Jesus instructed his disciples to go to all the nations and make disciples, not saints (Mt.28: 19). Since 1953, when I attempted my first public testimony about Jesus, I was under the illusion that we had to become saints and turn others into saints. In 1955, I studied Greek and became familiar with the word “disciple or mathete.” I assumed that Matthew 28: 19 meant that we must turn converts into mature Christians; when in reality, I was merely a student, pupil, learner or beginner myself.
In the Great Commission, Jesus addressed those that He sent forth as disciples and ordered them to make others from all nations into disciples. To begin with, the Apostles themselves were only students; in fact, they were life long students of Jesus the Christ. There was nothing saintly about them. Like all other people they doubted, failed, made mistakes, stumbled, picked themselves up and moved on. In fact they were people with little faith. Jesus had become impatient with them (Mt.17: 17). Paul, in prison, confessed that he had not reached perfection but was pressing on to please Christ (Phil.3: 12-14). The beloved John cautioned anyone against the idea that a Christian can be without sin (I Jn.1: 8-10). For 57 years, I have studied the Bible and I find myself still in the alphabet. I also learned that with aging change comes slower, particularly when I am set in my faith.
This brings me to the reason why we must seek out people that want to be disciples or learners. Disciples are not just followers of Jesus; they are students that are willing to change and learn about Jesus. Baptism was the induction, registration or permission to attend a study on Jesus (Mt.28: 19-20). It was the beginning of a journey with Christ and not the end. It is by studying the life and obeying Jesus’ orders that we begin to grow. When we stop studying, we stop growing. At that point we assume that we have become sufficiently established for Christ’s Kingdom. We canonize ourselves into believing that we are fit for heaven. Paul warned that if we think we stood, we should make certain that we do (I Cor.10: 12). Jesus was even stronger when he declared that sinners would precede the saints into his kingdom (Mt.21: 31). Jesus chose disciples or men that were willing to change and learn to live for Him, with each other and with those that did not follow them. For that reason Jesus ordered the disciples to make or turn interested prospects into learners or students. Closed minds do not change or learn. Perhaps that is why we must become like children.