Learning to Follow Christ

Sitting at the feet of Christ, learning from His teaching, is of ultimate and lasting value. But it’s also the only way to pursue a life of holiness that truly honors Christ. We often think of the Great Commission as primarily about evangelism, but that’s only the first part. After we have proclaimed the gospel, and baptized those whom Christ has saved, we then are to begin the task of teaching believers to observe everything Christ has commanded.

And it’s not just a matter of head knowledge. Learning from the Scriptures isn’t merely about gaining understanding; it’s about living fruitful and holy lives. As Psalm 119 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word… I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

This one thing is necessary.

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What is the Church’s Social Responsibility?

I believe the primary mission of the local church to the lost is to provide not material, but spiritual relief by proclaiming the good news of eternal life by grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In times of crisis, our primary mission as the local church is to offer comfort, hope, and biblical counsel to help people respond to trials and suffering in a way that glorifies God and helps them grow to better know, love, and follow Christ.

This position is rather unpopular in our current climate, especially in light of the recent conversations surrounding social justice and the gospel. One of the issues that I’ve seen rise to the surface in the midst of the vitriolic attack, debate, and defense of the SJ&G Statement, is a failure to distinguish between an individual Christian’s responsibility and interaction with the world, and the local church as a corporate body holding the keys of the kingdom. That distinction is crucial in understanding our role in the community, culture, political sphere, and world.

It’s challenging to sort through the various factors at play in seeking to understand the church’s social responsibility, and especially difficult to articulate this position, for a number of reasons. I encourage you to prayerfully consider this list of resources as you seek to understand the church’s responsibility, our responsibility as individual Christian citizens, and the relationship between evangelism and material aid.

The Social Responsibility of the Local Church and the Mission of Missions

Series on Christians, the Church, and Culture

Are All Biblical Commands Corporate?

My Church Loves the Poor, So I Don’t Have To

Discontinuity, Israel, and the Church

Mercy Ministry is not Kingdom Work

Responding to Tragedy by Giving Money (practical steps)

The Call to Minister to the Poor

Dispensationalism, Keller, and the Poor

Biblical Pillars of Mercy Ministry

Examples of Mercy Ministry

What’s Wrong With the Recent Evangelical “Social Justice” Movements?

“Churches” or “Christians” and Culture?

How Christians and Churches Prioritize Going About the Doing of Good

Transforming Culture with a Messiah Complex

The Social Responsibility of the Church (PDF by Benware)

Problems with Social Action in Missions (Cripplegate Series):

Missions: Ecclesiology with a Passport

2 Problems with Social Action in Missions

8 Problems with the Theory of “Social Action” Missions

8 Problems [part 2]

So, What is the Mission of Missions?

Digest of The Acts of the Apostles

The following is a very brief digest/outline of the book of Acts. The goal is to provide a condensed summary of the book–a cursory introduction for the benefit of personal study.


 The Expanding Witness of the Church

In the book of Acts, Dr. Luke records the work of the church as the people of God carry out the Great Commission to carry the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Outline:

(1:1-9-8:3) The Church’s Witness in Jerusalem

(8:4-12:25) The Church’s Witness to Judea and Samaria

(13:1-28:31) The Church’s Witness to the Ends of the Earth

Background Considerations:

Authorship:

  • External evidence unquestionably supports Luke as the author, and the internal evidence is consistent with this as well.

Date and Setting:

  • Internal and external evidence points to a date between AD 62 and 68 for the composition of Acts.
  • The place of composition has been suggested as Rome, and a Coptic inscription connects Acts with Achaia, but the location cannot be determined with any certainty.

Special Features:

  • Acts emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit in the work of the early church.
  • Acts includes a remarkable amount of historical data
  • Luke’s Greek in the book of Acts ranks among the best of the New Testament.

Interpretive Issues:

  • Are the signs and wonders in the book of Acts only an authenticating feature of the newly instituted church? Or did these gifts continue on?

The Commission and Means of Disciple Making

A FEW KEY DISCIPLESHIP PASSAGES

I’ve been talking a little bit about discipleship recently. And I do think it’s important for a church to have some sort of “intentional” (ohhh that’s such a buzzword… but it fits here) plan for discipleship in the church. But I think so many churches have such a warped idea of what discipleship is, their discipleship “programs” are utterly ineffective in producing true, sold out, followers of Christ.

Before a church tries to decide what kind of discipleship program to implement, the church must know what kind of disciple Christ desires. Therefore, it will be useful to examine several key passages of Scripture on discipleship. To get an overview of the mandate, goal, and mark of a disciple, we’ll look at three texts – Matthew 28:19, Luke 6:40, and John 13:34-35. Today, we’ll just look at the Matthew passage.

Matthew 28:19

Matthew 28:19, the well known Great Commission, records Christ’s last words to His disciples in the book of Matthew: “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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Make Disciples

In this passage, the command is not to go, but rather, to make disciples. The commission is not to individuals as much as to the apostles as the “church in embryo.” The apostles were the initial recipients of this command, but it is a mandate for the church (of which the apostles were the foundation – Ephesians 2:20) as its corporate responsibility. Those who are already the disciples of Christ are to be the instruments by which He makes more disciples.

