I. Discipleship in the Days of Jesus
Please take your Bibles and look with me at Matthew 4.
Matthew 4:18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
The phrase “follow me” literally means: “come to Me”, or “come after Me.” In other words, “Leave where you are and come to where I am at and follow me to where I am going.” Most of us can’t talk without using our hands. I’m not sure if Jesus did this or not, but if He did, then perhaps He beckoned them with His hand as He gave them this command.
Jesus often gave invitations.
Mt 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mt 22:4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
Mt 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
John 21:12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine.
We should also note how the woman at the well, used this same word.
John 4:29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
What kind of invitation was Jesus making to Peter and Andrew?
A. Invitation to Salvation
Jesus used this same phrase when He first called Matthew.
Matthew 9:9 And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
What kind of invitation was Jesus giving to Matthew? Well if you know anything about a tax collector, you know that they were notoriously wicked. The tax collectors often used extortion as a means of gathering taxes from the people. The Bible tells us of a tax collector named Zacchaeus. “And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.” (Luke 19:2) The Bible says that Zacchaeus was rich. How had he become so rich? Consider what he said when he came to Christ and repented of his sins. “…if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” (vs. 8) Zacchaeus had been gathering taxes from the poor with a 400% profit margin.
Because most of the publicans’ wealth had been made through ill-gotten gain, they were often very immoral in their lifestyles. As a matter of fact, the next verse in Matthew 9 says: “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.” (Matthew 9:10) The phrase ‘publicans and sinners’ is used throughout scripture. The publicans or tax collectors were party-animals. Therefore Jesus’ invitation to Matthew was to leave his sinful lifestyle and find salvation.
B. Invitation to Service
But there was a second part to Christ’s call to follow Him.
Matthew 4:19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
In other words, follow Me and I will develop you into something very special.
1. I Will Make You a Disciple
2. Then I Will Use You to Make Disciples
II. Discipleship in the Early Church
A. Jesus Always Calls Us to Discipleship
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Jesus first called these men to be His disciples and then He called them to go out and to make other disciples. The word ‘teach’ literally means – instruct someone on how to become one of My disciples.
What is a disciple? Literally the word means –‘pupil.’ But to be a disciple is more than to just be a student. A disciple is also a follower. An “apprentice” is a term we might use today. A disciple is an apprentice of their master.
In ancient times, a disciple actually sought to emulate their master. They followed their master along and listened to them teach, so that they could put the words of their master into practice and thus eventually become like their master.
That’s what Jesus has called each of us to do. First of all He calls us to salvation. But then He calls us to obey all that He has commanded us.
John 8:31 If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed.
B. Discipleship in the Early Church
The early church understood this truth very clearly. We read from the book of Acts-
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
People often talk about ‘church growth.’ “How much has your church grown?” Most often this question means – “How many people do you have in attendance?” But is that the kind of growth that God is most interested in?
Here’s a great truth we mustn’t miss. It’s a lot easier to draw a crowd than it is to make disciples. Jesus drew enormous crowds when He fed them and healed their sick. Multitudes numbering into the thousands flocked to Jesus when there was something in it for them. But when Jesus asked something from them, many of them went away. We read from the gospel of John-
John 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Once Jesus began to call for a commitment, many of His “so called disciples” went away. The numbers dropped off. Scripture says that they ‘walked no more with Him.”
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.
True church growth is when those who make a profession of faith in Christ, begin to follow Him as Lord.
1. The Plan For Making Disciples
Acts 2:1 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
a. Salvation (They gladly received his word) (i.e. the Gospel)
b. Baptism (They public identified themselves with Jesus Christ)
c. Bonding with the body of believers (They became a part of the fellowship)
d. Pursuit of spiritual growth (They devoted themselves to learning how to live the Christian life)
e. They began to go out and disciples others
2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
2. The People Who Make Disciples
Who is qualified to help disciple someone else? I believe that anyone who: knows Jesus Christ as their personal Savior; who strives to live a Christ-honoring life; and who is willing to get involved in the lives of others can and is a part of Christ’s discipleship program.
a. The Discipleship of the Apostles
Discipleship in the early church was initially carried out by the Apostles.
Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…
i. Why the Apostles?
These twelve men had spent 3 ½ years being discipled by Christ. Although it was sometimes two steps forwards and three steps backwards, yet the book of Acts reveals that they became fully committed followers of Jesus Christ.
ii. How Did They Disciple the Early Church?
Here’s an amazing fact – they didn’t have special workbooks or DVD’s. They didn’t even have a New Testament at that time. They had the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
How did they disciple the early converts?
(I) Public Discipleship From the Pulpit
Much of it came through their public teaching and preaching. Scripture says that they “were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.” Solomon’s Porch was a long covered area near the Jewish Temple which was about 100 feet long and 60 feet wide. It was elevated up above the rest of the courtyard area, and therefore made a natural stage for preaching to large crowds. There the early disciples met daily in order for the apostles to teach them.
