Audio Worship 1/14/2024 "To Make Disciples" Matthew 28.16-20

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1621

January 14, 2024

Matthew 28.16-20           Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“To Make Disciples”



16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


Today, we are finishing our look into our church vision statement, “Living God’s Word to Make Disciples”. Last Sunday we saw in John’s gospel the importance of abiding in the Word of God, obeying what the Word commands, and doing so for the sake of transforming our lives so that we might love God and neighbor with ever deepening love. We live the Word for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons is to draw other people to Jesus Christ. Today we look to Matthew’s gospel and the Great Commission. We begin with Jesus’ authority to send His people to make disciples.



  • By Jesus’ Authority


It is by the greatest authority that we have, not just permission to spread the gospel, but we are commanded to do so. There is no greater authority than Jesus. There is no earthly authority that overrides Jesus’ command. On the topic of authority I remember an old story at my seminary in the days when grape juice was being used in communion to replace wine. We don’t think twice about it these days since wine is seldom if ever used in the administration of the sacrament. Grape juice had become the norm at the seminary’s weekly Friday service of worship, but there was one time when wine was used instead of grape juice and the seminary President was not pleased. He approached the preacher for that day and asked, “Who authorized this?” The preacher for that particular service was a very old retired professor and seeing that the President was upset that wine had been used rather than juice, he looked up humbly and simply replied, “Jesus of Nazareth!” I don’t know how the President responded to that, but I would hope he turned and walked away. I do know that by the time I attended seminary we had an option in communion of wine or juice. (On a side note, I researched why we switched to juice and it is not a very good argument.)

Who authorized this? We might hear that asked in any situation that requires someone to authorize an action. So, by whose authority do we make disciples? It is by the authority given to Jesus Christ. In a culture and society where it is often frowned upon or restricted either by a company, school district, or what ever entity, I find it impossible to find an authority that has the right to override the authority of the Lord of lords and King of kings. We have, by our saving relationship with Jesus Christ, the greatest authority to share the gospel, to tell of His salvation, to say the name of Jesus, and to make disciples.

People today might ask who we think we are to witness to someone about Jesus. Who said you could say that? Who said you could do this? Our simple response...Jesus did. Not only that we could, but that we must. It is commanded. We are commissioned to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing, teaching, and all with the authority of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.



  • Go Therefore…


Since we have this authority to go, Jesus tells us to go. You may already know that the Greek term here is literally “as you are going.” As you are going about your life, your job, your shopping, your recreation, your we are going, make disciples. The inference is that making disciples is a part of what it means to follow Jesus. In the Book of Order for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, we read about our responsibility as a church and our mission as a church. “It is the privilege and primary responsibility of the local church to worship God regularly (G4-2)…It is the primary mission of the local church to evangelize, making disciples by extending the gospel both at home and abroad (G4-3)”. First and foremost we are to worship God, giving Him thanks, praise, and glorifying His name. This is our responsibility. Our mission is to make disciples. It is not an impossible mission, but a mission that sends us into the world, into our community with the presence of Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit and by the power of the Holy Sacred Word of God.

As we are going, as we are living our lives it is our mission to take the gospel message with us, to share it when the opportunity presents itself. I realize that there are not opportunities every day and I know that even when those opportunities arise we may not recognize them or we might be afraid to say anything for various reasons. The world has set the stage to make it more difficult for anyone to speak anything that does not fit a particular narrative. But our narrative, our story, our text is truth and it needs telling today as much as any day. What I would pray for in our everyday going out and coming in is that we would become so gospel minded that it would just be natural to speak of Jesus. Not forced on people, but an expression of who we are as His disciples seeking to make more disciples. I believe it takes time to build relationship with people before we can truly be effective in sharing the gospel. We find ways to bring faith or hope or love into a conversation that can lead to Jesus and salvation. Probably the most effective conversations I have ever had with people were those that came naturally without self-awareness, just telling people what I believe and why I believe it.

Peter speaks of our being able to defend our hope...

