two women praying on a couch

Recently, I've heard a number of believers calling for increased focus and teaching on how to make disciples.

These statements got me to thinking about discipleship and what the real needs are.

On the one hand I agree—Jesus clearly told His followers to go teach people and make disciples, and the world certainly needs more evangelists and more evangelism. There are lost souls everywhere who need Jesus. I fully support all efforts to share the New Testament gospel with people. 

On the other hand, however, I wonder if perhaps some believers have over-complicated Jesus' instructions. (We're really bad about over-complicating things.)

Let's look at Jesus' command:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matt. 28:18-20 NIV)

The phrase "make disciples" in verse 19 is the Greek verb "μαθητεύω", which means "I make a disciple of, train in discipleship; pass: I am trained, discipled, instructed".

The noun "diciple" is the Greek word "μαθητής, οῦ, ὁ", which means "a learner, disciple, pupil", and is found 263 times in the New Testament.

According to Jesus' statement in Matt. 28:18-20, a disciple is one who obeys everything Jesus commands.

Now, we know from the rest of the New Testament that Jesus doesn't require sinless perfection in order to be His disciple (see Rom. 5-8; 1 John 1-2), but He does expect us to imitate Him (1 Cor. 11:1) and live a holy life (1 Pet. 1:13-21), confessing our sins to GOD and one another.

Someone says, "But is every Christian a disciple of Jesus?"

What does the Scripture say?

And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
(Acts 11:26b NKJV)

In the early church, a believer was the same thing as a Christian, and a Christian was, by definition, a disciple of Jesus.

Unfortunately, these terms are not always equal today, for many "believers" limit their belief to an intellectual acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of GOD, the Savior of the world.

They might have "asked Him into their hearts," but they haven't died with Him (Rom. 6; Gal. 2:20) and are not walking according to the Spirit but instead by the flesh (Rom. 8:1).

Their life does not reflect a true belief that is biblical faith.

So, do we need more disciples? Absolutely!

What, then, must we do to make someone a disciple of Jesus?

We must teach them to:

  1. Know the teacher. GOD expects those who would be His children to know Him, and to know Jesus. And to know Him is to love Him.
  2. Know the teachings of the teacher.
  3. Follow the teacher—by following His teachings.

Paul told the Thessalonians:

6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
(2 Thess. 1:6-8 NIV)

Like most things in life, especially those spiritual in nature, making disciples is a pretty simple process to comprehend.

And, like most things in life, it's a lot easier to say than it is to do.

What do you think: Have we over-complicated the concept of making disciples?

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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