Becoming Disciples of Christ

Introduction

Matthew 28:18–20 (NASB95) — 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

In order to truly practice Christianity, we must be a disciple of Christ. This is where the distinction is made in many if not all cases.  There is a difference between being a religious person and a Christian.  There is a difference in being a person professing to be a Christian and someone who is actually a disciple of Christ.  In order to practice Christianity, we need to be disciples, i.e., followers of Jesus Christ.  After all, the great commission from Jesus to His disciples is to make disciples of all nations.

An important issue here is knowing what a disciple of Jesus Christ is and what a disciple is supposed to therefore do.  Since a disciple is a follower of Christ and expected to do what Christ did, then we only need to examine the Scriptures to see what Jesus did during His ministry and what He taught His disciples to do.

This lesson will be a brief overview of what Jesus did and therefore what His disciples are supposed to do.

Disciple

Someone who follows another person or another way of life and who submits himself to the discipline (teaching) of that leader or way. A disciple of Jesus Christ is one who is taught what Jesus taught his first disciples and lives it.  A disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who follows Christ, i.e., the way of Jesus.

Believe

In order to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we must be a believer in Jesus Christ.  We must believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was raised from the dead by the power of God, and ascended to heaven to be with the Father (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  Jesus said himself…

John 3:16 (NASB95) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

acts of the Disciples

What does a disciple of Jesus Christ do?  To answer that question, we only need evaluate what Jesus did since we are to follow him.  Consider this passage of scripture.

John 14:12–14 (NASB95) — 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

This passage of scripture succinctly identifies one of the greatest problems in the religious community today.  We do not do the works of God. We do not do greater works than Jesus Christ.  We do not accomplish great things by asking in the name of Jesus.  Instead, we busy ourselves with religious activities.  Satan delivers to us sickness, poverty, disease, frustration, anger, etc. and we accept those in the name of Jesus.  We’ve been lied to and we believe the lie.  How many times have you heard someone say that God gave a person cancer for a greater good or that God killed that person because He loved him or her more than you?

What were the works of Jesus Christ?

  • He preached the Kingdom of God
  • He taught His disciples
  • He healed the sick
  • He raised the dead
  • He cast out demons
  • He revealed the Father

Jesus taught many disciples to carry on His message of salvation and the Kingdom of God. Consider the following passages of scripture with regards to a disciple of Jesus Christ.

  • Matthew 10:1 (NASB95) — 1 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
  • Mark 6:13 (NASB95) — 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.
  • Mark 3:14 (NASB95) — 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,
  • Acts 6:7 (NASB95) — 7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
  • John 15:5–8 (NASB95) — 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

The ultimate goal is to be a disciple and make others disciples.  Everything that you do with regards to religion, heaven, etc. must be measured against the commission of Jesus Christ.  We also note that according to John 3:16 discipleship is only available to us because of God’s love, then we should operate out of a heart of love and not necessarily mere duty or as a job.  God loves us so He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins.  We love others so we point them to that same object of God’s love, namely Jesus Christ.  They then become disciples and the cycle continues.

Some things that a disciple should do since we do not have direct access to Jesus’ original disciples.

  • Be born again, i.e., have put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
  • Be diligent to know Christ by reading and studying the Bible
  • Live according to the word of God, i.e., be a doer of the word
  • Share the gospel of Christ with others
  • A disciple goes and does what Jesus commands

A Disciple is Not…

I thought it necessary to discuss what a disciple is not.  In other words, the following things practiced do not make one a disciple.  See Matthew 7:21-23.

  • One who attends church regularly
  • One who is religious
  • One who does good deeds
  • One who follows the rules of their denomination
  • One who prays a lot
  • One who is a good person
  • One who sings on a choir
  • One who preaches
  • One who teaches
  • One who is a church leader

It is important to understand that a disciple of Jesus Christ is not defined by the items in the list above, though a disciple may exhibit those traits or activities. 

A disciple of Jesus Christ is a Christian who learns the ways of Christ, lives by them and shares them.
A Christian is one who has put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and not on their works.  Being a Christian and therefore a disciple is therefore founded upon what Jesus Christ has done and what he commanded his disciples to do.

