When Christ’s redemptive work was complete he gathered his disciples and, with “all authority in heaven and on earth”, commissioned them (and every subsequent generation) to get serious about their job of propagating the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). The central verb of this passage is straightforward and notably uncomplicated: “make disciples!” Between the two advents of Christ, his followers are to be busy “making” more Christ-followers.
The three participles that surround the central verb are helpful in showing us how this gets done. Firstly, we are to be “baptizing.” Of course the “baptism” (i.e., “placing into”) that saves is when people repent of their sins, trust Christ and, by God’s grace, are “placed into” a genuine relationship with God. That transaction is then symbolized by being ceremonially “placed into” water as a rite of initiation into God’s family. Secondly, we are to be “teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded.” All the followers of Christ with whom we associate are to be continually encouraged and exhorted to “follow Christ” in their words, thoughts, and behavior. Lastly, the first century disciples had been thoroughly equipped by Christ to “get out there” and make more disciples. (“Go” translates a third Greek participle.)
The preparation to their “going” included training in the message and meaning of the gospel, and a lot of time learning all that Christ commanded. In short, to “make disciples” we must be engaged in “reaching” people for Christ, “teaching” people to be like Christ, and “training” people to serve Christ. Jesus gave us a clear assignment and promises “to be with” us until it’s done. So let’s get to work today.