When God’s people make their center the worship of God through Christ, set apart from the world by truth, Christ indicates that two things happen: first, as we draw near to fellowship with God, we become one with one another, and second, that very communion we have with God and with one another causes the world to believe in Christ.
After Jesus died and rose again, he appeared to his disciples and many others, beginning a short period of teaching before he ascended back to heaven. During this time, Jesus prepared his disciples for the mission he was giving to them, telling them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). In other words, just as God the Father sent the Son into the world to accomplish the mission of redeeming his people, so Jesus was now sending his disciples on a mission, and he made that mission explicit just prior to his ascension. Known as the “Great Commission,” Jesus commanded his disciples,
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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
The imperative verb in this commission identifies the central purpose for the church, the body of believers the apostles would found: “make disciples.” Jesus’s mission for his followers was that they would make more followers, and the other participles in this commission as well as descriptions of this commission recorded in Mark and Luke explain how making disciples would take place.
First, making disciples requires proclamation of the gospel. Mark’s account of this commission emphasizes this necessity: “God into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:14). Luke records the content of this gospel message: “Thus it is written, that Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46–47). A disciple is a follower of Christ, and the only way to follow him is to repent and believe in him. Second, baptizing new disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit was to be the visible sign of membership into Christ’s body, the church. As we shall see, baptism becomes an important liturgical rite that identified converts with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Third, Christ commanded that his followers teach these new disciples to observe all that he had commanded. Here we find explicit instruction regarding the formation of a Christian’s religion (his theology and worldview) as well as his behavior (his culture).