“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” Jesus commanded His disciples (Matthew 28:19, NASB). This we refer to as the Great Commission.
This is the most vital work of the Christian church. Of course, the church does other things such as it is a place for worshiping God and for fellowship among believers. But it’s most important work is the Great Commission. Accordingly, we must make sure we understand what Jesus means by a disciple.
I believe we use the term much too loosely today. Even your dictionary defines a disciple as a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher; or something like that. The key word here is “follower.”
Regularly attending a local Christian church does not make one a disciple of Christ. Even if a person has genuinely repented of her sins and placed her faith in Christ’s death and bodily resurrection, that does not necessarily mean she is a disciple.
Since we are stressing the importance of being a disciple of Christ, the way to make sure we understand what Jesus means by that term is by viewing it in terms of some things He says about a disciple.
Four Things Jesus Says about a Disciple of Christ
1. Follows Jesus’ teachings. “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make your free” (John 8:31-32). Jesus said these words to the Jews who had believed on Him. By virtue of these words, He makes a distinction between a believer in Christ and a disciple of Christ.
The former is one who believes in and places his faith in Christ’s redeeming work on the cross. The latter is a believer in Christ who continues in the teachings of Christ.
2. Can Be Like Jesus. “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). That’s awesome! Jesus Himself says we have the potential to be like Him. But that is only possible if we fully commit to being a disciple of Christ.
The message of holiness is not legalism as some grace preachers today suggest. There is absolutely nothing wrong with preaching and teaching that believers should be doers of the Word of God and passionate followers of of Christ.
God has not just called us to be a believer who has been saved by grace but also to be a passionate follower of Christ.
3. Bears Much Fruit for the Kingdom. We can’t be a practitioner of Christ’s teachings and be spiritually barren at the same time. These two are mutually exclusive. If we follow Christ, He will make us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).
According to Jesus, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8).
4. Are Like Sheep among Wolves. Jesus was not crucified because of evil doing. Rather, being faithful to God, He denounced the status quo. In proclaiming the Kingdom of heaven and its agenda, He often went against the grain of society and aroused the anger of the errant religious establishment. If we follow Christ, as He was in the world so will we be.
What Jesus said to His disciples He is saying to us, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16, KJV).
Based on the four points above, a disciple of Christ is radically different from just being a believer in Christ. The local church must be careful to remain focused on the former as her mission and Great Commission.
Copyright © 2019 by Frank King. All rights reserved.