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The Great Commission:
Make Disciples by Teaching
Matthew Lesson #205
July 1, 2018
“Our Father, we’re thankful we have this time together, a time to be refreshed by Your Word, a time to be challenged, a time to be corrected, a time to be informed, and a time that You use Your Word to train us, to teach us, to equip us, to mature us, that we may grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Father, we pray that during this time we might be able to focus and concentrate and as we worship through the study of Your Word by means of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit will enable us to make and to understand Your Word, and that we would respond to the challenge that’s there.
“And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
We are in Matthew 28 in the last verse in our study of Matthew, Matthew 28:20, which is part of the closing statement of our Lord, given to His disciples, which is frequently referred to as the Great Commission. As I have stated in the past couple weeks, it is part of several statements that He made to His disciples prior to His ascension, where He states that He is sending them out into the world. That they are to go to not only Jerusalem, but Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the world. They are to take the gospel to the nations.
This has always been God’s intent, that the gospel would go to the nations. The Gentiles were not excluded from the blessing of God in the Old Testament, as we studied last time. The idea that they were to make disciples of all the nations is intentionally an echo and a fulfillment of Genesis 12:3, that in Abraham all nations would be blessed.
So this is a reaching that fulfillment, the expansion of the gospel specifically to all nations in a new entity, a new organism, not based on a descent from Abraham physically, which is what was true of the Jews, but based on their dissent, as Paul puts it, from Abraham spiritually. They are the spiritual seed of Abraham by faith, and they are a new body, a new entity known as the church, the body of Christ.
This becomes, as it were, part of a summary, another way of stating the mission of the church. It is directed specifically to the apostles for they are, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:20, the foundation of the church, but through them to each one of us. We each play a part in this, either directly or indirectly. Those who are teachers play a part in this directly. Those who may not be involved in teaching, but they’re part of the body of Christ, as we’ve studied on a Thursday night in 1 Peter, through the ways in which you serve the body of Christ, through prayer, through giving, through serving in different functions. This is all a part of the way that we achieve the mission of making disciples of all nations. As we have read, Jesus grounds this in His authority that is given to Him as the Head of the church, and we are to submit to that authority in this Church Age.
We’re told to make disciples. That is the command here to make disciples, and we make disciples as we go. We will talk about the grammar of that in a minute. The command here isn’t to go, the command here is to make disciples of all the nations. Then we’ll see that there are these two phrases, baptizing and teaching, and they describe how discipleship is done.
Notice it doesn’t get into methodology. I want to say something about methodology. We have a little phrase that I use now and then, and that is that a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. The right thing is focusing on an objective. Now a right thing can be done a right way or wrong way. That has to do with methodology, and it is one of the great problems in American evangelicalism, that we’ve exported to the world at large through missions, is that methodology is neutral. But methodology is not neutral.
The Scriptures teach what the methodology should be, and often what happens is that you hear well-meaning pastors and well-meaning seminary professors import ideas into the text that aren’t really there. As I’ve pointed out in the previous lessons is that you have, after World War II, you had the rise of various college ministries that developed, as it were, a certain methodology for how you made disciples, and it was restricted to a small group.
That morphed in various ways. You have spiritual formation groups. That whole idea really came out of mystical Roman Catholicism, and that’s very dangerous. But yet this is the trend, this is the fashionable thing to do in almost every evangelical seminary, except, of course, Chafer Seminary, and one or two others. We don’t follow in that footprint because that’s not a methodology, really, that is supported by Scripture.
The idea that it always has to be a small group isn’t supported by Scripture. In fact, I’ll point out from one passage that we look at today that flies in the face of that. That’s not really what we see happening in the early church. So we have to be careful not to import some preconceived notion into the text.
What Jesus talks about here is two things that are important, that’s baptizing and teaching, and as I review, we will go through that.
So what we’ve looked at is the statements Jesus made that all authority has been given to Him, that the participle here “go” really should be understood as “while you’re going,” “as you are going,” “as you go through life, make disciples of all nations.”
Last time we talked about that and what it meant to be baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today we’re going to wrap this up looking at the last two statements, “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you,” and His concluding statement, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The context is after the resurrection Jesus has sent His disciples to go north to Galilee. After about a week they finally understood His resurrection, that He did rise from the dead, and they finally left Jerusalem and went north to Galilee.
There He appears to them, and in that context Matthew records one of the statements of His mission to the disciples for the Church Age.
