This is the final part of a three part Newsletter series. The original teaching from which all three parts were excerpted includes David’s comments on two additional Great Commission passages and can be found on our website at: jewsforjesus.org/mmo
Jesus gave His first two commissioning statements in the upper room at Jerusalem, but His third took place in Galilee as recorded in Matthew 28:16-20. In verses 16 and 17 we see how the disciples responded to the risen Jesus:
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
Every disciple struggles and fluctuates between worship and doubt. Don’t be surprised if your belief is a continual conquest of unbelief. Our Savior commends us in our worship and commands us despite our doubt. We need confidence to worship Him and confidence to overcome doubt— confidence that Y’shua is Lord of all and that He is with us at all times. He gives us that confidence in this, perhaps the most famous of His Commission statements:
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples 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 things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Don’t miss the main emphasis of this command: to make disciples. A disciple is one who hears, understands and obeys the master’s teaching. A disciple of Jesus is not just a believer in Him, but also a follower.
In his book, Matthew and Mission, Martin Goldsmith wrote, “In some cultures it is relatively easy to bring people to an initial confession of faith in Jesus as Savior, but often such spontaneous and hasty professions of conversion are not followed by any deep discipleship and committed involvement in the life of the Church.”
We are concerned about this very issue so we conducted a survey of Jewish people who recently prayed with Jews for Jesus to receive the Lord. The survey was very simple, but it provided some helpful information. Our staff reported back on 243 Jewish people. Of those, 113 are openly acknowledging their faith in Jesus and are active in fellowship with other believers. Sixty-two more of those 243 people continue to meet with our missionaries for Bible study; they identify themselves as believers, but are not currently in fellowship with other Christians. Thirty-four have either renounced their faith profession, or else never went further than their profession, and are no longer meeting for study with our missionaries. The final 34 we were unable to contact, so we don’t know where they are spiritually.
I don’t know what conclusions you will draw from the above statistics. Obviously, we cannot guarantee that those who profess faith in Christ as Savior will follow on in obedience. So it has been since New Testament times, when many who professed belief fell away.
It is easy to focus more on helping people to the initial point of trusting in Jesus for their salvation than in helping them to follow Him as disciples. Many Christians I meet in local congregations were never truly discipled. Their spiritual growth came through attendance at church services, with no additional course of Bible study and discipleship. Some are more knowledgeable about the faith than others. Likewise in Jews for Jesus we have faithfully proclaimed the gospel, but can see our need for improvement in the area of disciple-making.
I love our Jews for Jesus mission statement and it is always gratifying when others appreciate it as a concise and fitting description of our ministry. But as we consider this Scripture and our disciple-making duties, we feel our mission statement should include this important aspect of our ministry. When, in the future, you see that addition to our mission statement, you’ll know why.
Which brings me to the activities that Jesus connected to disciple-making. Proclaiming the gospel results in repentance and faith when the seed falls on good ground. Then a disciple responds by receiving baptism and instruction. The New Testament does not conceive of a disciple who is not baptized or instructed.
Jews for Jesus missionaries do not perform many baptisms simply because we recognize the local congregation as the most appropriate context for baptism. We serve as spiritual midwives, but we do our best to make sure that those who come to Christ through our ministry are baptized through the local congregations where we look to plant them.
We do exercise responsibility in the area of teaching, as we are equipped to speak to some of the challenges and obstacles that many new Jewish believers face. We have a fulllength discipleship course entitled Following Y’shua that we designed especially for this purpose. We attempt to teach each person we lead to Christ through this course. The point of teaching is not simply for the disciple to accumulate a body of knowledge, but it is to help that disciple follow and obey the Lord.
Faithfulness in making disciples is also the best way for us to continue the work of our own ministry. As we look to raise up the next generation of Jews for Jesus missionaries, my hope and prayer is that among them will be some people whom we had the privilege of discipling into obedience to our Messiah.
The great Commission statements, which I’ve termed “Messianic Marching Orders,” are not divinely inspired suggestions. They are the supreme challenge and more than that, they are supreme commands uttered by the most supreme authority ever revealed to human beings by the hand of God.
As challenging as Y’shua’s commands may be, we can take courage and find strength in His promise, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This promise was a great comfort for the first disciples when Jesus spoke it on that mountain in Galilee so long ago. It remains so for us as we look to the promise of His return.