The Gospel is in the Go!

I keep going back to the commissions at the end of Matthew and Mark.  I don’t do it purposefully, but my mind wants to pit these two commands of Jesus against each other.  What do I mean?  Let’s take a look…

The Matthew Text:  “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ina the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18,19,20

It’s clear that the commission here is to “Make Disciples.”  The means by which that is done are “Going,” “Teaching to obey all that Christ commanded,” and “baptizing.”  Fair enough.

The Markan Text: “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

It’s clear that the commission here is to “Evangelize.”  The means by which that is done are “going” and preaching the good news.

It’s easy to see how so many can erroneously cleave evangelism & discipleship by pitting these two commissions against one another.  I am prone to do the same.  Then it struck me… 

What if the “Evangelism” part of “Making Disciples” was in the “Go” of  the Great Commission?  What if the making of disciples requires evangelism?  It just doesn’t make sense to say the reverse, that evangelism requires the making of disciples.  Maybe we can dump the idea that says, first we evangelize people, then we disciple them.   

Isaiah wrote, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  Isaiah 52:7  In order for the good news to be brought, someone had to go.  With this thinking, my desire to cleave these commissions into distinct actions almost disappears.  There is however, a slight problem.  I remain somewhat unconvinced.  So, am I reaching too far, or does it sound right to you? 


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    1. My calling according to APEST is evangelist, apostle, prophet, shepherd, teacher. All high scores, who cares? It’s the fruit of these gifts that count. It’s how we embody Christ to the world, as part of the vine. I too am a slave, as the apostle Paul declares. My parents blessed me with a name that is challenging to live up to. Whether Gaelic, or Hebrew, challenging. Just like, “in the likeness of God”, Miguel. I cannot be crowned with light unless I share it. Whether through evangelizing, or making disciples, or caring for the least of these, or teaching through deed and word, biblical and life’s truths, we all are sent once we receive Christ. The Great Commission is clear on this point. Follow me, I will make you fishers of men. With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and the tools, His Word, His Church, His Creation, His LOVE, we are to carry His message forward. It is in accordance to His will, how this happens. First with our families, (the family of man?), then to our communities, and further. All of this can happen at once or in sequence. His will. I know in these discussions we are trying to learn how to be more effective, but Nike has a solution. Just do it. Finally brethren, pray for us that the Word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; 2 Thess 3:1 Blessings

      • Kirk,

        Indeed what you say is true. Only problem is “Just doing it” is often based on incomplete, inadequate, or incorrect thinking. “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

        But as you say, “With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and the tools, His Word, His Church, His Creation, His LOVE, we are to carry His message forward.”

        His Church is part of the way the Holy Spirit counsels His people. We each play our part and exercise our gifts towards God’s end.

    2. What is the purpose of the question Miguel? Both of these references obviously talk about going. Both are scriptural, and both insinuate what should be done in the going.

      Why do we, as men, so often feel it necessary to clarify the Scriptures that God left open for His Holy Spirit’s interpretation in each person’s life or each situation?

      The only possible reasons that I can see for answering this question would be to clarify doctrine, or come up with a “plan of action” that could be claimed as being the “Biblical way”. Either option seems to me to leave the Holy Spirit completely out of the picture, and also to leave Him completely without option as to what to do “in the moment”.

      The correct answer is, there is no distinct “Biblical way” to do these things. The “Biblical way” is to ask the Holy Spirit what to do in the moment, and then do that.

      I think the answer comes by looking at what each of these commissioned people DID after their commissioning. Did they follow a pattern, a distinct evangelical program, or did they simply go, and handle each situation according to the Holy Spirit as it presented itself?

      • David,

        Your quote:

        “The “Biblical way” is to ask the Holy Spirit what to do in the moment, and then do that.”

        It’s not as simple as that. What if the Spirit simply said “look to what I already said in the Word that I breathed?”

        There’s nothing wrong with the people of God attempting to make more clear biblical passages. It is the very purpose of the spiritual gift of teaching and the people gift of teachers.

        Insight can, and is, mediated through people from the Spirit. There are many cases of this in scripture. There are also many plans of action. We can not simply look to see what “they” did back in the day unless they said by the Spirit “do this.”

        Much of the recorded history of the early church is descriptive and not prescriptive.

        My problem, and the reason for this post was to correct a faulty assumption that discipleship is a separate and distinct action from evangelism. I’ve seen that damage it causes. By questioning in this manner my hope is that people will come to their own biblical conclusions. My intent, by way of carefully crafted questions is always to garner applicable answers.

        • I stand corrected Miguel.

          I really like your quote that “Much of the recorded history of the early church is descriptive and not prescriptive”. That was actually part of my point, although you obviously articulated it better than I did. They didn’t prescribe a certain “plan of action”, but there are instead many “plans of action” according to what the Holy Spirit wants at the time.

          I will be more careful about over-simplifying things. A lot of what I say is with the assumption that people understand where I’m coming from. Even when sometimes they don’t.

          I appreciate the reply Miguel, and I’ll definitely think about what you said here.

    3. Maybe Miguel is just trying to get us all off the fence and into the game? Good point Beloved of the Woods. Except those who read this are already in the game:)

      • Oh, I had the same feeling Kirk. That the Q was designed to push, and not necessarily inquisitive. . I’ve told Miguel in blogs past that I understand He is the one doing it, and I’m the one sitting here typing. He should be answering questions more than asking them. I think He understands that’s where I’m coming from. He posts these types of questions sometimes. “What should be done in this situation” type questions, and I answer them all basically the same when I answer at all. He knows what my answer will be—ask the Holy Spirit what to do, and then, do that.

        Ya know, if you put a space after your last word, and a nose on your smiley face, it’ll make a smiley :-)

    4. Hmmmm….. you make us think. Your question is not clear and I think that is because there is a depth to the issue that we have not seen.

