By Peter McPherson
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19 – NASB).
Either the lexicographers are mistaken in defining the Greek words for “disciple” as “a learner” plus “a follower” and “an adherent,” or the wording “make disciples” and “baptizing” both refer to the same thing. W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says that in Matthew 13:52; 28:19 and in Acts 14:21 the meaning of “disciple” (Greek: Mathetuo) is one “who hath been made a disciple.” He notes that the word used in these verses is in the “transitive sense in the active voice.” But if one “has been made a disciple” before baptism and “disciple” means an “adherent” and a “follower” then one would be so before and without baptism! Hence, he would be saved before baptism! The following foot-note on Matthew 28:19 from Berry’s Greek Interlinear is now both interesting and very important. The word used here for “baptizing,” he notes (as he refers us to Trench), is “having baptized” (See Synonyms Of The New Testament by R. C. Trench-pp. 345, 346). So, if you are still with me, it is not, Step one: Disciple; Step two: Baptize. But rather that “baptizing them” and “make disciples” are equivalent terms. “Having baptized” them is the same as “having made disciples.” Further, is it possible then that the antecedent of “them” refers back to the people of all nations in exactly the same way as “make disciples” refers to the people of all nations.
Anyway, the task is clear. “Disciple” all nations! “Baptize” people everywhere! This we must ever strive to do however great the charge and however enormous the territory. We must begin where we are. We must do what we can..
Before one can become a “disciple” or a Christian- a baptized believer- that person will have to become a learner. Jesus said, on one occasion, “But go and learn (Greek: manthano). Again, He said, “Learn of Me” (Mt. 11:29). Christianity is a sensible yet spiritual learning process. “No one can come unto Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (John 6:44-45).
Though many people do not want to learn spiritual things or be taught the truth and though many will reject the truth after having learned it, I am convinced that many more would become simple New Testament Christians if only they could learn about the same. But they are being taught everything but “the right ways of the Lord.” The sects are showering them with false doctrines; the cults are clobbering them with so-called new revelations; the denominations are dousing them with error; but, brethren, we need to baptize them with the truth of God. How true it is that “error can get half way around the world while truth is getting its boot straps on.” As it has been said, “Truth plods on leaden feet, while falsehood flies on eagle’s wings!” And how often we are directly to blame!
For more and more people to learn the truth and become disciples of Christ, we will have to scatter more and more precious seed. “Behold, the sower went forth to sow,” said the Savior. The sower, you know, has reference to the preacher, the teacher, the child of God- even you. It is self-evident that no one can learn anything unless he is taught. It is axiomatic that a person cannot be taught without teaching. It goes without saying that there will be no crop produced without the seed first being sown.
It is a big mistake for some to think that example is all that is necessary. And their example is to shut-up to say nothing, to sow no seed, to spread no scripture! This keeps them at peace with every one and allows them to stay away from any controversy. It makes every one think of them as “dear gentle souls, so peaceful and quiet” but it will not get the job done. Example is only beneficial when given in addition to teaching. Surely 1 Peter 3:1 does not have in mind that husbands of Christian women would be converted to Christ without any word of the gospel at all ever being sown by word of mouth! Other scriptures make this plain (Rom. 1:16; Mk. 16:15; Rom. 10:17; etc.). Just as God’s character cannot be known through “the heavens” and “the firmament” (these only declare His “glory” and power), God’s will for man cannot be known by a Christian’s example (this only shows the contentment and peace of the Christian life). Example alone will not tell anyone how to become a Christian. Do not be fooled! It is a cop-out for cowardly brethren. They have not converted a person or saved a soul from the error of his way since they shut their mouths and stopped getting involved in open Bible study with their lost friends, relatives and erring brethren.
How much seed are you sowing? How much seed are you spreading? Echo resounds – How Much, How Much, How Much?
Scattering precious seed by the wayside,
Scattering precious seed by the hillside;
Scattering precious seed o’er the field, wide,
Scattering precious seed by the way.
In our next article we will suggest a profitable way of scattering precious seed of the’ kingdom – How you can be a Sower; getting Learners; making Disciples. I hope it excites you to action as we talk about the Know Your Bible correspondence course and give some suggestions as how to use it effectively.
Truth Magazine XXII: 23, pp. 373-374
June 8, 1978