campus called “Discipleship: Our One Objective.” You can watch the sermon by clicking here.

  1. May 8, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    Good points, Trevor. I especially like what you brought out in #2: That we are not only teaching those who are already Christians, but those who are not yet believers. This is not mentioned much and is such an important concept! Thanks.

    • May 13, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      We miss out on so much effective work when we wait for someone to become a Christian before discipling them. In my experience, discipleship has proven to be one of the most effective ways to help non-Christians meet Jesus. Keep up your Acts 29 journeys!

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