what exactly is a disciple? A disciple is someone who is motivated to
incorporate the disciplines and attitudes of someone the disciple adheres to – in
the case of Christians, it is Jesus
Christ. The disciplines of Jesus
Christ affect our lifestyle activities. While the attitudes of Jesus Christ affect
our cognition, or the way we perceive and think about the world we live in. If
our disciplines become more like Jesus Christ, our attitudes (cognition; thoughts
will become more like those of Jesus Christ.
note that Christians should never be or refer to themselves as disciples of
other Christian men or women, regardless of how spiritual those other men and
women would appear to be. Christians have a strong tendency to adhere
themselves more to the audible voices and physical faces of those they highly
respect, rather than to the actual person of Jesus Christ.
Apostle Paul makes this abundantly clear in his first letter to the Church at
Corinth. “For I have been informed
concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among
you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul,"
and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of
Christ." Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he?
Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
(1 Corinthians 1:11-13) We also see this tendency clearly in the number
of denominational variations of Christianity in all three of the major
divisions of Christianity in existence today. While it is more evident in
Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and the variety of National Orthodox Churches are
all encumbered with these issues.
Christ is the central and only focus of all discipleship principals and
processes that we incorporate into our lives. This issue of becoming someone
else’s disciple was one of the key problems the apostle Paul had to address the
Corinthian Church with.
early Corinthian Christians were missing the point of those who were attempting
to create an environment of spiritual growth through a mentality and practice
of Christian discipleship. They were adhering more to the leader / teacher than
they were to Jesus Christ who these leaders and teachers were instructing them
into proper relationships with. The
writer of the book of Hebrews says it best in this verse when he wrote; “Remember
those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result
of their conduct, imitate their faith.”
is important to see
that the writer of Hebrews tells these Christians to imitate the “faith”
of those who were leading them, and not the actual person in whom the faith was
observed. In reality he was saying, imitate the source of their faith – Jesus
Christ. This is because their leader’s conduct was a result of their discipleship
in the Christian faith.
The question is often asked, “So what’s the difference between a student, a disciple and an apostle?”
It is actually a very good question because often all three are perceived to be
one in the same from a very superficial reading of the New Testament.
someone who desires specific knowledge from a
specific source of teaching or instruction. Many people in Jesus’
day were looking for a teacher of the Law (the Old Testament Torah / the books
of Moses). They were looking someone to give them the ultimate shortcut to good
moral practices that would make them look better in the eyes of others than in
reality they actually were.
are many people going to church today because they are looking for the
spiritual shortcuts which will allow them to live non sacrificial lives as “masters”
and not as “servants”. This is because they want to
be a Christian on their terms. I is then that they usually turn out to be just
students and not disciples. Unfortunately, many will also reject the Gospel message
was the best teacher any student could ever learn from. But, that was not the
only reason He walked amongst us. The primary reason Jesus Christ was born into
humanity was to redeem the world from its sinful condition. His lifestyle and
teachings were ultimately the glorious by-product of His sacrifice on the cross
for our sins.
someone who is motivated to incorporate the
disciplines and attitudes of someone the disciple adheres to, just like it was
discussed earlier on. There are some who start out with the mentality of being
a student, and then eventually move into a relationship with Jesus Christ and
thus start to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Obviously, not all students of
the teachings of
Jesus become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. The students who
don’t become disciples are the ones that eventually disregard or deny the deity
of Jesus Christ. They may also perceive the teachings of Jesus to be equal in value
with the teachings of noted people like Aristotle, Socrates, Buddha, Mohammad
or any other noted philosopher or religious leaders.
by definition is “someone
who is sent with a specific
message”. Jesus originally chose
twelve men from amongst His disciples. There were probably a group of about 120
regular followers/ disciples of Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. (Reference
What needs to be understood is
that not all
disciples are apostles - but all apostles are disciples. Mark’s Gospel records this
process and apostolic definition very accurately. And He appointed
twelve, so that they would
be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,
and to have
authority to cast out the
demons. And He appointed
the twelve: Simon
(to whom He gave the name
Peter), and James,
the son of Zebedee, and John
the brother of James
(to them He gave the name
Boanerges, which means, "Sons of Thunder"); and Andrew,
Philip, and Bartholomew,
and Matthew, and Thomas,
and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot
; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. (Mark
is very interesting to note the actual text reads “that He could send
them out to preach and to have
authority”. This is the definition of an apostleship.
These twelve would eventually be sent out into all of the known world of their
day with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That message of the Gospel
that they would preach would display the authority of God in their lives.
This passage does not imply that one must
become an apostle to be able to preach the Gospel or be sent out to others with
that specific message. What it does say is that Jesus does select and give
specific abilities to certain people to lead that perpetuation of His Gospel in
the communities in which they reside and work in on a daily basis.
how does someone actually become a recognizable disciple of Jesus Christ? Contrary
to what most church pastors and
leaders teach, it is a two stage event, and not just a single event. First
someone must come to that “crisis point”
and make a cognitive choice to
receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. This is not a religious
experience. It is an informed act of that person’s intellect to accept the free
grace of God displayed in the redemptive sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross
for each and every one of us in His own death, burial and glorious
someone affirms their desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ by practicing a
continued effort to become more
like Jesus Christ every day of their lives. It’s that easy. There are no
minimum standards, no social status requirements, and no monetary gifts or
physical abilities required.
is not even a requirement. Discipleship is all found in the posture or the intent
of our hearts. Many people in the Church today believe that all Christians are
disciples. They go to great lengths to create environments where people gathered
in groups can collectively experience that “crisis
point” which begins such a journey.
It is often referred to as “making
a decision for Christ” or “getting
saved” . Indeed, every person who is a true disciple of Jesus Christ has
had that crisis point decisive split second to act on. However, the reality is
often seen in who that person making that cognitive choice is in two weeks,
three months or six years down the road.
Matthew 7:16 Jesus says that “you will
know them by their fruits”. He doesn’t say you will know them by the power
of their cathartic experience that occurred at their particular crisis point
decision. One of the better ways to discern the level of discipleship activity
in a Christian’s life is to see what their by-products (fruits) are.
more we practice this continued effort, the easier it becomes to be transformed
into the image and reflection of Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews shows this
mentality toward our own discipleship and its relationship to the Bible in the
following passage; For
of God is
living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)