“Make Disciples . . . Teaching Them”
“Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
1. Why should the command to ‘make disciples, teaching them,’ be viewed very seriously?
THE command to make disciples originated neither with men nor with angels. It was given by the resurrected Son of God who could say with reference to himself: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matt. 28:18) As “King of kings and Lord of lords,” he has been empowered by his Father to bring to nothing “all government and all authority and power,” visible and invisible, that stand in opposition to righteous principles. (1 Cor. 15:24-26; Rev. 19:16) The authority of Jesus Christ is not limited to the living. He is the Judge also of the dead and, by reason of his resurrection power, can summon before him all those in gravedom. (John 5:26-28; Acts 10:42) Surely the command of one vested with such awesome authority should be treated as of highest importance by those to whom it applies.
2. What words of Jesus Christ show that the command to “make disciples” continues in force?
2 Already more than nineteen centuries have passed since Jesus Christ said: “Make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” Might the passing of so many years mean that this command no longer applies? Not in the least. After stating it, Jesus Christ added the assurance: “Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Since the foretold end has not yet come, the command to make disciples continues in force.
3. In what way is Jesus Christ with his congregation today, and what proves this?
3 Though not present in person with his disciples, Jesus Christ is with them in spirit, guiding and directing the work of his congregation. Proof of this is the fact that in these “last days” more true disciples of Jesus Christ have been made than in any other period of history. The Son of God is indeed with the congregation of his disciples, as he promised over nineteen hundred years ago.
WHAT DISCIPLE-MAKING MEANS
4. What does it mean to make disciples?
4 Just what does it mean to make disciples? It means to teach others what Jesus Christ taught, helping them to observe all that he commanded. A genuine Christian does not make disciples of himself, having the taught ones look up to him. No, whatever his share in aiding others, he recognizes that his role is that of a servant or slave of God and of Jesus Christ.
5 The example of the apostle Paul well illustrates the attitude that Christians should have when sharing in the work of disciple-making. In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle pointed out that he did not try to impress anyone with showy speech but wanted his hearers to base their faith, not on man’s wisdom, but on Christ Jesus and to have that faith built up through God’s spirit and power. (1 Cor. 2:4, 5) Later, in discussing his role and that of Apollos, Paul wrote: “What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers [“servants,” An American Translation] through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:5-7) Yes, Paul gave all credit to Jehovah God for the growth of the Christian congregation and humbly viewed himself as a minister, servant or slave laboring in making disciples, not of himself, but of Jesus Christ. Like Paul, the Christian who shares in the same work should direct the attention of those being taught away from himself to Jehovah God and the Lord Jesus Christ as the real teachers.
6. What needs to be kept in mind about the content of one’s teaching, and how was Paul a good example in this respect?
6 Furthermore, there is a need to watch the content of one’s teaching. A person might ask himself, Am I truly teaching everything that Christ commanded? In this respect, too, the apostle Paul is an example worthy of imitation. He reminded the elders of the Ephesus congregation: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable . . . I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God.”—Acts 20:20, 27.
HOW AND WHAT TO TEACH
7. (a) What should be avoided when we are conveying “all the counsel of God”? (b) What lesson can we draw from Jesus’ words at John 16:12?
7 Obviously, though, we disciples of Jesus Christ cannot present “all the counsel of God” at one time. First, hearts have to be prepared to accept truths that may run counter to local prejudices or ingrained habits. We must be considerate of people’s limitations, not making issues of matters that initially may be hard for them to grasp. This may include such things as the sanctity of blood, the Christian position on worldly holidays, the kinds of employment that violate Bible principles, Christian neutrality and the avoidance of all defiling habits. It is good to remember Jesus’ example in being considerate of his disciples’ limitations. John 16:12 quotes him as saying to his faithful apostles: “I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present.” Since the Son of God dealt so considerately with those who already were disciples, should not his true disciples today show like consideration for those whom they are trying to teach?
8. Why does teaching what Jesus Christ commanded involve more than refuting false doctrines? Illustrate.
8 Another factor to be kept in mind is that teaching what Jesus Christ commanded involves much more than refuting false doctrines. For example, a person may be shown that the Trinity doctrine is unscriptural. (John 14:28; 1 Cor. 11:3; 15:24-28) But that is not enough in order for him really to know God and Christ. The texts that can be used to refute the Trinity doctrine were not recorded for that purpose. So the student should be helped to see just what those particular passages of Scripture teach regarding Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. Clearly, a person cannot build faith on merely knowing what Jesus Christ did not teach. Rather, he must know all that the Son of God did teach and command.
9. What are some vital points that should be impressed upon Bible students regarding God’s moral requirements?
9 Similarly, when it comes to moral requirements, it is not enough for the one being taught to know that Jehovah God condemns fornication, thievery, extortion, greediness, abusive language, wrath and the like. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Eph. 4:25–5:5) He also must be shown the benefits that come from adhering to the Bible’s guidelines. He should be helped to appreciate that the commands contained in the Scriptures prove that Jehovah is a God who deeply cares for humankind and who wants them to enjoy the best way of life now and an eternal, happy future.—1 Tim. 4:8.
10. How might you make sure that the Bible student really understands the Scriptural usage of key expressions? Illustrate with the term “fornication.”
10 Of course, if the taught one is going to live in harmony with God’s moral requirements, he needs to know what the key terms used in the Bible mean. Perhaps the subject under consideration is the Scriptural view of fornication. (Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Jude 7) How could you make sure that the student understands what fornication is? You might say something like this: “Many people do not know what the Bible teaches about fornication nor do they understand how the term is used in the Scriptures. If you were trying to explain God’s view of fornication to someone else and how this term is to be understood, what could you say?” From the way the student answers, you will be able to determine whether he has a grasp of the subject or not. If you see that his understanding is incomplete in some respect, you will be in a better position to provide clarifying information that is suited to his needs.
