Discipleship: The process of being and making disciples of Jesus Christ.
What is a disciple?
The OT word {HB=limmud} means "one who is taught," or who has learned from some master or experience. This word was used in reference to the few Israelites who heeded Isaiah's proclamation of God's Word (Isa 8:16). In Isaiah's later prophecy, the word is used of the Messiah who is "learned" (instructed, discipled) in the way of the LORD (Isa 50:4). But the word is also applied to those who have become "used to" or "accustomed to" (ie., discipled in) evil (Jer 2:24; 13:23).
In the NT, the GK word "mathetes" has the same meaning. It is almost always used in reference to the followers of Jesus (Mat 9:10,11). However, several times it is used of John's disciples (eg., Mat 9:14), once of Moses' disciples (Joh 9:28, where the claim proved to be false), and once of those who would follow false teachers (Acts 20:30). Some, who had been known as Jesus' disciples, turned away from following Him when they were offended by His teaching (see Joh 6:64-71). True disciples continue to follow confidently, though, at first, they may not fully understand the Master's words, in time they will experientially know the Truth (Joh 8:31,32). As we are discipled by Him, we will find rest in serving alongside Him (Mat 11:28-30, where 'learn of me' is 'be discipled of me.')
Discipleship, as right relationship to the Master, is modeled for us by...
The relationship of Jesus to his 12 disciples:
[These lists, gleaned from Matthew, are far from exhaustive.]
The relationship of the 12 disciples to Jesus:
Jesus commissioned His disciples to "go and make disciples": Mat 28:16-20 (in v.19 "teach" is GK=mathetes, the verb form of 'disciple').
Disciples of whom?
Disciple making: What is it?
  1. Dependence upon Him... Mat 28:18
         Although our Lord has commanded us to make disciples, the Bible does not contain a ready made "discipleship program." Christian workers, through the years, have developed a multitude of discipleship methods and materials. Many of these are biblically sound attempts to convey the essential doctrines of the Faith to new and growing believers. They can be very helpful in the process of discipleship. However, discipleship is more than educational methods and materials. It is more than teaching facts about Christ. It is the process by which a believer comes to know his personal Savior as his personal Lord and Master. The Lord has already given us all that we need to reach that end (see 2Pet 1:1-3). It is "through the knowledge of Him" that the believer is enabled to "grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." All the credit, both for the saving and for the maturing of His disciple, belongs to Him (2Pet 3:18).
         Yet, our Lord has given us the wonderful privilege of working together with Him (2Cor 5:18-6:1). We must never get so caught up in the work that we move from His side to labor on our own. For without Him, we cannot fulfill the work which He has committed to us (Joh 15:5).
         "All (the totality of) power is given unto Me... go ye therefore...". The word for 'power' {GK=exousia} is very broad. The phrase 'all power' encompasses the right to do whatever He chooses, the physical and mental ability to accomplish His purposes, and the authority to govern and judge all matters and beings under His jurisdiction, which is the whole universe ('heaven and earth'). Though ungodly human and demonic forces rise to hinder and oppose His work, He prevails against them all.
         We are weak and prone to failure. He is fully able. His purposes cannot fail. Neither can His people fail when their strength is in Him (2Cor 3:5).
         We are unwise, and confused by the world's wisdom. We need to know his wisdom, and to follow in His way. We must allow our Lord to disciple us, just as He, as a man, was discipled by His Father (Isa 50:4-10; Mat 11:29). Notice how closely these two passages mesh:
    • Learn of me (ie., 'be discipled of me') - Isa 50:4,5 with Mat 11:29a
    • I am meek and lowly of heart - Isa 50:5,6 with Mat 11:29b
    • Ye shall find rest - Isa 50:7-10 with Mat 11:29c
  2. Obedience to Him... Mat 28:19
        His command (What are we to do?):
    "Go ye therefore, and teach (make disciples of) all nations..."
         Why would anyone disobey the Lord (Luk 6:46)? Because of unbelief (Mat 28:17 "some doubted"). Because of fear (Mat 10:28; Prov 29:25). Only those who truly know Christ will bear the Good News to others.
         Where are we to go with the Gospel? The text literally reads: "As ye go... teach..." There is no specific command to leave your home to become a missionary to a distant land. Yet, we are to take the message to "all nations {GK=ethnos}." The Gospel is for the Jew and the gentile alike. It is for people everywhere, of all ethnicities (Rom 1:15,16). We are commanded to reach them where we are, and wherever the Lord may direct us to find them (Acts 1:8... This verse also emphasizes our utter dependence upon Him).
        His instructions (How are we to fulfill His command?):
    1. Baptizing them in {into, unto} the Name... (Mat 28:19b)
           "The Name" is singular, and inclusive of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those who are baptized into this Name are identified with the one true and living God.
           Water baptism is intended as an outward sign or testimony of this identification. However, water baptism in itself cannot secure a relationship with God. Sadly, many who have been blessed with water remain under the curse of sin and in alienation from God. The inward reality is only made possible when the Holy Spirit baptizes a believer into the Body of Christ (1Cor 12:13). Thus, for the believer, the external sign of water baptism testifies to the inward reality of belonging to Christ (Acts 8:36-38).
