The defining mission of the church is to make disciples of all the nations, initiate the new disciples into fellowship through the ordinance of baptism in the name of the Triune God and teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded the first disciples; doing so by the power of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Matthew 28:18-20 has been called the great commission because Jesus, who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18) commissioned his disciples to do just that. There is an utterance of this great commission at the end of each gospel account and the beginning of Acts. (cf. Mk 16:15, Lk 24:46-48, Jn 20:21, and Acts 1:8) Why? Because evangelism and discipleship are the church’s purpose for existing.
For this reason, evangelism and discipleship cannot be separated. They are wholly dependent on one another. Jesus did not commission his disciples at the beginning of his ministry, but at the conclusion, and before his ascension. However, He did send them out on practice evangelism trips as part of their training. In Matthew chapter 10 the Lord sent the twelve out on a training exercise to the lost sheep of Israel. Instructing them how they are to do evangelism and warning them of the difficulties. He was instructing them in order to commission them for the ministry of evangelism and discipleship to all nations.
Evangelism is how disciples are made, but evangelism is always preceded by discipleship because it is the mature disciple who learns to multiply and go make disciples.With that being said, Evangelism is the intentional act of going out into the world to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is the act of being taught. Besides the English word disciple, another way that the Greek word μαθητής mathētēs can be translated is pupil. A disciple is a learner. A person who follows teaching.There are many disciples (pupils) in the world, but the type of discipleship that I am talking about is becoming a pupil of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There are both personal and interpersonal Spiritual disciplines. The personal disciplines are those which are done by the disciple in solitude: worshiping God, reading the bible, fasting, praying and journaling. The interpersonal disciplines are those done with other believers: worshiping God, reading and studying scripture, hearing the word preached and participating in the Lord’s supper.The purpose of practicing Spiritual disciplines is godliness.Whitney defined godliness “as both closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ, a conformity that’s both inward and outward, a growing conformity to both the heart of Christ and the life of Christ.”This is true of discipleship. Jesus said, “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master.” (Mt 10:25a, NASB) Therefore, the goal of discipleship is to become like our teacher and Lord Jesus Christ. So, discipleship is being a pupil and pupils are taught by a teacher. Our teacher is the word of God, but we need one another to be discipled and held accountable this is how discipleship is important in the life of the church and the individual.
Do you believe that whoever will call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved?If you answered no, I dare say that you are not yourself saved, but if you answered yes, I have a few questions to ask you. “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?” These questions were pinned by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:14-15a. Then in vs. 17 he said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
My all-time favorite book is “All of Grace” by C. H. Spurgeon. In the chapter, “What is Faith?” he gives this answer: “Faith is made up of three things: knowledge, belief, and trust. Knowledge comes first.”In order for a person to have faith they must first have knowledge. This is the reason that the apostle Paul said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17, NASB) Then they must believe what they heard but that is not enough. Faith goes beyond belief; faith grabs hold of the object of belief to trusting that it can do what you hope it will do. Jesus promised eternal life to all who believe in Him; therefore, faith in Jesus Christ, “Calling on the name of the Lord,” is trusting that He will save you on the day of judgment. Therefore, in order to trust, they must believe, but in order to believe they must be told.
The word gospel means good news.News must be heard or read. By hearing or reading one gains knowledge. Preaching is the means by which the news of the gospel goes forth. It is commanding men in the name of Jesus to repent and believe the Gospel; however, they cannot do that except by the grace of God.We can all preach the gospel publicly on a street corner or privately in a one-on-one conversation knowing that this is the way to give knowledge about the Gospel to lost people, but we cannot make anyone believe the gospel or trust in the Lord Jesus Christ that they may call on Him, that is the work of the Spirit. It is the chief business of every believer and the church to do evangelismin order to give lost people knowledge of the gospel which is the first step in saving faith. God has given to the church and individual Christians the privileged of accomplishing the first step in the process of saving faith. Now, is that just awesome or what?
Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), viii.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (1996), s.v. “disciple.”
Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual disciplines for the Christian Life(Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014), 5.
Cf. 1 Tm 4:7.
Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual disciplines for the Christian Life(Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014), 9.
Cf. Rom 10:13.
C. H. Spurgeon, All of Grace(New Kensington: Whitaker House, 1983), 59.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Soulwinner(New Kensington: Whitaker House, 1995), 13.
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