While the word, “discipleship,” is not found in the Old Testament, the concept is embedded from the very beginning.  God’s people were to pass on a legacy of faith to the following generations.

Old Testament Principles

  • The relational God created relational beings (Gen. 1:28).
  • While Mankind’s relationship with God was to have priority, all horizontal relationships were intended to serve as a helper to the vertical relationship (Gen. 2:18).
  • While Mankind was created in God’s image, following generations were being raised after Man’s image (Gen. 5:1-3).
  • In a predominately oral culture, religious instruction was primarily done outside of formal teaching settings.
  • The legacy of faith was passed down through:
    • families (Gen. 18:19; Deut. 4:9; 6:4-9; 32:7; Josh. 4:21-24; 24:15; 1 Ki. 2:2-3; Ps. 78:1-8; 103:17; 127:1-5; Prov. 1:8; 22:6; Is. 38:19; Mal. 1:6),
    • relationships,
      • Moses and Joshua – Ex. 33:11; Num. 27:15-23; Deut. 31:1-8; 34:9
      • Moses and Caleb – Num. 13; 14:6-9; 34:16-19; Josh. 14:6-15
      • Naomi and Ruth – Ruth 1:1-22; 3:1-5; 4:13-17
      • Eli and Samuel – 1 Sam. 3:1-10
      • Samuel and Saul – 1 Sam. 9-15
      • Jonathan and David – 1 Sam. 18:1-4; 19:1-7; 20:1-42
      • David and the Mighty Men – 1 Sam. 22:2; 2 Sam. 23:8-39; 1 Chron. 20:4-8
      • Elijah and Elisha – 1 Ki. 19:16-21; 2 Ki. 2:1-16; 3:11
      • Jehoidah and Joash – 2 Ki. 12; 2 Chron. 24:1-25
    • and faith communities (Ex. 12:17, 26-27; 13:14-15; 20:2; Lev. 23:41; Deut. 29:22-28; Josh. 22:27; Judg. 2:10; Ez. 7:10; Ps. 22:30-31; 71:18; 79:13; 100:5; 102:18; 145:4; Is. 12:4; Lam. 5:19; Dan. 4:3).

Old Testament Example: Jethro & Moses

As Moses led the Israelites to the Promised Land, his responsibilities were immense.  Along the journey, his father-in-law, Jethro, instructed him in a way of discipleship that is easy to imitate and replicate.

  1. Proximity (Ex. 18:1-12): Find a potential disciple from within your existing relationships.
  2. Assessment (Ex. 18:13): Evaluate the spiritual health and ministry success of the individual.
  3. Initiation (Ex. 18:14-16): Take the initiative to help someone with great potential.
  4. Challenge (Ex. 18:17): Identify key areas that the person needs to address.
  5. Instruction (Ex. 18:18-23): Provide reasonable and practical wisdom for the person.
  6. Application (Ex. 18:24-27): Oversee the person during application until it is passed on to another.

The Power of Discipleship: What does Malachi have to do with Jethro (Mal. 4:4)?

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.