As I pointed out already, the command here is to make disciples from the Greek word MATHETEUO, which has the idea of becoming a learner if it’s in a passive sense. If it’s in an active sense then it’s directed to the teacher to create students, and there are a lot of ideas that come out of this, but that’s the focal point.
We’ve looked at that a little bit, and that’s the idea. A disciple is more than someone who has simply trusted in Christ as Savior.
There’s a lot of confusion over this. There are those in the lordship camp who say that these are identical, but that is not correct. The disciple is a believer who decides to press on to spiritual maturity and not to stay in diapers throughout his spiritual life.
The direction is to all the nations. It’s not restrictive. It is to all of the nations, that it is a worldwide endeavor that has gone on through the centuries.
Slide 8 (skipped)
Then it is done two ways. There are these two words “baptizing” and “teaching” that are instrumental participles in the Greek, which tell you how the main idea is to take place. We are to make disciples and there are two broad areas, baptizing and teaching.
The baptizing here, the basic meaning we saw, is the idea of, the word literally means to plunge, to dip or immerse, but it came to mean identification.
When the text says we are to be baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, that is a statement of the Trinity. What the Trinity has in common is Their common essence, Their deity. God is one in essence, but He is three in personality. That doesn’t mean that He puts on three different masks, but that He is three distinct persons with one essence.
When you do something in the name of someone, it has to do with a) the idea that you are representing them, and b) the idea that it is done in a way that focuses on their character, their essence, all that they are.
So it implies that as part of this act of baptism, there is also some instruction.
Last time we talked about the baptism and its purpose as a physical act. It is designed to teach an abstract principle, something that is not taught very well, I think, in many churches, but one that is essential for understanding our spiritual life, and that is that at the instant that we trust in Christ, there is a spiritual transaction that takes place. God the Holy Spirit identifies us with the death, burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That’s what Paul is talking about in Romans 6:3–6, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized—or identified with His death—into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life.”
This gets to the intent of this baptism. That when Jesus is talking about baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit, this is literal, physical water baptism by immersion. It is a ritual, one of two ordained for the church, that are designed to teach spiritual truths, so that we can come to grips with what this means. These are visual training aids to teach abstract doctrine.
The purpose is to understand that the power of the sin nature has been broken with the result that, or for the purpose that, we would live in our new life in Christ.
Romans 6:5–6 goes on to say that, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, because we know this, that our old man—that is everything that we were before we were saved. “Old man” is not the sin nature. That’s a different term. “Old man” represents all that we were before we were saved—was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
That’s the point at the end of verse 4, to walk in newness of life on the basis of the fact that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
This is what happens positionally at the instant of faith in Christ. We’re identified with Him. This is a permanent identification and is one of the reasons we can’t lose our salvation is because of this permanent identification with Christ that occurs at the instant of salvation.
This is the purpose of believers’ baptism, to teach the abstract biblical teaching of our new position in Christ.
Now how do we understand this? That was a question I spent a lot of time on last time, and it’s important to understand this because a lot of people have taken this to mean you have to be baptized in order to be saved.
Why doesn’t Jesus say something like “evangelize all nations?” “Witness to all the nations?” Because that doesn’t necessarily mean they will become saved. That’s just talking about the objective mission. What He is focusing on here is that the end result of evangelism has taken place.
In the early church if anyone trusted in Christ as Savior, it was just thought they would immediately be baptized. This was something that was done, it was automatic, it was understood that’s what you did, and it was designed continuously to be reminding everyone of what has happened in their identification with Christ.
So that the use of the word “baptism” here is a figure of speech. A figure of speech called a metonymy. A metonymy is where you take one noun that is unrelated to another noun, and you have a word substitution. So that baptism stands for the process of evangelism, and their response to the gospel, and belief in Christ, their understanding, the teaching, and understanding of the basics of the gospel, and then it culminates in this ritual of believers’ baptism.
There’s an example that we have this week of a metonymy. Everybody here’s used this metonymy, probably within the last 24 hours, if not within the last couple of days. I bet you can’t think of what it is. What it is is making the statement that “What are you going to do on the Fourth of July?” “How are you going to celebrate the fourth of July?” That’s a metonymy.
We don’t celebrate the date Fourth of July. Something though happened that is associated with that date, and that is the signing, the voting, and approval of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. We don’t celebrate a date per se. It’s not the day of the month that’s significance. It’s what happened on that date historically. English is filled with these kinds of idioms and metaphors and metonymies, so that we substitute for the event the day on which it happens.
