What Are Our Marching Orders?
‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing…teaching…’
–Matthew 28:19, 20
There is a long history of Christians, on both the political right and left, who find themselves being seduced by Babylon, the political spirit of the age. The seduction is real, but it often goes unnoticed, slowly gaining a grip on our hearts, minds, and emotions. The result? We become sidetracked by secondary or even tertiary concerns.
Do you see any evidence whatsoever of Jesus taking the Roman government to task for their corruption, deceit, or violation of the civil rights of those under their authority? Is there any indication that Jesus or the apostles campaigned for the eradication of slavery or abortion? In fact slavery was so ensconced in the Roman world that one thinks Jesus or his apostles would have pressured the Roman government on these issues, but we have no record that they ever did so. Why not?
Yet, clearly over the centuries, slavery and abortion began to disappear where the Christian faith took hold. How did this happen? The answer, my friends, is found in the Great commission statement of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:18-20. I am sure you know the passage well, but did you know that most, if not all of the English Bible translations from the Greek text, translates the passage very poorly. We find in verses 19 and 20 three participles and one aorist, imperative verb. This is very important my friends, for the correct translation gives us vital insight into our marching orders from Jesus. Verse 19 is generally translated ‘Go.’ It sounds like a verb, yet it is not one. It is an aorist participle.1 Two present participles are also found in the text — baptizing and teaching. The only verb in the passage is disciple, which is an aorist imperative. Again, most translations get this wrong too. The Greek text does not say ‘make disciples’ (this is how the NASB and the ESV render it). Disciples is not a noun, it is a verb in the Greek text. So, literally the text should read ‘Having gone, disciple all the nations.’
Think of it like this: a verb in the imperative mood gives you the command of the author, while the participles (ing ending words in English) tell you how to carry out the command. So a command would be, ‘Clean up the kitchen.’ The participles tell us how to carry out the command – by clearing the table, by sweeping the floor, and by washing the dishes. Or another command is, ‘Repair the car.’ How? By changing the oil, by changing the brakes, and by tuning the engine. So we are commanded, ‘Disciple the nations.’ How? By going, baptizing, and teaching. The aorist, imperative verb form for ‘disciple’ is emphatic. ‘Do it now. No delay. No option. This is not a suggestion.’
I will also argue that baptizing and teaching are the two specific means by which we carry out the command, ‘disciple.’ Baptizing is a picture of regeneration, being baptized into the body of Christ (see Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:11,12). By the sheer grace in his atoning work, Christ reconciles us to himself in his body on the cross that he might present us holy, blameless, and beyond reproach (Colossians 1:22). And teaching is two-fold. It means giving information on how to live and then exhorting us to obey those commands every day of his life.
So, simply put the marching orders for every christian is this, ‘Having gone into the world (it is assumed that you are already going) disciple all the nations.’ How We are to evangelize everywhere and we are to instruct believers to obey God’s word.
Anything beyond this is secondary or tertiary. There is nothing in the Scriptures which teach us to renew, reweave, or transform our culture. There is nothing there telling the church to demonstrate or campaign for a living wage, nothing about demanding new tax laws, or building the wall. We are called to disciple the nations by evangelizing them and teaching them to obey God’s word.Baker, Al,
Now, as we do this, certainly believers, who are seeking to live in obedience to God’s word, will desire to challenge the status quo in their communities. More on this next week. Here, however, is the subtle temptation to get off course. Our flesh, being what it is, so strong and pervasive, coupled with the world’s temptation to demand our own rights, can easily morph into the purpose of the church. We saw mainline Protestantism go ‘left’ in the 1960s, and we saw the evangelical church go ‘right’ in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. The evangelical church now seems to be going left.
Now, I am a political conservative and I honestly believe this is the way most conducive for the general well-being of our entire population, but I have noticed how I can so easily put far more significance on politics than is warranted in Scripture.
What if we spent our time and money on the Great Commission? After all, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. All the legislation in the world will not remove corruption in the market place, in Washington D.C., or on Wall Street. Stricter gun control legislation will not prevent troubled men from entering schools and carrying out a massacre. Black on black crime in our urban centres will not dissipate by sponsoring after school job training programs or literacy programs.
The rebellious, cobra heart must come out and the heart of Jesus must come into people to bring about any lasting change. Congress is not charged with this work,neither is the business or military sector of our society. The church of Jesus Christ alone is charged with this great work.
Al Baker is an Evangelistic Revival Preacher with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
- In all fairness, Greek scholars tell us that very often the nearest participle to the main verb takes on verbal form. See Dane and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, page 228. However, due to Jesus’ declaration in Luke 24:47, 48; Acts 1:8; and John 10:16, it appears to me that to make ‘going or having gone’ a verb ‘go’ seems redundant and unnecessary.
More on Evangelism and Mission
the finest flowering of Missionary Zeal in Scottish History
‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing…teaching…’ –Matthew 28:19, 20 There is a long history of Christians, on both the political right and left, who find themselves being seduced by Babylon, the political spirit of the age. The seduction is real, but it often goes unnoticed, slowly gaining a grip on our […]
Jesus the Peacemaker? Yes! December 11, 2023
Here’s something that happened just over seven hundred years ago. On the 24th of June 1314 a famous victory was won by the Scots over the English at a place called Bannockburn. I mention it not because I am a Scot and Bannockburn is one of the outstanding events in our national history but rather […]
The Life of R. B. Kuiper: a Brief Summary November 21, 2023
The following first appeared in the February 1991 issue of the Banner of Truth Magazine (Issue 329). Over the years, the Trust has published several books by Dr R. B. Kuiper. However, there are many readers throughout the world who are more familiar with the titles of Kuiper’s books than with the man himself. It […]