By Todd M. Kennedy
Evangelism (Witness) and Edification
(Teach/Learn Bible Doctrine) in Balance
A Summary of Matthew 28.19-20
1. God has given man (men and women) a primary objective to accomplish while he lives on earth. Man is to represent God (act as God’s visible stand-in) through rulership and reflection. Rulership means God has chosen man to be His agent and authority on earth. Reflection means that man should be a mirror so that creation can see God. Therefore man should demonstrate and mirror by his thoughts, by his priorities, and by his actions God’s character (what God is like-divine attributes), God’s greatness (positive superiority), and God’s authority (kingship and ownership) to angelic and human creation (Gen 1.26-28; Job 1.6-2.10; Ps 8.3-6; Rom 11.36; 1 Cor 8.6; Eph 3.10; Col 1.16; 1 Pet 4.11).
2. Matthew 28.19-20 is the record of a command briefing that Christ gave His disciples (soon to become apostles to the church). It took place on a mountain in Galilee. The purpose was to instruct them about the strategic objectives of ministry for the entire interadvent period. Believers carry out the strategic objectives in order to accomplish God’s primary objective for man on earth. This instruction applied to their ministry and to the ministry of all those down through the years that would follow them.
3. By the time that Christ gave this mandate to His disciples God had already postponed the kingdom that He had promised to Israel because Israel had rejected the King and His message (Matt 21.43-46).
4. When Christ gave this mandate He was anticipating the historical period that would fall between His ascension and the beginning of the earthly millennial kingdom in the future. He had planned that the church age would take up most of this coming historical interlude.
5. The disciples were told to go from this briefing out into the world of man.
6. The strategic objectives of those disciples listening to Christ and of those that would follow were make disciples by witnessing and teaching/learning.
6.1. Make disciples is the main verb (a word that indicates action or being) of verses 19 and 20. The verb indicates that this is a command from Christ to His disciples and that they are to take an
active part in making disciples. Therefore, Christ is giving a commission or mandate to His staff. This commission calls for action in response to Him.
6.2. A disciple is a believer, a learning pupil, and a faithful follower of Christ (Matt 10.24-25; Lk 14.27; Jn 8.31; 15.8; Acts 11.26; 19.8-10). Make disciples begins with the witnessing process, moves to the initial faith in Christ for salvation, and continues with progressive growth in learning and commitment to Christ.
7. The recipient or target of this ministry is all the nations, which refers to all ethnic, national, and racial groups.
8. The command to disciple all the nations requires believers to do two things. The first is evangelism (witness). The second is edification or teach/learn doctrine (from the perspective of those
that do not have communicating spiritual gifts, which is most believers, this means learn Bible doctrine).
8.1. Baptizing and teaching are both used in this context to support the main verb make disciples. They explain the method or means or way to make disciples of all nations. God works through baptizing and teaching to make disciples.
8.2. Baptizing in this context means the identification with Christ in death and resurrection to new life by ritual immersion in water. The word baptizing is used here instead of evangelizing or witnessing because in the public ministry of John (Matthew 3.1-7; 11.16; Acts 13.24; 18.25), of Jesus (Matthew 3.13-17), and the life of the first century church (Acts 2.38, 41; 8.12,13,16,36,38; 16.15,33; 1 Corinthians 1.13-17), baptism was linked with a faith response to the message. It was a clear indication of this fact of witness and faith acceptance of that message.
Therefore, baptizing refers to witnessing followed by faith response to Christ and water baptism (the ritual indicates the new relationship with Christ).
8.3. Teaching refers to the communication of content from one who knows to one who listens in order to learn. The Biblical meaning is that the person who knows (the teacher) communicates the Word of God to other people who have placed themselves under the teacher’s authority in order to listen and to learn the Word of God (Bible doctrine). Teaching results in an agreeable understanding or true knowledge of the Word of God by the learner. The function of teaching is carried out by gifted communicators, pastor/teacher and teacher (Ephesians 4.11-16; 1 Corinthians 12.28-31; 1 Timothy 4.11; 2 Timothy 2.2; 4.2; Romans 12.7), but all believers are to communicate doctrine to other believers with whom they come into contact (Hebrews 5.11-14).
9. Christ promises that He will be with them (and all believers that accept His mandate). This refers to His personal presence, support, and authority as detailed in John 13-17.
10. Until the end of the age indicates that this ministry is to continue from the time Christ gave the mandate until He returns to establish the promised millennial kingdom on earth for Israel. This
period of time includes the present church age.
11. The commission was not fulfilled, nor could it have been finally accomplished by the eleven disciples. Christ was speaking to the eleven disciples and to all believers that would follow throughout the interadvent period.
12. Therefore, God’s ministry for the church is to make disciples (learning, growing, obedient, committed believers) through a strong, aggressive, intensive ministry on two fronts. These two fronts are evangelism or witnessing for Christ (from an individual local church’s point of view this is the direction of the external ministry which goes to the unbeliever) and edification or learning Bible doctrine (the internal ministry of an individual local church and the external ministry to other believers).
13. The epistles recognize and expand the doctrine of witnessing and teaching/learning doctrine. They stress witnessing as the normal and expected life of believers that are being taught (Rom 1.14-17; 10.13-17; 1 Cor 4.14-17; 5.14-21; Eph 4.11; 6.15,19; Phil 1.12-18; 1 Thes 1.8 1 Pet 1.23; 3.15; Jude 3).
The epistles also emphasize teach/learn Bible doctrine or edification as the only way to gain knowledge of the Word of God (spiritual food so necessary for spiritual health, growth, and living)
(Rom 1.8-12; 12.1-2; 1 Cor 2.10-16; 12-14; Eph 1.16-19; 2.19-22; 4.11-16; Phil 1.9-11; Col 1.9-11; 2.1-7; 1 Tim 1.3-5; 4.13-16; 2 Tim 2.2; 3.14-17; 4.2-5; Heb 5.11-14; 6.1; James 1.21-25; 1 Pet 2.2; 2 Pet
3.18; 2 Jn 1-6; 3 Jn 3-4).
14. In order to rightly fulfill God’s command and God-given potential for evangelism (witness) and edification (teach/learn), believers need to actively live the Plan of God. (The Plan of God has three parts; Eternal Plan of God with emphasis on eternity past and future; Historical Plan of God with emphasis on the angelic conflict, the theocratic kingdom, and dispensations; and the Daily Plan of God which has mission/ministry, preparation, practice, and environment.) See the doctrine of The Plan of God.
(spiritual food so necessary for spiritual health, growth, and living) (Rom 1.8-12; 12.1-2; 1 Cor 2.10-16; 12-14; Eph 1.16-19; 2.19-22; 4.11-16; Phil 1.9-11; Col 1.9-11; 2.1-7; 1 Tim 1.3-5; 4.13-16; 2 Tim 2.2; 3.14-17; 4.2-5; Heb 5.11-14; 6.1; James 1.21-25; 1 Pet 2.2; 2 Pet 3.18; 2 Jn 1-6; 3 Jn 3-4).
14. In order to rightly fulfill God’s command and God-given potential for evangelism (witness) and edification (teach/learn), believers need to actively live the Plan of God. (The Plan of God has