Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” John 20:21
The Great Commission—Part Two
Go, Make, Baptize, Teach
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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 do all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:18-20
Good morning Prayer Team!
In the Great Commission, there are four things that Jesus commanded His followers to do: Go, Make, Baptize and Teach.
Now, I am not a linguist, but there is a linguistic nuance and a mistranslation to the Great Commission, that if understood, change its meaning.
In the English translation, we find four verbs—Go, make, baptize and teach. In the original Greek, three of the four “verbs” actually participles and only one of the four is the finite verb of the sentence. Can you guess which one is the most important “verb” and only finite verb in the sentence?
The answer is “make”, and that is not even the correct translation.
“Go” is actually “porefthenthes” or “going” in the original Greek.”
“Baptize” is actually “baptizontes,” or “baptizing” in the original Greek.
“Teach” is actually “didaskontes” or “teaching” in Greek.
With the words translated this way, the Great Commission would read:
Going therefore, 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 do all that I have commanded you.
Except that there is still a problem with “make”, which in the original Greek is “mathitefsate. The literal translation of this verb is a word that is not found in Orthodox circles but is found in many other Christian circles, and the verb is “disciple”. To disciple someone, when used as a verb, is to recruit someone to be a disciple, to go through the process of teaching someone about Christ. In others words, to disciple someone is to mentor them in the Christian faith. And this is something that Christ calls all people to do, not just the clergy.
Have you ever “discipled” someone? Has the thought ever occurred to you? Have you ever thought that this is a commandment, that Christ expects us to do this? We are all sent out to be apostles and the job of the apostle is to disciple others, so that having become committed disciples, they may become apostles and in turn disciple others. This is the way that church has grown through the centuries.
People are discipled—they come to know Christ through the efforts of someone else, perhaps a parent, or a Sunday school teacher, or a priest or a friend.
People become disciples—they become committed students of Christianity.
People become apostles—they become eager to share the faith with others.
Apostles purposely and intentionally “disciple” others—they actually bring others to Christ.
And the cycle continues. That is, until someone stops the cycle—one who has been discipled doesn’t commit to being a disciple. Or one who has been a disciple doesn’t see the need or the urgency to be an apostle. Or one says they are eager to share the faith, but they don’t do it with any kind of effort or sincerity.
Again, it is critical that we understand that the call to “disciple” all nations is a call to every person who is baptized, regardless of if they are a priest or parent or teacher or whatever role they play in life.
The other critical thing to understand is that there are four things we are commissioned to do as individual Christians and in our Christian communities—Go, make, baptize and teach. In many communities, the two verbs that are used almost exclusively seem to be “build” or “maintain.” Many churches are struggling. They hope to maintain, and not fall farther down. If they can equal the membership or fundraising of last year, they count that a win. As for the other churches that are thriving, the verb most often used is “build”. We’ve become almost obsessed with building buildings, buying property, and adorning the buildings we have with more icons and other ornate things. Someone argued recently that the highest and most important thing in a church community is the church building. There are sadly many people who think that way. However, “building” or “maintaining buildings” is not part of the Great Commission.
The highest and most important thing in a church community is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ—to go and make disciples, to baptize them and to teach them. It is something we are each commissioned to do.
Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the Lord, the Most High, is terrible, a great king over all the earth. He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom He loves. God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted. Psalm 47
Go. Disciple (Make disciples). Baptize. Teach.
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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