Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This passage is often referred to by theologians as the Great Commission, to go to the nations, to the uttermost parts of the earth, and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The message that I learned in my youth was to go and evangelize, be a missionary, introduce people to Jesus. Every now and then someone would capture some of the essence of the passage by saying we were to make disciples. Nothing wrong with that, but the purpose of making disciples in the nations was to teach them to obey everything Yeshua had commanded His disciples in the first century.
I have stated before in other articles the importance of knowing the Bible from its Hebrew background. It is helpful to be somewhat familiar with the ancient Middle Eastern customs, manners, idioms, observances, and practices; and being knowledgeable with Torah/Teachings is even better. Hebrew life centered on the Torah, and the Temple, and Yeshua’s life centered on the Torah, which they called the Teachings of Moses. The Word records that it was His custom to attend synagogue on Sabbath, and to participate in the feasts (Leviticus 23) of His Father at the appointed times. Yeshua was a good Son who purposed to practice righteousness, mercy, compassion, and justice. He loved His God and His neighbor. He interpreted the Teachings of Moses more accurately than the religious sects of His time which would often trigger some heated exchanges between them. Despite their differences, He instructed His disciples to obey what they taught from Moses’ seat. Why? Because they would read from the Torah the instructions on how to love God and how to love their neighbor. Even if the religious sects did not practice this themselves, they were in the seats of authority in the synagogues to read from the scrolls.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees condemned those who would not also perform their additional rituals and observances that were handed down from rabbis and other teachers from generations before them. These extra duties were ‘fences’ placed around Torah in order to prevent breaking a command; and over time these ‘fences’ became the doctrines and traditions that made the Word of God of none effect. Mark 7:13
For His disciples, Yeshua broke down the whole Torah (the five books of the Law) into two principles: love God and love your neighbor. Behaviors that exhibited kindness, mercy, compassion, a forgiving heart, generosity, a genuine caring for the welfare of others, of animals, and the land; these were considered acts of righteousness, because they exhibited the nature or character of God.
Not only did Moses’ seat consist of reading from the Torah those teachings on righteous living, which brought blessings or favor, but also the curses and exile for those who opposed God’s standards. Sometimes it is forgotten that the Mt. Sinai Covenant consisted of both the blessings (favor, prosperity) and the curses.
Rabbis have understood that the Torah standards were minimum standards set before them, and that people could go beyond the requirements of the Torah to demonstrate love. This is seen when a young man asks Yeshua what good thing he should do to inherit eternal life.
Now behold, one came and said to Him, Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?
So He said to him, Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments (Teachings of Moses).
He said to Him, Which ones? Jesus said, You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness (falsely accuse anyone).
Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The young man said to Him, All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I lack?
Jesus said to him, if you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Yeshua showed the young man how he could go beyond the minimum standards (if he wanted to be perfect) set in the Torah by selling all he had and giving it to the poor (his neighbors), but this was for him perhaps too extreme and he walked away. The young man learned something of himself (that he definitely was not going to be perfect), and that he would do better by keeping the minimum standards. He may have even wished he had not brought it up at all since he was challenged beyond the measure he had expected to hear and perform. What we see here in this scene is the focus on the Torah, how we are measured by its standards. Though some insist the Torah has been abolished, it is Yeshua that emphasized them to the young man, and not just here, but all through the gospels.
So, Yeshua pointed to the Decalogue’s last five entries that deal with neighbors, and how to show love to them. If you love your neighbor, do not do these things: murder; kidnap (Hebrew thought: kidnapping is included in the Teaching to not steal), do not steal what belongs to another; adultery (no sex with someone else’s spouse); honor parents; and do not falsely say someone said a conversation or did a certain act that was not true or accurate.
Eternal life is gained through keeping the commandments (teachings of Moses). Obedience is necessary, along with salvation for eternal life, per Yeshua.
Let’s look at Matthew 23:1-3 once more:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
The Pharisees had the authority to teach and interpret Torah. There would come a day when His disciples would also sit in the seat of Moses and have the authority to bind (forbidding) and to loose (permitting).
Example, concerning Sabbath, the Pharisees declared what was permissible to observe on that day. To carry one’s bed was to bind, but to carry a bag of debris from a collapsed structure to save survivors was to loose. It had nothing to do with binding and loosing demons. Yeshua never did that, He just cast them out.
Note: We see this in Acts 15 when the subject of circumcising the Gentiles were required by some of the believing Pharisees. The Apostle Paul disagreed with their interpretation of the Law; the Law of circumcision was not for salvation of the Gentiles. The Jerusalem Council agreed with Paul and issued a letter that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised, they were loosed. However, the Jerusalem Council immediately placed (bound) four of the Torah Laws upon the Gentiles: do not eat meat offered to idols, do not eat things strangled, do not eat blood, and avoid sexual immorality.
What are we to say about and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
The disciples were to teach that the Torah had not been abolished. However, He did abolish the oral traditions/rituals of the rabbis. Yeshua come to give perfect interpretation (to fulfill) of the Teachings given to Moses, and the Prophets. The Law will stand as a guide forever, until heaven and earth pass away. They were to teach that anyone who would break one of the least of the commandments, and teach others to do would be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever does and teaches them (Torah), he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19
Another teaching was to love your enemies. You have heard that it was said (by the elders), You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and on the unjust, For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be (become perfect) perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48
But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps (verbal insults) you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also (forgiving insults). If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. Matthew 5:38-42
The Torah shows us the heart of God, and the commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. Yeshua was an example of not just practicing the minimum requirements of the Torah, like He discussed with the young man in Matthew 19; but also, He was perfect in that He went beyond what was written, to the point He sacrificed Himself so others would have eternal life.
From Matthew 5:45 we learn that God shows love to those who do not even consider Him: For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and on the unjust. God could act in prejudice and just send these on His people alone, but He does not; therefore, proving His love on all mankind in every nation– on those who hate Him and those who love Him. Some people would die for a friend, a mother for her children, but Yeshua died for those who hated him, as well as for those who loved Him. He went beyond the minimum, and is perfect in His love.
The apostles under the commission to teach the nations to observe all that He had commanded them, did so, by providing the judgment for Gentiles to attend synagogue. Four laws became effective immediately upon them, they were to abstain from blood, from things strangled, from fornication, and from things polluted by idols (namely foods offered to idols). Acts 15:20
For throughout every city from ancient generations Moses has those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath. One New Man Bible
We can learn how to love from His Teachings, and Yeshua came to further expound on ways to apply it in our lives that would conform us to His image and likeness. He stated we would be the sons of God (Mt. 5:45) if we would love our enemies.
Yeshua was an example of Torah in the flesh, that is to love God and love His neighbor.
The disciples fulfilled the command of Yeshua to make disciples of the nations, and for them (nations) to observe everything He had commanded them (disciples).
5 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
16 ‘After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says the Lord who does all these things.’ NKJV
The Gentiles are grafted into the branches of the olive tree (Israel), and with them (Israel) became a partaker of the root (Torah, the Covenant, the blessing and the curse) and the fatness of the olive tree. Romans 11:17
According to the word, Gentile disciples are to obey everything Yeshua commanded His Twelve. Noted among the commands given to the disciples is the command for them to teach the Gentiles to keep the Torah, every jot and tittle of it.
First Fruits of Zion