Commands of Jesus introduction

Greg Aikins on October 14, 2019

Obeying the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ

                It was my seminary professor, Victor Walter, who first introduced me to the importance of the commands of Jesus.  In a class called “Homiletical approach to Bible study” he remarked that we are so often taken up with the teaching of Paul and the other writers of the New Testament that we forget our first priority is to obey the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This “first thing” was surely in our Lord’s mind when he spoke to his followers before sending them into the world as his ambassadors.

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.  And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some were doubtful.  And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:16-20, NAS, emphasis mine).

                It is important to understand that the main command in this text is “make disciples.”  However the force of the command applies to the “how” (going) and “what” (baptizing and teaching) of disciple making.  It appears that in discipleship, baptism in the name of the Trinity ushers us into the journey of learning to “observe, keep and obey” what Jesus has said.  And Christ himself promises to be with us on our discipleship pilgrimage to the very end of the age by his Holy Spirit.

It has been said that Matthew’s gospel was most likely written with the express purpose of being a manual for discipleship.  Surely these closing verses provide ample authority for would-be followers of Christ to so use it, given the amount of teaching material and the number of specific commands spoken by Jesus.  The early church knew something that is often lost on us who populate congregations in the 21st century, namely, that Christians are first of all disciples (Acts 11:26).  In that light, the book of Matthew is a worthy tool for ongoing Christian self-examination, especially in a day and age where the church seems to either have forgotten disciple-making or else reduced it to an optional activity.

                Why is it so important that we “observe, keep, fulfill” all that Jesus has commanded me?  First, because to be a disciple of Jesus is to center my life in Jesus.  And how can it be so if I am not paying careful attention to what my Lord has told me to do?  The commands of Jesus are important because to be a Christian is to become a Jesus’ person, centered in him, as I learn to obey what he has told me.

Secondly, we need to take the discipleship material in Matthew seriously because the mission of God is at stake.[1]  We are part of the means God wants to use to bring things in our world into alignment with the will of God.  We are designed to be the “salt” and “light” in our everyday, mundane world so that others will be drawn to Jesus, and want to join us on this Jesus-way to God.  This can only take place as we learn to listen to and take seriously everything that our Lord says to us, so that we can think like, speak like and act like him.  And we have the assurance that the One who is with us to the end of the age, will work mysteriously even in the smallest acts of obedience to accomplish his purposes.


For consideration:  Are you ready to embark on a journey of reading, reflection and obedience to the commands of Jesus as they are presented in Matthew’s Gospel?

[1] As one writer expresses it so well, “The mission is presented as a command to be obeyed because obedience is at the heart of discipleship.  In the Gospels the disciples are those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, whose first commands are “come, follow,” and whose last is “Go.”  Eddie Gibbs, LeadershipNext: Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture, (Downers Grove: IVP, 2005), 76.