Vol. IX — No. 41 October 13, 1968
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…
Having gone, therefore, disciples all nations…
In Christ Jesus, who has commissioned His disciples to be gone on their way making disciples of all nations, Fellow Redeemed:
Last Sunday we preached a purely doctrinal sermon on baptism. This Sunday we will preach an action sermon. But let no one imagine that the one is in conflict with the other. We are living in an age that downgrades and despises doctrine. “Deeds, not creeds” is the cry. “Get where the action is.” “Participate in the social revolution of our day.” It is said that Christianity is not a matter of what one believes, but how one lives. That is a statement that beclouds the issue. It is true that doctrine can become just an intellectual matter—an exercise of the mind. When this happens, it is called in church history “dead orthodoxy.” The epistle of James was written to counteract just this tendency in the early church—this tendency to be content with just knowing the truth instead of living that truth. Such a faith does not manifest itself in works and is dead. But this is not the fault of doctrine. It is due rather to the power of the flesh which prohibits doctrine from taking hold of the person and reshaping him in the image of God. Doctrine is the living word of God. It is to be engrafted into the mind and will and emotions of the individual. It is to affect his thinking, his willing, his emotional responses and his value judgments. I am what I am, I think as I think, I will as I will, I feel as I feel, I react as I react because of the influence of the doctrines of Holy Scripture upon me through the power of the Holy Spirit. So it is that Christian parents bring their children to Holy Baptism because God has taught them in His Word that this is the special means by which He will give the blessings of the cross and the empty tomb to that child. So it is that Christians find daily comfort in their baptism and daily strength for rededicating and reconsecrating themselves to their Lord because they have been taught that “baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” (Luther’s Small Catechism)
Last Sunday we used a variety of Scripture passages to teach doctrine. This morning we shall use but six words in the original tongue to give you the aim and purpose, direction and meaning of your life. The King James translates these words in this familiar way: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” But the first word is not an imperative, though correctly translated as such. It is a participle. Literally it means “having gone.” Jesus sees His disciples as already on the way—going down the highways and byways of this earth. What are they to be doing? The King James translates “teach all nations.” That is an unfortunate mistranslation, for the word is broader. It means “disciple” or “make disciples of” all nations. How that is to be done comes next in the passage—by baptizing and teaching them. Let us this morning look at this imperative of our Lord in its literal translation:
Let us realize, first of all, that this imperative of our Lord—
This is your life! This is your business in life as a child of God! This is your reason for existence! Each child of God is to dedicate himself wholly to the work of discipling all nations. This is not a part-time, but a full-time job. This is not an eight hour day, but a twenty-four hour day. This is not to be a hit-or-miss, on-again-off-again activity, but the consistent aim and purpose of the life of a child of God.
Each child of God, in the place and position that God has placed him, is to consecrate himself totally unto the work of discipling all nations. I am a public teacher in the church. That is my profession. But I don’t operate on an eight-hour a day schedule, five days a week. Why not? Because the word of my God demands of me total consecration. At times it demends of me that I work seven days a week—mornings, afternoons and evenings. It demands of me that I attend the meetings of the Lutheran Women’s Organization and the Lutheran Youth Organization, for they are opportunities to train in discipleship. It demands of me that I teach the adult Sunday School class rather than sit in leisure in the office and wait for it to be over. It demands of me that I prepare suitable materials for all classes of the Sunday School. It demands of me that I carry the Gospel into the homes of those who are unable to come to the House of God. It demands of me that I instruct adults in preparation for membership, for how else can disciples be made? It demands of me that I exhort and admonish toward attendance in both Sunday School and worship services and that I warn against seemingly harmless organizations whose religious principles are poison to your faith. I cannot but go, go, go and work, work, work because the word of my God demands of me total consecration to the task He has given me. But still one must confess daily falling short of total consecration.
What this word of the Lord demands of me, it also demands of you! You parents, your immediate job is to disciple your children. That’s a twenty-four hour a day job, seven days a week with no time off! A third of the day is generally spent in resting the body. Why? So that one can have strength to pursue one’s selfish interests? No! But that one can rise refreshed to let his light shine and function as salt and so disciple the world. My son, my daughter—give me your heart! Our Lord suffered and died to redeem us unto Himself. We belong to Him; He would have us consecrate ourselves totally unto Him.
