“Go, therefore, and make disciples . . . , teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—MATT. 28:19, 20.
SONG 89 Listen, Obey, and Be Blessed
1. According to Matthew 28:18-20, what command did Jesus give?
AFTER Jesus was raised from the dead, he appeared to his disciples who were gathered in Galilee. He had something important to tell them. What was it? His words are found at Matthew 28:18-20.—Read.
2. What questions will we consider?
2 Jesus’ command to make disciples also applies to each one of God’s servants today. Therefore, let us consider three questions related to the assignment that Jesus has given us. First, in addition to teaching God’s requirements to new disciples, what should we do? Second, how can all publishers in the congregation contribute to the spiritual growth of Bible students? Third, how can we help inactive fellow believers to share once again in the work of making disciples?
TEACH THEM TO OBSERVE
3. What specific instructions did Jesus include in his command?
3 Jesus’ instructions are clear. We must teach people the things that he commanded. However, we should not overlook an important detail. Jesus did not say: ‘Teach them all the things I have commanded you.’ Instead, he said: Teach them “to observe all the things I have commanded you.” To apply that specific instruction when teaching a Bible student, we need to be not only teachers but also guides. (Acts 8:31) Why is that the case?
4. What does it mean to observe a command? Illustrate.
4 To “observe” a command means to obey it. To illustrate how we can teach someone to observe, or obey, the things that Christ commanded, think of this example. How does a driving instructor teach his students to observe the traffic laws? The instructor may first cover the rules of the road in a classroom setting. However, to teach his students how to obey those rules, he has to take another step. He has to accompany the students and guide them as they actually drive in traffic and try to put into practice what they have learned. What can we learn from that example?
5 When we study the Bible with others, we teach them what God requires of us. But we must do more. We must teach our Bible students to apply in their daily life what they learn. (Read John 14:15; 1 John 2:3.) By example, we can show our students how they can apply basic Scriptural principles at school, at work, or during recreation. We can relate an instance from our life to show them how applying the Bible’s direction protected us from harm or how it helped us to make a wise decision. In the presence of our students, we can pray to Jehovah that the holy spirit guide them.—John 16:13.
6. What is included in teaching others to observe Jesus’ commandments?
6 What is included in teaching others to observe Jesus’ commandments? We need to help our Bible students develop the desire to make disciples. For some students, the idea of sharing in the preaching work may be intimidating. So we need to be patient as we give them the sort of instruction that gradually deepens their understanding, touches their heart, and moves them to action. What approach could we take to help students to develop the desire to share the good news with others?
7. How can we help a student to develop the desire to share the good news with others?
7 We might ask our Bible student such questions as these: “How has accepting the Kingdom message changed your life for the better? Do you think that others need to hear this message? What can you do to help them?” (Prov. 3:27; Matt. 9:37, 38) Show the student the tracts that are part of our Teaching Toolbox and let him choose which ones he thinks would appeal to his relatives, friends, or coworkers.b Give the student a number of these tracts. Have a practice session to teach him how to offer a tract in a tactful way. Of course, after our student is approved as an unbaptized publisher, we will want to be at his side to guide him.—Eccl. 4:9, 10; Luke 6:40.
HOW THE CONGREGATION HELPS BIBLE STUDENTS TO PROGRESS
8. Why is it important that our students develop strong love for God and for neighbor? (See also the box “How to Deepen Our Bible Students’ Love for God.”)
8 Keep in mind that Jesus instructed us to teach others “to observe all the things” he commanded. That certainly includes the two greatest commands—to love God and to love neighbor—both of which are closely connected to the preaching and disciple-making work. (Matt. 22:37-39) What is the connection? A principal motive for sharing in the preaching work is love—our love for God and our love for neighbor. Understandably for some Bible students, the thought of sharing in the preaching work may cause fear. But we can assure such students that with Jehovah’s help they will gradually be able to overcome the fear of man. (Ps. 18:1-3; Prov. 29:25) The box that accompanies this article describes what steps we can take to help our student to grow in his love for God. In addition, what can the congregation do to help new disciples to grow in showing love?
9. In the illustration of the student driver, in what ways is the student learning valuable lessons?
9 Think again of the illustration of the student driver. As he moves through traffic with the instructor at his side, in what ways is the student learning? By listening to his instructor and by observing other careful drivers. For instance, the instructor may point out a driver who kindly allows another to merge in front of him into traffic. Or he may call attention to a driver who courteously dims his car’s bright headlights so as not to blind other drivers. Such examples teach the student valuable lessons that he can apply when he is driving.
10. What will help a Bible student to make spiritual progress?
10 Similarly, a Bible student who begins to travel on the road to life learns not only from his teacher but also from the fine examples of other servants of Jehovah. Therefore, what will greatly help Bible students to make spiritual progress? Attending our Christian meetings. Why so? The Scriptural instruction given at the meetings will deepen their knowledge, strengthen their faith, and help them to grow in their love for God. (Acts 15:30-32) Furthermore, at the meetings the Bible teacher can introduce the student to brothers and sisters with whom he may have much in common. What examples of Christian love in action may the student see in the congregation? Consider the following scenarios.
