Jesus’ Example of Discipleship
WHAT IS A DISCIPLE?
Disciple– (noun, Greek) “Mathētḗs” is a student, learner, or pupil, but it means much more in the NT. It is a follower who accepts the instruction given to him and makes it his rule of conduct.1 In Classic Greek, a “mathetes” is what we would call “an apprentice,” one who not only learns facts from the teacher, but other things such as his attitudes and philosophies. In this way the “mathetes” was what we might call a “student-companion,” who doesn’t just sit in class listening to lectures, but rather, who follows the teacher to learn life as well as facts2 and progressively takes on the character of the teacher.
As we read the gospels, we can see how Christ discipled His twelve chosen men. They spent about three years learning, watching, asking questions, listening to His teaching, and even imitating His behavior. The disciples were followers of Christ and wherever He went, that was their classroom. Jesus taught them as they went from one life lesson to another and, when they did not understand, He stopped and explained (Mark 4:34). If they did not comprehend a statement, He clarified (Mark 8:15–21), and when they lacked faith, He rebuked them (Mark 9:19– 29). During Jesus’ public ministry, He responded to all who came to Him with the admonitions, “follow My example, learn from Me, be My disciple”. All believers are to follow Christ’s example, and that means reaching out to others with a heart committed to discipling, or teaching and strengthening them in the faith.
HOW DO WE “MAKE DISCIPLES”?
Now that we understand the meaning of discipleship, how do we follow through and make disciples? Jesus’ mandate to “make disciples,” and “teach them to observe all things,” is an exhortation to all. “All things” is pretty comprehensive. Keep in mind that Church leaders are instructed to “equip the saints” (Eph. 4:11-12) to live the Christian life and make other disciples. The concept is that each believer teaches another, or others, passing on the knowledge and strength of experience that God has worked into their life, then reproducing faith and maturity in others so they can touch the lives of others in turn (2 Tim. 2:2). As you study the following definition, take special notice of underlined points related to making disciples.
Make Disciples –(verb, Greek) “Matheteuo”, is to make a disciple (Matt. 28:19; Acts 14:21); to instruct (Matt. 13:52) with the purpose of making a disciple. It is not exactly the same as “make converts,” though it is surely implied. The term “make disciples” places somewhat more stress on the fact that the mind, as well as the heart and the will, must be won for God3 by instructing new believers on how to follow Jesus, to submit to Jesus’ lordship, and to take up His mission of compassionate service.4 It also involves bringing people into relationship with Jesus as pupils to teacher and getting them to take His yoke of instruction upon themselves as authoritative (Matt. 11:29), accepting His words as true, and submitting to His will as what is right.5
If you look closely, you will notice that this definition describes the purpose and process that Christ communicated to His disciples. Really take some time to meditate on this definition.