Author: Ron Graham
In this lesson we consider what set of rules and controls, or what discipline a disciple of Jesus Christ should follow and submit to.
There is certainly a discipline involved in discipleship. Even putting the two words "disciple" and "discipline" side by side, and seeing that they have the same root, makes one expect a probable connection between them.
The discipline of a disciple of Christ, however, is not one imposed by other people. Rather it is self discipline under Christ. Paul said to Timothy, "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" (1Timothy 4:7-8). Here Paul was contrasting the value of spiritual discipline with the more popular bodily discipline. However, the word "yourself" is not without force. Paul was encouraging Timothy not only to spiritual discipline but to self discipline.
When Paul gave his defence before Felix, he admitted his disciplieship to the Way of Jesus, and expressed it in the same terms: "I discipline myself to always maintain a blameless conscience before both God and men" (Acts 24:16).
Whilst it is necessary for the church to preach the gospel with reproof, rebuke, and exhortation (2Timothy 4:2) the onus is upon each disciple to apply discipline to himself or herself under the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are three aspects of self discipline:
If every Christian would practise self discipline in this way, there would be no need for any other form of discipline to be imposed. This is our next point.
Jesus shows that a disciple aims "to become as his teacher" (Matthew 10:24-25). In this context, the "teacher" is clearly not a fellow disciple, but rather the master teacher, the one whom the disciple is following. The disciple tries to become like the one whose disciple he or she is.
Now notice that Jesus says "it is enough" to do this. Christ wants his disciples to be as he is, and to follow his discipline. To add or submit to more discipline than his Master lays down, would be to rise above his Master, in other words to be arrogant or presumptious.
Since "it is enough for a disciple to be as his teacher", it is enough to conform to Christ's rules, and too much to follow additional rules. Avoid subjecting yourself to man-made rules. Take no other yoke or burden than Jesus has laid upon you (Matthew 11:29)
Note —A yoke is a bow-shaped crosspiece as part of the harness of beasts of burden. It joins two or more animals together such that they share the burden they are pulling.
It is, of course, a very good thing to follow the fine example of other Christians and let their example encourage us. Paul said to the Philippians, "join in following my example" (Philippians 3:16-17, 4:9). However, this was only because he himself was imitating the example of Christ. "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1Corinthians 4:15-16, 11:1). Notice that what we follow is the good example we see in others, not rules and regulations which they impose upon us. We now look at the rules that a disciple of Christ should follow.
The great commission laid down exactly the boundaries of what was to be imposed upon disciples of Christ. After saying, "...make disciples of all nations... Jesus concluded by defining what was to be taught to these disciples: "all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19,20). That is no-more-no-less statement. It puts a sharp edge to what the disciples of Christ are to follow, and what their teachers are to impose.