John C. Vaughn
Discussions of discipleship should flow from the fountain of the Great Commission, for we know that the Great Commission is a command to make disciples. “Go, win, baptize, and teach” are words often used to summarize that commission, but at its heart is discipleship—the theme of this issue of FrontLine. Matthew’s statement of the Great Commission is probably the most familiar.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:19, 20).
Appearing first in the New Testament, Matthew’s Gospel connects the Old Testament promise of a coming king to the Lord Jesus Christ. For that reason it begins with a genealogy that proves that Jesus is the King of the Jews. It ends with the Great Commission issued by the King of the universe. That universal authority, declared in verse 18, is foundational to the Great Commission. Therefore, the commission is an authorization to function on behalf of the King—to “make disciples of all nations” by teaching them who Jesus Christ is and what He did for sinners.
In fulfilling this commission, believers are guided by at least three essential elements: a missionary element, a pastoral element, and what we are calling “the critical element.” Because all authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to Jesus Christ, He has the right to delegate some of that authority to believers who are to make disciples wherever they go.
The first element of the Great Commission is the missionary element: “Go ye therefore, and . . . [make disciples of] all nations.” The object of the gospel presentation is “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Beyond a doubt, the testimony of our identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—the gospel, according to 1 Corinthians 15:1–4—is given through the water baptism of new believers. But there is far more here than the mere formula to be used when keeping that ordinance. The object is to bring disciples into the richness of the salvific work of the Triune God: to immerse them, as it were, through teaching, into the fullness of that divine benefit. That mission is inherent in the commission. Thus, it includes a missionary element.
It also includes a pastoral element involving persistent instruction. It is stated in the Great Commission as “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” We believe that the two extant ministry roles identified in Ephesians 4:11 include both a “sent” and a “sending” role. The evangelist is, in essence, the one sent out to preach the gospel, and the pastor-teacher is the one who further disciples the church to continue the sending. Of course, this comprehensive teaching role is performed not only by pastors but by other teachers, parents, and all who participate in ongoing discipleship.
Indeed, the missionary and pastoral elements are not sequestered within two “offices.” Historically, the Lord gave the Great Commission to the apostles (Jews), and the “nations” they understood Him to mean were the Gentiles. But to limit this deputation to the original apostles reaching Gentiles is to ignore the pastoral element. Each successive generation of believers is to disciple the next—teaching it to obey the commission as well. That successive generational teaching can rightly be called a “pastoral element” because while the missionary/evangelist performs an itinerant discipleship, the pastor disciples a local body toward mutual edification and evangelism.
The final, critical element provides the divine energy for discipleship as it applies the promise inherent in the Lord’s power. Not only does Christ hold all authority, but He is also with us always! When Moses was commissioned in Exodus 3:11ff, he asked God, “Who am I, that I should go?” In response, God promised him, “Certainly, I will be with thee.” When Christ gave us the Great Commission He gave us the promise, “Lo, I am with you.” That promise is critical to discipleship. “Behold—see—I am always with you, throughout this entire age of grace.” Discipleship is not something we do for Him; it is something He does through us. That is the critical element in discipleship.
John Vaughn is the President of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.
(Excerpted from the current issue of FrontLine • September/October 2012. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)
Our theme for this issue of FrontLine is Discipleship. Here’s a look at the contents:
The Critical Element in Discipleship
John C. Vaughn
The What and Who of Discipleship
The shortsighted, self-serving perspective of Hezekiah is often lived out in the way that believers disciple the following generation.
The Task That Lies Before Us
As a parent, God has called you to disciple your children.
It Takes a Disciple to Make a Disciple
David W. Clark
“Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people.” Discipleship is the preparation.
God’s Grace in Discipleship
Discipleship was a calling that the apostles took very seriously.
A Roadmap for Cross-Cultural Discipleship
Be warned: the destinations are clear but the terrain is mountainous.
Higher Education and Our Daughters
So much of the world’s philosophy concerning raising daughters is skewed.
Just Regular People Called to Serve
That . . . He Might Have the Preeminence
Some Things Can Never Be Forgotten
A Compelling Illustration from “Behind the Lines”
John C. Vaughn
Mail Bag & News from All Over
On the Home Front
Wit & Wisdom
The Evangelist’s Corner: Haman’s Pride
At a Glance: Psalm 50