This is the sixth part in a series about the Great Commission. Read last week's blog about baptism.
“‘… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’” -Matthew 28:20a
Jesus had already told the apostles to make disciples by going and baptizing. Now he has left them with one last charge in discipling all the nations: teaching these new believers to obey all that Jesus commanded.
Even with the time and dedication needed to go and baptize all the nations, teaching may be the most labor intensive and require the greatest time commitment.
If Jesus just wanted new converts, He could have ended the Great Commission at verse 19. But with this last directive in verse 20, it’s clear that Jesus wants fully devoted followers. Teaching is a key component to the central task of discipleship.
Obedience over Knowledge
The command in this verse would have made the task much simpler if Jesus had said to just teach all that He commanded. But that’s not what He said. Jesus said to teach disciples to obey all that He commanded.
It’s one thing to know Scripture. It’s another thing to obey it. Even Satan knows what the Bible says (Matthew 4:6).
A person could have head knowledge of Scripture and be disobedient to what it says. It takes a heart change for a fully-devoted follower of Christ to want to obediently follow Jesus’ commandments.
Obedience is what makes this command difficult. Obedience requires sacrifice, going against sinful nature, and taking a narrow pathway that most people aren’t choosing.
You cannot force someone to obey, but you can model obedience. By mentoring a new disciple, you can show what it looks like to love a neighbor, forgive others, live humbly, pray for those who persecute you, fear God, lay down your life, and on and on.
This is why this portion of the Great Commission is also the most time consuming. Mentorship is not a quick process. But it is in this phase of understanding what Jesus commanded that radical life change can happen. Upon learning to follow Christ’s commandments and how challenging it is to do so, people recognize the depth of their sinfulness and the greater depth of Jesus’s love for them. And understanding Jesus’ love compels someone to want to obey Him all the more.
Obeying All Commands
Which of Jesus’ commands are disciples called to obey? “Everything.”
With this word, Jesus indicates that he doesn’t want partial obedience from His followers but full obedience. Disciples don’t get to pick and choose which commands to obey. Jesus calls them to obey “everything” He commanded.
This also means disciple makers are called to teach “everything” Jesus commanded. While not all Christ followers are called to be seminary professors, disciple makers should not knowingly omit some of Jesus’s teachings because they are too hard or controversial.
To follow all of Jesus’ teaching is to live a life that can often be uncomfortable, painful, or even dangerous. Commands like loving your enemies, reconciling with each other, or carrying out the Great Commission are not easy things to obey.
But in order to love Jesus “‘with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30),’” disciples should understand the full extent of His character, which He lays out in His teachings. Help disciples become Christ-like by teaching all that Jesus taught.
“‘If you love me, keep my commands.’” -John 14:15
One important thing to keep in mind as you teach disciples to “obey everything” Jesus commanded is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God … (Romans 3:23).”
As disciples learn to follow Jesus, they will stumble again and again and again. All people will continue to be sinners in this earthly life.
But Jesus knew this even as He was teaching. He knew Judas would betray Him. He knew Peter would deny Him. And He knew any disciple after them would fall short of God’s perfect standard. That is why Jesus calls His followers to be fully reliant on Him and to go to Him for rest.
“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’” -Matthew 11:28-30
The sanctification process does not mean disciples become sinless but—with time—will sin less.
As you teach all that Jesus taught and help disciples obey His commands, know that grace abounds both for you and the person you are discipling. Being a disciple means both embracing obedience and the grace the Lord provides.