What does it mean to be a “disciple?”
Well, we’re told in Acts 11:26, after a year of teaching by Barnabas and Saul:
in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
So, to be a “disciple” is to be a Christian and visa versa.
A Christian is a follower of Christ, we’ve taken on his very name, it is to become like the one whom you follow.
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Disciples make disciples because that’s what Jesus did, and it’s what he commanded us to do.
Go therefore and make disciples…
So, one of the hallmarks of a true disciple, is that they, in turn, make more disciples. This can be seen in Jesus’ ministry in that he preached to the thousands, and he also taught more intimate groups of only believers (like the 120 in the upper room), but he invested his time in the 12 disciples, even more specifically, in Peter, James, and John.
The Apostle Paul understood this as well, he was raised in the rabbi-disciple form of training. He was expressing this idea of disciple-making to one of his disciples, Timothy, when he says:
…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Paul, even though he taught the masses in the marketplace, invested time in a select few so as to make disciples who would make disciples. In fact, a “disciple” who does not make more disciples, is actually no disciple at all.
Paul charged Timothy to take the things that he taught, and to pass it on. We can see that this was not “private information” or exclusively “one on one” teaching, because it was taught in the full view of many people. It’s Timothy’s job, not simply to pass this along to everyone, but to find “faithful men,” people who have demonstrated a desire to learn, grow, and become disciples themselves. Timothy is to find people who will be able to become disciples who will make more disciples, and that’s what we should do as well.
Preaching to the masses is great, share the gospel with every creature under heaven, but take the time to pay attention. Look for “faithful men” along the way which you can say “come, follow me.” It is a little different for us, in that we are not the rabbi, Jesus is the only rabbi (cf. Matt 23:8), but we still need to find people to follow us as we follow Jesus.
I enjoy doing weddings and funerals, mostly because I try to only do ones for people that I personally know and who have shown themselves to be followers of Jesus, otherwise it’s quite frustrating and depressing to pretend it’s a joyous occasion.
Be that as it may, I had the opportunity to marry a couple several months ago and in the course of the rehearsal I noted how the wedding is a picture of the gospel, etc. Later at the dinner I had some conversations with the groom’s father, and the next day, right before the ceremony was about to begin, I had the privilege to lead him to faith in Christ. It was the best wedding gift he could have ever given the happy couple.
It was bitter sweet because only a couple of months later, Mike (the groom’s father) passed away. I knew he had placed his trust in Jesus, and that was a joy, but how sad that he only had a few months.
Well, I learned at the funeral, when a man came forward, that Mike had turned around and shared the gospel with him at work and led him to the Lord as well.
My heart just about leapt out of my chest! I immediately thought of 2Tim 2:2 and was so thankful for this beautiful picture of what a disciple really is. It’s someone who follows Jesus, and leads others to do so as well. Even in such a short time, Mike had such an encounter with the risen savior that he couldn’t keep it to himself.
What about us? Are we content to know the truth in our hearts, but never share it with anyone? Can we truly be called a “disciple” if we never seek to make more disciples? What if no one around us even knows we are a Christian? Can that kind of faith save us? Is that even “faith?”
When Jesus says:
Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
He is saying that “knowing is not enough.” μετάνοια is the word translated “repentance.” We usually think of it as “turning around” or in some way doing something different, but it really has to do with “thinking different.”
See, true repentance is changing the way you think about yourself, God, the world, and everything in it. It’s a change of heart/mind, but when you think that much differently, you will change how you act. Jesus says “bear fruit” that shows you really do think differently.
If we really believed in Jesus, we could not keep it to ourselves, we would have the desire to share him with the world, and we would learn how to do it. We would make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples…
Let’s get out there and do it! As we go throughout our days, let’s keep our eyes open for opportunities. Pray for them, and then when the door is open, share Jesus with people, who will share Jesus with other people, to the glory of God, until Jesus returns!