Teaching Them to Observe
“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20).
The commission given us by Christ not only involves making disciples and baptizing them, but teaching them as well. A disciple is a learner and so must be taught. While there is a teaching in the heart which is the direct work of the Holy Spirit, we find here a responsibility to actively teach others.
The work of the pastor/teacher includes providing instruction which prevents disciples from being swept about by every wind of doctrine. Paul warns that there are some who would deceive by cunning craftiness so the truth must be spoken in love to promote stability and spiritual growth.
What to Teach
Jesus makes it clear that the things to be taught are those things “I have commanded you.” Some teachers with a desire to have others conform to their way of thinking will substitute legalistic rules or long standing traditions for the commandments of Jesus. Much damage can be done to a young disciple by such efforts because it is then difficult for them to discern the difference between biblical truth and man-made rules.
Our Lord specifically forbids anyone to teach for doctrine the commandments of men.
When Paul was leaving the church at Ephesus he emphasized that his teaching there had been the counsel of God and not the opinions of man: “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and taught you plublickly, and from house to house…For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:20 & 27).
Then when writing to Timothy he reminds this young minister that his preaching and exhortation must be from the Word. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). We read of some who should have been teachers but had not properly used the Word to prepare for that ministry. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Hebrews 5:12).
It is a great responsibility to undertake the work of teaching and so it is necessary to recognize that it is only by the proper use and study of the Word that one gains spiritual discernment and the information needed to teach others.
The Need to Teach
As disciples are made and baptism is administered, Jesus said it is then necessary to teach these converts. God’s grace reaches people from many different backgrounds and influences. Some have had no religious instruction while others have been deeply entrenched in false religion.
Today people are bombarded with ideas and opinions from many different sources. There is often misunderstanding about some of the most basic Bible truths, so diligent and faithful teaching is vital. Paul rejoiced in his experience at Thessalonica because he saw idol worshipers receive the gospel and turn from their false gods.
And concerning his effort to teach them he said, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). When the apostle Paul preached at Philippi it says concerning Lydia “whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14).
In recent weeks our church has seen some international students here in Cincinnati coming out of the darkness of unbelief with their hearts open to receive the gospel and a great desire to be taught the Word of God.
What a joy it is to see those who have been drawn to Christ ready to receive His commandments!
It is a great blessing to be involved in teaching them. We should be prayerful that the Lord will bless these efforts to bear fruit and that we all maintain the attitude toward the teaching of the Word for which Paul commended the Thessalonians.
The Purpose for Teaching
The purpose of this teaching is not just to provide information for the mind but to make a difference in the heart. “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).
The original language conveys the thought of the Word being at home in you.
In other words if you have been adequately taught, and have received the Word into your heart; the Word is indeed at home in you. When a crisis is faced you will think biblically. Rather than falling apart, as is the inclination of our fallen nature, or leaning on the counsel of human philosophy, you respond in harmony with what you have been taught from God’s Word.
Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commands” (John 14:14). And then he said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:23). So Jesus specifically exhorts us to keep his commandments and then adds that the real proof of our love for him is that we will keep his commands.
For instance, one commandment upon which Jesus placed great emphasis was for his disciples to love one another. How quickly that commandment is sometimes forgotten! Differences arise, feelings are hurt and some will then even attempt to defend their refusal to show love to others. The commandments of Jesus go so far as to teach us to love our enemies and pray for them. This must become the default response of our heart.
I Am With You Always
In the process of teaching disciples to observe what Jesus has commanded, there often are discouragements that must be faced. Some do not readily receive the truth when it is taught and others walk in it for a while and then turn aside. When facing these difficulties it would be easy to say, “I give up.” But Jesus said, “I am with you always.” No greater encouragement could be given.
Since Jesus is with us when we carry out His commission, no obstacle is too great to overcome.
Even when it appears for a time that our efforts are without success, we are reminded that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. Not only does Jesus say, “I am with you always;” He says I am with you “even unto the end of the world.”
No matter how dark the times, no matter how challenging the work, Jesus says I am with you and will continue to be with you till the end. It certainly should stir us with great zeal in our labors knowing that He is with us.