It’s not wrong to say we celebrate the Fourth of July, but we understand that it is an idiom. We may not consciously understand that, but it is. The specific form is a metonymy. And we do this in so many different ways. We are indeed celebrating what happened on that date, so it’s simply this substitution of one noun for another.
That’s the same thing that happens here. Jesus is saying baptize them, and what He means is the whole process that begins with giving them the gospel, culminates with their salvation and understanding of their identification with Christ, and their public profession of faith by baptism.
This is the focal point. How do we make disciples? It starts with evangelism. This is a clear statement of the mission of the church.
The first aspect of the mission of the church is to present the gospel clearly to people, so that they can have eternal life. The second aspect of our mission is to teach people the Word of God. And that is where we go in Matthew 28:20, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”
Now the phrase “teaching” is not a metonymy. It is a specific statement of what the church is to be about. The church is to be about the business of training, and that is encapsulated in this word “teaching.”
The verb is DIDASKO, which is used again and again and again, and its noun form is the DIDASKALOS, which is often translated as teaching, but in the King James it often translated it as doctrine. That’s what doctrine is. It is teaching the whole realm of Scripture. We will talk a little bit more about the nuances of that as we go along, but it’s focus is on instruction.
This is what is lacking too often in the church today, the universal church. Many local churches fail to teach, and what has happened in our history and the history of the English-speaking practice of Christianity is to create a distinction between the idea of teaching and the idea of preaching.
Often what is taught in seminaries and has been practiced in churches is that Sunday morning is a time of preaching, and Sunday school is for the time of teaching. So it’s important to make these distinctions.
Recently I had a conversation with someone who then took that conversation and asked these questions of a pastor of a large church that they attended. I asked him what they meant by preaching and teaching. The response was “Well, preaching is motivational, preaching is designed to encourage people or to challenge people, and teaching is what is done in Sunday school.” He was amazed that this guy said exactly what I said he would say—because that is the what is taught today, and it’s been that way. It’s taken on the various forms as different trends come along, but that’s basically what goes on today. This really contradicts the words that are used in Scripture.
For example, in Matthew 4:23, a summary statement by Matthew of Jesus’ initial ministry says, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.”
So Jesus is doing three things, He’s teaching, He is preaching, and He is healing. But what are the Greek words that are used here for that’s what’s important?
The two we are concerned about are the verbs DIDASKO for teaching or giving instruction, and the second word is the word KERUSSO, which simply means to announce something or to proclaim something, to make something known.
Now, how you get motivation and exhortation out of that, I’ll never know. The biblical distinction is between explanation of what it means, so that you can understand what you should do, that’s teaching, versus proclamation, which is making an announcement.
In the ancient world, they didn’t have Twitter, and they didn’t have Facebook and they didn’t have email and texting and all of these other things that we use to communicate today. they didn’t have newspapers like we have today. If there needed to be announcements from the local governor, from the ruler of the city, or even from the emperor, then messengers were sent out. And it was the role of those messengers to make these announcements.
Now another word for this was herald. A herald was somebody who would make these announcements. The Greek word is KERUX from which we get the verb KERUSSO. And so that the role of the KERUX, the role of the herald, was to go through the towns, go through the villages, and to simply make the announcement. His job wasn’t to explain it, to teach it, to get involved in discussions about it, to answer questions. He was simply an announcer.
Now we’re going to run into a parallel word that is used a little later on, KATAGGELLO. ANGELLO is the verb related to ANGELOS. ANGELOS is where we get our word angel, and an angel is simply a messenger. So, the verb means at to give a message. When it’s added with the preposition, it’s KATAGGELLO. It means to make an announcement. It’s a synonym for this. A few times in the New Testament, you will have that word translated as preaching.
Then another thing that you will find in Acts and in some of the Epistles is you will find in your English, it’s translated to preach the gospel. There is no actual verb for preaching in the Greek, but you have EUANGELIZO, which is the verb for to bring good news or to tell good news or to give good news. So instead of translating it to preach the gospel or to preach, it should be translated—in some places it’s not—is to announce good news. That’s the idea in that word.
The point that I’m making, and it is all almost without exception, there are a couple places where KERUSSO does not have the gospel as its object, but in most places when KERUSSO is used, what is being announced is the gospel. They’re preaching Christ. That’s another way of talking about preaching the gospel of Christ.
