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Matthew 28:18-20 Study Guide: The Great Comfort of the Great Commission

Community Group Study Guide — The Great Comfort of the Great Commission
Matthew 28:20

Study Information:
Imagine being one of Jesus disciples while he was present on earth. You had an opportunity to see him in action which meant seeing him heal, perform miracles, confront power hungry spiritual leaders and hear him teach in a way that warmed your heart and taught you the true meaning of God’s Law. Sure, you’d have opportunities to do “ministry” as Jesus sent you out to proclaim the kingdom (Matthew 10) and you’d get opportunity to be part of Jesus work as you did things like pass out the loaves when he fed the 5,000 or help people organize as they waited to see Jesus. Yet, you also would not have predicted Jesus leaving so soon and certainly he would not be leaving his plans for the church and the kingdom of God and all this ministry in your hands. Who would do that? Certainly Jesus knew we are not capable, right? Couldn’t he do it better if he just stuck around longer? 

God’s “Plan A” for his world changing mission of redemption was to train up his followers who would impart what they learned to others. Jesus poured his life into men and women and his plan from the beginning was to give them a mission to make disciples and to give them the very presence of God by sending the Spirit. Today, if you follow Christ, you have God’s presence in you with the person of the Spirit and God has given you the task to help people follow him as disciples. Let’s explore what this means: 

God’s Work Through Ordinary Saints
Matthew 28:18-20, Ephesians 2:18-22
Jesus left the most important mission in the history of the world in the hands of his ordinary followers. The disciples were not super Christians. One only needs to read through the gospels to see how many times Jesus’ early followers failed and made mistakes. Part of the problem is what we hear when we hear the word “disciple.” Many of us think of “super Christian” or put the 12 apostles of Jesus on a pedestal because of what God did through them in the book of Acts. But, “disciple” simply means “learner.” A disciple is someone who makes a commitment by faith to learn from and be like Jesus. The parting words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew are often referred to as the “Great Commission” where Jesus’ followers are told to go to the nations baptizing them in the name of the Triune God and to teach them to observe all Jesus commanded. Being a disciple involves a change in identity (symbolized in baptism) and a desire to put into practice what Jesus taught. The word “christian” is only used 3 times in the bible to describe Jesus’ followers and the word disciple is used 298 times. If you have put your faith in Jesus and you want to be like him then you are a disciple of Jesus. 

The “Great Commission,” making disciples, is the ordinary work of ordinary Christians. Sometimes we create a hierarchy of who the super important Christians are vs. ordinary folks like us, but the Scripture hardly ever does that. Paul told the Ephesian church that they are all members of the household of God and are spirit filled, even going as far as to call them “Saints.” It was not just “some” of the Ephesians or “the important ones”, but all of the followers of Jesus. Do you think of yourself as a disciple and as a saint? Think about the people who made the biggest spiritual influence on your life. That may have included some pastors and sermons, but more likely it involved a longer term influence from friends and family who loved you and cared about you with the desire to help you see and know Jesus through what they said and did. It included youth leaders leading bible studies at youth group, and friends inviting you to church, and you asking for advice about some of your struggles and at some point you realized your sin and your need for God’s grace and that support network has helped you learn the way of Christ. 

We often shy away from the Great Commission because you think the vision as unattainable. Some of us think of discipleship as one on one intense bible studies at a coffee shop. That if we memorize scripture and complete the course then we will be a “disciple.” Those types of programs and courses are really helpful, but we should not confuse the method with the meaning of “discipleship.” Being a disciple is to put faith in Christ an his work and to make it our goal to put into practice what he taught, and as we do that our hearts will change and grow more and more like Christ’s. To make disciples may involve bible study, prayer and evangelism; but it will always involve being interruptible and opening up your life to people God has put around you where you can model Christ, point to his goodness and be ready to talk about the hope you have and how that has changed your life. 

Do you feel equipped for this? This seems like such a high calling and so difficult for many of us, but there is good news. There is part of the Great Commission designed to bring us great comfort: Jesus will be with us always. 

The Great Comfort the Great Commission:
Matthew 28:20
The great comfort is that you are not alone in this task of making disciples. The one who has “all authority” is the same one who promises to be with us until the very end. God does not call us to a task and then abandon us. He will supply for your need and equip you. You may be wondering, “how is Jesus with me when he is not physically present right now?” The answer to that will be explored in our gospel of John series in greater detail later on, but he is with his people in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples in John 14-16 that he would not leave them as orphans and would come to them when he sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a different “person” in the Trinity, but is often referred to by Paul and by Jesus himself, as “the Spirit of Christ.” God’s very presence in us and with us to equip us for the task of making disciples. This includes comforting us, giving us words to say, convicting us of truth, giving us spiritual gifts to build up others in their faith and praying for us when we do not know what to say. 

The main idea is that you are not alone in this task. God has called us to make disciples alongside other believers as we help people know God and put into practice what he has taught, and God is with us in this process.

Some practical next steps could include:
— Do you have someone in your life that you regularly talk to about how they are doing with following Christ and where they are struggling? If not, find someone you can have those conversations with. 
— Pray for opportunity, specifically that God would bring someone into your life that you can talk to about spiritual things. Maybe they do not yet know Christ or maybe they’re another believer in need of encouragement. 
— Find a place to use your spiritual gifts inside the walls of the church or outside in the community. The Spirit has equipped you with gifts to build up people in the faith (discipleship). 
— Pray for our missionaries. Being out in the mission field often involves being removed from your home church and in a place that is hostile to the gospel. Pray for them to be encouraged and look for opportunities to connect.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read Matthew 28:18-20

What is the difference between being a Christian and being a disciple?

How does Matthew 28:18-20 describe the process of “making disciples?” What does it mean to “teach them to observe all that I have commanded?”

Jesus promised his presence with his disciples until the end of the age. How does that give you comfort in the task of making disciples?

What are some of the practical barriers you face when it comes to making disciples (for example: lack of knowledge of what that means, time constraints, etc)? What are some next steps you’d be interested in taking?