Jesus Christ had given the commission to His disciples to teach people to obey everything He had commanded. 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). If the task of fulfilling the Great Commission applies to every Christian then every believer has the responsibility to teach and equip others. Discipleship includes teaching and this is not confined to the professional ministers only. In the early church of the New Testament every person was a functioning member, not a mere attender (1 Cor. 12:27; 14:26). It wasn’t ‘one man over others’ but ‘one another church’. They were teaching and exhorting one another (Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:14).
In the epistle of Hebrews, the inspired author rebukes the Jewish Christians, “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Heb. 5:12). The author meant to say, “You have been disciples long enough to be able to teach others, but still need some one to teach you.” Now this is not to say all should become gifted teachers, involving exclusively in teaching, for according to Rom.12:7; Eph. 4:11 & 1 Cor. 12:28-29 there are some who are specially gifted with intense teaching, functioning extensively for the edification of the body of Christ.
However, all must reach a certain level of maturity wherein all will be able to generally instruct and teach one-on-one. For example, God has given evangelists to the church who function extensively in evangelism (Eph. 4:11), yet all Christians are generally required to personally preach the gospel (Mk. 16:15). Jesus said to make disciples by teaching people to obey everything He had commanded (Matt. 28:20). Well, how many Christians do we find, who obey their Lord in making disciples by teaching His word? Oh, how many are still babes in the churches for years!
We are deeply entrenched in such an ecclesiastical system that even though we believe the Great Commission pertains to every Christian, it is still difficult to practically witness that along with the preaching of the gospel—every Christian can make disciples, baptize and teach them the word of God. It is sorrowful that we have divided the Great Commission—delegating the responsibility of preaching the gospel by all Christians but confining baptism and teaching to a special class of people who are called ‘leaders’ ‘pastors’ or ‘fulltime ministers’. Where did Jesus make such a distinction?
Priesthood of All Believers
I read elsewhere, “It seems that a layman (i.e. a believer) cannot baptize, because to baptize belongs properly to the priestly order (i.e. the clergy).” This is a faulty notion. The unbiblical concept of clergy and laity has done great damage to the body of Christ, thereby producing passive Christianity. The believers are paralyzed in the pews without knowing their great responsibility in Christ Jesus, whereas the ministers have become overly active in the pulpit (I am speaking against the system, not people).
Believers are not ordinary people; they are chosen by God to declare His Excellencies. They are kings and priests of God (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6). All believers are clergy. Though not all have the same function, yet every person in the body of Christ has some contributing function (Rom. 12:4-5). Ironically, we believe in the doctrine of priesthood of all believers without the priestly functioning of all believers! The Reformers, during and before 16th century, fought against the church authorities of their time to restore the doctrine of priesthood of all believers. A believer at that time cannot even personally possess and interpret the Holy Bible. It was an abomination and heresy to the church authorities then to count all believers as priests of God and even to read the Holy Bible themselves.
I wonder how many would count this teaching in our day a heresy if the believers are motivated to make disciples, baptize and teach others God’s word. We need another reformation today to reinstate the right of God’s people to completely fulfill the Great Commission by every genuine Christian. Imagine what would happen on this earth if every member of the body of Christ passionately function to fulfill the Great Commission! Oh, I look forward to seeing the glorious days where every Christian—filled with the power of Holy Spirit—will lead the people to Jesus Christ, baptizing and teaching them what God had commanded!
My dear people of God, no matter how many gospel meetings we conduct, pastors’ conferences and seminars we hold, churches we plant—if the responsibility of personally making disciples is not taken by every Christian or at least by the most, the world would still remain unreached. As long as ministry is restricted to the “pastoral class”, the people of all nations would still be spiritually starving to death without being thoroughly discipled. There is no other effective method for world evangelization than personal discipleship. May God revive His children to take the task of discipleship seriously!
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