The following is a handout from a recent study we had as a church family.
Since “disciple” and “discipleship” are so popular in our current context, it is important to define these terms.
– Disciple – A follower. A disciple is a follower of someone else. In a Good News context, it is a reference to those who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
– Discipleship – Training Followers. “To disciple” means to train others to follow. So, Gospel discipleship is training others to follow Jesus.
Due to current confusion, it is important to consider some key things about discipleship:
1. Discipleship is not a second, higher calling from salvation. All true believers in Jesus are disciples of Jesus (Consider Luke 14:25-33; John 10:22-30; Acts 6:1-7).
The term “disciple” is used to describe believers in Jesus. Consider Acts 6:7 (ESV – emphasis mine) “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
2. The Gospel call is a call to discipleship (Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 14:25-33; Acts 20:21).
When Jesus called people to himself, he called them to repent (turn around) and believe on him (Mark 1:14-15). He also issued the Gospel call to follow him (Luke 14:25-33).
3. The faith that saves is a faith that will act (James 2:14-26; The Letter of Titus; Mark 4:1-20; The Letter of 1 John).
We are not saved by our works. We are saved by the work of Jesus Christ alone, who died in our place for our sin. As has been said, “We are saved by faith alone. The faith that saves is never alone.” It will always produce some measure of fruit, some measure of works.
Making Observations from Matthew 28:16-20 and Titus 2:1-15 (and others)…
1. Discipleship rests in the worth and authority of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18).
A. Jesus Christ has all authority, so he has the right to command the making of disciples of all nations.
B. Jesus Christ has all authority, so he is worthy of worship and submission (from us and all the nations).
C. Jesus Christ has all authority, so he has the ability to accomplish the mission of making disciples of all nations.
Jesus said, “I will build his church,” and he will. He has the right and ability to do so! If this is not true, discipleship is a useless cause. Since it is true that Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth, discipleship is necessary, possible, and the greatest of all purposes!
2. Discipleship starts with a Gospel call – Return to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and came back to life again (Luke 24:44-48).
In Luke 24:44-48, Jesus said repentance for the forgiveness of sins had to preached in the nations. So, individuals must return to God through faith in Jesus to have their sins forgiven. In returning to God, believers in Jesus are purchased by Jesus’ death in their place to no longer live for themselves. They now belong to and live for Jesus who died for them (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Titus 2:11-14).
3. Disciples are baptized in water to identify them with the God who saved them through faith (Matthew 28:19)
Water baptism does not save anyone from sin. Water baptism is the public testimony (identification) that we belong to the God to whom we have returned. Water baptism is the follower’s public statement that they have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Disciples are to be discipled to observe all of Jesus’ commands (Matthew 28:19).
Jesus has not called his followers to get professions of faith. He has called us to multiply followers. These followers are not following a pastor, church leaders, or denominations. These are followers of Jesus. So, we come to the Lord’s Word for our marching orders.
So, discipleship is…
1. Bible-Based – Jesus’ commands are found in the Bible alone (Matthew 28:18-20; Titus 1:9, 2:1; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2).
The Bible is our sole source of authority and sufficiency in this work of discipleship. The Bible proclaimed is the means through which God causes us to be born again (1 Peter 1:22-25; 2 Timothy 3:14-15) and grown in the faith (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
2. Redemption-Based (Ephesians 1:7; Titus 2:14)
Jesus Christ died for sinners to make a people for his possession. Jesus did not died to set us free from sin to live for ourselves, but to live for him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Jesus has purchased His people from sin for himself. We now live to follow and worship him (Titus 2:11-14).
3. Faith-Based – The life of faith is a life that acts. Belief produces behavior (The Letter to Titus; James 2:14-26; Mark 4; Letter of 1 John).
Consider Mark 4:8 and 20: “(8)And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold… (20)But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Also consider James 2:17-18: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
4. Community-Based (Titus 2:1-10)
Discipleship is not something that can be done in isolation. It is not something that is done primarily through programs. It is something done in the context of the local church family. Each part of the body does its share, as enabled by the risen Lord, and the body is built up (Ephesians 4:7-16). The older in the congregation are take the lead and disciple the younger in the congregation (Titus 2:1-5). The leadership serves as an example for all (Titus 1:5-9; 2:7-8).
5. Grace-Based (Titus 2:11-14; Matthew 28:20)
Discipleship is not something that we can do on our own. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The great news is that we are not left alone in the Great Commission. Jesus said that he is with us always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). The grace of God not only saves us, but it trains us in godliness (Titus 2:11-14). The only way the work of discipleship is possible is that Jesus Christ has died in our place, has come back to life again, and all who trust in Him have new life (1 Peter 1:3-5). It is only as we depend on his grace that we are enabled to do his work (Ephesians 4:7-16).
6. Hope-Based (Matthew 28:20; Acts 1:8-11; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 3:1-3)
The work of discipleship is based in hope. Jesus said He was with us all the way to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). That tells us that there is an end to this age, and he will come again. Titus 2 says that grace saves and trains us while we are waiting for the blessed hope of Jesus’ return.
In closing, consider Acts 1:8-11, and rejoice in the promise of verse 11:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:8-11 (ESV)
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