1 Peter 3.13-17, 13Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.


We honor Jesus as we go and as we prepare to go able to share why we put our hope in Jesus Christ. Dare we say that we dishonor Christ if we have no preparation to defend our faith? Something to consider. Peter’s admonition is to defend our faith with gentleness and respect. People will not listen if we are coercive and disrespectful. Do you give any time to listen to people who have no respect? As we are going, share the good news, with integrity, with gentleness, with respect.






  • Make Disciples…


Go therefore and make disciples. What does it mean to make a disciple? First it involves repentance and confession. One turns from sin and confesses the Lord Jesus, believing in the heart that He is Lord and Savior. From there it involves teaching and training – in the home, in the church, to the world. Our text for that teaching and training is the Bible. 2 Timothy 3.16-17, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Scripture is not to be reduced to a training manual because the Bible is so much more than that. The Bible is not mere words on a page, much more than that. As we saw last Sunday, the Word is living and active, it is Truth, and it is a generative Word that transforms us into the people God intends us to be. The Word is our God-breathed narrative for training.

We have a responsibility to become faithful disciples ourselves, to be holy, to work out our sanctification (Philippians 2.12). Part of the witness we give to others has to be that we are genuine disciples of Jesus Christ. Part of our discipleship of others is demonstrating in our words and actions that we are faithful, growing in Christ, willing to come along side others to help them on their journey and also willing to allow others to correct us and teach us.

I think back to all the people who crossed my path even long before I was a believer. You will also have a list of people when you take a moment to think about it, people who have touched you in a significant way and therefore built you up one step closer to Jesus. My list begins with my mother and grandmother, it goes through teachers and students in middle school and high school and, at least to the point of conversion, moves to some significant friends who led me to Christ. And then the journey as a Christian has people who have taught me and influenced me and then in the other direction those whom I have taught and mentored. We are being made disciples even as we make disciples. But all of it is because of God the Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We can only make disciples by the presence of God in Christ by the Spirit.


  • Promised Presence


At the end of Matthew 28, Jesus promises to be with us always to the end of the age. This was the promise at His birth as well, to call Him Emmanuel, God with us. This promise is affirmed again in Acts 1.8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus promised to be with us through all our life. I am reminded of Moses’ conversation with God in Exodus 33


12Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15And he [Moses] said to him [God], “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”


The presence of God is foundational to our ability to make disciples. We can also pray to God as Moses did, “Lord I ain’t going without You!” Only by His presence is the authority with us. As soon as we think we can do this on our own, we have lost our way.


But we are not alone in the mission. We are never alone. We are not left to our own ability or memory or strength because there is the promise of never being abandoned. The fact that Jesus promises to always be with us also, I believe, includes all the promises of presence throughout the Bible:


  • But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14.26). This verse reiterates the presence of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Two other things are promised...the Holy Spirit will teach us all things and bring to remembrance all that Jesus has said to us. Now, that means we might need to know what Jesus has said so that it can be brought to memory! This is a verse I rely on heavily when having conversations with people about the things of God. The more we know that Word, the more the Spirit can bring to remembrance when it is needed. We have a responsibility to become students, disciples ourselves, whom the Spirit can teach and remind.

  • The presence of the Holy Spirit means we need not fear. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1.9). We are not alone in our mission. God is always with us and that encourages us to be strong, confident, and courageous…in no way arrogant in this knowledge, but humble with authority.

  • Philippians 4.19 speaks to the Lord providing all that we need of our lives and for our mission. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” This is the power of God’s sustaining presence.


These are only three of the many promises that come with God’s continued presence. The more we learn of these promises, the greater our desire to live God’s Word and make disciples. The more we trust in these promises, the greater our joy to see other come to Christ. The more we grow in Christ, the more fear is set aside and we can share our story as naturally as breathing.


Jesus told three parables in Luke 15 that all have the same result...hear the first from Luke 15.3-7, 3So he told them this parable: 4“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.


“Living God’s Word to Make Disciples” is a vision that we hope we can trust as a church and as individuals so that we can expand the kingdom of God and find those lost souls, extend to them the Word of Truth, and we will then know the joy of heaven over one sinner who repents. Amen.