The making of disciples is our Lord’s means for answering the prayer, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). In His infinite wisdom, Jesus chose to use dedicated followers, His disciples, to carry the message of salvation to all peoples of the world. He included this as a command in His last words before His ascension to heaven: “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” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Making disciples is important because it is the Lord’s chosen method of spreading the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. During His public ministry, Jesus spent more than three years making disciples—teaching and training His chosen twelve. He gave them many convincing proofs that He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah; they believed on Him, though imperfectly. He spoke to the crowds, but often He drew the disciples aside privately to teach them the meaning of His parables and miracles. He sent them out on ministry assignments. He also taught them that soon He would be returning to His Father following His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; John 12:23-36, 14:2-4). Though they could not comprehend it, He made the disciples this astonishing promise: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Jesus also promised to send His Spirit to be with them forever (John 14:16-17).
As promised, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came with power on the believers, who then were emboldened to speak the Good News to everyone. The remainder of the Book of Acts gives the exciting account of all that was accomplished through them. In one city the opposition said, “These who have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6 KJV). Multitudes placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and they also became disciples. When strong persecution came from the false religious leaders, they dispersed to other areas and continued to obey Christ’s command. Churches were established throughout the Roman Empire, and eventually in other nations.
Later, because of disciples such as Martin Luther and others, Europe was opened to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Reformation. Eventually, Christians emigrated to the New World to make Christ known. Though the world still is not completely evangelized, the challenge is as viable now as ever before. The command of our Lord remains – “Go and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The characteristics of a disciple may be simply stated as
• one who is assured of his salvation (John 3:16) and is activated by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:26-27);
• one who is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18); and
• one who shares Christ’s burden for the lost souls of men and women. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38).