Discipleship – Then and Now – part 1

Introduction

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples… not mere believers. of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

When I read these verses, I picture someone who has just been given long-awaited rulership over a kingdom. Now, as king, he gives his first command to his subjects – a command that he has been aching to give for a long time, and with relief and joy, he finally gets to speak it!

The great commission is unique. Jesus does not merely want to rule a domain, He desires to affect how His subjects live and think. Yes, there are human rulers who have attempted to control the lives of their people to the tiniest detail (and never to their good). But Jesus is different. He’s a King who wants people to obey Him willingly for their own benefit. And not just obey, but to follow His example, for He first lived the life He desires for us.

In the years prior to His great commission, Jesus taught about the love of His Father and how man should love God in return. He spoke of the way we are, versus how God intends we should be. He spoke of many more things relating to the way we should walk with God and our fellow man.

After His death and resurrection, He commanded His disciples to make disciples of people from all nations. All that Jesus taught them was to be passed on to those who would believe in Him. This would be accomplished by first baptizing them (symbolizing the beginning of this new life), and then teaching them to hold fast to everything they themselves were taught and commanded of Jesus.

Beginning in Acts 2 we see Jesus’ commission put into action:

Those then who had accepted his word were baptised; … And they persevered in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, in breaking of bread and prayers…

Acts 2:41-42 (ESV)

And so the Church has been discipling believers for almost 2000 years, but times have changed. We don’t necessarily make disciples the same way Jesus and the early church did. Some differences are cultural, but others are more significant. Some of the changes are for the better, and others are for the worse.

I’ve noticed quite a lot of these differences and I want to share what I’ve found. Perhaps we can put what we’ve learned to some practical use in our walk with Jesus and our discipling of others. Even if you don’t agree with everything I’ve found, hopefully this will motivate you to study and make some comparisons yourself.

A couple of notes before I begin.

First, this blog is for born-again believers who want to improve their walk with Jesus. The focus is intentionally more practical than doctrinal because we tend to let practice take a back seat to doctrine. Both are important.

I believe that salvation costs me nothing, but discipleship costs me everything. And yet both are two sides of the same coin – discipleship and salvation go together. The earliest believers were called disciples before they were called Christians, showing that belief and obedience were meant to go hand-in-hand. We are not saved by becoming disciples, but we are saved to become disciples.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

Second, the main reason for this blog is to share what I’ve found in the Bible about Jesus Christ as relates our knowing and following Him. I’ll be focusing on what Jesus’ contemporaries saw and heard as recorded in the Gospels. When I read the gospels, I like to imagine myself as part of His 12 disciples, witnessing His teaching and healing ministry, and observing everything about Him. Eventually I’ll post my observations, but first I want to compare discipleship today with that of the early church.

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