The two great commandments that drive disciple-making

The two great commandments that drive disciple-making

The two great commandments that drive disciple-making

As the dust begins to settle on the start of a new year, it seems like it might be a good time to refocus our attention on the core business of growing the vine. So today we begin a three-part series which I hope will be a great spur and encouragement to your work of disciple-making in 2023.

“Wait! Two great disciple-making commandments? Surely, you mean one?! Matthew 28:19 is the command that drives the disciple-making agenda, isn’t it?”

Actually, no. Well… yes. It does, and rightly so. But Jesus says there are two more primary commandments:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:36-40)

I want to suggest to you that these two great commandments drive disciple-making. Let’s think about how.

Love the Lord your God
There are lots of ways we love God, but because of who he is, all of them come back to this core idea: bringing him the glory he rightly deserves. This is the “chief end of man”, as the Westminster Catechism tells us. We certainly can glorify him through our conduct:

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation." (1 Peter 2:12)

And we can bring glory to him through our gospel speech:

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke”, we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Cor 4:13-14)

We love God by working, speaking and praying for the things that bring him glory—especially for more and more people to recognize and trust in his holy and gracious character, as revealed in the person and work of Jesus. That means people becoming disciples and growing as disciples of Jesus. We love God by showing people his glory—the glory powerfully revealed in the gospel—and encouraging them to respond in faith.

Love your neighbour as yourself
As a Christian, how do I love myself? How do I do good towards myself? Certainly I take care of my own needs, whether that’s something as basic as food, or as deep as emotional well-being. And God’s command is that I extend that care to others around me as well.

But I also seek to grow myself in understanding and appreciation of our glorious God and his gospel. I go to church each week to be reminded of the truth and encouraged to keep trusting it. I regularly read my Bible, both on my own and with others. I pray for my own growth in Christian maturity. I’ve come to realise that doing all those things is good for me as a follower of Jesus.

And if I love myself in those ways, why would I not love my neighbour in the same ways? Why would I not want them to also grow in their understanding and appreciation of God and his gospel? Why would I not want them to come to church too? Why would I not be keen to help them read the Bible? Why would I not pray just as earnestly for their discipleship as for mine?

So why make disciples? Because by doing so we love God and we love our neighbour as ourselves.

That’s the ‘why’ of disciple-making. Next—in Part 2—we’ll explore the ‘how’.

[For more on the way that the two great commandments shape church life, see chapter 3 of Gathered Together by Karl Deenick.]

Ian Carmichael

Ian has been with Matthias Media from its beginning (1988). In late 2020 he stepped down from the CEO role, and now works as an honorary consultant and editor for Matthias Media. Ian and his wife, Stephanie, have two adult children, two (gorgeous) grandchildren, and are part of Chatswood Presbyterian church in Sydney.