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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, March 24, 2007
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 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 28:19-20).

Concerning our text, Dr. John R. Rice correctly said,

Notice that teach here does not mean expounding the Scriptures to Christians. It means to make disciples. It is the word used for disciple in Matthew 27:57 about Joseph of Arimathaea. The feminine form is used for disciple for “a certain disciple named Tabitha” in Acts 9:36. So, the first commandment in the Great Commission is to make disciples, the teaching that leads them to be baptized (John R. Rice, D.D., Why Our Churches Do Not Win Souls, Sword of the Lord, 1966, p. 22).

Thus Dr. Rice gave the essential meaning of Matthew 28:19-20.

Dr. Charles C. Ryrie said that “teach all nations” means “make disciples of all nations. This is the one command in the Commission. It is surrounded by three participles: go (lit., going), baptizing, teaching (v. 20). This is the [evangelistic] task of the church” (Charles C. Ryrie, Ph.D., The Ryrie Study Bible, Moody Press, 1978, note on Matthew 28:19).

So, “make disciples” is the “one command” in the Great Commission, which is then to be followed by baptizing and teaching. Therefore Dr. Rice was quite correct when he said, concerning “teach” in Matthew 28:19, that, “[it] does not mean expounding the Scriptures to Christians. It means to make disciples” (ibid.).

How did the early Christians “make disciples”? Look at Acts 6:1. Here we are told,

“The number of the disciples was multiplied” (Acts 6:1).

It literally means that the number of disciples was “increasing.” Now, we should ask ourselves why the number of disciples was increasing, what was the approach that led to the increasing number of them? The answer is given in the preceding verse. Please stand and read the second half of Acts 5:42, beginning with the words, “they ceased not…”

“They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).

“[And] the number of the disciples was multiplied” (Acts 6:1).

There you have it! The way to “make disciples,” the way for “the number of the disciples [to be] multiplied,” is to “teach and preach Jesus Christ” without ceasing!

“They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).

Dr. R. C. H. Lenski said, “The imperfect, ‘they were not ceasing,’ with its complimentary present participles is still descriptive, and ‘were not ceasing’ (negative) is a litotes [a figure in which an affirmative is expressed by a negation of the contrary] for ‘were ever continuing.’ The first participle, ‘teaching,’ is made more specific by the second, ‘proclaiming as good news Jesus the Christ’… in the full sense of preaching the gospel” (R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, Augsburg, 1961 reprint, pages 237-238). Never for a moment did the apostles cease their blessed work(ibid., page 237).

“And in those days…the number of the disciples was multiplied” (Acts 6:1).

Brethren, if we want to see the number of disciples multiplied in our church, we must do the same thing: cease not to teach and preach Jesus Christ! “Never for a moment did the apostles cease their blessed work” (Lenski, ibid.).

Let us note that the word translated “preach” in Acts 5:42 is from the Greek word for evangelize (Strong), to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ!

In these dark days of declension and weakness, most churches have stopped preaching Jesus Christ, and have turned to “teaching the Christians.” But let us follow the Apostles, and never for a moment cease the blessed work of evangelistic preaching! Let us go back to apostolic preaching, evangelistic preaching, preaching which is centered in Christ Jesus Himself! Let it be said of us, “they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Then shall we see “the number of the disciples…multiplied.”

And yet our evangelistic preaching will do little good if the lost do not hear it. Therefore, as in days of old, we must “compel them to come in, that [God’s] house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). Let us bring them into the womb of the local church and give birth to them by preaching the Gospel of Christ, and then spend time alone with each one, carefully listening to them, answering their questions thoughtfully, listening again to their answers, going over it all again, and leading them to a full trust in Christ. “And in those days…the number of disciples [will be] multiplied!”

When I was a teenager we knew this was the way to get people saved. We knew we had to get the lost into the services to hear evangelistic preaching, and speak with the preacher afterwards. But today who thinks of this? We must go back to the old way and “compel them to come in.” We must preach the Gospel ceaselessly! We must have continual evangelism in our church! Then, and only then, will the number of disciples be multiplied!

Give us a watchword for the hour,
A thrilling word, a word of power,
A battle cry, a flaming breath
That calls to conquest or to death.

A word to rouse the church from rest,
To heed the Master’s [strong request].
The call is given: Ye hosts, arise,
Our watchword is, evangelize!

The glad evangel now proclaim,
Through all the earth, in Jesus’ name;
This word is ringing through the skies:
Evangelize! Evangelize!

To dying men, a fallen race,
Make known the gift of Gospel grace;
The world that now in darkness lies,
Evangelize! Evangelize!
   (“Evangelize! Evangelize!” by Dr. Oswald J. Smith, 1889-1986).

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Click here to read “Evangelize! Evangelize!”

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