Discipling is a key part of the Christian walk. It’s more than just accepting Jesus into our hearts. We’re also given the mission to share the gospel and help others grow in their faith. Though there aren’t specific instructions, the Bible tells us all about discipleship and gives us many examples.
What is Biblical discipleship? Biblical discipleship is when Christians follow Jesus and live as He did. It’s loving the outcasts like Jesus. Pouring into others like Eli and teaching others about God’s word like Paul. Discipleship also includes practical steps for application.
The process of being a disciple and discipling others can be complicated at times. However, it’s one of the most important things we’re called to do. God knew that discipline others wouldn’t be easy, so He gave us these Biblical examples.
Discipleship is defined as followers of Christ who then teach what they have learned. After you become a follower of Jesus, it’s time to go and share what you’ve learned.
Sharing what we have learned as Christians is important because it is one of the final commandments that Jesus gave His followers before ascending.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples 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
In this passage, Jesus outlines our steps to disciple others. First, we are to go, both near and far so we can disciple others.
Then baptizing them. Baptizing is an outward expression of our dedication, you can learn more about baptism in Why Do Christians Get Baptized? The Biblical Answer.
After baptism, we are told to teach them to observe what we have learned. This means teaching them to live as a follower of Christ, and not a follower of the world.
Jesus ends by saying that he will be with us always, we can be confident that God is with us and will help us, we can’t do it on our own.
We will have a harder time teaching others about Jesus and life as a Christian if we aren’t living that way ourselves. Paul teaches us this in 1 Corinthians.
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.1 Corinthians 11:1
As disciples we should be able to mimic Paul and say this ourselves.
This allows us to then share the good news of the gospel.
The amazing part is that we do not have to be perfect to share the good news of Jesus and disciple others.
Many feel like they have to get to a certain place in their spiritual journey before they can help others. Instead, we know that God will use us any time and anywhere if we let him.
As Christians, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. As we invest ourselves in God’s word and prayer we grow as Christians and will look more and more like Christ.
Looking more like Christ means having characteristics such as humility, love, patience, and kindness to name a few.
Being a disciple of Jesus also means showing others the love of Christ. It’s about helping our brothers and sisters in Christ become more Christ-like themselves.
Jesus Himself says that it will not be easy being a disciple. We see through Jesus’ crucifixion that pain and hardships are involved in the life of a Christian.
We also know there is so much more than just suffering to a Christian walk.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’John 8:31,32
Discipleship is about knowing God’s truth and then sharing His message to see them free through Him.
Biblical Examples of Discipleship
One of the most comforting things, when you are starting something new, is an example. People who go before us and show us what to do make things clearer for us.
In the Bible we see the same thing for discipleship. there are some amazing examples that help us see what true discipleship looks like.
One of these examples is from Christ Himself. The perfect disciple who loved and shared the truth so well.
Jesus’ Example of Discipleship
Jesus is the ultimate example of Discipleship because he is God. We strive to live as he did. Unlike many other good leaders and mentors, Jesus who is 100% man and 100% God is the only one without sin.
There is a lot to learn from Jesus’ time on earth. We need to examine His methods for discipleship and apply them.
Jesus had many disciples during his time on earth. He had 12 close disciples and three even closer disciples.
When looking at Jesus’ 12 disciples, they simply lived life with Jesus. Jesus taught and they were there. The disciples were with Him as He encountered others and performed miracles.
The disciples first-hand got to see how Jesus lived.
The disciples then knew how to live like Jesus because they saw him live. Jesus even sends out the disciples to teach, and perform miracles. This was their chance to then imitate Jesus and disciple others as Jesus had discipled them.
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.Matthew 10:16
Not only did Jesus teach the disciples good ideas, but they lived out what He taught to them and the many others who listened. His life was an example of how we should live ours.
Jesus helped meet the spiritual needs of the people he met, but he also helped their physical needs.
The ministry that Jesus’ engaged in was more than a weekend event but a lifestyle. The model that Jesus showed his disciples is also for us today.
Looking at Jesus’ life we become aware of the importance of teaching, but also living out the teaching.
Loving and connecting with others also is imperative to discipling others. Confronting those in sin and those who were being self-righteous was also important to Jesus.
Jesus taught them and gave them an example to imitate, and when he ascended Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so they could continually become more Christ-like.
We know the disciples were not perfect but looking at their lives and how they imitated Jesus should then encourage us to imitate Christ.
Jesus’ disciples made disciples, which should clue us into our responsibility to help disciple others as well. It was not an easy life for either Jesus or the disciples, we are told to following Jesus’ meant denying ourselves.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.Luke 9:23
This daily task of denying ourselves is not easy, but we learn of its value when looking at the life of Jesus. Seeing the disciples know the consequences and still follow Jesus.
Eli’s Example of Discipleship
Many people go straight to the New Testament to find examples for discipleship, but if you look there are some amazing examples of discipleship in the Old Testament.
One of these people was Eli, he discipled Samuel. Samuel was the son of Hannah who had prayed for a son, and when she received a son she dedicated him to the Lord.
