Let's examine a few key words to understand the practices of the early church. The word disciple is taken from the Latin word discipulus (learner) which is a translation of the Greek word μαθητής or mathétés and means pupil. The active and future tense of the word is μαθητεύσατε or mathēteusate meaning to make pupils. Therefore, Matthew 28:19 was a directive to the remaining 11 disciples, later called apostles, to go about the business of making pupils, learners, followers among the goyim (hebrew - גּוֹי ) or other nations. The word for "nations" in Greek we ἔθνη which we know as ethnos or ethnic relating it to people, races or nations.
Here is the simplest interpretation of ἀπόστολος or apostolos, which simply means messenger or someone who is sent out for a purpose or envoy. The portion of scripture commonly referred to as the Great Commission was given to both those physically present AND to those who would come. The initial instructions serve as a timeless call to action for believers/disciples throughout future generations. Logic would imply that it was not physically possible for 11 men to make disciples of the global inhabitants of the earth! A mathematical impossibility prevents us from even considering that this mammoth task was limited. Today, I would refer to that passage as the Great Call to Action.
In the year 2015, if you are a believer you are a disciple. This means that we who believe in the saving work of Yeshua HaMashiach/Jesus Christ are all disciples. From among the disciples, Rav Shaul/Paul writes to the Ephesians (4:11) that Yeshua ordained the following positions to provide care, expansion and well being of the Church
He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.If we, modern day believers, are guilty of anything it is that we are too slow to accept the mantle that God wishes to bestow upon us to accomplish His "will" on earth just like it is in heaven. Our task is to a) make pupils from among every people on earth; b) to baptize them in the name of the Father - YAHWEH ( יהוה ) the name of the Son - Yeshua (ישוע) and the name of the Holy Spirit - Ruach HaKodesh ( רוח הקודש ); and c) teach them to follow His commandments. Even though there are a total of 613 mitzvot/commandments, Yeshua said that ALL of the commandments evolve from these two (Matthew 22:40) - love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength AND love your neighbor as yourself.
It was with that, that a plan was laid out for the early church and for believers to follow. Non believers become converts. Converts become disciples. Disciples become apostles, prophets, evangelists, preachers, and teachers. From these, it is the apostles who reach out to the non-believers in order bring them into a state of understanding.
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