When learning about discipleship where do you look?
The Bible is the best resource for learning about Christian discipleship and should be our first resort in the process. The New Testament is steeped with discipleship, after all, it is the call of the church. In this post, we will explore what the Bible has to say about discipleship so that we can ourselves become better disciples.
1. Matthew 28:16-20
When reading any passage of Scripture, it is important to know the context in which it was written. For this passage, it is important to understand that this was the conclusion to Matthew’s gospel.
According to Matthew, these were some of Jesus’ final remarks to his disciples, emphasizing its importance.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 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 28:16-20 ESV
Perhaps one of the most well-known passages on discipleship, Matthew 28 describes the Great Commission, the command of Jesus for his disciples and those that would come after them to make new disciples around the world.
In this passage we see three commands, to make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe the commands that Jesus gave throughout his ministry. This defines our goals then for discipleship, to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them.
It also provides an important encouragement, that God will be with you throughout that process until the end of the age. This is important because we are unable to disciple others independently of the work of God in their heart.
Ultimately, we are not the ones to “make” a person follow Jesus, that is a decision made between them and God. Therefore, His presence is both an encouragement and a requirement for discipleship.
2. Luke 9:23-25
This passage is a continuation of the conversation between Jesus and his disciples in which Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ and Jesus prophesies his death. With this pending act of sacrifice in mind, this is what Jesus has to say about those who wish to be his disciple.
And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?’Luke 9:23-25 ESV
This passage operates in three parts. First, providing the conditions of being a disciple, then explaining his reasoning, and finishing with a rhetorical question that highlights the value of those sacrifices.
According to these verses, if anyone wants to be a disciple they need to do three things, deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Jesus.
Essentially what Jesus is communicating here is that they need to give control of their life over to God. It is no longer about what they want, but what God wants, even if it requires sacrifice.
The second part takes this concept takes it a bit further by explaining that the person who clings to their life is clinging to something temporary, and eventually they will lose it.
However, those who value their loyalty to the kingdom of God more than their life will save it by inheriting eternal life, even if their life on earth was ended, in our view prematurely.
And finally, he highlights the value of putting their life in God’s hands through a rhetorical question, basically asking if there is really any profit in having temporary control over your life in the present but losing it forever down the line.
Ultimately the point of this passage is to show what it takes to be a disciple while simultaneously showing that the sacrifice is worth it. While it requires giving authority of your life to God, any sacrifices made in this life are worth it in comparison to eternity.
3. Luke 14:25-26
This passage takes place during a Sabbath meal at a Pharisees house where many had gathered to listen.
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.'”Luke 14:25-33 ESV
Here, Jesus makes two points about discipleship. First, he describes how, in order to be his disciple one must hate their family, and their life, bear their own cross, and follow him to be his disciple.
Note that in this situation “hate” is hyperbole, an exaggeration. We are to love our families, but in comparison to our love of God, it should be so small that it’s like hate.
Then, Jesus goes on to tell a parable, reminding those who seek him to count the cost before they chose to follow him. He wants people to recognize the sacrifice they will have to make beforehand, count the cost, and follow him.
At the end of all of this, Jesus reiterates the sacrifice that they have to be willing to make, to give up everything to be part of God’s kingdom.
And so also we must be willing to count the cost. The sacrifices we make now may not look the same as they did then, but nonetheless, we each need to count the cost and choose to follow Him as his disciple.
4. John 8:31-38
This passage comes after yet another prophecy about Jesus’ pending departure from this world, and a declaration of who he was. Many believed what he was saying about himself and to these people he addresses his next remarks.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed 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 ESV
Here, Jesus addresses these believers by saying that if they continue to believe in his words, they will know the truth and that truth will set them free. The Pharisees questioned Jesus’ claim that they would be free saying that they weren’t enslaved in the first place.
What Jesus is trying to communicate by this statement about freedom is freedom from sin which he describes later in the passage. In other words, by knowing the truth of who Jesus is, by being his disciple we give him authority over our lives and are freed from being enslaved by sin and are now, in a way, enslaved to him instead.
And so we are His disciples, giving him our lives instead of remaining chained to the things of this world, including sin.
5. John 13:34-35
A large part of Jesus’ teaching was comprised of redirecting Jewish laws such as do not murder to do not hate. This example takes place during the Last Supper and was intended to describe what should mark his disciples.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:34-35 ESV
In these verses, Jesus is characterizing discipleship with love. Love for God, and love for each other. Beyond that, he is also talking specifically about love that matches how God has loved us.
