What is a disciple?
Last year we studied quarterly lesson on discipleship. Let us this week review what a disciple is in the light of the Gospel. The following are excerpts from commentaries written for that quarterly on discipleship. This is what Jesus wanted His chosen ones to be.
What is a Disciple?
In the last lesson, we defined disciples in the light of scripture. We read in Luke 14,
Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
Luk 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
The implication here is clearly that to be Christ disciples you bear your cross and forsake all and follow Him. In John 15 discipleship is explained in terms of a farming parable. We read in John 15,
Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
These two descriptions of discipleship are complementary. If I remain in A, I cannot remain in B, thus I forsake B. The bearing of fruit reveals that we are good soil in which the good seed sown and eventually germinated (Luke 8: 4 – 18). The root found living nutrient and water. Ellen White sums it up beautifully,
As a flower of the field has its root in the soil; as it must receive air, dew, showers, and sunshine, so must we receive from God that which ministers to the life of the soul…The presence of God is guaranteed to the Christian…As long as the members of the church shall through faith draw sap and nourishment from Jesus Christ, and not from man's opinions and devisings, and methods; if having a conviction of the nearness of God in Christ, they put their entire trust in Him, they will have a vital connection with Christ as the branch has connection with the parent stock (Our Father Cares; 21 – 22).
In summary discipleship means to abide in Christ and bear fruit; and to pick up your cross, forsake all else and follow Him. It would behoove us to learn more about following Him.
When Jesus said, "Follow Me" (a phrase that occurs 17 times in the Gospels), it was for the purpose of making them disciples. A similar phrase, "Come unto Me" (6 occurrences), has the same purpose, for one comes to Jesus to follow Him. One may come initially in response to the mysterious drawing of His Spirit, may be merely curious, and want simply to observe or inquire with no intent to follow. But as the contact occurs, the drawing and coming will lead to following if there is no resistance. Jesus is that charming! We were designed for that, and He has preserved in each the ability to sense His drawing and agree with it. The Bible calls that faith.
It is in the coming and the following that the discipling occurs. One of the best-known uses of "Come..." promises a gift--"I will give you...." And my coming and His giving leads to another dual invitation--"Take ... and learn...." That must be the essence of discipling--the ongoing coming, giving, taking, and learning. The resultant promise is redundant--"I will give you rest" and "you shall find rest." (Matthew 11:28-30).
Now, as we gathered from the verse, to come unto Him we must be invited or drawn to Him. Jesus said in John 12:32-33
John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
John 12:33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.
What death did he die? "… the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). Paul says in I Corinthians 1: 17 -18
1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
1Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
And, Paul says that the power of God – unto salvation – is the Gospel. The word Gospel means good news, it has the same meaning of the root word for evangelism. Thus evangelism is spreading the good news. Discipline is what happens when we respond to the drawing.