“Why should I make disciples?”
Let’s listen again to Jesus as he speaks to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Responding obediently to our Lord’s command means living a life aligned with his expectations of us. This text has at least five points to test whether we are aligned with Jesus and what he is doing. These five points are reasons for making disciples.
1. It’s not about me.
As we listen and watch with the eleven disciples, we hear our Lord say,
“go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything … I am with you always.”
Jesus Christ focuses on others: “all nations,” “them,” “with you.”
On the cross, antagonists mocked him, “he saved others … but he can’t save himself!” (Matthew 27:42). Paul confirms this when he writes, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—others (1 Timothy 1:15).
Jesus’ life and purpose are other-centered, not self-centered. He calls his disciples to serve others.
Making disciples is not about me; it’s about others.
Are you aligned with this focus of Jesus’ life and purpose?
2. His authority.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
The combination of “heaven and earth” means everywhere; the universe, and more—no place is left out.
Jesus has all authority for the universe in which we live!
Hear David in 1 Chronicles 29:11:
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
There is no greater authority than this.
So, is your life aligned with our Lord’s authority?
3. His command.
Having declared his authority, Jesus then says,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”
In Greek grammar, “make disciples” is an imperative, meaning it is a command, a divine expectation. It is also in the active voice; that is, it is what we are to be doing.
On a related matter, have you noticed how Jesus links our obedience to his commands as the evidence of our love for him (John 14:15)?
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
How are you responding to his command? By your actions, are you expressing your love for him?
4. His desire.
God revealed his heart’s desire when he chose Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).
“all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
That isn’t the only time the Lord expresses this desire. God’s mission has always been to bless the entire world— all nations.
To make disciples is to engage with God in fulfilling his desire to bless all the peoples of the earth.
How does your life align with God’s desire?
5. His mission.
Christopher Wright defines this mission in The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative:
Fundamentally, our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation.
Making disciples aligns with God’s mission to the world.
In Quiet Talks on Service, S. D. Gordon imagines a scene in which Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection and conversed with the angel Gabriel. Of course, this is a fictional account, yet it makes a good point.
Gabriel asks the Lord what his plans are for making his suffering, love, forgiveness, and salvation known to the world.
Jesus responds that he instructed the eleven disciples “to make it the business of their lives to tell others, and the others were to tell others … until the last [person] in the farthest circle has heard the story and has felt the thrilling and the thralling power of it.”
Gabriel then asks:
Suppose their descendants, their successors away off in the first edge of the twentieth [now the 21st] century, get so busy about things—some of them proper enough, some may be not quite so proper—that they do not tell others—what then?”
“And back comes that quiet, wondrous voice of Jesus, ‘Gabriel, I haven’t made any other plans—I’m counting on them.’”
We do know that God’s ultimate purposes will never be frustrated.
The question for each of us is: “Will I join him in his purposes?”
This article was previously published by Dr. John B. MacDonald on his website, living theology, and has been republished with his permission. The original article, "5 Reasons to Make Disciples", is part of a larger series (Matthew Paradigm) focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ for all of life.
Dr. John B. MacDonald has served for decades as a lawyer and pastor-teacher. He is an associate with Outreach Canada and focuses on equipping and encouraging others to become more like Jesus Christ and to live all of life with God-honoring competence and joy.