Chapter 28:16-20 (ESV) - Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Question to consider: According to Jesus, how do we make disciples?
Matthew ends his gospel account with Jesus’ declaration that He had become king of kings and lord of lords. All authority had been given to Him, and the citizens of His kingdom were from all nations. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would be a blessing to all nations.
Because Jesus is king, He commands us to make disciples as we go into the world. How do we make disciples? By baptizing into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that Christ commands. If you went through my study in Colossians, Paul taught that baptism is the means through which we were buried and raised in Christ. The sign and seal of the Old Covenant was circumcision, but the new covenant inheritance is for both men and women so circumcision has become obsolete.
Notice that Jesus said baptizing and then teaching, not teaching and then baptizing. People don’t have to pass a theology test in order to get baptized. Whether someone demonstrates faith before being baptized or they are baptized before they demonstrate faith, we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Once we have entered into the New Covenant, we begin to learn all about what Christ commands.
It is wonderful when people respond to the gospel by praying for forgiveness or making a commitment to Christ, but in this case baptism should be their immediate response. People struggle and debate about whether to baptize infants. I know I struggled with this idea for many years, but as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, our salvation is a gift of God and not by our own works. Baptism is not a human work (whether by parents or individuals). It is the Holy Spirit who does the work of baptism to bring us into the everlasting covenant. Someone who received this gift as an infant can never even be tempted to say they entered the kingdom by accepting Jesus.
John gave us more details about the restoration of Peter as a disciple and about the doubt that was experienced by Thomas in his gospel account. It’s good to know that Jesus met them where they were at and satisfied their doubts. Thomas was not required to be re-baptized or cast out of the kingdom because he doubted. In our life of faith, we will experience doubts. When they occur, it is best to draw closer to God’s word and His church.
The temptation today is to relegate the presence of Christ to some individual worship experience or feeling. As fellow citizens of the kingdom that Jesus described throughout Matthew’s gospel account, we love and serve one another and build each other up in the faith. Christ works through the members of His body, through His word, and through His means of grace to fulfill His promise to be with us until the end of the age.
Dear Lord, thank You for giving us the church. As messy as life in the church can be, please stir up in us a desire to love and serve You by showing grace to one another and building one another up in the faith. Amen.