The key word to discipleship is “go.”  We are to go out.  Too often we promote our own religious ideals or institution instead of Christ.  We are to be ready to give an answer for the faith we have at any time (1 Peter 3:15)

The Church

I have been in ministry in some capacity for over 25 years at the time of this writing.  Over a large part of those years I have come to realize a big problem in the church community over the years.  Too often church leaders are trying to find ways to get more members in their churches. They want to attract more people to fill the seats.  Now in some cases this is an honest attempt to help people, but in other cases it just people trying to build their own personal kingdoms like one would build a corporation.  Whatever the motive the premise is backwards to what Jesus commanded us.  Consider again our primary passage of scripture.

Matthew 28:18–20 (NASB95) — 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The operative word is “GO.”  Jesus said for us to go.  He SENT his disciples OUT to minister.  At no time did Jesus instruct his disciples how to build a local congregation by attracting them by some method.  Many churches attempt to attract people to their church the same way that a new store might attempt to attract people.  They have various events in hopes that people would come to those events and then decided to check out the church.  This is very common and very understandable.  A church organization has bills to pay, salaries to pay, and the act of ministry requires financing.

However, the problem with this paradigm as I stated above is that it is the actual antithesis of what Jesus said to do.  Not that churches shouldn’t have events for the community.  I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t at all.  However, when those efforts are undertaken for the purpose of attracting potential new members then a true problem really exists.  The church in that case is acting as if it is a business and not as a ministry resource for the body of Christ and the community.

One of the things that I have always done in ministry in the several churches that I’ve been a part of is to promote a relationship with God and foremost in my efforts is stressing the importance of knowing the word of God, i.e., the Bible.  Far too many people sit in church Sunday after Sunday and do not know the basics of the Christian faith to say nothing of more mature topics of the faith.  This is because in many cases the word of God is not presented as being important and therefore the people in the congregation do not see it as being important.  Instead they focus on social issues and community events.

Jesus said to go and we should therefore go.  We should go out amongst the people and present the truth of the gospel, the truth about God, and the necessity of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  God overall wants a relationship with people.  He does not want anyone to perish, but rather He desires that all are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

The model of true ministry in many cases is not seen in religious institutions.  The true model of ministry is surely found in the pages of the Bible and in particular the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.  We can see firsthand how Jesus ministered to people, how He taught His disciples to minister, and how they subsequently ministered during and after Pentecost.

Power

As Christians we have the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11).  We have an advantage over the world.  We have the power of God flowing within us via the Holy Spirit.  However, if you were to go into many churches you would see no power at all.  Instead you would see sick and defeated people as you would see in the world.  To make matters worse, some even credit God for their powerless condition.

Jesus said that we speak from what is in our hearts (Matthew 12:34).  Listening to people who call themselves Christians can be very depressing.  They talk about their sick as if there is no hope.  They say how this person is not expected to live, etc.  At the same time, we remember that Jesus told his disciples to preach the kingdom, heal the sick, cast out devils, and raise the dead.  It is indeed possible for people to die before their time (Ecclesiastes 7:17).  People don’t seem to consider that Satan is wreaking havoc on them and their families.  He is the thief and murderer.

If the church would walk in its true authority in Christ and therefore power, then more of Satan’s oppressive acts can be thwarted.  The answer is simple.  Make disciples of all nations.  Our mission is not to make larger congregations in all cities.  However, if we make more and more disciples then those new disciples will want to attend a local congregation making the side effect more members in churches.
Still my own personal opinion is that the goal still is not more members, but more workers.  Members can be passive merely attending church services every week to feel better, get encouragement, etc.  However, our true objective should be to equip people for the work of ministry just as the Jesus through the Holy Spirit is doing.

Ephesians 4:11–13 (NASB95) — 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

The goal is indeed disciples because that is what Jesus Christ established!

Conclusion

Be a disciple of Christ.  In whatever way God has equipped you, be prepared to share the good news about Jesus Christ to those around you.  Begin to pursue a life of a disciple so that you would do what Jesus’s disciples did.  Preach (proclaim) the gospel, heal the sick, cast out devils, raise the dead, live a life of love, etc.  Do what Jesus commanded a disciple to do.

Remember that our allegiance is to God and the first priority is His Kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33).  Obey God and truly be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Now Go!

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 629). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.