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One of the major words used in the New Testament to describe living life in the Spirit, is that of being a “disciple.” This term has a different focus some would say even different requirements depending on what part of the bible you are looking at. For example, a disciple in the Gospel account is different from someone described as such in the book of Acts. Indeed, you don’t need to be an expert to see there is a big difference to someone called a disciple in one of the Gospel accounts and someone living here in St Annes in the 21st century.
In the Gospels
The Greek word translated “disciple” means “learner, pupil.”
It presumes a teacher. In secular Greek, “disciple” was the usual word for an apprentice. A disciple could be an apprentice in any trade, or even by being a member of a particular philosophical school. The Gospels use the term in several different contexts. We hear of disciples of John the Baptist (Matt. 9:14; Mark. 2:18; Luke. 5:33; 7:18; John. 3:22. But by far the most common meaning of the term “disciple” is as a designation of the twelve disciples mentioned in the first 4 books of the New Testament which tell the story of Jesus. Interestingly in the New Testament sometimes the term is used to describe someone who is following Jesus but is not yet saved. E.G. The twelve disciples forsook their occupations to travel with and learn from Jesus (Matt. 4:18-22). Describing people some of whom are not yet full believers. Also (Matt. 28:16) we know of course that one of the twelve (Judas) was not saved but was still designated a student of Jesus and was referred to as a disciples on several occasions. (John. 17:12).
Who then is a true disciple of Jesus when it comes to this day and age.? During His ministry, Jesus and the Gospel writers addressed his followers as disciples by nature of the fact they were someone who was following him around physically and listening to what he said.
After His resurrection, Jesus mentioned an extra requirement He had not stated during His previous ministry. (John. 8:30-31). To be a disciple in the future it seems one must also trust Jesus for eternal life. The Greek word translated “indeed” means, “truly.” Before ascending, Jesus gave final instructions to the church what many now we call the Great Commission, to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). He described a three-step process to do that, namely, going, baptizing, and teaching. All three stages should be motivated by a personal desire to be like Jesus. To be a disciple people must deny themselves, which means to follow Him in all ways, and to “come after Him”. (Matt. 16:24; Mark. 8:24; Luke. 9:23). The Greek word translated “deny” means “to refuse to recognize, or to ignore.” To deny oneself is more than self-denial; it is the denial of self. Self-denial just is denying oneself an extra slice of cheesecake. Denying oneself is no longer recognizing yourself as the final authority in life and making Jesus the supreme authority. To be a disciple, Jesus must become the most important relationship in your life. Instead of living a self-centered life, being a disciple is living a Christ-centered life. To be a disciple one must also take up your cross. (Mt. 16:24; Mk. 8:24; Lk. 9:23; 14:23; Mt. 10:38). Luke’s account adds the word daily. (Luke. 9:23). The cross that Christian believers carries daily is nothing less than the will of God itself. In the Gospels, the method of being a disciple was to literally follow Jesus, that is, be physically present with Him. However now there is as a new way of being a disciple, because a new commandment has been given. (John. 13:34). The original apostles had to leave their families and possessions in order to follow Him. To do what he did and to walk where He physically walked this is what they had to do. The result of walking and learning from Jesus was growing to be more and more like Him. Believers are true disciples when they bear fruit. The ultimate goal is to be like Jesus, as Jesus Himself (Luke. 6:40) Thus, in the Gospels, disciples of Jesus were people who made a personal decision that meant they were physically present with Jesus. They listened to Him teach, formally and informally. They watched what He did. They were instructed by Him. They imitated Him. They became more and more like Him and they learned to be like Him in the context of a group thereby becoming fishers of men and women for the Lord.
If we move on from the Gospel accounts when Jesus was present with His disciples to the book of acts where He is not physically present anymore. Because this accounts for events after the resurrection. We see that the term disciple is now used almost appears as a synonym for Christian. In Acts, the term “disciple” always designates those who are connected with a local church (See. Acts 8:1, with 9:1, 11:26). These three aspects of discipleship were involved in the establishment of the church at Jerusalem” (Acts 2:41-42; 5:21, 25, 42), Antioch (Acts 11:26, 15:35), Corinth (Acts 18:11), and Ephesus (Acts 20:20). Thus, in Acts, disciples are “learners” in the context of a local congregation. In the Gospels, people physically travelled with Jesus to learn from Him. They learned by listening to Him teach and by watching what He did In other words, they could not learn in isolation apart from Him as the Holy Spirit at that point had not been gifted to the church as a guide and councillor. Paul later told the Ephesians that they were to, “equip the saints for their work of ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). The word translated “perfectly trained” in Luke 6:40 is the same as the word rendered “equipped” in Ephesians 4:12. What Jesus spoke of in the Gospels, we see gifted men and women do in the epistles. Hence, in the Gospels, the result of discipleship is Christ-likeness and in the epistles the goal of training/equipping is also to achieve exactly the same result.
In the purest sense of the term, disciples today are just baptized believers, baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ and hopefully baptized into their local church community as a symbol of that event. Christian disciples are simply believers who are learning to be like Christ in the context of a local spiritual community, namely, the church. The spiritual life requires depending on the Lord for eternal life, deciding to get baptized, and deeply desiring to be like Him. This also involves denying yourself as the authority in life, and daily doing God’s will. and diligently practicing and believing and obeying the Word of God as revealed by the same Holy Spirit.
It’s not about following rules; it’s about following the Lord. It’s not about regulations: it is about a relationship with the Lord. That’s why in Hebrews the author tells us we are to “Encourage one another daily” (Heb. 3:13) For believers to truly become disciples they do so by participating in a Christian community, by being part of a congregation, part of a local church and supporting and encouraging one another daily. And by picking up and carrying our cross, and by choosing the will of God over our own impulses daily.
And I pray by the power of the Holy Spirit of God that that is you experience also.
Master and Servant
Topics: Life in the Spirit