In other words, we are all engaged in “the work of the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58). We all do our part in helping the vine to grow through prayerfully speaking the word, whenever and however we can. Luther put it with typical sharpness like this:
“The ministry of the Word belongs to all. To bind and to loose clearly is nothing else than to proclaim and to apply the gospel. For what is it to loose, if not to announce the forgiveness of sins before God? What is it to bind, except to withdraw the gospel and to declare the retention of sins? Whether they [that is, the Roman Catholic Church] want to or not, they must concede that the keys are the exercise of the ministry of the Word and belong to all Christians.”
Does this sound too extreme? Or too demanding on the struggling Christians you know? Or just too hard to persuade people of? We need to think further about the nature of the normal Christian life.
Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine (pg. 175).
Following Jesus seemed easy enough at first, but that was because they had not followed him very far. It soon became apparent that being a disciple of Christ involved far more than a joyful acceptance of the Messianic promise: it meant the surrender of one’s whole life to the Master in absolute submission to his sovereignty….This was strong teaching. Not many people could take it. They liked to be numbered among his followers when he filled their stomachs with bread and fish, but when Jesus started talking about the true spiritual quality of the Kingdom and the sacrifice necessary in achieving it (John 6:25-29), many of his disciples “went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). As they put it, “This is a hard saying: who can hear it?” (John 6:60). The surprising thing is that Jesus did not go running after them to try to get them to stay on his membership roll. He was training leaders for the Kingdom, and if they were going to be fit vessels of service, they were going to have to pay the price.
Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (pgs. 50-51).
Of course, none of us is capable of running swiftly on the right course while we remain in the earthly confinement of our bodies. Indeed, most of us are so oppressed with weakness that we make little progress – staggering, limping, and crawling on the ground. But let us move forward according to the measure of our resources and pursue the path we have begun to walk. None of us will move forward with so little success that we will not make some daily progress in the way. Therefore, let us keep trying so that we might continually make some gains in the way of the Lord, and neither let us despair over how small our successes are. For however much our success fall short of our desire, our efforts aren’t in vain when we are farther along today than yesterday. So let us fix our eyes on the goal with sincerity and simplicity, aspiring to that end – neither foolishly congratulating ourselves, nor excusing our evil deeds. Let us press on with continual striving toward that goal so that we might surpass ourselves – until we have finally arrived at perfection. This, indeed, is what we follow after all our lives, but we will only possess it when we have escaped the weakness of the flesh and have been received into His perfect fellowship.
John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life (pgs. 16-17)
Baptism reflects all three aspects of a disciple’s identity [rational, relational, and missional], with particular emphasis on missional. First, baptism is a sign that we have learned the gospel. It signifies our identification with Christ in his death as we are lowered into his “watery grave,” and identification with his life, where we are raised up into his resurrection life (Rom 6:4).
Second, we are baptized into two overlapping communities. The first is the divine community of the Trinity: “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). The second community is the church: “For in one spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13). Baptism results in a new spiritual family–the family of the Trinity.
Third, baptism is missional because it is the outcome of obedience to the Gospel Commission. If sent disciples don’t share the gospel in the power and authority of Jesus, then people don’t get to respond by repentance, faith and baptism.
In a sense, baptism is the end of the Gospel Commission and, at the same time, it is its beginning. Baptism begins our participation in wonderful gospel mission. Whenever someone is baptized, another disciple is sent in the power and authority of Jesus to join the mission of making disciples of all nations.
Jonathan K. Dodson, Gospel-Centered Discipleship (pg. 32-33).