By Will Graham

The Great Commission not only tells us that we are to go forth baptizing all of those in every nation who profess faith in the Gospel. It also urges us to teach them. But what are we to teach them? Jesus makes it very simple. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). This text will be the object of our study today. Our part of the contract then is simply to teach what Jesus taught: nothing more and nothing less.

Who is apt to teach? Anyone who lives the Gospel and is well-grounded in sound doctrine. Sound doctrine, simply defined, is what the Word teaches. Those that convert to Christ and are baptized must be fed the words of life so as to grow in sanctification. No-one becomes a master of the Scriptures overnight. It is a painstakingly long process that continues through the whole of the believer’s life. According to Charles Finney, “the Bible itself was written in a style so condensed as to require much study.”

We Protestants have always put much emphasis on the teaching of the Word because the true church is built upon it. No Word means no church! That’s why the first thing you see when you walk into an Evangelical meeting-place is not an idol nor a statue nor a crucifix, but the pulpit. The pulpit represents a power even greater than that of our state-of-the-art sound-systems; it stands for the voice of Almighty God. Where the pulpit is not central in a church, the place turns to an entertainment centre and a circus. And that explains why you see so many clowns running about churches nowadays that don’t have a clue about who God is. That’s why vicious heresies like Chrislam and pro-homosexual theology are flourishing left, right and centre and nobody raises their voice to speak out. Teaching has been downplayed; we have done away with the centrality of the pulpit ministry. R.L. Dabney once commented, “The state of the pulpit may always be taken as an index of that of the church. Whenever the pulpit is evangelical, the piety of the people is in some degree healthy; a perversion of the pulpit is surely followed by spiritual apostasy in the church.”

So we teach; we teach ‘them.’ ‘Them’ in our text refers to those that convert and are baptized. This little word ‘them’ will save you from manifold troubles. It means that you don’t have to waste your time on trying to get tares to act like wheat. The best way to get goats out of the church is to give them sheep-food. Teach what Jesus taught: the sheep will grow and the goats will go!

‘Teach them to observe.’ In our contemporary tongue, ‘observe’ means ‘keep.’ The converted and baptized disciples of Jesus ‘keep’ something, namely, His Word. This term ‘keep’ is intensely practical. You may read the Confession of Faith of any Christian denomination and come across a wide array of elongated philosophical and theological expressions; but contrast those with the elementary teaching of the Wisdom of God, “Blessed are the poor in spirit...those that weep...the meek...those that hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Jesus said the greatest things in the simplest of words so that even the most ignorant and unlearned of men could understand Him. Jesus’ followers were fishermen, not philosophers.

To be a true disciple is a practical issue. Theology has a bad name in our Western world because it’s been reduced to mere metaphysical speculation by a few boring old men enclosed in ivory towers with too much free time on their hands. In other words, Christianity becomes all thought and no action. But true discipleship is all about ‘being’ a disciple. You must be a manifestation of the truth of God. Paul said, “You are the epistle of Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:3). Peter wrote, “You are a chosen generation” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus promised, “You shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Do you see the common bond? It’s being, being, being! You do what you do because you are what you are.

So we teach. We teach them. We teach them to observe. To observe what exactly? “To observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” So, if our teaching is to be what Jesus taught, that spells death for a significant part of today’s sinner-friendly sermons, such as, ‘How to build a bigger church’ or ‘How to have a better self-image’ or ‘How to be loved by society.’ Jesus is the Captain; we are the soldiers. He declares, “Teach what I taught” and we reply, “Yes, Sir!”

When I was a lad, if my father said to me, “Tomorrow, we’re getting up at five o’ clock, son” he wasn’t looking for my opinion to see whether I agreed with him or not. That statement meant I was getting up at five o’ clock. He commanded; I obeyed. If one of my friends were to say to me, “Well, I wouldn’t get up. I would stay in bed. My Dad doesn’t make me get up at that time.” I would answer, “I don’t care what you would or wouldn’t do. My Dad is not your Dad, he’s my Dad. So I will do what he tells me.” And the same is true in the spiritual realm. Why do multitudes show no interest in the things of Christ? Why are they so soon to cast off the commands of the Master? It’s quite simple really: because our Dad is not their Dad! They can preach and teach whatsoever their carnal hearts desire; but you, soldier of the Lord, be faithful to the decree of your Boss! Those beasts will reap their recompense, and we will get ours.

So your whole purpose in the Great Commission is to teach the converts to obey what Jesus has commanded. You are to teach what Jesus taught; and that’s all He has demanded of you. Be faithful to your calling. Be faithful to those precious converts. And above all, be faithful to Christ. Listen to Him saying it to you one more time: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”