The Bible uses the word Christian only three times. It uses disciple over 250 times! What is a disciple? What does it mean to be Jesus’ disciple?
The Meaning of Discipleship
A disciple is a learner or a student. (The New Testament word is from the root math!) A disciple is typically more than just a student, however. A disciple is a follower. It is one who learns from another person, then follows that person based on who he is. Jesus said He is the Teacher and Lord (John 13:13); His disciples, then, are students and servants.
The Bible speaks of disciples of Jesus in three senses. Broadly, the word is sometimes used of the crowds who followed Jesus, listening to Him but not necessarily committed to Him (e.g., John 6:60, 66). The normal sense of the word is followers of Jesus. In Acts, disciple is synonymous with Christian (Acts 11:26). In the narrowest sense, disciple refers to the apostles, the twelve Jesus chose from among His disciples to be His witnesses (Luke 6:13; Matthew 10:1-4).
The Elements of Discipleship
Being a disciple begins with a personal relationship. A disciple’s commitment is to the teacher himself, not just the principles he teaches. Jesus did not merely teach the way to God, He is the way (John 14:6). We must be in Him and He in us (John 15:4).
By definition, discipleship requires listening and learning. We must learn from Jesus’ words and His example, then we must apply what we learn. Discipleship requires obedience. Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Discipleship requires continuing in Jesus’ words: never abandoning them, not selectively applying them, and not going beyond them. “If you continue in My words, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Discipleship requires accepting the status of a disciple. We will always be servants: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master” (Matthew 10:24). We should expect to be treated just as the Master was: at times, appreciated; at other times, persecuted. If we are ashamed of our discipleship in the face of opposition, Jesus will renounce us at the judgment (Mark 8:38).
The Cost of Discipleship
In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus taught that discipleship requires three things: 1) that we love Him above all others, including our own lives; 2) that we carry our cross as we follow Him, a reference to whatever burdens come as a result of being His disciple; 3) that we yield to Him all that we have. In other words, total commitment. That is always the cost of discipleship. It must be viewed, however, not as any loss but as the cost of gain, in view of the . . .
The Benefits of Discipleship
Jesus ordered the apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). What benefit comes to those who become Jesus’ disciples? Mark’s account reads, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16a). Salvation is the great eternal benefit of discipleship! There are others.
The blessings of discipleship are not just future. Jesus said His disciples are free (John 8:32): free, not only from sin, but from ignorance, superstition, and fear. Learning the truth from Jesus gives us a completely different, vastly superior perspective on life. Living as Jesus’ disciple is the best way to live! (1 Timothy 4:8). And whatever we have to give up in order to follow Jesus is more than compensated, even now, as we share together with other disciples (Mark 10:30).
Why don’t you become Jesus’ disciple?