Now how can we make disciples? Did Jesus give us a basic pattern? Of course, He did. He said, “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” (Matt. 28:19-20). It is important to note here that the command to make disciples is followed by, connected to and contingent upon two participles—“baptizing” and “teaching.” It is obvious here that making disciples is done by baptizing the people in the name of Trinity and by continuously teaching them to obey Christ’s commands.
Regretfully, the Great Commission has not only become the great omission but also the great division. In fact, I must say the Great Commission has become the great omission because of the great division. Why do I make such an assertion? When I take seminars on the New Testament Ministry, I often ask the pastors and the believers, “Do you believe the Great Commission applies to every Christian?” All of them would undoubtedly respond, “Yes”. I continue to ask them, “Do you believe every Christian has the responsibility to preach the gospel and to make disciples?” Again the people would assuredly respond, “Yes”. Still further, “Do you believe every Christian can baptize others?” Now there would be almost absolute silence! Finally, I ask them, “Do you believe that every Christian is called to teach others?” Again, no certain response!
I come across many who teach on the necessity of carrying the Great Commission by every Christian without specifically addressing how it can be done (perhaps they are afraid of disturbing or may be ignorant themselves). One of my friends testified of attending a wonderful conference on “The Great Commission”. Many ministers happened to be present and were greatly challenged. I asked my friend, “Did the speaker mention that every Christian can make disciples, baptize and teach them God’s word?” He replied, “No”. Well, it troubles me when this is ignored. How is it that the one part of the command, i.e. go and make disciples, applies to all Christians yet the other part of the command, i.e. baptize and teach, does not apply to all! Where in the Scripture does it say such ministerial activities ought to be constrained only by the “separate class of ministers”?
Indeed, the Holy Bible reveals that the purpose of God to raise some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors-teachers is to equip God’s people for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). Praise God for these equippers of the church! We are called to the ministry of equipping the believers for ministry. Sadly, due to this negligence, the believers are only focused on being ministered to rather than also ministering to others; they have become passive rather than active; they have become church attending members, not the ambassadors of God’s kingdom. But blessed are the ministers who pray, “O Lord, give me men and women who can exceed my ministry.”
In one of the theological forums, when the question was asked, “Who has an authority to baptize?”, the response was, “Some believe it must be a pastor or priest, but I don´t think the Bible supports that. I think anyone who is a born again follower of Jesus Christ can baptize another new believer. Personally, if I had to do it all over again, I think it would be neat to have the man who led me to Christ baptize me instead of the pastor.” Yes, I agree with this response. When a believer leads a person to Jesus Christ, why can’t he baptize and disciple him? There is no need of man-induced ordination when God has already given the commission to all His children to go and baptize. The church today is shackled by a lot of traditional teachings, missing the freedom of living according to God’s word. Sadly, what was simple in the early church we made it too formal and complicated!
Moreover, it is intriguing to see some preachers being crazy to baptize people when in fact Jesus and Paul allowed even other disciples to baptize (John 4:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:14-17). How many preachers boast and take the credit of baptizing so many people without even personally leading at least few souls to Jesus Christ! To witness the effective fulfillment of the Great Commission, I believe, believers must be released and motivated to make disciples by baptizing and teaching. For further reflection, you may give careful thought to the questions below:
1. Is there a single Scripture wherein a pastor or an elder giving baptism? Note: Apostles are different from local pastors.
2. Is there a single Scripture wherein a pastor or an elder was exhorted to baptize? In his leadership epistles, i.e. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus, did Paul delegate the responsibility of giving baptism to the elders or pastors?
3. Does the Bible give prominence (anywhere) to who should give baptism or to the importance of baptism itself?
4. Does Great Commission apply to every Christian? If yes, according to Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew 28:19-20, how do we make disciples?
5. Acts 8: Philip gave baptism to Eunuch? Who was Philip? At that time was he chosen to help in feeding the widows or to any higher ecclesiastical office?
6. Acts 9: Who gave baptism to Paul and what was he? Remember, the term disciple and believer are used interchangeably for the followers of Christ.
7. Did Jesus give baptism or did he allow his disciples (who were still trainees) to baptize too? Read John 4:1-2.
8. In Acts 8:1,8 it is said that except the apostles all the people were scattered and preached the word? Do you suppose the scattered believers preached the gospel without giving baptism to those who believed? When thousands of believers were coming to the Lord do you think only the selected few had the responsibility to baptize them?
9. 1 Cor 1:16 - Was Paul passionate to give baptism or to lead people to repentance? The church of Corinth was founded by Paul, so how many people were baptized by Paul in Corinth?
10. According to the Holy Bible, which one is a challenging responsibility? Leading a person to repentance or baptizing people?
11. If a believer comes to know that the person who baptized him in the past was not really a born-again person (not everyone who is doing church ministry is really born-again), is the baptism still valid or should he be re-baptized? This question is posed to understand whether the significance is in the baptism itself or the person who gives. (Note: This question is not intended to be stretched too far, implying that anybody, i.e. even a person who is not born-again, can give baptism.)
12. Finally, which one is more effective in the fulfillment of the Great Commission—only the pastors giving baptism & making disciples or even the believers doing the same? Note: True, pastors and leaders have a greater responsibility in the church and we need to hold them in high regard because of their work; nevertheless, no where does it say that giving baptism and discipling people belong to that class alone. The Great Commission, its exhortation and pattern, applies to every Christian.
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(To be continued.....)