The word disciple comes from “discipulus”, the Latin word for pupil. In its broadest sense, it means a student or learner. A disciple in the Christian context is not just a student, but someone (male or female, young or old) who follows Jesus and aspires to be like Him.
A close friend of mine recently began referring to me as “the disciple”. I feel humbled and blessed, because I know he is employing the term within the Christian frame of reference. It is an honor to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is also a process based upon certain intentional activities, some of which are listed below.
A disciple endeavors to place the Lord Jesus first and as Jesus took up His cross of divine sacrifice, a disciple shoulders a cross of dedicated service (Mark 8:34-38).
A disciple diligently studies and follows Jesus’ teachings. Jesus said, “If you keep on obeying what I have said, you truly are my disciples” (John 8:31).
A Christian disciple is a person who not only accepts biblical teaching, but attempts also to share the gospel of Christ. A mature disciple does this in word, deed and with kindness. Peter wrote, “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Disciples will be known, not only for their devotion to the Savior, but for their love for others. Jesus told His disciples, “I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).
Finally, true disciples, as they learn and follow, become in character more and more like Christ. Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is well trained will be like his teacher.”
Jesus’ entire ministry was built upon disciples and discipleship. He began His ministry by calling together a small group of 12 disciples. He spent three and a half years teaching people how to become disciples and live disciplined lives. And when he left this world He entrusted His final instructions to the disciples who were present. He told them that they should go into the entire world and “…make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19).
Some have taught that one can be a believer in Christ without being a disciple. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (whose journey as a disciple resulted in his martyrdom) wrote, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
Are you a disciple of Christ? He is accepting all applications for the position.
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church