Carrying Out The Great Commission: A Christian Teacher’s Imperative

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

What is the emphasis of this text? It has been called “The Great Commission” … “The Official Commissioning.” How does that verse apply to teachers and administrators? Is our emphasis on “go” — making the Great Commission primarily an extension or outreach command based on an imperative verb: “go?” Are we to leave our classrooms and “go” in order to be obedient to the imperative commissioning statement of Jesus? An imperative statement indicates power or command. It is absolutely urgent; necessary. An imperative verb orders us to do something,

For many years I misinterpreted the emphasis of Matthew 28:18-20. I believed the focal point was on the command “go.” It was really confusing for me because I would hear this verse and still believe that I was where God wanted me to be. As I was obedient to His voice, God continued to bless me right where I was. As a college professor, I was preparing students to go into Christian school teaching as a career/ministry. I enjoyed what I was doing. However, every time a missions speaker would come for a chapel, he or she would invariably quote Matthew 28:18-20. That would again cause me to feel uncomfortable– was I disobeying God by not being open to “go?” When I was not teaching at the Bible college, I was involved in my church as a minister of music and as a Bible study leader in a discipleship group. Was I a 2nd class Christian? Was God withholding His full blessing because I didn’t “go” according to Matthew?

The word “go” is not an imperative verb. “Go” is a participial form in Greek (poreutentes) -poreuthentes- and should be translated “while you go”, or “in your going” or “as you go.” It is the context of the main verb in the passage. Jesus was addressing a mobile company. They were always on the go, always traveling. The mobility of the New Testament is the background for the making of disciples.

“Make disciples” or “Disciple ye all the nations” is the only imperative form in the passage. In the Greek, “Mateteuo” – Matheteuo- means to make a disciple and implies instruction with reference to loyalty and devotion. It is discipline that is the thrust of the passage. The same word is translated as “teach” in the King James.

There is a real richness, a real diversity of the concept “teach” in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. What I say in English today may have a slightly different meaning in Chinese. My translator must select a word that fits the best. It is probable that those who hear my words in English, may not have the same exact understanding as those who hear the message in Chinese.

Let me share with you several key words in scripture that can expand our understanding of what it means for teachers to carry out the Great Commission.

“LAMATH” is the most common word for teaching, learning in the Old Testament. This word does not mean a dumping of facts on students, but a stimulation to imitation or action. This kind of learning means to become experienced. It means to become accustomed to something new.

Deut. 5:1 “And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: ‘Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn and be careful to observe them.”

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will guide you with my eye.”

In our classrooms, we need to stimulate our students to take action. We know that we are part of the Great Commission when our students are different people with different behavior. As teachers we need to be careful to stress application.

D.L. Moody said: “The Scriptures were not given for our information, but for our transformation.”

Application that has impacted the teacher tends to impact the student more. As teachers, we should stimulate life change in students by properly applying the Scriptures. We need to teach the truth as a means to an end, and not have the truths become the end of our teaching. We must avoiding dumping facts (truths) on our students without showing them the applications to their own lives.

“YAHOO-DAG” is a Hebrew word that means to know by experience or by one’s own observations. Part of teaching requires us to allow our students to make observations on their own; to have concrete experiences. Some children learn best by doing, by experiencing first-hand. Other children are visual learners. Still other children are predominantly oral learners. They learn by listening. A wise teacher needs to plan lessons that favors the learning styles of the students.

“BEEN” is another Hebrew word to describe the teaching-learning process basically means “to separate.” It came to mean distinguish. Learning is not a body of facts transferred by the teacher to the student. It includes the concepts of differentiating, drawing conclusions, distinguishing, discriminating. When we teach we need to help our students to examine the facts and then to draw conclusions, to discriminate.

Job 6:24 “Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; Cause me to understand wherein I have erred.”

Neh. 8:7-8 “Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Asariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.”

Psalm 139:2 “You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.”

YAH-RAH is yet another Hebrew word translated into English as “teach.” Understanding the original meaning of “YAH-RAH” will help us in carrying out the Great Commission. Yah-Rah means to cast, throw or shoot as putting seeds into the ground. From this comes the idea of directive teaching. The words means to point out or to direct one in a new path.

I Sam 12:23 “Moreover, as for me, far be it from that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.”

Gen 46:28 “Then he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out before him the way to Goshen. And they came to the land of Goshen.”

Psalm 119:33 “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.”

SHAH-NAN is a Hebrew word that is used only once in the didactic sense, the teaching sense. SHAH-NAN means to sharpen or whet…to whet the appetite or senses for learning.

Deut 6:7 “You shall sharpen your children’s minds, cut deep into their understanding that they may know me…”

The original Greek language used in the New Testament is rich in the meanings for our word “teach” in the English language.

