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