One of the most important universals in the Great Commission, particularly for our superficial age, is the command to teach those we have discipled. We’re to teach them everything Christ commanded. Today we see what seems to be the opposite. Instead of striving to teach all Christ commanded, many try to eliminate as much of his teaching as possible, concentrating on an easily comprehended, unobjectionable “core” of teaching.
It’s grace without judgment, love without justice, salvation without obedience, and triumph without suffering. The motivation of some of these reductionists may be good—to win as many people to Christ as possible. But the method is the world’s, and the results (as a natural consequence) are the world’s results. Disciples are not made by defective teaching. The world is not subjected to Christ’s rule by demi-gospels.
Teaching We Need
What teachings does today’s church need to recover? Any brief listing of doctrines is inadequate. We must teach the entire Bible. Nevertheless, faithfulness to Christ must involve at least the following.
Instead of striving to teach all Christ commanded, many try to eliminate as much of his teaching as possible, concentrating on an easily comprehended, unobjectionable ‘core’ of teaching.
1. High View of Scripture
In past days liberal teachers undermined the church’s traditionally high view of the Bible by saying that it’s only a human book, that it contains errors, and that it’s therefore at best only relatively trustworthy or authoritative. This weakened the church. But in our day evangelicals undermine the authority of the Bible too, because they don’t consider it to be adequate for the tasks we face and therefore neglect it in countless areas. If we’re to be faithful to Christ’s teachings, we must absorb his high view of the Bible as a fundamental part of our theology.
2. Sovereignty of God
The English Bible translator J. B. Phillips wrote a book called Your God Is Too Small, which is exactly the case with many apparent believers. They are ignorant of Scripture and therefore inevitably scale God down to their own limited and fallible perspectives. We need to capture a new, elevated sense of who God is, particularly in regard to his sovereignty. Sovereignty refers to rightful rule. So to say that God is sovereign, as the Bible does, is to say that he rules in his universe. Nothing is an accident; nothing catches God off guard.
3. Depravity of Man
People are willing to acknowledge sin in the sense that we’re all “less perfect than God” and need help to live a good life. That is not offensive to anyone. But it’s not the full biblical teaching. The Bible teaches that we are dead in our sin (Eph. 2:1–3), and so affected by it that even our thoughts are corrupted (Gen. 6:5). And so great is our depravity that we cannot even come to Christ unless God first renews our souls and draws us to him (John 6:44).
4. Grace of God
While it’s true that in ourselves we cannot come to Christ, and so we’re under God’s judgment, Jesus teaches that God has nevertheless acted in grace toward some who were perishing. Thus salvation is by grace alone. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37). He said to his Father, “I am not praying for the world, but for those whom you have given me” (John 17:9).
Although God does the work of saving individuals, drawing them to Christ, he doesn’t abandon them at that point, but rather directs and empowers them to do meaningful work for him.
5. Need for Good Works
Although God does the work of saving individuals, drawing them to Christ, he doesn’t abandon them at that point, but rather directs and empowers them to do meaningful work for him. Most of Christ’s teachings about discipleship fall into this area. Like Jesus himself, we are to stand for justice and do everything in our power to comfort the sick, rescue the outcast, defend the oppressed, and save the innocent. We’re also to oppose those who perpetrate or condone injustice.
6. Security of the Believer in Christ
Jesus was strong in cautioning against presumption. He let no one presume himself or herself to be a Christian while disregarding or disobeying his teachings. Nevertheless, although Jesus cautioned against presumption, he also spoke the greatest words of assurance and confidence for those who did follow him. He said they would never be lost. Indeed, how could they be if God himself is responsible for their salvation (John 10:28)?
In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of others. They were to lead others to faith through the preaching of the gospel, bring them into the fellowship of the church through the initiatory rite of baptism, and then, within that fellowship, continue to teach them everything Jesus had commanded them.
It is not easy to follow Jesus Christ. He never suggested it would be. But it is far better than not following him, for not only do we have his command to teach everything, we also have the sure and certain promise of the Lord’s presence with us as we go.