The Church, Part 1: Purpose

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

The Church, Part 1: Its Purpose

Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus

Matthew 28:16-20


I had been planning to talk about raising children this
morning as part of our "Holy & Free" series, but we
are going to take a break from that for the month of October. I
will get back to raising children and the several other issues
left in that series in November.

This morning we are going to start a five week series dealing
with the church and its purpose. I want to make sure that all of
us have a good understanding of God’s purpose of the church
and the major ways in which that purpose is to be fulfilled. This
will be review for many of you, but the principle brought out in
2 Peter 2:1 applies here too. We often need to be reminded of
things we had learned earlier. One of the things I discovered
from the report given by our church consultant a month ago is
that many are a bit fuzzy about the purpose of Grace Bible
Church. This five week series will help make that clear once

Grace Bible Church Purpose: Glorifying God

Our church purpose statement is printed in the bulletin header
every week. The purpose of Grace Bible Church is fulfilled in "Glorifying
God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ."
The first part
of that statement should be a given for any church. Everything
has been created by God for God (Colo. 1:16). Everything exists
for His Glory, and that includes the church. Ephesians 3:21
states this directly saying, "to Him [be] the glory in
the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and
ever. Amen."

It is the second phrase that varies from church to church. How
is the church supposed to glorify God? We believe the answer if
found in the command Jesus gave to the church just prior to His
ascension. Turn to Matthew 28:16-20.

Grace Bible Church Purpose: Be Used By God.

All of Matthew’s gospel account culminates in this short
passage. It is often called the Great Commission because it is
Jesus’ final command which encompasses all of His other commands.
It is great because it is the preeminent command that defines the
purpose of the Christian and so defines the reason for all that
Jesus did.

Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into
Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And
when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And
Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto
me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost: {teach…: or, make disciples, or,
Christians of all nations} 20 Teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway,
[even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

Why Jesus Came

Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven for a purpose, and
that is not the purpose that many people think. Luke 19:20 is
often cited as the central message of the gospel that Jesus came
to "seek and to save that which was lost." Certainly
that is true, but man centered theology has distorted its
meaning. Salvation is now often presented as being rescued from
an unsatisfactory life to a wonderful life. Among those that
still preach about hell, it is being rescued from hell to heaven.
One of the most often used tracts of the last 30 years begins by
stating that "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for
your life."
While that is a true statement, what
constitutes a wonderful life is according to God’s
definition, not your own. That "wonderful" life
according to Jesus will include being hated by the world (John
15:19) resulting in persecution and false accusations against you
because of your relationship to Jesus (Matt. 5:11,12 etc.).

The purpose of the Lord Jesus leaving the glories of heaven
behind in order to become a man, live a sinless life, die on the
cross for our sins, and then be resurrected from the dead was to
enable you to be useful to God. In other words, Jesus came that
you might be saved from sin and its effects, not for your sake,
but rather for His own sake. Paul states it this way in Ephesians
1:6,7 "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of
children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good
pleasure of his will, 6
To the praise of the glory of
his grace
, wherein he hath made us accepted in the
beloved . . .".
Paul adds a few verses later, 11 In
whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated
according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the
counsel of his own will: 12
That we should be to the
praise of his glory
. . .".

Salvation is not man centered, it is God centered. It is God
redeeming man to Himself that man may again accomplish the
purpose for which he was created in the first place, which is to
bring glory to God.

For those who are true Christians, the Great Commission is not
an option. Though it is popular in some circles to talk about
being a disciple as some second step in Christianity, our text
this morning shows that being a disciple and making disciples is
central to the very purpose of being a Christian. The great
tragedy is that the majority of those who profess to be
Christians do little to nothing in fulfilling Jesus’ commandment
here. Why? Two reasons.

First, many that profess never did confess and in reality are
Christless. In other words, they have a false profession of
faith. They either do not know who Jesus really is or they have
not placed their trust in Him alone for salvation. They are
actually placing their faith in Christ plus something else, or
something else entirely.

The second reason is ignorance. I do not mean they are stupid,
but just untaught and inexperienced in the walk of faith. I hope
to clear up the first part of that this morning and challenge you
to fulfill Jesus command here. What exactly is it that Jesus does
command? And how does a person become capable to fulfill this
great commission?

People God Can Use

There are three things necessary for the Christian to be able
to carry out the great commission, and all three are foundational
in being a Christian. Each is demonstrated by Jesus’ disciples
who were just ordinary men. There was really nothing special
about them. They were often proud, boastful and selfish. They
even bickered with each other about who was the greatest (Mt.
20:20f). They often showed a lack of faith even over things Jesus
had previously done in their presence (Mt. 15:32f). They proved
to be fearful (Matt. 14:26, 26:56), and except for John, refused
to be seen & identified with Jesus after He was arrested and
was crucified. Even after the resurrection, they were initially
hesitant to believe (John 20). These were ordinary men, but they
later "turned the world upside down" as reported
by their opponents in Acts 17:6.

