“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.” –Matthew 28:19-20
So just what are all the previous commandments of scripture leading up to? The Ten Commandments center around our reverence to God and not doing harm to our fellow man. The love commandment centers around loving and serving our fellow man. Well, is there any better way to please God, do humankind well, love them and serve them than to lead them to God’s grace and salvation? Is there anything more important than a person’s soul and eternal life? In order to avoid populating Hell, we have to obey the commandment of Matthew 28:19-20.
First, we have to take this scripture for what it truly is: a commandment. This is not just a commission, as we more commonly refer to it (or limit it to). This was the one of the last things Jesus said before he ascended back to Heaven. It was his parting shot, so to speak. Jesus states in verse 18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” so he relayed that power to his disciples at the time (and to us now). But he didn’t end his advice at just that. He went on to tell them what they are to do until he returns to take back the world he created.
We need to take a look at what Jesus does not say in this scripture after the word “go.” He doesn’t say, “go, if you are called.” He doesn’t say, “go, if you have time.” He doesn’t say, go, if the time and place is opportunistic.” He just says to go and make disciples and baptize all nations. When I read that, I take it to mean that I’m supposed to teach the good news of the gospel to anyone that needs it. (I’ll let you know in the next chapter how well I do that!) As has been written before, to be on the safe side, we should probably just assume that everyone needs to hear it.
Jesus also didn’t say save yourself and coast on in to eternal life with him. He didn’t even say to go and merely save souls. He said to go and make disciples. Disciples. That word ups the ante on our ministry a lot. Disciples are not just saved souls. Disciples are people who also want to lead others to be saved. So, you can look at this commandment as the populating heaven pyramid. In a discipleship class I participated in at our church I learned the value of discipleing rather than simply saving souls. If I lead one person a day to Christ for 13 years, I will have led 4,745 people to saving salvation. That’s a huge task in itself! If I disciple two people per year for that same time (and assuming those people also do the same), I will have taken part in 8,192 souls being saved! That task is much less daunting and much more encouraging.
The people we lead to salvation are to also lead others to salvation. That’s why he also adds that we must teach the disciples to obey. We have to equip them to lead. Disciples may start as struggling Christians but they can become powerful faith leaders. Of the original 12, 11 of them were prime examples of ordinary men that became mighty church foundations. They spent three years learning from the master. We don’t have the master but we have the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible. A daily committment to those two will provide all the instruction we need to go and make disciples of all nations.
Most importantly, the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible will equip us in our quest to avoid populating Hell.