Some pastors are more of a ‘preacher / teacher.’ I’m more of a ‘teacher / preacher.’ I strive in every message or lesson to impart information that will help us become fully committed followers of Jesus Christ.
(II) From House to House
The Apostle Paul said:
Acts 20:20 … I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
b. The Discipleship of the Elders
As the church grew and began to spread to other cities, it was necessary for the development of other means of discipleship. The apostles couldn’t be everywhere at the same time. And so the Spirit guided the church to develop a positon which scripture often calls an ‘elder.’
Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church…
The biblical position of elder involves various duties:
Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Paul wrote to a young elder –
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
c. The Discipleship of Teachers
A pastor is to be a teacher of the Word, but he is not the only teacher in the church. Scripture tells us that there is a spiritual gift of teaching given to certain individuals in order to help disciple the church. (see Romans 12:7)
I thank God for all the various ministries at Twin Oaks that endeavor to help people grow and develop as Christians. Regardless of when, where or how – as long as we are helping others understand biblical truths, we are a part of God’s discipleship program.
d. The Discipleship of a One-on-One Relationship
There is another important aspect of discipleship making. It’s the one-on-one relationship between two individuals. Paul spent a lot of time with Timothy – “one-on-one”, and so did Barnabas with John Mark. Down through the years I have tried to spend a lot of ‘one-on-one’ time with a lot of different individuals. Some where folks that I personally led to the Lord. Others were people that God brought into my life that needed my help at a particular time in their life.
The Bible also emphasizes the importance of older believers helping to disciple younger believers. The term for this is ‘mentoring.’ Paul instructed Titus that the older, more mature men should help mentor the younger men, and the older, more mature women should help mentor the younger women. (see Titus 2:1-5) An older believer has not only more years to have learned the Word of God, but also the practical experience to go along with it. That’s what true discipleship really is. It’s helping someone implement the Word of God into their everyday life.
e. The Discipleship of the Christian Home
One of the most important places to disciple is in the home. Long before young Timothy ever met the Apostle Paul, he was first discipled by his mother and his grandmother. A major influence upon my life was my grandfather. I loved him very deeply and in my eyes he could fly. Therefore what he said and did had a great impact upon me. My granddad loved the Bible. Long before I became a Christian, I had an interest in the Bible and much of it is because of the influence of my grandfather.
III. Discipleship in Today’s Church
What about discipleship in today’s church? Should we still be making disciples? Jesus said that He would be with us, helping us make disciples, until He returned. Yes, we should still be seeking to make disciples. And today we have more resources than ever to do so.
A. The Resources
What are the resources that we have today for discipleship making? First and foremost is the Word of God. I’m not sure how many study Bibles there are available today. There in almost any shape, color and translation imaginable. In addition to the Bible, we have many commentaries. A commentary is a Bible teacher’s explanation of various passages of scripture. Presently I am discipling someone through the loaning out of some good commentaries. Then there’s Christian radio. Victory FM. 88.3 out of Lynchburg begins at 4:30 in the morning broadcasting some of the best Bible teaching available. In addition, we can watch men like Adrian Rogers and David Jeremiah preach on TV. Then there are special books and booklets made just for a step-by-step systemic study of various biblical doctrines. There’s a study booklet for every topic mentioned in the Bible.
In addition to all of this, we still have the local church. Jesus said: “…upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18) Christ’s primary plan for discipling His followers is through the local church. Not even hell itself shall stop it. The true church will have Christ’s power and presence until it is called home.
B. The Requirements
What is necessary in order to disciple someone? I believe that there are four key essential ingredients:
1. A Hunger to Learn and Grow
Peter wrote- “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) I’ve spent a lot of time with a lot of people over the years. I’ve come at this from about every angle you can approach it, and my experience has taught me that first and foremost there has to be a desire upon the heart of the disciple to learn and grow or you can’t get very far.
2. A Willingness to Invest Ourselves in the Lives of Others
Secondly, there has to be a willingness for us to get involved in the lives of others in order to teach them and help them grow. Discipleship is more than a program. It’s a process that takes time. It takes time in the Word of God and time on our knees. It also takes time to listen and to care. The best discipleship program is when someone really cares about someone else and is willing to invest their life in them.
3. The Word of God
Thirdly, it takes the Word of God. That’s not to say that 100% of our time with the other individual is spent studying a portion of scripture, but rather that the foundation of it all are the biblical truths found in the Word of God. Jesus said:
John 8:31 If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed.
Our job is to help others obey whatsoever He has commanded us.
4. The Holy Spirit
Last but not least is the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we should put Him at the top of our list. It is the Spirit who enables us to understand biblical truth. I plead for the Spirit’s help every time I prepare a message, as well as when I stand before you to preach and teach.