God was able to use these ordinary men because they made
themselves available to God, they were worshipful to Jesus and
they submitted to Him. God can use us in a similar way if these
characteristics – available, worshipful & submissive – mark
our lives

1) Available: Jesus told the disciples to meet Him in Galilee.
Verse 16 tells that they went there. They wanted to be available
for whatever the Master had in store for them whether it was to
learn more or serve Him. You find that to be true throughout
their lives. They often did not know what was in store for them,
but they desired to learn from Jesus whatever He would teach them
and they desired to do whatever Jesus would ask them. They made
themselves available.

Are you available? I believe that a major reason that many
Christians are not used much by the Lord is simply the fact that
they have entrapped themselves so much into what the world says
is important, that they are not available to do what the Lord
says. We mimic society and rush from place to place to accomplish
this or that with the result that we often never see the
opportunities that are right in front of us. The neighbor that
needs encouragement. The co-worker that would join us in a Bible
study if we asked them. The teen that would like for someone to
give them something to believe in, but doesn’t believe that
anyone really cares. In the rat race to keep up with the
Jones’ and fulfill society’s goal of materialistic success
we miss the opportunities to meet genuine needs both close at
hand and far away.

What soaks up your time, energy and money? Would you be able
to take advantage of an opportunity to do something for the Lord
even if it were handed to you on a silver platter, or are you
like the rat so busy trying to get through the maze to the end
that you never look up to see the hand of God offering you a way
out to a different kind of life? Are you available to God?

2) Worshipful: The disciples were also moved to worship at the
presence of Jesus Christ. Verse 17 says that when they saw Jesus
they fell down and worshiped Him. That requires an understanding
of who He is and who you are in relationship to Him. If that
thought alone does not make you fall down before Him, then you
think too highly of yourself and too low of Him. You are simply
one of the things He has created. You deserve nothing but
punishment because of your sin, yet He has chosen to love you and
give you everything. Worship of the Lord Jesus Christ is at the
heart of the true Christian. Is that true of you?

Ministry done without a heart of worship is always done in the
flesh without the Spirit’s power. It also always becomes that
person’s personal source of pride and/or power. Such ministry is
not unto the Lord for His sake, but unto themselves for their own

3) Submissive: In verse 18 we find that Jesus comes up and
begins to speak to those on that mountain. His coming close and
speaking would help to remove the doubts that some had that it
was really Him. As Jesus begins speaking He says two things that
demonstrate the necessity of obeying Him. First, what He says
about Himself, and second, the command He gives.

Jesus says that "All authority has been given to Me in
heaven and on earth."
Jesus’ claim here is unlimited.
Authority refers to Jesus right, power and freedom to do as He
pleases and command others to do as He pleases. Jesus’ claim here
is that this authority has been given to Him by the Father and
that it encompasses everything – the word, "all," and
the phrase, "heaven and earth," reinforcing each other
in expressing the idea that Jesus has authority over all created

It is Jesus’ right to command us. It is our responsibility to
obey. It is ludicrous for someone to say that they believe Jesus’
claims and trust Him for salvation and then reject what He says
and not submit to His authority. That only proves they do not
believe Jesus’ claims about Himself – and one of His claims is
authority over all creation. Failure to obey subjects you to
either His chastisement if you are a believer (Heb. 12), or His
wrath if you are not a believer (Rom. 1, Rev. 20), and those that
fail to yield will eventually be forced to obey (Eph 4). The true
Christian is marked by submission which is willing obedience, not
defiance which results in forced obedience. Jesus has the
authority to command and He does so in verse 19.

Grace Bible Church Purpose: Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

Jesus’ Command

What is the command that Jesus gives? It is one command
accomplished in three elements. The Greek grammar here is one
verb, "make disciples," with three participles:
"going," "baptizing," and
"teaching." We are to "make disciples" by
"going," "baptizing" and

The command is not arbitrary but based on Jesus Himself.
Notice the command begins with "therefore" which
brings back into focus Jesus’ authority. The command to make
disciples can be fulfilled because Jesus has the authority to
send us and the power to accomplish His work through us. It is
not your ability, but your availability given in worshipful
submission that makes you useful to God. Jesus accomplishes His
work through you. Since Jesus is who He claims to be, you can
therefore go out and do what He commands because the command is
based on His authority – power & ability – to accomplish it.

The command itself is to make disciples. Whatever else the
church does, the center of its focus needs to be in making
disciples. Our fellowship, our ministries, and even our worship
all revolve around being and making disciples.