Samuel grew up in the temple with Eli to teach him, and as Eli grew old, Samuel assisted Eli.
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli.1 Samuel 3:1
The time that Samuel spent with Eli taught him much and prepared him for the future God had in store for him.
We see this discipleship relationship play out in scripture in 1 Samuel 3 when the Lord spoke to Samuel and Eli told him what to do.
Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.1 Samuel 3:9
Eli shared his wisdom with Samuel letting him know the voice he was hearing was God speaking. Samuel then goes on to hear a significant message from God.
As Samuel learns in the temple he is being prepared for when he Judges Israel. We also go on to see Samuel anoint David as king.
Paul’s Example of Discipleship
Paul an apostle in the New Testament was a great example of what it means to disciple others. We read about Paul’s many missionary journeys in Acts, and we read Paul’s letters to the churches he planted and those he discipled through his many epistles.
Paul discipled many people throughout his travels some of these people include Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus. We get to hear much of the wisdom that he shares with them in the letters that he writes to them.
Paul writes two letters specifically to Timothy. In Acts, we learn that Timothy was raised in the scripture by his mother and grandmother. Paul then takes Timothy with him as he plants churches.
Timothy gets to live life with Paul as he goes on his missionary journeys. This means Timothy saw the hardships that Paul faced, but also the joy, and transformation that happened.
Paul’s lifestyle became an example to Timothy, and we know that Timothy did a good job at imitating Paul as he imitated Christ because Paul sends Timothy out to help with various churches.
Paul sends Timothy to help with the Church in Ephesus as we read in 1 Timothy. Reading the letter we can tell that Paul helped Timothy grow as a follower of Christ and Paul truly cared for Timothy.
To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.1 Timothy 1:2
Paul cares for Timothy by calling him a true child of faith, and the responsibility that Paul gives to Timothy throughout this letter indicates the level of trust that Paul has for Timothy.
Paul disciples Timothy and this means he is teaching Timothy. He shows what it looks like to follow Christ. He imitates Christ’s model for discipleship and shows Timothy what a life of Christ looks like. He then teaches Timothy to disciple others, as Paul disciples Him.
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.2 Timothy 2:2
We get to see the cycle of discipleship. Paul disciples Timothy and then sends him out, and Timothy goes to help those in the church in Ephesus. Paul taught Timothy a dependence on God not a dependence on himself.
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.2 Timothy 4:2
The advice that Paul gives Timothy was to help him be a better minister of the word. We can learn from Paul’s examples today. We can approach discipleship in the same way by training others in the word by teaching and exemplifying for them to make disciples that make disciples.
Paul does not just teach Timothy, we know he hardly traveled alone which means there were always those around him that he could learn from. He lived life with Timothy and created a special relationship with Him.
Paul did not only plant churches but he invested in relationships to build up the churches as the body of Christ who also shared the good news and discipled others.
Imitating Biblical Examples
Reading about these amazing biblical examples is one thing. We need to do more than just reading and acknowledging the good that these men and women of God did throughout scripture. We need to imitate them.
We need to apply these Biblical examples to all aspects of our life.
We have to take the Biblical truth and start applying it in the statehouse, the schoolhouse, and the marketplace.Rod Parsley
We need to apply discipleship to every part of our life. To imitate Christ at our jobs, home, and at church.
Taking Paul’s advice, how do we go about imitating him and anyone else who is imitating Christ?
Unlike Timothy and Titus, we can’t quite live and travel with Paul, but we still have the many letters that he wrote to the churches. They paint a picture for us of how Paul lived and how he modeled after Christ.
Modeling after Jesus himself is the goal of all Christians, and we have many resources to effectively imitate Christ in all that we do.
First, we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, helps us walk in the fruits of the Spirit, and we have gifts of the spirit that are given to us to help build up the church.
Imitating Jesus is also easier because we can read about his life and how he lived.
Looking at scripture we see the way that Jesus loved others, as we imitate that, we become more like Christ.
He taught to love as we read during his sermon on the mount, but we also see him live out love when he heals those who are sick and forgives sins.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.Matthew 9:36
Jesus also taught and amazingly modeled forgiveness.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”Luke 23:34
Jesus asked the Father while he hung on the cross to forgive those who had wronged him. Everything Jesus had taught we know he lived out, and this is an example where he loved his enemies and forgave those who sinned against him.
Throughout the gospels we also see Jesus take time to pray and connect with the Father.
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.Luke 5:16
You will hear the importance of prayer and reading the Bible is in church all the time. They are the first steps many people suggest to grow your relationship with God, and here we see that even Jesus sought time to be with the Lord and dedicated much time to prayer.
Reading and investigating what the Bible has to say about the men and women of faith can help us to become better men and women of faith.
Look for people who are right around you today who are good at imitating Christ, watch how they live and you may learn many things from them in how they imitate Christ.
Our definition of discipleship comes straight from the inspired word of God. When we give our lives to Jesus, it does change our lives and lifestyles.
Imitating Christ and then going to help others become more like Christ is what we are called to do as Christians.