Discipleship in the New Testament

[Guest Post by Bryce Staggs – Rocky Creek Pastoral Resident]

The writers of the New Testament show an importance in discipleship using the word “disciple” over 260 times and the word “Christian” only 3 times. We echo that discipleship is important, but do we know why it’s important, what we should teach, or how to do it?

The Why

“Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • Discipleship is important because Jesus commands it.  Jesus models it.
  • True disciples of Jesus should be growing in areas where He set an example including discipleship.
  • It must be difficult for non-Christians to understand Christianity since few “Christians” model a biblical faith.

There is a reason to be concerned about what believers claim Scripture teaches.

  • While 99% of Christians in America own 3 or more Bibles, 40% do not believe it as the inerrant Word of God.
  • 80% believe Scripture teaches that God helps those who help themselves.
  • 47% believe Jesus committed sins while on earth.
  • 62% believe that the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God’s presence but not a living entity.
  • 44% believe all people experience the same outcome after death, regardless of spiritual  belief.
  • 46% believe Christians have a responsibility to tell others about their beliefs.

The What

  • Disciples must learn assurance of Salvation by grace alone. (Luke 13:1-5, 22-30; 24:46-47; John 3:16-21; Acts 2:36-39; Rom. 3:10-24; Gal. 3:1-5; Eph. 1:13-14; 2:4-10; Titus 3:4-7)
  • Principles of the Christian life are vital for growth of a disciple. (Matt. 6:33; Luke 14:25-35; Phil. 4:8-9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 5:11-6:3; James 1:5)
  • Disciples must learn to obey God’s laws and commands.(Luke 10:25-28; Acts 5:29; Rom. 6:1-6; Gal. 5:16-24; Eph. 4:20-5:21; Col. 3:1-17; 1 Thes. 4:7; James 1:22-25; 1 John 3:16-24)
  • One of the most important jobs for a disciple is to represent God in the world.(Matt 10:16; 28:17-20; Mark 5:18-29; John 17:14-18; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10; 1 John 2:15-17)
  • Representing God in the world includes serving others.( Matt. 16:24-28; 20:25-28; Luke 9:1-6; 10:30-37; Acts 6:1-3; Eph 2:10; 4:11-12; Phil 2:1-4; Heb. 13:16; James 2:14-24)
  • A true disciple is making more disciples.(Matt. 28:19; John 15:8; Matt. 9:35-38; Acts 4:1-11; 5:42; 13:47)

The How

There is no greater example to follow for making disciples than Jesus.      

Jesus’ model for making disciples:

  • The most important aspect of calling a disciple is prayer. (Luke 6:12)
  • We must be willing to seek out those to disciple. (Mark 3:13-15)
  • Discipleship involves a commitment to one another. (Mark 3:14)
  • Discipleship requires responsibility and accountability.  (Mark 3:14-15; Matt. 26:36;40)
  • Discipleship must progress to making more disciples and entrusting others to carry on the work. (Matt. 28:18-20)

Paul’s teachings about discipleship:

  1. Be strong and teach others who will then teach others. (2 Tim. 2:2)
  2. Older generations are to teach younger generations. (Titus 2:1-6)
  3. Pastors/ teachers are to equip believers for the work of ministry. (Eph. 4:11-12)

How did Paul model discipleship?

  • Paul sought out Timothy (Acts 16:1-2)
  • Paul recognized Timothy’s challenges and loved him as a son. (1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:22; 1 Tim. 5:23; 1 Cor 4:17; Phil 2:19-24)
  • Paul allowed Timothy to share in ministry and expected much from Timothy while challenging and encouraging him. (Acts 16:1-5; 2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 2 Tim 2:1-2; 2 Tim 4:1-5)
  • Paul could die well knowing his disciple would carry on the work. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

The goal of NT disciple making is not that they remember my name or your name, but that the name of Jesus is remembered.