Defining Disciple

What is a disciple? A disciple is someone who follows the
teachings of another. They learn from the teacher. They identify
with the teacher. They seek to be like the teacher. Luke 6:40
gives a good description saying that the "disciple is not
above his teacher… but after being fully trained will be like
his teacher."
Paul tells us in Rom. 8 that all those
that will be saved are "predestined to be conformed to the
image of [Jesus]."

You can see from this that if you claim to be a Christian,
then being a disciple of Christ is not an option. Even the term,
"Christian," speaks of discipleship since Acts 11:26
states it was the "disciples" that were first called
"Christians" in Antioch. The term itself means to be
"a little Christ." A true Christian is someone who, as
Paul describes in Gal. 2, has died to themselves and has Christ
living in and through them. When people see you, do they see
Christ living in you?

Jesus’ command is to make disciples of Him, and you can
not do that unless you are His disciple first. We make disciples
of Christ the same way that the apostle Paul explains in 1 Cor.
11:1. Paul said, "be imitators of me just as I also am of
." We call people to follow us as we follow
Christ. If others became like us would they also be becoming like
Christ? In a nut shell, that is what making a disciple is all
about. People begin to pattern their life after you, and since
you have patterned your life after Jesus, they in turn are also
becoming like Christ.

Jesus’ command to make disciples is accomplished by doing
the three participles of the command. Going, Baptizing and


First is the going out. Notice that it is we that are to do
the going. The little sign we have above the doors as you go out
of this building reflect this. "You are now entering the
mission field."
Christians are to go out to the
non-believers in order to start the process of making them into
disciples of Christ. We are the ones that need to be making the
effort. We are the ones that will be inconvenienced. We are the
ones that will be in places that make us uncomfortable. We are
the ones that will expend our time and money in the endeavor. We
are the ones that are to "go."

This building is not the church, and it can not do the Lord’s
work. You are the church, and you do the work. This building can
only help facilitate the baptizing and teaching disciples to
observe all that the Lord commanded. This building cannot go out,
and it can not make disciples. It is only a building. You are the
church, the body of Christ, and only you can fulfill Jesus’
command to go.

Notice here as well that we are to make disciples of "all
There is no room for prejudice in the Church.
In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, black or white, red or
yellow. Keep in mind that the modern idea of "race" is
from evolutionary thought. God only made one race, the human race
in all its morphological variations. God separated the human race
into various "nations" and we are to go out to those
nations and make disciples for Christ.

Making disciples of all nations also shows that
missions is part of the commission. We have to leave our comfort
zone to reach out to people who are different from us. They may
have different physical characteristics such as size, skin color,
eyes, hair, noses and toes. They may have customs you do not
understand like putting jewelry in odd parts of their bodies and
wearing funny looking and uncomfortable clothes (ties). They may
eat food you consider unusual to say the least such as snails,
bugs, reptiles, amphibians, and as missionary we once had to
Thailand found out, coagulated blood. You may not even know their
language. They may live somewhere else. But whether they are
around the block or around the world, the command is for us to go
to them that we might make them disciples of the Lord Jesus

The first aspect then of making disciples is to go out to the
non-Christian community. Where can you meet non-Christians? Of
course you can meet them anywhere including in church facilities,
but where can you meet them in a context where you can begin to

make them disciples of Christ? Again, almost anywhere. You are
only limited by your imagination and willingness to be available.
There are the obvious people & places like your neighborhood,
school, and place of work, etc. There are also all the people you
do business with, those who are involved in your hobbies, your
social organizations, etc. There are all the people you can make
special outreaches too: jails – adult and juvenile, convalescent
homes, hospitals, parks, shopping malls, train stations, parades,
fairs, flee markets, etc. God will use you if you are available.
Are you willing to go?

What will you do when you go? You will use your spiritual
gifts and you will proclaim the gospel which is the good news of
salvation from sin and reconciliation with God through Jesus
Christ. Now that probably sounds scary to most of you. I suspect
there are probably only a few people in the room that are gifted
in evangelism who can hardly wait between opportunities to
proclaim the gospel to someone they have never met before. Yet,
evangelism, proclaiming the gospel, is a responsibility for every
Christian. If "cold turkey" evangelism scares you, and
it does me, then don’t fret, God always enables you to do what He
calls you to do. Your part is simply to be available and

You may not be able to talk to a stranger, but you can talk
with those you have already built relationships with. You can
also learn to become more bold in talking with others by doing it
and trusting God to get you through it. As we focus on what God
thinks of us instead of what other people think of us we are less
intimidated. And finally, you can also use your spiritual gifts
to support the activities of those that are gifted in evangelism.
The church works together as a complete team with each member of
it doing its part toward accomplishing its goal of making
disciples of Christ.


As the gospel goes out there will be those that respond, and
that brings the next element of making a disciple – Baptism. "Go
therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Baptism should be one of the first steps in a new believer’s walk
of faith.