So the difference biblically between teaching and preaching is content. Preaching is focusing on the gospel and announcing the gospel, where as teaching is explaining, perhaps explaining the gospel, explaining the different words that are used for the work of Christ: redemption, justification, propitiation, reconciliation, things of that nature, explaining that would be teaching.
But this idea that dominates so much today that preaching has to do with motivation, it’s upbeat, it’s exhortational. In many churches today, as a result of the church-growth movement that started in the 70s, the idea of preaching is topical, and you pick certain topics like how to have a successful financial life, and then you’ll have five sermons on that that hop around the Scriptures a lot, it may be biblical wisdom, but there’s no real teaching, there’s no real exposition of the text or an explanation of the passages where money is talked about in the text. So it is simply somebody’s good ideas and the ideas if I make the text practical, then people will come.
That is often true. People come because they don’t want to understand the Bible. They really don’t. They give it lip service, but they don’t really want to understand the Bible. If they did, they would try to read the Bible. And what happens is when you get people in those congregations that start reading the Bible, then as God gets a hold of them they began to realize there are some problems with their congregation. That doesn’t happen as frequently as it should, but it does happen. So there’s this difference between teaching and preaching.
Now let’s see how this works itself out in the early church during the period of the apostles. How did they understand and implement this mandate to make disciples by teaching?
In Acts 2:42 after Peter has explained what is happening—it is often referred to as Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. What he is doing is he’s standing up and he’s answering a question.
What has previously happened is you have the disciples, I believe it was only those eleven disciples who spoke in unknown languages and because of the nature of the languages listed, I’m not an expert in this, but I have heard from those who are that there were really only eleven or less languages mentioned, even though you have about fifteen or sixteen regions mentioned, there were eleven or the fewer languages that were dominant there.
It could’ve been a really small number because Latin was the primary language in the western part of the Roman Empire and Greek was the language in the eastern part of the empire, and then in the Middle East area, Parthia, Syria, Israel, those areas, Aramaic was the lingua franca, and so those would be the three dominant languages. Then there were some other languages related to some of the places as well, but many of those places, although they continued to speak a local language or dialect, all business was conducted in Greek or Aramaic or Latin, so they would have been a bilingual or trilingual.
At the end of Peter’s explanation of what has been going on, that these men are not drunk like you’ve suggested, there’s a response and 5,000 trust in Christ as Savior.
Then Luke gives us these kinds of progress reports through the Book of Acts, and he says, “They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching …” That’s the word DIDACHE. It’s another form related to DIDASKALOS, and it means to fellowship.
The fellowship there, it’s not four things—it’s not teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. It’s teaching and fellowship, and then the last two are in apposition to fellowship. That’s the breaking of bread. That stands for communion and prayer. That’s fellowship with God. This isn’t a verse about fellowship with each other.
So they were dedicated to the apostles’ teaching. They had a passion for learning what the apostles had to teach. That means they regularly assembled together.
Now when you’ve had that many people get saved that quickly, you have to figure out where you’re going to meet. I’m not suggesting they all met together, but it’s interesting that in the last few years, just outside the Zion Gate going into the Old City of Jerusalem, they discovered what they thought for years was a synagogue, an ancient synagogue going back to the first century. In the last few years, through further excavation, they have discovered that they were worshiping Jesus, that this was one of the earliest congregations of Christians that met in Jerusalem.
That’s what they did. That’s what their focus was. That’s what should be the focus of every congregation. It should be made up of men and women who have a passion, they’re devoted to the study of God’s Word, the teaching of the apostles.
In Acts 5, we learn what they were doing from the lips of their accusers, from those who oppose them. We’re told in in Acts 5:25 that those who accused said, “Look, the men whom you put in prison—talking to the Sanhedrin. This is a witness who’s reporting on their activities, they’re—standing in the temple and teaching the people.”
They weren’t preaching. They weren’t giving nice little homilies and motivational talks. They were doing the same thing that Peter did in Acts 2. They were explaining why Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah of the Old Testament, who’d been prophesied and promised. They were giving explanations of why Jesus had come and died on the Cross for their sins.
Then when Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin, they said, “Did we not—the Sanhedrin accused them in verse 28, and says—Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name and look you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.” In other words, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.
The point is that this is what they were doing. They were teaching and giving instruction to the people. They weren’t giving them nice little motivational exhortational messages. They were explaining the Old Testament in light of Jesus as the Messiah.
