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Jesus’ Model of Discipleship


“Make Disciples of all Nations”

Disciples are to make disciples.

The Great Commission passage also exhorted the disciples to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19a). The mission was now extended to all. This was uncomfortable for the disciples. They were used to a culture that was intentionally separated from surrounding cultures for the sake of remaining pure. [19] However, Jesus specifically states, “Make disciples of all nations.” Though the specific meaning of the phrase ‘all nations’ is controversial among some scholars, most agree the commission is all encompassing. Senior comments that, “…in Matthew the word ethne (‘nations’ or ‘peoples’) usually refers to ‘Gentiles’…”[20] Douglas Hare agrees that the commission was intended for all: “Greek-speaking Jews regularly used ethnos in the plural as a way of speaking of non-Jewish individuals…What is stressed, therefore, is that the Gentiles must be discipled.” [21] Mortimer Arias summarizes, “The last commission is all-inclusive; no one is excluded in the command to ‘make disciples of all nations.’”[22] Believers are to evangelize and make disciples of all people groups. Jesus presented the goal to begin at home with the Jews and move to the entire world.

Making disciples was a mandate for Jesus’ disciples. Disciples are to make disciples. Hull comments, “Christ’s command to his church to make disciples provides the scriptural mandate.”[23] Senior shows that the Greek phrase to “‘make disciples’ (matheteusate) is the verb form of Matthew’s favored term ‘disciple.’”[24] The word choice is connected with the commissioning Jesus sent his followers. Jesus used his own example of connecting with a variety of other people groups to demonstrate how the twelve disciples were to do reach out to others in discipleship. He interacted with people from all socio-economic and religious backgrounds. Yet, most of Jesus’ time was spent with those twelve disciples he called to follow him. Jesus required the disciples to follow him with open hearts. Jesus called his disciples not just to hear what he said and agree, but also to live and teach his commandments to others.

Jesus also gave additional instructions in the Great Commission passage. Jesus’ commission included baptism and teaching in the context of discipleship. Hull states, “Disciples are the product, baptizing and teaching to obey are the qualifiers.”[25] These are seen in the category of discipleship. The baptism and teaching of his followers are a part of discipleship.



Baptizing is a primary command in the Great Commission.[26] In the Graco-Roman period many religions would incorporate ceremonial washing or bathing to prepare for a time of prayer or to rid oneself of wrongdoing. However, when the followers of Christ performed water baptism, one made a confession of faith that signified a cleansing from sin according to Jesus, the perfect sacrifice who atoned for all the sins of the world through the death, burial, and resurrection.[27] Jesus also communicated how the disciples were to baptize, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28:19). Throughout the Scriptures, baptism was shown as an outward example of the change and commitment that took place on the inside. Water baptism was a symbol of removing the “old man” and becoming new and Christ like (1 Peter 3:21; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12).

One may ask whether the order of teaching and baptism mattered, for Jesus listed baptism first. Hare argues that “the tense of the participles (baptizing, teaching) does not indicate that the Gentiles must be discipled before they are baptized, or baptized before they are discipled, or baptized before they are taught.”[28] From this perspective, the order does not seem to be the focus, but rather the entire process working together is the goal.

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Category: Biblical Studies

About the Author: Alyssa Lillo is a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, majoring in Ministry and Leadership with Local Church Pastor as well as Evangelism and Outreach concentrations. After graduation she plans to work with a Christian non-profit (church or organization) to bring the light of God through outreach and discipleship to all she encounters.

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