Imagine that today is your last day to live on this earth. What would you tell your loved ones? What would you say to your friends and family before you left them behind? It’s safe to assume that most everyone would say the most important thing on their mind, and maybe even offer words of comfort to those around them.
In Matthew 28 we read of Jesus rising from the dead; of two women finding an empty tomb and running to tell the apostles; of the skeptical worship these men offered Jesus when they realized He was alive again. We read the last words Jesus spoke to His brethren before He ascended into heaven. In verses 19-20, Jesus says “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.”
This was so important to our Lord that it was one of the last things He said to the apostles before He left for His heavenly home. If these words are so crucial, we should spend more time studying them and learning how they apply to us. There are a few things we can understand by reading these words of Christ:
This applies to everyone
Yes, Jesus spoke directly to the apostles when he conveyed this message. But of course we know that it applies to us as well! 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reads “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 28:19-20 to all Christians of all time, not just to the eleven apostles who were present at His ascension (Matt. 28:16). And all Christians, of course, includes you and me. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He was equipping each of us for the ultimate good work.
This is not a suggestion
There is no implication that Jesus meant this statement as a request. In fact, there are two words in Matthew 28:19-20 that prove it is a command! Jesus told us to “Go” and “make.” Nowhere do we see Him use phrases like “I wish you would” or “why don’t you?” Since we know that Jesus commanded us to make more disciples, we can know that failing to do so would be disobeying a command from our Lord and Savior! He even states in Matthew 28:18 before the verses in question that “all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus received His authority from God, His Father. Since Christ is our ultimate authority, we must obey His commands. John 5:22-23 reads, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” Failing to do obey a command from Christ will dishonor Him as well as God!
This can be done anywhere, at anytime
If we were asked who we know that needs the gospel, most of us could think of a specific person we see on a regular basis – maybe a co-worker, a teacher, or a close friend. Maybe we have a relative we’ve lost touch with, but we know they still aren’t a Christian yet. We have plans to invite them for a Bible study some day, yet we put it off. Sometimes fear gets the best of us and we decide to wait just a little longer. I’m speaking to myself more than anyone right now – there always seems to be an excuse in my mind why today is not the perfect day to talk to my friend about the Bible. But like we talked about earlier, this mindset is disobedient and dishonoring to our Lord. When we choose not to preach His word, we are disobeying one of His most important commands. So what is there to do about that? What can we do to help us improve our personal evangelism?
- Pray. This is the most important step we can take before talking to someone about Christ. And it should always be the first step! Ask God to give you the courage you need to invite your friend over for a Bible study. It may be scary, but God will help you – especially if you ask Him! (Matthew 7:7)
- Ask for advice. Talk to someone in your congregation whom you know does a great job evangelizing. Ask them how they do it! What do they recommend to help you do a better job? And if it makes you more comfortable, you can even invite them to come to the Bible study with you. It’s amazing how much more confident we can be if we simply have someone helping us.
- Study your Bible. This seems like an obvious step, but it is worth mentioning. If we’re going to be teaching someone who has never read the Bible, we need to make sure we know what we’re talking about. However, this does not mean we need to be Biblical experts before we can start teaching. If you are successful in planning a Bible study with your friend, find out where they stand. Maybe they attend a Catholic church? Or maybe they don’t believe in God at all? These are important things to know before you study, so that you can prepare an effective lesson designed just for them. Talk to someone you know who has a background in the same religion as the person you are studying with. You can even purchase a Bible to give to them if you know they don’t have one. This will mean a lot to them, and they’ll be able to study on their own.
- Just do it. As nerve-wracking as it may be at first, the best way to start a Bible study with someone is to just ask them! If this person is already a friend of yours, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to agree to meet up and spend some time studying the Bible. Maybe they won’t agree to it the first time, but don’t let that discourage you. They may be just as nervous as you are, and it will just take some time. If you’re talking to someone you’ve just met, you never know how they’ll respond! There are so many people out there looking for the truth, and the person checking out their groceries in front of you may just be one of those people!
There are so many ways to make your study more effective. But as long as you’ve gone through these steps, your Bible study is sure to be effective. Evangelism is so important that Jesus made sure His apostles heard it right before He ascended into heaven. So no matter how many people respond to your invitations, or how often they agree to study – if you’re trying your best to preach His word, Jesus is so proud of you. Let’s not forget the last thing He says in Matthew 28:20, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
By Rosie Smith