DIDASKO (Didasko) is the most common Greek word for teaching. The focus is on the activity of teaching.

COL 1:28 “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

COL 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

II TIM 2:2 “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

PAIDEUO Paideuo means “to give guidance, instruct, train.” It is used in the sense of raising a child. It can also refer to the corrective or disciplinary aspect of education. The verb comes from the noun that means a little child.

ACTS 7:22 “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.”

I COR 11:32 “But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the Lord.”

II TIM 2:25 “In humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth…”

EPH 6:4 “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

KATEKEO Katekeo is a Greek word that means the giving out of information, of communicating fact, or reporting, informing. It means to teach orally in regard to the elements of religion. From this comes our word catechism. Too often, teachers use KATEKEO style as their dominant teaching style. We know today that students have learning styles of which we teachers need to be aware. Not all students learn best by listening. Some are readers (visual learners). Some require hands-on activities to really understand (kinesthetic learners). Those who learn best by listening (oral learners) will benefit from teacher whose style of teaching is KATEKEO. As “The Great Teacher,” Jesus himself used a variety of teaching styles.

LUKE 1:4 “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.”

ACTS 18:25 “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord…”

GAL 6:6 “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.”

DIERMENEUO Diermeneuo means exclusively to “translate” or “interpret.” In Scripture this word refers to an “unfolding” or “opening” up of scriptural truth. As Christian teachers, we have the privilege and responsibility to “open up” the truths of Scripture to our students.

LUKE 24:27 “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

EKTITHEMI Ektithemi is a Greek word that is used only in the book of Acts, and then only four times. It means “to set forth, expound, to explain” the facts in logical order. As Christian teachers, we will need to explain facts. We will need to expound on Biblical truths as we seek to carry out the Great Commission. We will need to bring out hidden truths for our students.

ACTS 11:4 “But peter explained it to them in order from the beginning..”

ACTS 18:26 “So he (Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

HODAGEO Hodageo is yet another Bible word that focuses on the teaching-learning process. HODAGEO means to lead or guide, to lead or cause one to discover spiritual truth, doctrinal truth. The Ethiopian desired to have someone guide him in his desire to understand the Scriptures. Philip guided him in scriptural discernment. In the same manner, we as teachers need to be sensitive to God’s spirit in helping our students to understand spiritual truth.

ACTS 8:30-31 “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.”

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) Carrying Out The Great Commission: Is the Christian Teacher’s Imperative. Scripture shows us that the teaching-learning process is very comprehensive. It involves the “pouring into a student” and the “drawing out of a student” as we make disciples.

How can we carry out “The Great Commission?” I believe it requires both discipline and modeling.

It requires discipline from teachers, from the students, and from the students’ parents.

I believe that modeling is the most important part a teacher has in the discipling process of carrying out the Great Commission.

LUKE 6:40 “Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

Paul exhorted his “students” to ‘follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” I pray that all the teachers at this conference will be able to model Jesus Christ in their speech and actions.

I would like to close with a short list of factors that enhance the teaching-learning process, that its, the “discipling process.” Dr. Larry Richards in writing A Theology of Christian Education, stated:

There needs to be frequent, long-term contact with the model. Your students need to be around you all the time over a long period of time. That demands that as teachers, we need to be consistent!

There needs to be a warm, loving relationship with the model. Few students are attracted to a model, a teacher, who is not a caring person. Students know when be are being genuine.

There needs to be exposure to the inner states of the model. What does that mean? We need to be transparent before our students. We need to “walk our talk” as some say. Our actions need to match our conversation.

The model needs to be observed in a variety of life settings and situations.

The model needs to exhibit consistency and clarity in behaviors, values, etc.

There needs to be a correspondence between the behavior and the beliefs of the community. In other words, a Christian school teacher needs to be the personification of the Christian school. When students think back on their Christian school, you should be in their minds. What the school believes and stands for, I am!

Finally, there needs to be explanation of life style of the model conceptually, with instruction accompanying shared experiences. As teachers in the discipling process, we need to model by our life style and also to share with our students why we live the way we do.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

What is the emphasis of this text? “Make disciples” or “disciple ye all the nations” is the only imperative form in the passage in Matthew 28:18-20. In that discipling, in that teaching process, we as Christian school teachers have tremendous flexibility in our teaching styles.

I encourage each of you to:

Listen daily to God’s voice for His leading.
Positively present to your students what God has given to you. What is working for you, will help them, too!
Share Scriptural applications with your students, not just facts.
Pray with them and for them.
Love your students because you are loved.
Involve yourself and your students in reaching out to others in love, in service, in ministry.

In doing these, you will effectively carry out the “Great Commission” in making disciples.