           Since saving faith is the prerequisite for baptism into His name (both externally with water and inwardly by the Spirit), before the Ethiopian Eunuch could be identified with Christ in baptism, he had to believe in Christ, putting his trust in who He is, and in what He did to redeem this man from his sin. Before Philip could baptize him, he first had to share the Gospel of Christ with him, so that the man could believe (Acts 8:35, where "preached" is GK=euaggelizo; To evangelize is to proclaim the good news. cp. Rom 10:14, where "preach, preacher" are GK=kerusso, one who publishes the word, a herald).
           So, the first part of our commission from Christ, is to evangelize... to proclaim the Gospel of Salvation. Which leads to the question:
      What is the Gospel? How would you explain it to someone?
      The word 'Gospel' means "Good News." It is the English translation of GK=euaggelion (or) euaggelizo (from which we also get the English words 'evangel' and 'evangelize'). Inherent in the Good News, is the necessity to share it with others. Consider Rom 10:8-15, where the message, that salvation is available through faith in Christ, is to be 'preached' by 'preachers' (both words, in v.8,14,15a, are from GK=kerusso, to publish, to proclaim).' In verse 15, the phrases 'preach the Gospel' and 'bring glad tidings' are both from the GK 'euaggelizo.' Preaching the Gospel does not require a pulpit, but it does require faithful messengers, who are 'ready' with the Gospel message (Rom 1:15; 2Tim 4:2).
           See 'True Life begins with the New Birth' [on the Resource Menu] for several outlines for presenting the Gospel.
      Who is the true evangelist?
      No matter how well prepared you are to share the way of salvation with an unsaved person, you are powerless to convince or convert them. You might cajole someone into "praying the prayer." But you cannot truly move their heart. Once again, Christ's disciples are totally dependent upon Him. See what He says in Joh 6:44; Joh 12:32; Joh 16:7-11; 1Cor 3:6,7
    2. Teaching them... (Mat 28:20a)
      Here, "teaching" is GK=didasko, "to instruct, distill, and explain" doctrine {GK=didache}. Doctrine is simply "that which is taught" (eg. Luk 4:32; Joh 7:16; Acts 2:42; Rom 6:17; 16:17)
      ...to observe...
      The word means "to keep, to attend carefully to, to preserve." As the teacher expounds Bible doctrine, the disciple is to receive the Truth, cherish it, obey it and guard it against error (Eph 4:11-14; 1The 2:13; Jude 1:3,4).
      ...all things whatsoever I have commanded you...
      This word for command (GK=entellomai, to give a charge) is formed from two words, which, together, literally read "unto an end." The Lord has given us precepts, which prescribe what He expects of His followers, until He comes again for us. For example:
      • His commandment to love one another with uncommon love - John 13:34,35
      • Keeping His commandments demonstrates love for Him - John 14:21,23
        He has not given us a list of commandments. Rather, He has given us the entirety of God's Word, the Holy Bible. We are responsible to study it, teach it, and apply it to our lives (2Tim 2:15; 3:16). It is like milk and meat for believers (new and old alike): essential for growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (1Pet 2:2). Neglect of God's Word stunts that growth resulting in unnecessary immaturity (1Cor 3:2; Heb 5:12). However, Bible study must not be a mere academic exercise. Rather, it is while feeding upon the Word, that the disciple enters into vital communion with his Master, whom he serves, and upon whom he depends (Rev 3:20).
             [It is the prayer of the editor, that the various resources available on this site, may enable believers, whatever their level of maturity, to draw near to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to grow in their walk as His disciples.]
      • Abide in me, and I in you... and my words in you... - Joh 15:1-17
        Such a vital relationship, with Him, is prerequisite for fruitful ministry. Notice how the Lord closes His instructions to us concerning disciple making:
  3. Awareness of His Presence (Mat 28:20b)
    Lo {ie., behold, see}, I am with you alway {lit. daily, day by day},
    even unto the end of the world {GK=aion, the age}.
         What comfort in this promise, for those who suffer for His Name's sake, that He is with us continually, right up to the end {GK=sunteleia, completion, consummation} of this present evil age!
         But this age is also the period of opportunity to tell others about Him, and to teach those who believe what it means to follow Him as His disciples. In the promise of His Presence, there is Power to fulfill this purpose! The things which He commanded us will remain applicable "unto the end," and as we walk together with Him, we will also reach the appointed "end together" (the literal meaning of 'sunteleia').
         Until then, it is essential that we minister together with Him. When He walked this earth, Jesus frequently spoke to individuals in such a way that they knew that nothing in their heart was hidden from Him. Knowing that He knew, many yielded to His healing touch. How can you and I, who are unable to look beyond the outward appearance of any man, make disciples of lost sinners? We cannot. Yet, today, He still speaks to needy hearts, drawing them to Himself. His Word is alive and powerful to accomplish His purposes. May we, who are His disciples, not be discouraged by the weakness of our voices, but rather, follow hard after Him. (see Psa 63:1,2,8; Gal 2:20; Luk 10:16; Isa 55:10,11; 2Cor 5:20; 6:1; Rev 22:16,17)

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