Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Known as the Great Commission, this command is for all of us. The apostle Paul lived that command. For twenty years, he ministered alongside Timothy, a young man who joined him during the second missionary journey. When Paul wrote his last letter, he knew his death would come soon. Knowing that, he chose to write Timothy. Naturally, he had a number of things on his mind, but the primary purpose for writing Timothy was to encourage him as he carried on the faithful ministry of the gospel. Paul knew truth was under attack.
“…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2) I imagine after twenty years there was probably very little that Timothy did not know and had not seen Paul live out in his own life. Paul’s message to Timothy was to take those lessons he had learned and pass them on to other faithful men who would fight preserve the truth of the gospel. What you see in this passage is Paul living out discipleship. Paul battled for the truth in many ways. He was a committed evangelist, missionary, pastor and church planter, but Paul was also committed to discipleship as evidenced by his relationship with Timothy. The word disciple means learner and is characterized by one faithful person teaching another.
The truth that was attacked in Paul’s day is also under attack today. Discipleship is a means God uses to protect truth, but unfortunately it is greatly lacking in the church today as evidenced by its weakness in standing up to cultural changes that conflict with what God has made clear in His Word. James Montgomery Boice comments that a fatal defect in the church is a lack of true commitment to discipleship. He says one of the reasons for problems in the church is a defective theology that “separates faith from discipleship, and grace from obedience. A theology that teaches Jesus can be received as one’s Savior without being received as one’s Lord. Discipleship is not some supposed second step in Christianity, as if one first became a believer in Jesus and then, if he chooses a disciple.” Obviously, in order for discipleship to be what it should be, our theology must be correct. Paul’s of course was, therefore his writings, as well as the writings of others, and his life serve as an appropriate model for you and me. More importantly, Jesus calls us to discipleship. Are you a disciple? Are you learning from a man or woman that is more mature in the Christian faith to help you grow in your walk with the Lord? Are you leading men or women in discipleship? If not, will you commit to? This is what all Christians are called to do, so, “Go therefore…”