What Is Your Understanding of Biblical Discipleship?

What Is Your Understanding of Biblical Discipleship?

 

What Is Your Understanding of Biblical Discipleship?

Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When you hear the word discipleship, what thoughts come to your mind? Like other words, it may have lost the significance of its original meaning. In your church do believers tend to think of discipleship as knowing facts about Jesus or following Jesus in a personal, dependent, obedient relationship? Biblically, discipleship is not a program but a process of becoming Christlike and being zealous to see others become disciples also.

The Gospels and the Book of Acts include 260 references to the word disciple. Every time the word is used, it refers to a declared relationship with Jesus Christ, not a level of spiritual or religious achievement. Becoming a Christian, in New Testament understanding, was the same as becoming a disciple of Jesus. The word disciple in the New Testament, then, refers primarily to any Christian, not to a subdivision of the Christian community.

According to Clarence Drummond, a Georgia pastor, to be a Christian is to be a disciple. (Source 1)

Scripture teaches three stages in a Christian’s life.

1. Justification. God initiates justification to bring a person into right standing with Him. The person becomes justified in God’s sight (see Rom. 5:1) by confessing and repenting of his sin and asking God to atone for it through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Inherent in the person’s declaration of need for God to redeem him from the penalty of sin is also a profession of his desire to follow Jesus as the Lord of his life. This profession begins the second stage.

2. Sanctification. This stage describes a believer’s journey of faith from justification to the end of his earthly life. Sanctification is the process of becoming mature or more Christlike in one’s faith. God wants Christians to learn how to live as He wants them to live (see Phil. 2:12).

3. Glorification. One day when a believer’s earthly life is over, he will be glorified, becoming like Jesus (see 1 John 3:2). The process of discipleship will then be complete (see Phil. 1:6).

Christian discipleship is a lifelong journey of obedience to Christ that spiritually transforms a person’s values and behavior and results in ministry in one’s home, church, and the world.

Dallas Willard, author, professor, and outspoken follower of Christ, said, “We progressively learn to lead our lives as he would if he were we.” (Source 2)

After someone becomes a Christian, becoming like Jesus in character and being obedient to Him should be the main objectives in life (see Gal. 5:22-23). John the apostle wrote, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ without keeping His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:4-6).

The Christian life ought to be more distinctive than any other type of life.

More to come on this topic, “Biblical Discipleship.”

Sources:
1. Clarence Drummond, in remarks given during a Georgia Baptist Convention conference.
2. Dallas Willard, The Great Omission (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006), 166.

3. http://www.lifeway.com/

Always, for God’s glory and our joy in Him!

Kevin Nunez

13 Responses

  1. So is it safe to assume that people who go to church are disciples of Christ?

    • Thanks for your comment. It’s NOT safe to assume that people who go to church are disciples of Christ. The church is open to both believers and non-believers. If one has put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior then one is professing to be a Christian. The life of a Christian is continual repenting, trusting, and following the example of Christ. If you claim to be a Christian then you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

      • Appreciate your response and I am sure we are on the same page or close to it. However, Mormons claim to be Christians, does that make them disciples of Jesus Christ? Maybe one of our significant challenges to Christianity today is that we set the bar too low: if I claim to be a Christian but never change my lifestyle to show evidence of at least attempting to follow his teaching is my claim realistic? I suspect your prior sentence (continual repenting, trusting, and following) is where the real action is, discipleship has to be active and visible, it cannot be based only on a claim.

  2. This is good. we share some of the same thoughts!

    • Amen, yeah I’ve been thinking a lot lately on discipleship and recently I’m beginning to lead a small group. I’ll be writing more on this topic in the coming days. Blessings to you in Christ! :)

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