Editor’s note: This content was taken (and updated) from the Sunday School lesson that I had prepared (and taught) for September 13, 2020.
Sometimes, I think that people just need a commission. They need to have someone whom they respect tell them to get out there and do a good job. Athletes have coaches. Soldiers have commanders. Children have parents. Even employees have managers. In each case, the best leaders do two things: They make it clear what the other person must do, and they inspire that person to go out there and do a great job at it.
Even the first-century pastor named Timothy received a commission from his mentor, Paul. In 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Paul gives Timothy instructions (including “Fight the good fight of the faith”, and others), and follows them up with this:
In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1 Timothy 6:13-14 NIV
(See also 2 Timothy 4:1-2)
We often think of a commissioning as something that begins someone’s journey into a particular kind of service. Future pastors are typically ordained into ministry. Military officers receive a formal commission. Timothy seems to have participated in one of those events, too, as described in 2 Timothy 1:6, but these milestones are neither the beginning nor the end of the great work that God has done through so many of His followers.
Before a commission is given, there is usually training and evaluation. Leaders are unlikely to press someone into service until they are sure that this person will be able to do the job well. After all, when we give our approval and blessing on others to do something, their results reflect on us (as well as on the name of Jesus, whom we serve). Professional coaches don’t give inspiring speeches to the stands, then expect arbitrary fans to put on a uniform and join the game. They select, train, and require athletes to work hard, in order to master the game. At that point, the pre-game speech is merely a reminder of what has already been impressed upon the players and ingrained into their habits.
Furthermore, once a selected individual is charged with a specific project, their work does not end. They have an obligation to get the job done, and to honor those who gave them this responsibility. This will almost always involve overcoming obstacles – both anticipated and unforeseen – and usually requires significant time and effort to achieve success.
And, when we think about commissions, we may think of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus’ instructions for His followers to make disciples, though, starts with a great confession: that Jesus is indeed the King of the Jews (as Pilate said – see Matthew 27:11), the Messiah, the Savior, and our Lord. It is with this authority (which we confess) that Jesus commands His followers, including us. Following those commands is our commission, just as it was Timothy’s.
The great thing about following Jesus’ commission is that it doesn’t take much advanced training. A little bit of faith, a decision to accept both Jesus’ salvation and His authority in our lives, and a step forward into His new life qualify any of us to be commissioned into disciple-making. A frequent and frustrating fallacy is that Christians need to have some sort of Bible education to tell other people about the reason that they have hope (see 1 Peter 3:15-16). If you have enough faith to follow Jesus, allowing God to change your life for the better, you can share that good news with others who desperately need to hear it.
And, this “disciple-making” isn’t just about winning converts. Yes, we want to love other people just like Jesus did, to the point where we sacrifice our own lives (often by living for Jesus, though, rather than dying for His message) so that more people can experience life as it was intended: purposeful and free. More than that, though, making disciples is also about helping followers of Jesus grow in their faith. As you learn more and share with others (not just newbies in the faith), that’s another key part of making disciples.
I think that we need to regularly commission fellow Christians to go out and live for Jesus: both His “Great Commission” and all of His other teachings. Don’t leave all of this work to others, though. Yes, we have pastors, coaches, inspirational speakers, and others who do a great job of this. Still, there may be people in your life who need you to tell them that they can make a difference, that God is in control, and that He has a plan for them.
And, with that, let me charge you to live the life that Jesus planned for you. I guarantee that, when the final scores are tallied up, it will be better than anything else you could have imagined.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.