Jesus told His servants to, “… go and make disciples …” (Mathew 28:19). But, have you ever wondered what it means to be His disciple?
Some may think of a disciple as a wild-eyed, raving, religious zealot prepared to mindlessly follow their master’s wishes, up to and including murder. Others might envision an odd, bleary-eyed person wandering aimlessly, simultaneously and strangely deep, distant and detached from their surroundings.
Jesus had neither of the foregoing in mind when He called upon His followers to make, or to be disciples. What He did have in mind is clearly taught in Scripture.
The Old Testament word for disciple means to go behind in pursuit of. I think of it as trying to keep up. The New Testament employs primarily two Greek words to describe a disciple. The first simply means learner or pupil, or one who learns. The second word is “mimeomai.” Our English word mimeograph comes from this word and it means to mimic or to copy.
If you put the three together, you have someone following fervently, learning diligently and emulating accurately, the attitudes and character of the one being followed. This provides a pretty good working definition for a disciple of Christ.
Jesus was very specific about both the duties and evidences of a true disciple. He was selective; He spoke to crowds, but He sought disciples. And the requirements for true discipleship are quite stringent. First and foremost is obedience. He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31)
Jesus also made it clear that being a disciple required sacrifice. In Luke 14:33, the Lord explained that without a willingness to give up everything, “… none of you can be my disciples …”
Fruitfulness follows those who follow Him! In John 15:8, Jesus said that, “… when you bear much fruit … you show that you are my disciples.”
A definitive test for true Christian discipleship is love for other believers. Jesus empathically stated, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35)
The apostle John elaborates on this later saying, “Whoever says, ‘I love God,’ but hates another believer is a liar. People who don’t love other believers, whom they have seen, can’t love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
There is one more duty of the disciple … and it brings us back to where we started. We need to “… go and make disciples of all nations …” (Mathew 28:19)
“Those who aren’t following Jesus aren’t His followers. It’s that simple. Followers follow, and those who don’t follow aren’t followers …” — Scot McKnight
“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” — Dietrich Bonheoffer
Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.