11. What examples may a student notice in the congregation, and what effect may they have on a student?
11 A Bible student who is a single parent observes a Christian sister who is in a similar situation. It touches the student’s heart to see how much effort the sister makes to come to the Kingdom Hall with her small children. A student who struggles to quit smoking gets acquainted with a publisher who had a similar struggle but was able to overcome it. The publisher tells the student how his own growing love for Jehovah moved him to obey God’s commandments. (2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 4:13) After listening to the publisher’s personal story, the student feels more confident when the brother assures him, “You can quit too.” A young woman who is a Bible student notices a young sister who clearly enjoys her life as a Witness. What the Bible student notices about the young sister’s joyful disposition makes her want to learn more about why the sister always seems to be happy.
12. Why can we say that each one in the congregation has a role in helping Bible students?
12 When Bible students get to know a variety of faithful publishers, the students learn from their examples what it means to observe Christ’s command to love God and neighbor. (John 13:35; 1 Tim. 4:12) Moreover, as previously noted, a Bible student can learn from publishers who deal with challenges that are similar to the ones the student faces. The student learns from such examples that the changes he needs to make to become a disciple of Christ are within reach. (Deut. 30:11) Each one in the congregation can contribute in various ways to the spiritual progress of Bible students. (Matt. 5:16) What efforts do you personally make to encourage Bible students who come to the meetings?
HELP INACTIVE ONES TO SHARE ONCE AGAIN
13-14. How did Jesus treat his downhearted apostles?
13 We want to help our inactive brothers and sisters to share once again in fulfilling Christ’s commission to make disciples. The way Jesus treated his downhearted apostles shows what we may do today.
14 At the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth when his death was imminent, the apostles “all abandoned him and fled.” (Mark 14:50; John 16:32) How did Jesus treat his apostles when they were temporarily in a weakened condition? Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus told some of his followers: “Have no fear! Go, report to my brothers [that I was raised].” (Matt. 28:10a) Jesus did not give up on his apostles. Even though they had abandoned him, he still called them “my brothers.” Like Jehovah, Jesus was merciful and forgiving.—2 Ki. 13:23.
15. How do we feel about those who have stopped sharing in the ministry?
15 Likewise, we have deep concern for those who have stopped sharing in the ministry. They are our brothers and sisters, and we love them! We still remember the labors of love that those fellow believers performed in the past—some perhaps for decades. (Heb. 6:10) We truly miss them! (Luke 15:4-7) In imitation of Jesus, in what ways may we express our concern for them?
16. How can we express our concern for our inactive brothers and sisters?
16 Give a warm invitation. One way that Jesus encouraged his downhearted apostles was by inviting them to a meeting. (Matt. 28:10b; 1 Cor. 15:6) Similarly today, we can encourage inactive ones to attend the congregation meetings if they are not already doing so. We realize that we may need to invite them several times before they respond. Jesus no doubt was delighted that his disciples responded to his invitation.—Compare Matthew 28:16 and Luke 15:6.
17. How should we react when an inactive one attends a meeting?
17 Give a heartfelt welcome. Jesus made his disciples feel welcome when they met with him; he took the initiative to speak to them. (Matt. 28:18) How will we react when an inactive one arrives at the Kingdom Hall? We should take the initiative by warmly welcoming him. At first, we may worry that we will not know what to say. But without making him feel uncomfortable, we can simply tell him how happy we are to see him.
18. How can we reassure inactive publishers?
18 Give sincere reassurance. Jesus’ disciples probably felt overwhelmed by the commission to preach in all the world. Jesus reassured his followers by saying: “I am with you all the days.” (Matt. 28:20) Was his approach effective? Yes. Before long, they were busy “teaching and declaring the good news.” (Acts 5:42) Inactive publishers also need reassurance. They may feel overwhelmed by the thought of preaching again. We can reassure them that they will not have to preach alone. When they are ready, we can accompany them in the ministry. They will no doubt appreciate our support as they begin preaching the good news once again. When we view and treat inactive ones as our brothers and sisters, we may see heartwarming results in our congregation.
WE WANT TO FINISH THE WORK ENTRUSTED TO US
19. What is our heartfelt desire, and why?
19 Until when should we continue with disciple making? Throughout the conclusion of this system of things. (Matt. 28:20; see Glossary, “Conclusion of the system of things.”) Will we be able to fulfill this aspect of Jesus’ commission? We are determined to do so! We gladly give of our time, energy, and resources to find those who are “rightly disposed for everlasting life.” (Acts 13:48) When we do this, we follow Jesus’ example. He stated: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34; 17:4) That is also our heartfelt desire. We want to finish the work that has been entrusted to us. (John 20:21) And we want others, including inactive ones, to endure in this work with us.—Matt. 24:13.
20. According to Philippians 4:13, why can we accomplish the work that Jesus commanded us to do?
20 Granted, fulfilling Jesus’ great commission is a challenge. However, we are not facing this task alone. Jesus promised that he would be with us. We carry out the assignment to make disciples as “God’s fellow workers” and “in company with Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 2:17) Therefore, we can accomplish it. What a privilege and pleasure it is to carry out this assignment and help others to do so as well!—Read Philippians 4:13.
SONG 79 Teach Them to Stand Firm
a Jesus instructed his followers to make disciples and to teach them to observe all the things he had commanded them. This article considers how we can follow Jesus’ instructions. The information is based in part on an article that was published in The Watchtower of July 1, 2004, pages 14-19.
b For simplicity we here refer to the student in the masculine gender.
c PICTURE DESCRIPTION: The sister conducting the Bible study explains what steps the student needs to take to deepen her love for God. Later, the student applies the three suggestions that she received from her Bible teacher.