Vol.IV No.V Pg.3
June 1967

Disciples Of Christ

Robert F. Turner

A literal English translation of Matt.28:19 reads: "Going, therefore, disciple ye all the nations -- ." "Make disciples of all the nations -- " says the American Standard version; and in either case, we learn that to be acceptable in God's sight we must be "disciples."

This is not a proper name, a label or banner to be flown above the party ranks. It defines the character of a people; describes them; points out what they are, not simply what they are called. A certain class of people, "the disciples" -- "were called Christians first in Antioch." (Acts 11:26)

The word means "a learner" "scholar"; and frequently relates the student to the teacher ("disciples of John" Mk. 2:18) as those who believe in the doctrine of the teacher and follow him. It would apply to "learners" in varying stages of development, as may be seen in Jn. 6:66 where we read, "many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him". They followed, "learning" of Jesus for a time; but as His teaching demanded more and more of them, they were unwilling to pay the price. They ceased to follow and learn of Him.

Jesus elevated discipleship to an extremely high and noble level. He said, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Lu. 14:26) Jesus asks us to "count the cost" and accept the role of a disciple knowing that this means the Master must be first in our lives. We must love Him more than father, mother, or even our own life (vs.33). Jesus conceived a disciple whose life is dominated by his teacher; whose "life is his with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3) In this sense one is a disciple for life, "growing in grace and knowledge." Day by day we sit at the feet of Jesus, and our lives are enriched as we become more and more like the Master.

Discipleship is a way of life, not some fixed peak, once climbed never departed. May one be a disciple who has not been baptized? Certainly so!! But not for long. In the primary sense of "learner" one may be a disciple, doing all that one knows to be the will of Christ. But in less time than it takes to tell it, the status may change to that of one who refuses to "follow" Christ. Jesus says, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved -- " (Mk.16:16) and, through Peter, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins -- -" (Acts 2:38) One "walks no more with Him" who balks at these words of the Lord. In the more full and complete sense of "disciple of Christ" we may count only one who will "deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow -- " Christ (Matt.16:24).

And what is true with reference to remission of sins, and coming into covenant relationship with Christ, is also true in the Christian's journey. It is absurdly ridiculous to speak of people as "disciples of Christ" who must be begged and cajoled into worshiping Him; and who couldn't be hogtied and dragged to Bible study. The true disciple bears fruit. (Jn.15:8)