Later in Colossians 1:28, we find that Paul says, “Him—that is Christ—Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
That word “preach” that’s translated preach there is the Greek word KATAGGELLO. It’s not KERUSSO. It’s a synonym and it means to make a proclamation or announce something. So that’s talking about the gospel presentation, announcing that salvation has come, forgiveness of sin is ours through Jesus Christ.
As part of that, they are warning. See, they proclaim it, and then warning. This is a participle, so that would be an instrumental participle. So, part of proclamation is warning people about what? About eternity in the Lake of Fire, about eternal condemnation, about spiritual death.
“Warning every man—that’s part 1, so that would relate to the gospel; and part 2 is—teaching every man in all wisdom.”
Then you have its purpose stated in the last clause of the verse, “that we may present every man perfect.”
Now that’s not sinless. It’s the word TELEIOS. We’ve studied it many times, and it means to present every man complete or mature in Christ Jesus.
So here we see a connection between the gospel, a warning, and giving instruction. That is how you produce a mature Christian is through the instruction from the Word of God.
To the Thessalonians Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught.”
Sometimes we know there are a lot of bad traditions, but there are good traditions. And a tradition that is based on the Word of God is a good tradition, and so that’s what Paul is talking about here—“the traditions that you were taught, whether by word—that is a spoken word—or our written epistle.”
In 1 Timothy 4:10–11 Paul is talking to Timothy, who is a pastor in Ephesus. He’s encouraging him and he says, “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe. These things—that that’s the reason I included verse 10 is because that’s what is referred to by ‘these things’ in verse 11, Paul says—command and teach”—instruct the people on these things. All the things that he’s been referring to previously in this epistle.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, He says, “and the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
This verse sort of blows up the whole little small group discipleship thing because what Paul says “the things you’ve heard from me among many witnesses—you know, in the midst of a large group of people, in the midst of a large congregation, you have heard me say that there were many, many witnesses to what I taught, and he says you’ve heard this from me among many witnesses, and then—commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
This is the purpose verse for Chafer Theological Seminary. That is what is seminary is to do. It is to transmit truth from one generation to another, teaching the Word of God.
I am often discouraged when I look back on the number of men who influenced me and taught me when I was in high school and through college, and how many of them were given the body of truth that I was given, but 20, 30 years later they’ve gone off the rails in some strange direction. Many of them are still very, very solid, but there are many—I ran in to someone mentioned a name this last week. I looked it up on the Internet and was reading his website. He’s a pastor somewhere, and he’s way off the rails on a bunch of stuff. And it’s sad how this happens, how Satan works to distract the church from the basics and from the truth of Scripture.
So, as we look at what the Scripture says, the emphasis for the Church Age is on teaching or for instruction.
The next question is how should we then teach? This comes down to methodology. What are some basic principles of teaching? I think there are some basic principles that are true without getting too specific, so that you’re restricted because a pastor will teach through his background, his personality, his culture, and different things like that affect it, but I think there are some things that are true that should characterize every pulpit ministry.
First of all, we should teach the whole counsel of God. There was, I think, a great error that was committed by early dispensationalists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who would just focus on teaching the Epistles. There were some that would only teach Paul’s later Epistles. We have to know the whole counsel of God, because the Epistles of the New Testament assume that the Gospels and Acts are understood. If they’re not taught from the pulpit, who will teach them?
The Gospels and Acts assume that there is a literate audience in relation to the Old Testament, that they understand the promises, the prophecies of the Old Testament. So the allusions that are made and the quotes that are there from the Old Testament have meaning and significance.
But there are those today who reject that. There are those who have been less verbal in the past, who have just by ignoring the Old Testament, have done the same thing. But we have some men today who are making a point of divorcing themselves and divorcing the church from the Old Testament.
One of these men is a Dallas Seminary graduate. He is a son of a well-known pastor in Atlanta, Georgia, and he himself has a church in Atlanta called Northpoint Community Church. Just this last week, so that I would have a good illustration for this this morning, he was accused by Ken Ham, the director of Answers in Genesis, of being a false teacher.
What has happened is that he announced in a sermon just within the last month that Christians need to “unhitch” the Old Testament from their understanding of the faith.
The reason he’s important is because he has a huge following. He is one of these mega-church pastors. He has a huge following. He’s instrumental and influential with a lot of people because if he’s built a big church like that, then he knows how it’s done, because if you built a big church, obviously, God is blessing you. That’s a false assumption.
