Mat 28:19-20 "Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world. Amen." I have no problem calling these verses by their traditional epithet-The Great Commission. If I venture into any religious institution that lays claim to Christ and ask anyone randomly, "What's the 'Great Commission'?", I am likely to get an accurate response, even if it isn't quoted verbatim or the exact chapter-verse is unknown. Most can at least say something along the lines of, "That's where Jesus told his disciples to preach."
It may be the best known gospel passage with the exception of John 3:16. In my last couple contributions we've been considering baptism. We'll continue that with this post as well by asking the questions: What exactly were the apostles commissioned to do? What does that teach us about baptism?
The first one is easy, eventhough it is in several parts. These are: 1) Teach all nations; 2) Baptise them; 3) Teach Obedience. My own interpretation of these three are that the apostles are to: 1) Preach me everywhere you go without regard to the different peoples' race, creed, etc (the gospel is for all, Jew first, then Greek), and let everyone hear; 2) Those who hear and receive the Word joyfully, baptise (immerse); 3) Teach these new christians to obey My Word in all things.
Some popular versions say 'go and make disciples of all nations'. Indeed, Christ had His disciples while on earth and after His ascension it was the purpose of His church to propagate itself by making more. How does one become a disciple? Christ's answer is simple: immerse them in the name of the Three-in-One. There are many arguments that we've considered against baptism that one commonly hears. This is the only passage, however, that undeniably tells us that disciplehood is gained through immersion-it's the only process received by inspiration that makes one a 'disciple' of Christ.
Of utmost concern to us as regards salvation is this: must one be a disciple (follower, literally) of Christ to be saved?
Act 4:12 "And there is salvation in no one else [speaking of Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
I've yet to hear an argument from a 'christian' that one does not need to be a follower or disciple of Christ in order to be saved. I think we can all agree on that point. Matthew 28:19-20, to me, irrefutably informs us that immersion is the avenue by which God makes one a disciple.
I've heard it said that 'in order to get God's product, we have to use His process." I agree. There are many different ways to make an apple pie. There are different apples people like to use, many ways to sweeten and prepare the apple filling and who knows how many types of crust. But if you want to make my mom's apple pie (undeniably the world's finest!) you have to use her exact recipe, without alteration. If you choose to alter anything, you may end up with apple pie, but it won't be my mom's (and I would be sad for you).
If we are going to make disciples of all nations, continuing the good work of the apostles in our own limited capacities, we have to get the recipe right. Immersion is an essential ingredient in God's recipe. Lord willing, my next post will build on some other aspects of disciplship-what exactly it is-beginning in Mat.28:19-20, so I will depart from commenting on baptism. As always, I welcome your comments and questions.