Thursday, August 30, 2007

Making Disciples (Part 2)

Here's part 2...

Three questions need to be answered in regards to making disciples before we proceed.

1. What is a disciple?
2. What is discipleship?
3. Where does discipleship begin?

We will look at the first question today?

What is a disciple?
Michael Wilkins, in his book Following The Master, A Biblical Theology of Discipleship, addresses this issue from the perspective of the ancient world, Old Testament and New Testament. He lists several ways the word “disciple” was used in each of these time periods. Tracing the development of the word disciple will give us an idea of what a disciple is.

- Someone learning or under a leader of any kind. In a religious sense, this could refer to a disciple of a certain Pharisee, John the Baptist, Moses, or a certain Rabbi. In a secular sense the word could be used to describe a disciple of a certain philosopher in the Greek culture (e.g., Socrates, Plato) or a disciple of a trade of some kind (e.g., woodworker, mason, farmer, shepherd).

- Disciple is used in the Gospels to denote general followers of Jesus.

- Disciple is used to refer to the twelve disciples Jesus chose. The twelve disciples were called to be Apostles (sent ones) in Luke 6:13. The Apostles were Christ’s handpicked leaders.

- In some of the Gospels (e.g., Luke & John) we see disciple being used to describe superficial followers of Jesus. These disciples left Jesus when His teaching became too hard for them to understand.

- Judas was a disciple of Jesus. He was a known traitor who was called a disciple.

- We see Peter, a disciple who denied Jesus, called a disciple.

- Jesus puts the possessive pronoun (“my”) before disciple to distinguish his marks of true discipleship. Jesus requires belief in Him, love of Him, obedience to Him, and asks us to abide in Him daily. Wilkins defines a disciple of Jesus as one who has come to Jesus for eternal life, has claimed Jesus as Savior and God, and has embarked upon the life of following Him. Wilkins states that this is the primary way the word disciple is used in the New Testament.[1]

This list shows us a vast array of possible meanings for what a disciple could be. Thankfully, the last definition spelled out by Jesus narrows our search down to what He had in mind for a disciple. This is the definition we are seeking to build discipleship principles upon. Once again, when we talk about a disciple we mean someone who has placed their trust in Christ, believes in Him, loves Him, obeys Him, and is abiding (living) in Him daily. This captures what Jesus said in Luke 9:23,

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

[1] Michael J. Wilkins, Following The Master; A Biblical Theology of Discipleship, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) pg. 40.

Your thoughts?


Wealthy Ben's Almanac said...

How many "disciples" of Jesus can quote even 3 things he said?

How do I "make him God" in my life? If he's "God", isn't he God always in everything--even my life--just because he's God?

"Obey Him" "Abide in Him"-- what does this mean. Sounds creepy cultic! How do I "obey" him...what does he want? How do I know what he wants? Also begs the first question-- if I am going to obey him, shouldn't I know something about him-- what he believes, what he teaches...

How is being a disciple of Jesus different than being a disciple of Neitche or Marx or Buddha? I mean "obey" is a strong word. I know some Marxist' who know his theory very well and some liberals who follow Nietche's superman ideal pretty heavily...
They know those philosophies pretty well. And it shapes their decisions and thoughts about things. that enough. Could I be a disciple of Jesus and just let his ideas or wisdom or whatever "shape" me...
I mean --- "obey". Wow.
Does "obey" in the Bible mean "to obey" in a command sense, or in "follow these guidelines" sense?
After all, some of those marxists and nietsche guys are better "disciples" of their teacher than most Christians are of Jesus...

stirring the pot

Tim Sheets said...

Thanks for the comment.

You are right about God being God whether we receive Him or not. I guess a more proper way to talk of Him being Lord of our lives is to talk about entering His Kingdom (or does His kingdom enter us?).

God’s kingdom = a place where His reign and rule are carried out.

God, being full of grace and mercy, allows us to receive or reject His kingdom (though some may say it is not our choice, I disagree).

Obedience - It’s not a senseless or illogical obedience, but obedience out of love. In some basic ways being a disciple of someone other than Christ is similar (following them, learning their teachings, trying to act like them). But, in other ways it is significantly different. If we believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life we are incomplete and restless following anyone else.

I like your pot stirring! Some of these issues will be explore further in upcoming posts.

Grace and peace,
T <><