This question might irk some people.
The Great Commission is something I first heard in college. Before this I didn’t know that God wanted us to share Him with others. If you aren’t familiar, here is the chunk of Scripture I am referring to:
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to 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’”
This is where most sermons and talks I heard stopped. I truly thought this was the whole Great Commission. I did read the passage myself, but I guess I just didn’t take to heart the last part of the chapter, verse 20.
Before I get there let’s see what this implies. If we don’t seek out perspective and context in the Bible, we can sometimes read Scripture and take it out of context. Jesus was saying here that we should make disciples of all nations. But if we stop there what will we be doing? We will be making machines of people to go and share Christ, but not to fully live a life devoted to the relationship of God through Jesus Christ.
After hearing this verse over and over again and repeating it to so many people, a pastor challenged me when he said, “Do you know the last part of that verse?” I guess I didn’t. At least I didn’t have that part memorized. He said, “It says, ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 actually says, “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.”
I was missing out on a keep component. It’s not only about converting people to the way that you think, or even showing them the love that you so dearly hold. It’s also about teaching these people all that you know.
Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
This Scripture is saying that it’s important to teach believers and encourage them to follow Christ. I was missing out on the fact that it’s just as important to teach and encourage believers to follow Christ as it is to help non-believers trust in Christ.
This second part of the verse that I had been missing for so long hit me hard. It convicted me to share life with people and to seek out relationships with people to teach them what God has taught me since becoming a Christian. It also showed me so much freedom! For so long I felt defeated if I wasn’t seeing people come to know Christ, or if I wasn’t having spiritual conversations with non-believers, but now I can feel encouraged that the relationships I had with Christians where I was pushing them closer to the cross was also honoring to God. I was doing his work when I was discipling women who already knew God. I was doing his work when I was calling out sin in Christians’ lives.
I know that I am called to share Christ with others and believe me, I feel him tug at my heart when he wants me to initiate those conversations, but I see him working through me now to share Him with people who already know him, as well. How might He use you this week to encourage, teach or admonish another believer? What a sweet freedom to feel!
God, I pray that you would help me to not always feel defeated when I don’t have significant spiritual conversations with non-believers. I pray that you would allow me to see when I am doing your will in any activity in my life, whether that be sharing you with a coworker or sharing something you have taught me at Bible study. I thank you for the freedom you have given me to truly follow you in where you have gifted me. I pray that you would continue to show me where you want me to serve you!
**Thanks to Kristen Evensen for thoughts/words/ideas and guidance for this post!**
[This post first appeared on Radical Everyday Living, November 11, 2013.]