Jesus said, ”Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17). In Luke 5:10, He used the words ” . . . from now on you will catch men.” I love the almost whimsical way Jesus explains this crucial piece of the “What It Means to Follow Jesus” puzzle. These are His first words to His first disciples, and what did He tell them? They would be making disciples of other men and women by ‘fishing’ for the lost and ‘catching’ them for the Kingdom of God. If you are a disciple, Jesus said this to you, too!
How Does a Disciple Make Other Disciples?
Of course, Jesus does not leave it at that. From His first to His last words to His disciples, Jesus told them how to ”catch men.” Surprisingly, there are only three main points:
- Go! In other words, get out there and spread the Good News! (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15)
- Teach them (Matthew 28:20)
- Baptize them (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16)
Disciples aren’t running around doing this in their own power or authority. Jesus said, ”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). When we ‘go’, we do so in Jesus’ authority, which is over and above all authority on earth (Philippians 2:9-10).
One important note: Jesus said, ”Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). This stresses that, before being baptized, a person must believe in Jesus as God’s Son who died on the Cross to atone for his or her sins (Romans 3:22-25). In faith, if they hear and believe the Gospel message (point #1), understand the basic teachings of Christianity (point #2), and repent, they can be baptized (point #3).
Who is Qualified to Go, Teach, and Baptize?
As studied in Jesus Said Preach the Gospel to All, if only a select few disciples preach the Gospel, the Church can never fulfill The Great Commission to ”preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). It works the same with making disciples. It is not just a select few preachers, elders, and leaders who can teach and baptize. Any qualified born again believer can teach others and baptize them into God’s family.
What is critical is that the person teaching and baptizing be a mature, qualified disciple. Usually (but not always) they have been a disciple for a number of years. In Luke 6:39-40, Jesus said, ”Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” New Christians should not teach others when they are not yet ”fully trained” themselves.
Paul also stressed this when he wrote to Timothy: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2). Timothy had been with Paul for while, and had proven himself a mature, fully-trained disciple. Paul knew Timothy was qualified to teach “reliable men”, and then those men would “also be qualified to teach others.”
Disciples, Use the Keys to the Kingdom!
In the Lord ’s Prayer, Jesus said, “. . . your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In one instance Jesus taught the opposite: What we do on earth will be done in heaven. After Peter made his good confession that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus said:
”Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be (have been) bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be (have been) loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19)
Before The Jesus Said Project, this scripture was confusing to me. Now, it makes perfect sense in relation to disciples making disciples.
Peter’s faith in Jesus as the Son of God was the ‘rock’ on which Jesus built His church because everything in Christianity rests on faith in Jesus. The ‘rock’ of faith is the starting point on which everything else is built. Moreover, the faith we have is only because God gave it to each of us. Jesus said Peter’s faith “. . . was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” This echoes Jesus words in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him . . .”. Paul said it even more plainly: Faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
A proper home must be built on a proper foundation. Similarly, spiritually, the Church is built on the proper foundation of faith:
The Church (built on the foundation)
Faith in Jesus (the rock/foundation)
What does all this have to do with making disciples? The answer is found in verse 19: ”I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be (have been) bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be (have been) loosed in heaven.” Here is the one instance where what is done on earth determines what is done in heaven—fascinating!! So what are these ‘keys’ to the kingdom that Jesus conveyed to Peter?
Jesus said that the keys were the authority to bind on earth or loose on earth, and then it would be the same in heaven. The keys are the authority to bind (not forgive) or loose (forgive) sins in the name of Christ. If someone remains unsaved here on earth (bound or not forgiven of sin), they are not forgiven in heaven. If someone is saved here on earth (loosed or forgiven of sin), they are forgiven in heaven, too. Jesus outlined this process again when He appeared to His disciples after the resurrection. He gave them His peace, told them to go out and share the Good News, gave them the Holy Spirit, and gave them the keys to forgive sins (John 20:21-23). The keys to the kingdom of heaven still apply today, and their practical application is seen whenever someone is baptized in Christ.
The Church is the body of Christ, made up of the individual members called disciples (1 Corinthians 12:27). A disciple’s primary responsibility is to follow Jesus’ commands (John 8:31). Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and His disciples do the same (Luke 19:10). Jesus said to make disciples and baptize them because this is the point where sins are forgiven, on earth and in heaven (Mark 16:15-16). This is a promise for all generations (Acts 2:38-39). Those baptized in Christ have their sins loosed or forgiven here on earth, and forgiven in heaven, too. Those not baptized in Christ do not have their sins loosed or forgiven here on earth, so they are not forgiven in heaven, either.
Call to Action
Why did Jesus emphasize the command to ‘make disciples’? The answer can be found in John 20:21-23, where Jesus said, ”Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”. Jesus said He was sending them out like the Father had sent Him out. Even more importantly, notice that the first thing Jesus did was greet them with His peace, and the last thing Jesus did was tell them they had the power to pass on that peace by forgiving sins. What did He mean by this? The key is 2 Corinthians 5:18-20:
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
The whole point of making disciples is to reconcile lost men and women to God through Christ. When we make disciples, we are being used as God’s instruments to bring peace and reconciliation to someone’s relationship with God. Peace and reconciliation are only available through a relationship with Jesus Christ. As disciples, we know this, and we are Christ’s ambassadors of this message of reconciliation, this message of forgiveness in Christ. That is why we go. That is why we teach. And that is why we baptize.