11. How might a Bible student be aided to develop appreciation for the importance of sharing what he has learned with others?
11 Besides continuing to learn, a disciple of the Son of God is one who aids others to become Christians. This should not be lost sight of when conducting home Bible studies. Students need to be assisted progressively to become qualified to teach others. This might be illustrated. You may be discussing the identity of God. You could then ask afterward: “How does what we have learned about God differ from what many people in this community believe? What scriptures could help them to come to know the true God? How could this knowledge benefit them?” Such questions may aid the student to begin thinking in terms of using the material studied to help others.
12. What must a Bible student be taught to appreciate regarding the conduct of those engaging in public witnessing, and how can this be done?
12 At the same time, make it clear to the student that one who teaches others must live in harmony with Bible principles. (Rom. 2:21-24) This can be done soon after a person begins to study the Bible. You may be considering the scriptures in the chapter “Why It Is Wise to Examine Your Religion” in the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. When reviewing the material you might ask: “If we publicly represent ourselves as God’s servants, what should be true of our conduct? What are some things that even church members may practice but which true Christians would have to avoid?”
13 The serious responsibility associated with making disciples does not rest solely with the person conducting a Bible study. All in the congregation, by word and example, can aid those who are studying the Bible to become disciples of Jesus Christ. How is this? Within the congregation many outstanding qualities are in evidence. There are fine examples in Christian kindness, generosity, depth of concern, spiritual insight, appreciation, and so forth. As a Bible student meets various ones, hears their experiences and observes their fine conduct, he is affected in a wholesome way and is encouraged to make progress in Christian living. That is why those who are conducting Bible studies do well to acquaint interested persons with others in the congregation. In this way these fellow believers can do their part in assisting Bible students to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JEHOVAH
14. (a) To whom should all credit for growth go? (b) How can we aid Bible students to have a personal relationship with Jehovah?
14 In the final analysis, however, a person’s growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ depends upon Jehovah God. (1 Cor. 3:6, 7) The Son of God said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) So it is of the utmost importance to aid Bible students to make their relationship with Jehovah God a personal one. How might this be done? Bible students should be encouraged to read the Bible, to meditate on what it says and to apply it in their lives. (Jas. 1:22-25) The importance of prayer should be kept prominently before them. When a person is specific in his prayers he becomes more keenly aware of God’s answering his petitions. This draws him closer to his heavenly Father and contributes greatly toward his spiritual growth.—1 John 5:14, 15.
15. How might the importance of Bible reading, meditation and prayer be kept before those studying with us?
15 Just one discussion on the value of Bible reading, meditation and prayer is, of course, not enough to help others to become spiritual persons. These are things that need to be mentioned whenever appropriate. They can be brought into the discussion during the course of Bible study. The benefits might be highlighted with the use of illustrations, experiences (our own and those of others) and by the use of the Scriptures. A person would certainly want to avoid saying the same thing over and over again, as this can, instead of encouraging the Bible student, result in his becoming bored.
16. (a) Why is it important to reach the heart with our teaching? (b) How can we assist the Bible student to use the Scriptures in explaining what he believes?
16 In teaching, the Christian should want to reach the heart of the learner. If his heart is reached he will be moved to take action. Jesus Christ said: “Out of the heart’s abundance [the] mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Yes, when a person’s heart is reached with the good news, he will be stirred to tell others about it. But will he be able to show them what he has learned from God’s Word? He will be if he has been taught how to use the Scriptures. A fine opportunity to teach a Bible student to do this is when you are reviewing with him what he has learned. For example, you may ask him to show you from the Bible what it says about a certain point and have him explain it. Something similar may be done at the congregation book study, further helping interested ones and providing a fine example for all when they are conducting home Bible studies.
17. What responsibility does the congregation have toward newly baptized disciples, and why?
17 Once the individual becomes a baptized disciple of Jesus Christ, the congregation’s responsibility toward him has not ended. He is still a spiritual babe and needs assistance to grow to maturity in his relationship with Jehovah and to become a qualified teacher of God’s Word. (Eph. 4:11-16) Would it not be in harmony with the spirit of Christianity to continue studying with him and for all in the congregation to encourage him with upbuilding spiritual conversation? It would also be beneficial for him to be able to share in public witnessing and teaching with experienced members of the congregation.
18. Why is disciple-making both a joyous work and a serious one?
18 Disciple-making is a serious work, for it involves lives. But it is also an activity that brings much joy. Yes, great happiness results when a person gives of himself in behalf of others. (Acts 20:35) Since lives are involved, those doing the teaching need to exercise care that they convey “all the counsel of God.” Negligence in this could contribute toward serious wrongdoing on the part of the taught one. It was because the apostle Paul did not hold back anything that others needed to know that he could say to the elders of the Ephesus congregation: “I call you to witness this very day that I am clean from the blood of all men.”—Acts 20:26, 27.
19. What should all disciples of Jesus Christ determine to do about preaching and disciple-making? Why?
19 May all of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ make it our determination to be faithful in the work of declaring the good news and making disciples. In connection with this vital activity, we can apply to ourselves the counsel of 1 Timothy 4:16: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” Obedience to Christ’s command to ‘make disciples, teaching them,’ is essential to our salvation and that of others. It leads to grand blessings now in the form of joy and contentment because of our knowing that we are God’s fellow workers. Then, too, it holds promise of life everlasting in God’s new order. (2 Pet. 3:13) So we have every reason to be zealous in making disciples and teaching them.