This imperative of our Lord, “Having gone, therefore, disciple all nations,” furthermore”
“Having gone…to the ends of the earth.” This wasn’t said to just special disciples of the Lord, as St. Peter and St. Paul. No, it was said to each and every child of God. Each one of us is to stand at his own front door and look to the ends of the earth. That is our field of endeavor. What is the responsibility of our congregation? It is not just our immediate area, although this is our prime responsibility. But we dare not restrict ourselves to this local area. Our area extends from our front doors to the ends of the earth, for the imperative of our Lord sounds down to us: “Holy Trinity, having gone, therefore, disciple all nations!” This is it, and this imperative cannot be evaded.
This imperative makes us as individuals and as a congregation responsible for fellow believers in small struggling congregations in such scattered places as Winter Haven, Florida, Houston, Texas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, California, Seattle and Spokane, Washington, Missoula, Montana, St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, Madison, Wisconsin, Chicago, Illinois and Tokyo, Japan. In each of these cities small groups of fellow believers are struggling to make disciples in their areas. They need help. They need support—to do their work and our work. We cannot shrug our shoulders in unconcern, for that would make us unfaithful to the word of the Lord directed to us: “Having gone, therefore, disciple all nations.”
This same imperative—
What was it that moved you people to come out from among them, to be separate, and to found a new congregation? Wasn’t it the new curriculum, the Sunday School material? You were concerned because you realized that your children were being fed poison and that you were receiving the same. We in our generation need to learn to know ourselves as sinners in need of God’s grace. We need to know that God’s grace has come to earth in the Person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. We need the instruction, the assurance, the comfort of knowing that in Christ Jesus God has forgiven all our sins. Our children need this. But their children, our grandchildren, will also need the same thing. What has been committed to us for our salvation we are to preserve and hand down to the next generation so that they can, in turn, hand it down to the succeeding generation.
How can we do this? We can only do this by founding and supporting schools that will train the future teachers and preachers so that the next generation will have the same spiritual privileges that we enjoy here and now. One generation of Christians is under obligation to train the teachers and preachers for the next generation. So it has always been, and so it must continue. If this congregation does not now make provision for its future pastors, it will have none! Then the truths of the Gospel that you have fought so hard to preserve for yourselves will be lost unto your children. What greater tragedy could there be? Do you realize that if I were, by the grace and will of the Lord, to serve you until retirement age at sixty-five, it would take the twenty years remaining unto me to educate and train and give experience to my successor. It is our God-given responsibility now to make provisions for the next generation that by God’s grace will sit in these pews.
It now becomes a matter of acting upon our responsibilities. If we consecrate ourselves unto the Lord wholly, how can we make disciples of all nations and make provision for the teaching of future generations? One possibility is that we work alone, establish our own mission program and build our own school. The difficulty is that we are not strong enough to undertake this. The other possibility is that we unite with others of the same confession and work together with them. It is at this point that many of you have been soured, and justly so. Why? Because in your former churches you were compelled by the system of “apportionment” to give an amount of money—the size of which you had no control. Then after the money was almost extorted, you had to see it misused to support programs that are not the business of the church. But those days are past—gone forever. No money given in this congregation goes to support the National Council of Churches—not a penny!
We are now working together with Christians personally unknown to you but very familiar to you through their confession of the Word of God. These people have banded together in what is called the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Their purpose is the same as our purpose: to preserve and propagate the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ unto all the world and for succeeding generations. To this end missions are established and maintained and a school, Immanuel Lutheran College of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has been established to train teachers and pastors. We have begun to assist in this work, but so far our efforts have been small. The need is great. Let me assure you that you are working with consecrated children of God. The treasurer of our church body donates all his time and talent. A certified public accountant who is a member of our Marquette, Michigan congregation has volunteered to audit all the books of the church body—without cost. The editors of the church papers serve without remuneration. Our missionaries, teachers and pastors have served on substandard salaries. The last convention sought to remedy these conditions. Are we going to exert ourselves also, or are we going to sit by and cheer while others put their shoulders to the wheel?
Our school needs a building program. The needs are real. The situation calls for action. Our faith is being summoned to exercise itself. How are we going to respond? Are we going to say: You good people supplied us with a pastor. If he’s killed in an accident or if the Lord removes him in some other may, we would like you to give us another pastor. But don’t expect us to exert ourselves. I hope no one thinks this way! Let us rather think of what and how much we, as individuals, as members of a family, and as a congregation, can do to make the spread of the Gospel from pole to pole and from age to age possible.
“Having gone, therefore, disciples all nations!” Let no one hear you idly saying, “There is nothing I can do.” Your Lord sees you already on the way—consecrated wholly to make disciples of all nations and of succeeding generations. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.