A Biblical Citizen is not just a person who “votes the right way” or “stands for Biblical values.” A Biblical Citizen is someone who recognizes the authority and sufficiency of Scripture for all areas of life, including civic engagement. To truly be a Biblical Citizen, you also must be a Biblical Disciple.
That begs the question, what is a disciple? What does a disciple do? How do I be a disciple? Let’s examine God’s Word to answer those questions. Start by reading Matthew 28:16-20:
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated to them. 17 And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to [c]follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
1. What is a disciple?
They obey, worship, but sometimes doubt
Verses 16 and 17 tell us about the 11 disciples (the 12 minus Judas), giving us examples of real life disciples of Jesus during His earthly ministry.
a. The disciples obeyed Jesus
If you read a little of Matthew prior to this passage to get more context, you will find that verse 16 occurs after the death and resurrection of Christ. Earlier in the chapter the women encounter Jesus, and He tells them to inform the 11 that He is alive and that they should meet Him at the mountain in Galilee. When we pick up the story in verse 16, the disciples are being obedient to Christ’s command. They are waiting at the mountain He has appointed. They didn’t know why they were supposed to go to the mountain. They didn’t know what they would be doing there. They simply knew that’s what Jesus told them to do, and they did it.
If we are going to be Biblical Disciples, we have to be obedient to the God of the Bible. We may not know every detail of what He wants us to do with our life, and that can be hard. We may not know if we are signing up to take the gospel to a far away country, to go spend time in school preparing for ministry, or if God’s calling is to start a business or be a teacher, and that’s okay. If you know God has placed a calling on your life, you should spend every day working to be obedient to that calling. If you’re not sure yet what God’s calling is for your life, do the things you know He has commanded you to do:
Study His Word
Be active in your local church
Love your neighbor
Battle against your fleshly desires
Pray for your legislator
b. The disciples worshiped God
Being a follower of Jesus means we should worship Him as Lord and Savior. He’s not just a prophet, or a philosopher, or a “good guy with good ideas.” He is the Creator of the universe, God incarnate, the long promised Messiah, and Savior of the world. King David gave us a great blueprint for worship in Psalm 117. (It’s worth noting that praise and worship are not necessarily perfect synonyms, but the context of Psalm 117 is certainly that of worship)
Praise the Lord, all nations;
Sing His praises, all peoples!
2 For His mercy toward us is great,
And the truth of the Lord is everlasting.
Praise the Lord!
First the psalmist notes we should praise God for what He has done. His mercy toward us is great! The disciples just witnessed Jesus’s death as an atonement for their sin, sin that should necessitate their death and eternal separation from God. They’ve witnessed His miracles, His teaching, and now His resurrection. They certainly have good reason to praise and worship Him!
Secondly, the psalmist notes we should praise God because His truth is everlasting. This is a statement about God’s nature, about who He is. Jesus is God, He has existed eternally, He is the beginning and the end, He is the creator of all things, He is the spotless Lamb of God, He is the only begotten of the Father, and He is the long promised Messiah.
Sometimes praise and worship can be an abstract and elusive concept for modern believers. Spend time pondering what God has done for you. As the hymn says, Count Your Blessings! Think about who God is. Then when you pray, make sure to spend time thanking God for what He’s done for you and who He is. That’s what worship is all about, it’s going before the Lord in recognition of how big He is and how small we are. It will also motivate you to live in obedience to Him.
c. Some of the disciples doubted
This aspect of the passage can be easy to misunderstand or ignored altogether. We are clearly told that, despite being in the physical presence of Jesus, some of the disciples doubted. Was it wrong for them to have doubt? The text doesn’t say. It appears that they expressed doubts amongst themselves, but they decided as a group to obey and to worship anyways.
If the 11 followers of Jesus during His earthly ministry had doubts, we will too. This is especially true for Christians engaging the world in the political process. Many of Christ’s followers expected Him to liberate them from Rome and establish an earthly nation that would solve the oppression they were experiencing. When God’s plan didn’t look like their plan, they had doubts. Other than the 11 disciples and a select few others, those followers allowed their doubt to turn them against Jesus.