While there are many traditions concerning baptism, the
scriptures are clear that it was only done by those who believed,
so that excludes babies. It is also clear that it was done by
immersion. Baptism does not save nor does it extend any special
grace. Some of you were sprinkled as babies in a church and were
told you were baptized. The truth is that all that happened to
you is that you got wet!

Baptism is an act of faithful obedience in public
identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus
Christ. To be baptized into the name of God marks you as
professing to belong to God. Note that you are to be baptized
into one "name." The term here is singular. That is why
we only dunk once as opposed to three times as some other groups
do. The singular "name" signifies the unity of the
trinity. It is one God in three persons: Father, Son & Holy

If you want a full understanding of what the Bible teaches
about Baptism, there are some information sheets in the back of
the church. Pick one up, and if you have not been baptized by
immersion since you have professed faith in Jesus Christ, then
let me know so that we can arrange for that at our next Baptism
on October 19.


The third aspect of making disciples is "teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you."
There are those
within the church that are specially gifted to teach, but this
command is given to all. Parents teach their children. More
mature believers teach new and less mature believers. Teaching is
not just imparting knowledge like some academic exercise. It is
the interaction of your life with someone else so that they will
be capable of living for Christ. This does not mean that you have
to know all the answers, for no Christian reaches perfection in
this life, but you do have to know the Lord and be willing to
share with others what you have learned.

This aspect of making disciples is a two way street. For the
rest of your life, you will be in relationships in which you will
be helping some to learn and obey Christ’s commands, and
there will be those helping you to better understand and obey
Christ. The goal of all this in your life is so that you will be
conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Again, those that
separate salvation from discipleship miss the reason for
salvation. It is not a fire insurance policy to keep me from
Hell, it is freedom from sin and its consequences that brings me
back into a relationship with my Creator that I might glorify Him
by becoming like my Savior.

Keep in mind that while learning to do all that Jesus has
commanded will be a lifelong process, it should only take a short
time for someone to learn enough to disciple someone else. Even
if you have been a Christian for a short time, if you are careful
to learn what has been taught to you about Jesus, you are already
capable of working with others who know less about living for
Christ. We have a ministry available here to enable you enter
into a discipling relationship and learn the basics of Christian
living in as little as nine weeks. If that interests you, let me
know after the service.

Jesus’ Promise

While there is a lot more that can be said about how to make
disciples, I want you to know without doubt today that God can
and will use you to make disciples if you are available, a
worshiper of Christ and submissive to His commands. Why am I so
sure of this? Not just because it is true in my own life, but
because Jesus has the power and authority to accomplish it. In
addition, we find here at the end of verse 20 that Jesus will be
with us through it all. "And lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age."

Jesus calls our attention by saying, "lo." It is a
call to be alert and focus our minds on what He is now saying. He
then makes it emphatic that He will be with us to the end. A
literal translation being, "I will be with you, even I,
all the days even to the conclusion of the age."

Jesus will be with you each and every day of your life even if
that is to the conclusion of this age and you are transformed and
taken to heaven without having to taste physical death. Jesus is
present. His power is present. His command is given. The only
question open is whether or not you will be available, worshipful
and submissive to let Him use you to make disciples of Him. What
will you do?

Study Sheets



Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your
children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children
draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon.
Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children :
Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many
times "disciple" is mentioned. 2) Discuss with your
parents what it means to follow Jesus.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

Why did God create you? Why did Jesus come? What does John
10:10 mean? Describe the "wonderful" life of a believer. What is the difference man
centered salvation as opposed to God centered salvation? Why do
so many Christians fail to make any disciples of Jesus Christ?
What were Jesus’ disciples like? God can use people who are
available, worshipful and submissive. Explain each. What is your
availability to serve God? What takes up your time, energy and
finances? What is your attitude toward Christ? How submissive are

you to Jesus’ commands? Describe the nature of Jesus’
authority. What is the source of that authority and what does it
allow Him to do? What is Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19?
How is that command to be carried out? What is a disciple? Are
you one? Who is to "go" and why? What is the
significance of baptism? Who is supposed to teach others to obey
Jesus’ commands? How do you do this? What is Jesus’
promise and what does it mean to you?



Sermon Notes – October 5, 2003

The Church, Part 1: Purpose – Matthew 28:16-20

Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus


GBC Purpose: Glorifying God

GBC Purpose: Be Used by God – Matthew

Why Jesus Came

Man Centered Theology

True Theology

Why Believers Fail to make disciples



People God Can Use

Example of the Disciples




GBC Purpose: Making Disciples of Jesus

Jesus’ Command

Defining Disciple




Jesus’ Promise

Recommended Resource: New Century Disciplemaking, by
Bill Hull