The Means of Discipling

Making disciples is further qualified by the requirements Christ gives to baptize new believers, and to teach them to obey Christ’s commandments. Baptizing and teaching are not separate commands. Rather they are “the means by which disciples are developed.”

Baptizing

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” refers to the disciple being brought into the “possession and protection” of God. Soldiers of ancient Greece would swear themselves into the name of Zeus. In similar manner, new believers in Christ are baptized into the name of the triune God. The name speaks of the essence and fullness of a person, referring to everything he is and represents. In baptism, believers are identified as having been united to Christ and now belonging fully to God.

Baptism plays no part in the salvation of the individual. However, the willingness of the saved person to publicly identify with Christ through the act of baptism is so linked to the genuineness of the individual’s conversion that Christ says in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Making disciples is accompanied by baptism as an initial act of obedience to proclaim the union the believer has with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Teaching

The second requirement of disciple-makers is to teach believers to obey Christ in all things. The church is not only to evangelize the lost, but also to teach Christians to obey everything Christ has commanded. Believers are called to not simply believe in Christ, but then to pursue a life of obedience and devotion to Him.

A disciple is not simply one who acknowledges the work of Christ, but rather one who gives his life to learning from and obeying Christ. Studying the Word of God in order to understand and obey it is the disciple’s lifelong mission, because, as John MacArthur puts it, “in order to obey Him it is obviously necessary to know what He requires.” According to Matthew 28:19-20 then, a disciple is “a born again believer who desires to learn what the Bible teaches, seeks to obey God’s instruction, is committed to following Christ’s example, and teaches the truths of Scripture to others” (MacArthur Commentary).

The First Great Commission

MATTHEW 10:1-31:

I recently was studying Matthew 10:1-31, and found the context/background information interesting, and thought I would share it. It’s the account of the first time Christ commissioned the 12 disciples to go out and preach the Gospel.

Matthew 10 should not be confused with the “Great Commission.” This account is of an earlier commissioning of the 12 for a short-term mission. There is some discussion as to how far along in Christ’s ministry this takes place, it seems to be well into His Galilean ministry, but at least in the first half of His 3 ½ year ministry.

The account in Matthew 10 is recorded in two parallel passages – Mark 6:7-11, and Luke 9:1-5, but Matthew 10 gives the fullest account.

Matthew 10 is the first time Matthew refers to the “12” disciples as such. It is implied that they were already a group prior to this, but this is the first explicit reference to them as a distinct group.

It’s also the only time Matthew uses the term “Apostle.” We often think about the fact that apostle means “sent one” or “sent out ones,” and leave it at that; but really, it’s more than that – it’s more weighty than that… an apostle is someone who represents someone else to the degree of having their authority… like an ambassador, what the apostle says or does, is to be accepted as though the one whom they represent (in this case, Jesus) was himself saying it.

PRECEEDING CONTEXT:

Just prior to this commission, Jesus has been traveling around Galilee (9:1), preaching the “gospel of the Kingdom” (9:35) in every town. This was the same message John the Baptist preached, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

WORKERS ARE FEW:

What’s going on right before Matthew 10 is that Jesus was basically modeling the ministry His apostles were going to continue – He was teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news, healing every disease and sickness.

But then He says to His disciples that the harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. So this leads into chapter 10, where He actually commissions and sends them as those much-needed workers.

ONLY TO ISRAEL:

In chapter 10 verse 6, we read that the disciples were not to go to any Gentile or Samaritan towns, but only to preach to the house of Israel. That is, not that Jesus ever rejected gentiles or Samaritans – we see Him accepting them graciously as well – but the Kingdom of God was being offered to Israel, it was to belong to Israel, and it wasn’t until the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, that the message was then explicitly carried on to Gentiles as Gentiles (with no need to convert to Judaism) as well.

SHORT TERM MISSION:

It’s important to remember that the immediate context is that Jesus is giving instructions for a short-term evangelistic mission. This is important because it helps us understand a couple things Jesus says to His disciples, such as instructing them to only go to Jewish towns, and the things he tells them to take/not take.

The need to travel light (no extra shirt/shoes/money etc.) is a function of this short-term aspect and the urgency of the immediate mission. Later, we do see Jesus directing the disciples to buy swords, make sure they have enough money, take a pack, etc. (Luke 22:35-37).

The other thing that’s really interesting is verse 14, where Jesus says that if anyone doesn’t accept the message, to leave that town, and shake off the dust from your feet. The Jews considered themselves defiled by the dust of a heathen country. So, to shake the dust of any city of Israel off of one’s clothing or feet was an emblematical action, signifying a renunciation of any further connection with them, and placing them on a level with the cities of the heathen nations. Jesus is saying, “if they don’t accept the message, just move on.” The Jews should have known enough Scripture to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah, so if they reject the apostles’ message, it’s not because they don’t understand something well enough, it’s because they are knowingly rejecting Jesus as their Messiah. That’s why Jesus says in verse 15 that it will be worse for them than Sodom and Gomorrah – it’s because of that level of revelation to which they have been exposed that makes them even more accountable.

The more truth you are aware of, the more accountable you are for your response to that truth.

While Jesus is giving instructions for the immediate short-term mission, there are also some instructions regarding what it will be like to be a disciple of Christ in general, even after Jesus is gone – after the resurrection – which would apply to us today as well. I encourage you to study this passage further, and pursue a deeper level of discipleship!