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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

Why does the Bible say to disciple "all nations?"

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." - Matthew 28:19-20, ESV

why does the bible say to make disciples of "all nations?"

At the core of the command to disciple all nations is the recognition of the universal scope of Jesus' authority and His desire for a relationship with people from every corner of the earth.

This isn't about being paternalistic, colonizing, or spreading a religion; it's about inviting every human into a transformative relationship with Christ.

The Greek behind the command to disciple all nations

The command to disciple "all nations" is pivotal in understanding the global mission of the church. Delving into the Greek text of Matthew 28:19 provides richer insights into this mandate. The phrase "all nations" is translated from the Greek "πάντα τὰ ἔθνη" (panta ta ethne).

Understanding "πάντα τὰ ἔθνη" (panta ta ethne)

  • πάντα (panta): This word translates to "all" or "every." It is comprehensive, leaving no room for exclusion. In the context of the Great Commission, it signifies the total scope of the discipleship mission, encompassing every people group, without discrimination or limitation.

  • τὰ ἔθνη (ta ethne): Often translated as "nations," the Greek "ἔθνη" (ethne) refers not to modern nation-states but to people groups or ethnic groups. It emphasizes cultures, languages, and ethnic identities. This highlights the mission's focus on reaching diverse cultural and ethnic groups with the Gospel, transcending geographical and political boundaries.

Implications for Discipleship

The usage of "πάντα τὰ ἔθνη" (panta ta ethne) underlines several key points for the church's mission:

  • Global Scope: The mission of the church is not confined to its local community or to people who are like us in ethnicity, language, or culture. It is a call to reach every people group across the globe, reflecting God's love for the diversity of His creation.

  • Cultural Sensitivity: Discipling "all nations" requires an understanding and appreciation of different cultures. It's about bringing Christ into various cultural contexts in a way that is respectful and meaningful to those people groups.

  • Inclusivity: The phrase challenges us to think inclusively, ensuring that our discipleship efforts are accessible to people from all walks of life. This inclusivity is at the heart of the Gospel message — a message of hope and salvation offered to everyone, everywhere.

  • Strategic Engagement: Understanding "πάντα τὰ ἔθνη" (panta ta ethne) as encompassing all ethnicities and cultures calls for strategic, intentional engagement in cross-cultural ministry. This might involve learning new languages, understanding different cultural perspectives, and finding ways to communicate the Gospel that are relevant and resonant with diverse audiences.

Incorporating this understanding of "all nations" into our discipleship efforts reminds us of the breadth of our mission. It's a call to action that is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago. As we endeavor to follow this command, we're invited into a beautiful, challenging, and rewarding journey of seeing the Gospel take root in the rich soil of diverse cultures and hearts around the world.

Let's break it down a bit:

The Universality of the Gospel

Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations underscores the inclusivity of the Gospel. It's not reserved for a select few but is offered to every tribe, language, people, and nation. This challenges us, especially those serving in smaller congregations, to think beyond our immediate context and consider our role in God's global mission.

The Nature of Discipleship

Discipleship, as we understand it, isn't merely about conversion but about teaching and nurturing individuals in their faith journey. It involves head, heart, and hands — impacting belief, character, and actions within the context of community (Matthew 28:19-20). This comprehensive approach to growth in Christlikeness is what we're called to propagate across the globe.

To download my 35 page resource "How to Build a Clear Discipleship Pathway," drop your name and email here:

The Role of the Local Church

Even small congregations have a significant part to play. Whether through prayer, support of missionaries, or direct engagement in cross-cultural ministry, every church can contribute to fulfilling this command. Remember, the early church started with a small group of disciples, and look at the impact they made!

Strategic Engagement

To disciple all nations requires strategic, intentional actions. It starts with clarity on what a disciple is and creating pathways that guide individuals from initial belief to mature followership — a journey of transformation that equips them to live out and multiply their faith.

The mandate to disciple all nations is a call to action for every Christian and every church, regardless of size or resources. It's a reminder of our part in God's global plan and the transformative power of the Gospel. The goal is to ensure that every person has the opportunity to be part of God's family.

Let's not see this as an overwhelming task but as a privileged invitation to join God in His work. With the Holy Spirit's guidance and empowerment, even the smallest congregation can make a difference in the global mission field. After all, it's "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6).

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