Author: Ron Graham
Christ’s True Disciples
What makes a disciple of Christ? This lesson looks at some of the characteristics of those who are truly disciples of Jesus, and emphasises the point that one member of the church is not a disciple of another member of the church, rather all members are fellow disciples of Christ.
Three similar Greek words
μανθανω manthano, to learn
μαθητης matheetees, a disciple
μαθητευω matheetuo, to teach
1. Disciples Are Students
Jesus invites us, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me" (Matthew 11:28-30). The word DISCIPLE basically means one who LEARNS. In the Greek New Testament, the words for LEARN and DISCIPLE are similar and related words:
One might assume from this that, if you are somebody’s eager student, then you are that person’s "disciple". Whilst it is a good thing to be taught good things well, that does not make you the DISCIPLE of every person who teaches you. Discipleship includes being taught, but it involves much more.
2. They Imitate Christ
Disciples are learners, but they are not merely to learn by rote. They are expected to live what they learn, and to be committed to and imitating the Master who taught them. (Matthew 16:21-24, Luke 14:25-27, John 8:31).
As disciples of Christ, we follow the example that Christ left us, and his example was perfect (1Peter 2:21-25).
It is also a good thing to follow the good example set by other disciples. However, following the Christian example of others does not make you THEIR disciple; it only makes you a FELLOW disciple of Christ with them (1Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17, Philippians 4:9, Hebrews 13:7).
3. They Obey Christ
Jesus expects obedience from his disciples, and those who do not abide in his word are not really his disciples (John 8:31). Only those who "bear much fruit" prove to be his disciples (John 15:8).
We are not, of course, disciples of everyone we obey. Even the elders who shepherd the church, whom we are commanded to obey, are themselves disciples under Christ (Hebrews 13:17, 1Peter 5:1-4).
4. They Are Friends of Christ
Jesus counts those who follow him as his "friends" (John 15:13-15). This shows that a close personal relationship exists between each disciple and the Lord.
It is a good thing also, to have close and loving personal relationships with fellow Christians for we are God’s family (Ephesians 2:19). However, such a relationship will not make you that person’s disciple, nor will it make that person your disciple. It only makes you like a father, son, mother, daughter, brother, or sister of that person in Christ (1Corinthians 4:14-17, Romans 16:13).
5. They Are Devoted To Christ
Christ should be your Master, and your commitment and devotion to him should be total — even to taking up your cross every single day (Matthew 16:21-24, Luke 14:25-27)
We are also expected to be affectionately committed and devoted to one another (Romans 12:10). However, being devoted to someone does not make us that person’s disciple.
6. Their Only Master Is Christ
In things to do with religion, Jesus Christ must be our only Rabbi, the only master teacher we follow (Matthew 23:6-10).
Like Joseph of Arimathea, and like the church in Damascus, let us be disciples of the Lord, not disciples and followers of mere men (Matthew 27:57, Acts 9:1-2, 1Corinthians 1:12-13, 1Corinthians 3:4-5). Even the peerless John the Baptist, who for a little while had disciples, wanted them to leave him and follow Jesus (John 1:35-37).
7. They Are Simply Christians
The terms DISCIPLES, CHRISTIANS, BELIEVERS, BRETHREN, SAINTS, are equivalent terms in scripture (Acts 11:26, Acts 18:27, Colossians 1:2). All these terms generally refer to the same group of people.
As an example of this point, note that "when the disciples came together to break bread", that meant the whole church (Acts 20:7 KJV, 1Corinthians 10:16-17).
The disciples were not a rank-and-file or lower class among the church members, ruled by an elite. When Jesus said, "Make disciples of all nations", he simply meant that disciples of Christ are to make more disciples of Christ, in other words more Christians (Matthew 28:16-20).
Once a disciple of Christ, always a disciple of Christ, and never a disciple of anyone else - just a Christian, no more, no less —that is the way discipleship should be.