As Harry Leafe told me before he ordained me, anybody who knows anything about organizational methodology can build a big organization, and that doesn’t mean God has anything to do with it. If you’re not doing it the right way with Scripture and trusting in the Lord, then it’s all the work of the flesh.
So anyway, this was Andy Stanley’s statement, and he goes on to explain this by saying, “Many have lost faith because of something about the Bible or in the Bible, the Old Testament in particular.” Everybody wants to treat the Old Testament as evil. He said. “Once they can no longer accept the historicity of the Old Testament, once they couldn’t go along with all the miracles, once somebody poked a hole in the Genesis creation, you know, myth, once all that went away, suddenly the house of cards of faith came tumbling down because they were taught it’s all true, it’s all God’s word, and if you find one part that’s not true, then uh oh, the whole thing comes tumbling down.”
So the implications from that are I would question his understanding of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture at this point because of the way he’s handling that, and then he goes on to say, “but not Christianity. The Bible did not create Christianity.” That is a confusing and troublesome and wrong statement.
Anyway that’s his point, and he tries to focus just on the gospel and just on the resurrection as if it happens in a vacuum, and it doesn’t. That’s why God gave us the Old Testament, so that when it came to the point that the Messiah would appear, people would be able to identify Him, and it took 4,000 years of revelation to get to the point where the New Testament says “in the fullness of time, God brought forth the Savior.”
So this is a problem. We need to teach the whole counsel of God, so that people understand who God is. You can’t understand who God is if you don’t start with Genesis 1. That tells us first and foremost He’s the Creator. And what his problem seems to be is that he has a problem with creation, with a young earth, six literal 24-hour consecutive-day creation.
But as we’ve seen in many of our studies that the more you go through Scripture, the more you realize how the Bible emphasizes that God is distinct because He is the Creator–God who made everything in the heavens and on the earth and in the seas and that this is foundational to understanding sin, because sin is the violation of the character of the Creator. If you don’t understand what sin is, then you can’t really understand why you need a Savior or why Jesus died or why the resurrection is necessary. It’s all built on, ultimately, that foundation of God as the Creator.
So we need to understand those things. We need to preach and we need to teach the whole counsel of God.
Second, we need to teach verse-by-verse through Books of the Bible. As a pastor who has taught verse-by-verse, I find that I’m constantly discovering and coming to discover passages that don’t mean what most of us, myself included, have always thought they meant. I have discovered more fully the meaning of the text and passages of Scripture, and it has given me a deeper understanding of God’s Word, so that I can communicate that to the congregation.
Some of the reasons that we should teach verse-by-verse are, first of all, it helps us to understand the context. Even if you go into a passage and you take the time as a pastor to study the surrounding context, a lot of times, unless you understand the context of the whole book or the whole epistle, you’re going to misinterpret that passage or maybe the section of the book that is there. You need that broader perspective which teaching verse-by-verse brings out. Teaching verse-by-verse prevents taking verses out of context, and so often that is a problem with a lot of theology, and a lot of theologies, and with a lot of sermons.
Third, by teaching verse-by-verse it gives us all a deeper understanding of the Word.
And fourth, it doesn’t mean that you can’t teach topically, but that those topics should be outgrowths of the Word.
For example, our passage at point talking about the Great Commission and the command to make disciples. After we wrap up Matthew, I’m going to do a short series during the summer summarizing what the Bible teaches about discipleship. This is a very important topic. Something we all need to be reminded of, and we will look at some passages in the other Gospels, and also look at the Epistles in terms of the expectation that God has in terms of the goals and objectives of a growing, maturing believer. So that’s important.
All of those things are accomplished, and it prevents pastors from riding hobby horses. Pastors will do that. They’ll get on some topic and they’ll just keep going, and they never come back and go through the whole passage.
It also means that if there are things that you don’t really like to talk about, eventually you’ll get to passages where you’ll have to talk about them. If you just go verse-by-verse, sooner or later you cover everything, whether you want to or not.
Now I’m not really picking on Andy Stanley this morning, but in 2015 he created another controversy because he was interviewed for I believe it was Christianity Today or maybe it was one another Christian magazine, and he was asked the question in the interview, “What you think about preaching verse-by-verse messages through books of the Bible?”