      If we are changed into his image from glory to glory (discipleship results) as we behold his face (as we see him) and if seeing him is the result of hearing and seeing good news, then it is in the calling out of that image from its hidden place in our flesh into the light of his glory by the spirit of God.

      Maybe our thinking about discipleship and about evangelism is much too simplistic.

    5. Carolyn,

      I think you’ve gotten to the heart of the issue. All of our individual discernments are cloudy. Collectively, as a body, our unique perspectives and discernments help to clarify. My blog post scheduled for tomorrow deals specifically with what you’ve raised here.

      • Someone came up to me a few years ago, shook my hand and thanked me for what I had said. He told me that it had made a profound difference, caused a deep change in his life and opened him up to many blessings.(Sobriety, healed family, faith, hope and love etc.)

        I asked him what he was talking about , what, in particular did I say, and when.

        He told me what he had heard me say. I laughed, partly from sharing his obvious joy and partly from a reminder of the who’s who in my relationship with the divine. I congratulated him on his new and better life, he shook my hand again with a big smile and moved away into the crowd.

        Actually I had not said what he heard me say. :-) He must have heard what he needed to hear but it wasn’t my words. I think I’m a better servant if I just pray for guidance and strength and Go. I believe I told him later that it wasn’t me he heard but a voice closer to him. It’s still a source of smiles.

        Thanks David Woods for the smiley face making tech tip (trying it here)

    6. “Evangelism” is simply proclaiming the good news. That’s all the word means in the Greek. We, however, have limited it to bringing people to a salvation decision point. But the “good news” of Jesus and the Kingdom of God goes to all of life, and all of faith, and encompasses discipleship.

      I never, ever have thought of those as two divisible things,because I never bought into the limited, prevailing view of evangelism. It includes bringing folks to Jesus, but also involves the continual proclamation of the good news one to another as we encourage each other to be mature disciples.

      Miguel, sometimes I think – as a fellow recovering analytical Christian – that you need to attend more local AA (Analytical’s Anonymous) meetings. You know, the first step to recovery is admitting our problem… 😉

    7. Is it not true that “as you are going” (or “as you go”) is a more literal rendering of πορευθέντες in Matthew 28:19? If so, then Christ is assuming that we will be going. The commands, then, in verses 19-20 are 1) make disciples…, 2) baptizing them…, 3) teaching them to obey…

      I would argue that the means of these commands is the Holy Spirit (utilizing the Word) moving us into the paths where we are going. Some find themselves going to the grocery, some to a white collar job, some to a jungle in central American, etc…

      The Mark passage is also an expression of the Gospel. What makes this interesting (and quite glorious) is that by comparing these two texts, we find that the Good News does indeed include Evangelism and Discipleship. The Mark passage, the neglected and overlooked Great Commission, tells us to proclaim that Christ has commanded that we do what is communicated in the Matthew passage. This explodes the view that “The Gospel” is only for the unreached, unsaved, etc… No, I was brought from death into life on a Summer evening in 1975 but I need the Gospel in 2012 just as much as I did then (albeit for slightly different purpose). What drew me to salvation now sustains and sanctifies me and will, later, result in a glorified body at the resurrection.

      This is powerful stuff. So powerful that I am compelled (and fully empowered) to engage 1,2,3 of Matthew 28:19-20 AND I am powered to proclaim that all of this is the Gospel.

      So I would argue that both statements make sense:

      1. The making of disciples requires evangelism.
      2. Evangelism requires the making of disciples.

      As an aside, “requires” here carries an unfortunate flavor due to our current culture. This is not a compulsion in the sense that I have a joyless, drudgery making, duty to obey these things. Rather, I am carried along by my passion for joy…I can’t help myself…in this engagement.

      Evangelism results in disciples making disciples who engage in disciplemaking with will result in evangelism which will result in more disciples who will make more disciples who will, in turn, do more evangelism which will result in…

      • Jonathan,

        What a well thought out and written response.

        I have seen many point out that the verb “go” In Matthew 28:19 is a participle and because it’s a participle, it suggests an “as [or while] you go…” more literal translation.

        From this, a particular conclusion is made, namely, that we are all going here and there with our normal life activities and rather than making evangelism and discipleship a special separate part of our lives we should make evangelism and discipleship integral parts of our lives, using whatever opportunities normally and naturally arise as we go about our daily activities.

        This thinking is only half correct. I’ve said before that the best modern day translation of “go and make disciples,” is “go, and as you go, make disciples.” or “go and as you are going make disciples.”

        The rendering “ [or while] you go…” suggests the participle is taken as a temporal participle, indicating when the main action (discipling the nations) should take place. But when a participle is used to indicate when an action took place or is to take place (the temporal use of the participle) the present tense is used for actions that are to be simultaneous.

        So to communicate the idea that we are to make disciples “as/while we go” a Greek would use a present participle, not an aorist participle, as we find in this case.

        (Of course, there are other uses of the present adverbial participle as well). If the aorist participle were functioning as a temporal participle the idea would be “having gone, make disciples” pointing to the disciple-making process as one that is to take place immediately after going. But that is not the most natural understanding here.

        None of the participles in Matthew 28:19 are temporal participles. (The participles [baptizing and teaching] that follow the main verb [make disciples] function differently from the one which precedes it.

        This in Greek is called the rule of “attendant circumstance.” As a student of the Greek language and having done my own thorough research on this topic, I can only conclude that we must “go.” We must also be ever conscious “as we are going,” to do the will of Him who is sending us.

        All that said, I must again say that your comment is targeted directly against the false dichotomy which is so prevalent in the church today. Well done!

        I draw many of these conclusions from the following article:

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