The Great Commission is to make disciples. That process involves bringing people to a point of commitment in baptism, and teaching them.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).
Teaching has two parts to it. It includes both information and action. Making disciples was not just about teaching, but about “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Information is important. It is important not only that one have faith, but that faith has the proper object. If I have faith in a rotten foot bridge I risk falling through it. On the other hand, I know people that are extremely fearful of any bridge even though they have driven across strong, sound, trustworthy bridges thousands of time. Their fear is unfounded. Jeremiah wrote of manmade idols, “They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish” (Jer 10:15). The object of one’s faith is just as important as the faith itself.
It is the responsibility of the pastor and teachers of our church to teach God’s Word well. The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching . . . “ (Ac 2:42). Jude appealed to us “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). What we believe is important, but what we do with what we believe is equally important. Jesus taught, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Mt 7:24). Jesus teaching was not so that his disciples could pass a theology test, as important as theology is. His teaching was intended to be put into action. Teaching God’s Word is about both information and application.
I have heard some sermons passionately calling people to action, but there was little biblical content to their message. I have heard sermons eloquently describe and explain the Scriptures, but there was no call to action. The two must come together. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Notice that the value of scripture is expressed in three words and a phrase: teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness. Three of those four are about action and application.
We believe that we glorify God by teaching his Word well and motivating those who hear to put his Word into action in their lives. Romans 12:2 tells us not to be squeezed into the mold of the world, but to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The goal of that renewal is not so that we can pass a Bible knowledge test, but so that we will be able to “discern what is the will of God” (Rom 12:2). Our goal then, as believers, is to know God’s Word well and put it into practice in our lives. The old hymn had it right, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey” (John H. Sammis, 1887). It is to that end that we teach the Word of God, and in trusting and obeying God is glorified.