What was the core message of Jesus’s ministry?
In Christ’s time the Greek word mathetes described apprentices, one adhering to one of the many Greek schools of philosophy, one who kept the company of a particular teacher or simply subscribed to that teacher’s doctrine even if far removed in space and time. There were groups of students who continued their teacher’s traditions after he died (such as was the case with Socrates). This type of commitment usually entailed passing on his wisdom and sayings. As today, one need not be a religious figure to gain and accept disciples. In the rabbinic spheres, the talmid devoted himself to the study of Scripture and the precepts of his particular tradition–one that had been passed to him from his instructor. Disciples were highly esteemed among the Jews of Christ’s time, especially if his rabbi was highly regarded. Most rabbis were, some more than others, and this regard was extended to his followers to a lesser degree until his period of listening and learning was over and he, in turn, began to teach as well.
Mat 28:19-20 “Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world. Amen.” I have no problem calling these verses by their traditional epithet-The Great Commission. If I venture into any religious institution that lays claim to Christ and ask anyone randomly, “What’s the ‘Great Commission’?”, I am likely to get an accurate response, even if it isn’t quoted verbatim or the exact chapter-verse is unknown. Most can at least say something along the lines of, “That’s where Jesus told his disciples to preach.”
I grew up in what would be considered as an evangelical church by men’s reasoning. We attended as often as the doors were opened. At age 12 I prayed what they called the “Sinner’s Prayer” and I was convinced I was “saved” at that point. I then was baptized many months later when they had a number of others ready for baptism. I was baptized into the evangelical congregation as a “sign of my salvation”. I was completely pleased with my spiritual life for several years. However that changed. In 1978 I met a nice young lady whom I wanted to get to know better. (As a side note we married 1 year later and I have been blessed by her these past 32 years.) I was plainly told by her parents that IF I wanted to be with her on Sundays I had to attend church assemblies, for that was where she would be. I wanted to be with her, so I attended the assemblies of the Pond Creek church of Christ. At first I was more concerned with her than I was with the church.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1-5: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
The New Testament writers use the word faith in broader terms than simple belief in Jesus. Following Paul’s conversion, the brethren observed, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches THE FAITH which he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:23)