Dallas [Seminary] used to be so proud of turning out expositors of the text. Sad that’s not true anymore. His answer was, “Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible, that’s just cheating. It is cheating because that would be easy first of all.”—Gee! I wish I’d discovered that! That isn’t how you grow people! No one in the Scripture modeled that. There’s not one example of that.
Then the writer of the article says, “It’s cheating? Do you hear that you exegetes, you small church pastors sweating away in your study on Friday and Saturday nights to finish up before Sunday. You expositors checking the Greek and Hebrew and grasping the etymology of keywords and phrases, putting it within scriptural context, cross referencing all the important verses, studying the commentaries of all the great scholars to unwrap the oracles of God verse-by-verse at a time. People don’t grow that way?”—I like the way he said that.
Then he went on to say, “I think I speak for a lot of people, and I mean a lot of people, who when we think of spiritual growth and discipleship, don’t exactly think of Northpoint Church. I’m not trying to be mean, really I’m not. I’m just saying I don’t think discipleship would be the perceived strong suit of that congregation. I’m willing to bet the still-married-to-women-but-happily-gay-couple at Northpoint probably doesn’t think of discipleship either. They certainly don’t think about sanctification and holiness, which is essentially the same thing as spiritual growth.” That means that leads me to believe that Stanley must mean this isn’t how you numerically grow people.—It’s all about numbers and that’s a sad thing. We need to preach the Word verse-by-verse.
The goal of our teaching is to present everyone mature in Christ.
Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world—how do we avoid being conformed to this world? By being taught the truth of God’s Word by— being transformed by the renewing of your mind”—that only comes through the teaching, the instruction of God’s Word.
The goal is not knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It’s not to be the smartest guy in the room in terms of Bible knowledge.
“The purpose of the commandment,” Paul says to Timothy, “is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.”
Ephesians 4:11–12, the role of pastors and teachers, verse 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up—to the edification—of the body of Christ.”
Colossians 1:28 again, “In Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus says, “we’re to them to observe all the things that I commanded them.”
I started trying to go through some of Jesus’ commands this morning, and I came up with over 1,200 imperative verbs in Matthew alone. A lot of those didn’t come from Jesus’ mouth, and a lot of those were not necessarily directions to believers, but there are a lot of commands just in the Gospels. That’s my point. Let’s review a few.
Matthew 5:12 Jesus said, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
We are to rejoice, even in the midst of persecution.
Matthew 5:44, “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you—that includes even radical leftist Marxist Democrats—bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
That’s still in effect.
Matthew 6:19, “Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Matthew 6:33—all these come out of the Sermon on the Mount. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”
Those are just a few.
Jesus goes on in John.
For example, in John 14:1, talking to the disciples in the upper room. He says. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.”
John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me.”
In John 15:7, He says, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit—we are to bear much fruit—and so you will be my disciples.”
That’s what being a disciple means, to pursue spiritual maturity.
John 16:24, “Until now, you’ve asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
Of course, the mark of a disciple in the Church Age is to love one another:
John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Then Jesus concludes at the end a word of encouragement what will strengthen them. He says to His disciples, “Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
That is a promise to Church Age believers, the end of the age. He’s not talking about the end of time, He’s talking about through the Church Age. The presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit indwelling every believer is distinct to the Church Age.
So this brings us to a conclusion of our verse-by-verse exposition of Matthew, and next week I’m going to come back and do a review so that we can set some of the main things we’ve learned a little better into our thinking, and then following that we will go into a short series on understanding the significance and importance of being a disciple.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity we’ve had to study Your Word, to be challenged by the mission that our Lord gave the apostles and the church to make disciples, to make students, to make pupils, to make learners by baptizing, by evangelism, witnessing, bringing them to an understanding of the gospel that salvation is by faith in Christ alone, faith alone in Christ alone, that trusting in Him we have eternal life. And if there’s anyone listening here today in this congregation or online or at any point listening to this message, that if you believe in Jesus Christ as Your Savior, the promised and prophesied Messiah, that at that instant, you’re given new life in Christ, you are saved by His righteousness, not by your own, and we appropriate that simply by trusting in Him.
“Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us, that we are to become passionate students of Your Word, that nothing is more important. We take nothing else with us when we die other than our spiritual maturity, and that this should be the heartbeat of our lives the focus day in and day out.
“And Father, we pray that You would challenge us with this, and that we would start re-examining our priorities, the way we spend time, the way we spend our energy, the way we spend money, to focus everything on the goal of spiritual maturity.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”