Doubt is inevitable. The question is: how will we respond? Doubt can cripple our faith and cause us to be disobedient, but it can also cause us to grow. Doubt happens because of unanswered questions, and if those questions remain unanswered doubt can fester. Those questions can also cause us to seek answers by learning more about God and His Word, strengthening our Christian walk. That positive response to doubt is one of the characteristics of a true disciple.
The best way to handle doubt and questions is in the context of your local church. Christians should strive to have relationships with fellow believers in their local church body that allows them to be open about their doubts and questions. That also means we should NEVER respond negatively to Christians who express doubt and ask hard questions. We should use it as a moment to dive into God’s Word and grow closer to God and each other.
There will absolutely be times during your civic engagement when God’s plan doesn’t look anything like you think it should. There will be times when civic engagement seems hopeless. We can be comforted in knowing that no matter how crazy our world is, Christ has ALL authority in Heaven and on earth. Your calling is not to save the world and save America, it’s to be obedient. Being a disciple of Christ means obediently applying His Word to your life even when you don’t like the results. That’s true for our civic engagement as well.
2. What does a disciple do?
They make new disciples
In verse 19 God gives a command to His disciples that informs us on what a disciple should do: “Go…make disciples of all nations”. We have a tremendous wealth of great English translations of the Bible (and of course, some not so great translations) that faithfully translate scripture where we can read this passage accurately in our own language. Even with those wonderful translations, there are occasions where we can glean a little extra from a passage in the original language than we can in English. This is one of those cases. In English it appears that the command is to “go”. If that’s the case, those of us that have made a particular community “home” are living in sin.
But if you look closely at the Greek you can see the focus of the command is not “go”. (disclaimer: I can’t read Greek. I just have friends who can and I know how to use an interlinear Bible app. That’s a really good example of why we need a good local church family of fellow believers’ who have different backgrounds, education, and gifts than us) In Greek the term translated here as “Go” is actually a participle, not a verb. The direct translation is “having gone”. The actual verb, and the focus of the command, is to “make disciples.” It’s understand that you will go, and Christ is commanding that “as you are going, make disciples.”
If you go to Africa or China, that’s great! As you are going, make disciples. If you live in the same community you were born, and the only place you are “going” is to work on Monday, that’s fine too. As you are going, make disciples. As you go to school, make disciples. As you go to the golf course, make disciples. As you go to the lake, make disciples. As you engage the political process, make disciples. And don’t just make disciples of people that look like you, or think like you, or have your same worldview, make disciples of ALL NATIONS. If you encounter fellow Christians in your daily life, you should be making disciples of them (more on that later). If you encounter pro-life republicans, make disciples. If you encounter pro-choice democrats, make disciples.
We should see EVERYONE as an opportunity to make disciples. That means we have to treat them ALL with the love of Christ. You can’t mistreat people and still expect to disciple them. You need to ask yourself: am I behaving in a way that is conducive to making disciples? We can’t allow our civic engagement to rob our Christian witness.
3. How do I be a disciple?
By baptizing and teaching
So I am supposed to make disciples. But how? This passage answers that question as well! We make disciples by “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to follow all that [Jesus] commanded you.” Often when we think of the Great Commission, we think about sharing the Gospel with unbelievers. That’s certainly a component of the Great Commission; we can’t baptize people without first sharing the Gospel. However, that’s not the end of the Great Commission, it’s the beginning! Discipleship begins when a believer publicly professes their faith through baptism and ends when Christ returns or they go home to be with the Lord.
If we are viewing our life (church, work, school hobbies, civic engagement) as an opportunity to make disciples, then we should be looking for opportunities to teach others how to apply the commands of Scripture. That means we have to know what Scripture says, we have to understand how to apply it to our own lives, and we have to model what that looks like to those around us.
To know what Scripture says, we’ve got to study it. We should have our own personal study of Scripture at home, but we also