James really challenges us when he asks, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?” (James 2:14). What good is a faith like that? He even goes on asks, “Can that faith save him?” Wow! Is he suggesting that a faith that is lacking works is not sufficient to salvation? Aren’t we told over and over that all we have to do is believe in Jesus and we will be saved, get our ticket to heaven punched and we are good to go on way? Maybe James is simply teaching us that when we get saved we have to quit doing some ‘bad’ things. But ceasing certain activities and habits is not the same as works. ‘Not doing’ some things is not the same as ‘doing’ things.In the next several verses James continues by giving us examples and much greater clarification of an active discipleship; not simply a ‘believing’. One must question, if they are not doing the works of the Father, the works Jesus did, are they really believing? And if they are not believing the whole premise of their salvation is now wiped out.
The works of Christ were wrought to reach out to us, the broken, and bring us to a place of redemption. His words and his miracles alike were designed to draw us to himself who is the only way to the Father. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus summarizes our calling to carry on his works. “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 commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” From this passage of scripture, spoken by Jesus near the end of his time on earth, it is made clear that we are called to make disciples.
So, what exactly is it we are called to do?
1) We must recognize and accept that this is not optional, it is commanded – The tenor of this passage is very clearly one of a command. Those who are disciples are commanded to make disciples. It is surprising how many in the church today feel no need to follow or even acknowledge this command. In the parable of the sower we see that some of the seed grows up among the thorns. In the parable this plant lives but it is unfruitful. How will it go for us when we stand before the judge and he asks why we did not obey what is commanded from the very mouth of Jesus himself? The one we call Savior commands us to go and make disciples and we disobey.
2) If we are obeying there will be fruit – If we obey the command there will be fruit. In this passage Jesus promises he will be with us. He is directly referring to being with us in our efforts. It is an assurance of success. If God be for us who can be against us? Can Jesus be unfruitful? Again, the plant that is more concerned with the cares and benefits of this world is unfruitful. But the plant that lives in the Spirit will produce fruit. There are fruits of the Spirit as our lives operate in him. When we die to ourselves a new plant grows up; “unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it cannot bear fruit.” This new plant is intended to be fruitful. The harsh reality is that if our testimony and witness is not making disciples then we must seriously question the quality of that witness.
3) Making disciples is an active pursuit – The first word in this command is to go. It is not to sit. It is not to wait for them to come into church. It is not to “live good lives in front of people” so they will somehow think to ask us about Jesus. It is to go! We have to make up our minds that we will actively seek out the lost and introduce them to Jesus as Andrew did with Peter; “come and see this man”, Andrew said.
4) Making disciples is not just for people like ourselves; it is cross-cultural. Jesus commands his followers to make disciples of all nations. Some people are called to be missionaries in foreign lands, but in America one does not have to leave their own city to reach people of different cultures, backgrounds, nationalities and more. We have to see all people as broken souls in need of the Gospel.
5) Making disciples starts with the person accepting Jesus as Savior and becoming part of the body of Christ. “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…”; this clearly indicates the beginning of becoming a disciple – that choice to accept the Gospel message and become a part of the body of Christ.
6) Making disciples assimilates people into the body of Christ – To baptize is significant in that it is the action that accompanies the faith decision. This action is about bringing people into the body of Christ. The job is not done once someone makes the decision to accept the Gospel message of salvation. That person must then be assimilated into the body of believers, the eclessia.
7) Making disciples means training believers – As believers are assimilated into the body of Christ, they are to be trained on what it means to live in this body. They are to trained on how to live in the body of Christ; how to serve and how to make disciples themselves. Jesus states, “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”. The command from Jesus does not stop at the person’s initial salvation.