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)?