The passage above is, perhaps, one of the most familiar to Evangelical Christians throughout the world. It has been called "The Great Commission" by preachers, missionaries, and scholars alike. This bit of Scripture contains some of Christ's last words on earth prior to His Ascension into heaven. Its brevity belies its significant teachings and commands for the Christian Church as it goes about daily doing its spiritual business in the world.
One of the interesting parts to me has always been the word that is translated "Go..." Most translations render the word as though it is a command --- hence, the nickname for the passage, "The Great Commission." Of course, the root word in Biblical Greek does have to do with moving or conducting one's life. However, it is not a command --- it's a participle! Students of English will remember that participles most frequently end with "ing;" therefore, the word is really an introductory participle phrase that is best rendered, "Going..." or "As you go..."
"Going" describes the nature of life. EVERYONE is going --- we go to work, go to visit family and friends, and go traveling to areas further and further from home. Actually, we have no choice in the matter. The circumstances of each person's life will dictate that he/she "goes" each day. The only difference between people is the distance or places we go.
The real command to the infant Church here is to "make disciples of all the nations" or "disciplize all the peoples of the world." The Church and all who make it up, during the process of normal life and activities, are to be occupied with the process of assisting all kinds of people to repent of sin and become connected by faith with the Lord Jesus Christ. This activity is to permeate all the other activities in which we are involved. That's why Christians are described in the Scriptures as "salt" and "light." We flavor and influence all the people around us, and we point the way to the Eternal Light as we reflect it.
What are we asking people to do? What does it mean to "disciplize all the peoples?" Regrettably, some people think they can be a "saved person" without being a "disciple!" The relative spiritual impotence of many of our churches is a sad testimony to this unbiblical idea.
So, if the command to make disciples is not a command to solicit devotees for some higher, optional level of Christian faith, then what is it? When we share a Christian witness or fulfill our evangelistic responsibility, what kind of Christian faith are we challenging others to commit to? When Jesus Himself challenges people to "take up their cross and follow Me," what is He talking about?
"The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says, 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked --- the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'" --- C.S. Lewis.
Let us be clear, then, as to our Christian business --- we are commissioned by our Christian faith, openly displayed by our baptism, to call people of every nation, kindred, tribe, and language to repentance and faith and a new life bound up in Jesus Christ. This next week all of us will be going; now, that's a fact of life. BUT --- will we be disciplizing people around us? Will our lives be "lights set on a hill" beaconing people to our Sovereign God through the Lord Jesus Christ? Will our words and lives be road-signs and road-maps directing the swift traffic of life towards the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us?
As we work, play, move, commute, relate, and talk during this week, may God use each of us as "disciplers" for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom. Ask Him to use you --- I guarantee He will! God bless you and use you all week long!