God wants us, as his disciples, to be marked by extravagant love that causes other people to take notice. Love that identifies us as belonging to Christ.
So, as you engage with your own discipleship and the discipleship of others, never lose sight of this. Continue to live out your faith in love and allow that to be what marks you as belonging to Jesus.
6. Acts 1:8
This particular passage is found marking the end of Jesus’ time on earth and the beginning of the Church age. These are some of Jesus’ parting words before he ascends into heaven, taking his place at the right hand of God. He leaves his disciples with this.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”Acts 1:8 ESV
Similar to the passage in Matthew 28, this passage is a call for discipleship. Not just with those people close to you but all people everywhere. This verse is challenging us to not only bear witness of the gospel in our own city (Jerusalem), but our entire region (Judea and Samaria), and to the ends of the earth!
This is a tall order, and part of why I believe Jesus stressed so often the need for his disciples to be willing to live sacrificially and give up everything. That’s also why the promise here is so important.
By ourselves, we can do nothing, but by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we are able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine. Praise God that he is here with us!
7. Romans 10:14-17
Leading up to this passage, Paul is describing God’s desire for his people to be saved. Paul emphasizes the need, therefore, for discipleship through several rhetorical questions.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.Romans 10:14-17 ESV
Through these rhetorical questions, Paul is able to articulate the desperate need for discipleship among the people. If God has chosen to use his people as witnesses throughout the earth to spread the good news about himself, but no one disciples and shares that news, how can any of these people come to know Christ?
Our purpose here on earth is to bring honor and glory to God in every way. One of the ways we do that is by sharing the good news with others so that Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross, can receive the full inheritance of that sacrifice.
We owe it all to Jesus, and as a sign of love we need to disciple those around us so that they can know him as well.
8. 1 Corinthians 11:1
Throughout the book of Corinthians, Paul is teaching the church at Corinth how to live out various areas of their daily life through the Gospel. There was a lot of sinful practices being perpetuated and Paul uses this letter to show believers how to respond to those things with the good news.
This brings us to Paul’s statement in chapter 11.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
In this statement, Paul is encouraging them to learn from his walk with Christ in order to inform their own. This unique aspect of discipleship is based on setting a good example.
While Paul isn’t perfect, he is walking with the Lord and doing his best, with God’s strength, to live out his faith daily and sacrificially. He wants these disciples to do the same.
It is very important to consider the example that you set as a disciple of Jesus. Could you say what Paul did of yourself? Are you following Jesus in a way that if others imitated you they would also be imitating Jesus?
These are crucial questions to ask ourselves as we progress in our own discipleship journey so that we can be sure we are setting the example for those other disciples around us.
9. Colossians 1:28-29
So far in Paul’s letter he has described the Messiah and who he is. However, in verse 24 he transitions to talking about sufferings, and how Jesus is worth the sacrifice. Then we come to verse 28.
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.Colossians 1:28-29
This is the culmination of his point. As disciples we need to disciple others, proclaiming, warning, and teaching with wisdom, so that everyone can come to a mature relationship with Christ.
He also highlights this as his passion and purpose, that he would suffer and toil knowing that God is giving him strength and working through him to accomplish His will on earth.
Discipleship requires sacrifice but Jesus, our Lord and Messiah, is worth every ounce of it.
10. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
This passage is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, one of his disciples. At this point in the letter, Paul is exhorting Timothy to deal with the corrupt teachers that were infiltrating the church, while still encouraging him in his own walk with the Lord.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
Paul concludes this chapter with this passage, encouraging Timothy in the purpose of Scripture. Because Scripture is “God breathed” it is without fault. It’s intended to teach, reproof, correct, and train in righteousness.
When used in this way it helps people to become good disciples, ready for whatever God wants them to do.
This should encourage us to spend significant time in the Word of God, learning it and memorizing it so that as we grow ourselves, we are also able to disciple others in this Word.
11. Hebrews 3:12-14
Hebrews was designed to encourage Christians in spite of the massive amount of persecution they were facing. There was a lot of temptation to turn away from God, however, the author in this passage implores the other disciples to support each other, not to fall away.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.Hebrews 3:12-14
This verse highlights the value of supporting each other as we further our relationship with God and become better disciples of Christ. Not only do we need to be able to support one another, but we also need to be able to call each other out when we are falling out of line with Christ.
In this way, we can disciple one another and grow closer to God together.
Discipleship is found scattered throughout the New Testament and provides amazing guidelines that help us to disciple others, and grow ourselves. None of this, however, is possible without the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Keep praying, stay in the word, and make disciples of every tribe, tongue, and nation from here to the ends of the earth.