What is a Disciple?

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
One of the most spiritually healthy things we have done in a church since I took over as the head pastor is to begin to cultivate a disciple-making culture in our church. That process began about 2 1/2 years ago. We have come a long way, praise the Lord, but we still have a long way to grow- don’t we?
If you are seasoned veteran at Faith then you know exactly what I mean when I talking about a culture of disciple-making in our church. But, if you are somewhat new to Faith you may have an idea of what we are talking about, but I would love the privilege of sharing with you exactly what we mean.
For those of you that don’t know we spent over a year teaching through what a disciple-making culture looks like in the local church. I preached through I Thessalonians- which I believe is the NT model for what disciple-making in a church should look like. And we went through Foundations in Sunday School to equip people to become a disciple-er. So if you missed all that I want to take a few sermons and share the burden our our church disciple-making. And what better place to start than by asking the question What is a disciple?
I believe the NT calls every believer to be a disciple-maker. It is an imperative for every Christian. So if Christ commands it of us, we ought to seek to make at least one disciple in our lifetime. But how can we do that if we don’t have a clear understanding of what a disciple really is?
The idea of making a disciple is at the center of everything we do at Faith- it’s right in our mission statement:
Faith Baptist Church exists to equip and inspire believers for Christlikeness unto the abundance of the glory of God.
Faith Baptist Church exists to equip and inspire people to know and become like Jesus for the glory of God.
This is our clothes line- illustration- everything we do at Faith has to clip to that clothes line.
The best way to accomplish our mission’s statement is through disciple-making.
Matthew 28:19 ESV
19 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,
Our Lord’s last words are our first priority.
Notice the verbs in this verse- how many verbal ideas do you see?
Matthew 28:19 (ESV)
19 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,
Which verb is the main verbal idea of the verse?
One of these verbs is an imperative- it is the primary verb, the rest of the verbal ideas are subordinate. In other words they describe for us how to carry out the main idea. So that is the main idea?
Matthew 28:19 (ESV)
19 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,
Make disciples- it is a command / an imperative. It was the the last command that Jesus gave us before he departed into heaven to sit at the right hand of the father. It was his last words if you will.
If you had to write down your last words, the last thing you could say before you departed this life, how significant would those words be?
Our Lord’s last words are our first priority! This is the works of first priority, or first works that Jesus commands of the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2.
If this command is so important, if this command constitutes the marching orders for the church, if this is our clothes line here at Faith, then we better make sure we understand exactly what Jesus is commanding us to do.
So we ask the question- what is a disciple? If your are going to obey Jesus’ last words to you, shouldn’t you be clear on exactly what he ment?
μαθητής- this is the verb form of the Greek word- μαθητής. This word is used 25x’s in its verb form in the NT. In the noun form this word occurs over 260 x’s primarily in the gospels and in Acts. (frequency highlights primacy!)

The Old Testament Reality

There is no LXX/Septuagint equivalent for “make disciples” in Matthew 28:19-20.
But, there is an equivalent for the root of the imperative “make disciples.”

In the LXX μανθάνω occurs c. 55× (incl. 10× in Isaiah and 7× in Deuteronomy), usually for Heb. לָמַד H4340, which has a sim. semantic range

Jeremiah 12:16 ESV
16 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, ‘As the Lord lives,’ even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people.
Other than this verb (lmd or “lamad”) which gives us a description of the nature of learning in the OT and NT, what other relationships in the OT mirrored a quasi-discipleship relationship?
Deuteronomy 6:7 ESV
7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

The Greek Mindset (500-300 BC)

Historically known as the Hellenic Period (Philosophers)
Learned from a master or teacher
Devotion (almost religious in Greek culture)
Fellowship (continued after the teacher died)

The Period Between the Testaments

The Post Exilic Background to Christ’s Ministry
The Jewish mind was tremendously influenced by Greek culture and thought.
The followers of the Talmud (Jewish written tradition) were named the “Talmeed.”
After the tradition of the Greeks with the Philosophers and their disciples, the teachers of the Talmud had their disciples called the Talmeed.
This is the beginning of the Rabbi position in Jewish history. The teachers of law and the Talmud were the Rabbis.
This also is the origin of the existence of Jewish schools of thought (such as Hillel, Shami, etc.).

The Talmeed Described

Learners and listeners.
Had to have a teacher.
Passing along the teachings of the rabbis to carry on the oral traditions.
They were imitators.
Could not be a Talmeed without fellowship.
They were expected to serve.
There was a deep commitment.

The New Testament Reality of Disciple Making

Forms of the root “disciple” are found some 260+ times in the NT.
The first time we see it is in reference to John the Baptist’s disciples.
Matthew 9:14 ESV
14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
Pharisees had disciples
Mark 2:18 ESV
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
Saul/Paul had disciples
Acts 9:24–25 ESV
24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
First woman called a disciple
Acts 9:36 ESV
36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.

Jesus was always clarifying what made up a true follower

1. Listening (expert listening)

John 10:27–29 ESV
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

2. Learning (an absolute learner)

Matthew 11:28–29 ESV
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

3. Obeying (sanctified in truth)

John 17:13–20 ESV
13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

4. Mimicking (“Follow me”)

Matthew 4:19 ESV
19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Jesus didn’t just me walk in the same direction that I am going (follow me), what did he mean? Become like me (follow me), imitate me, mimic me!

5. Fellowship (be with me)

Mark 3:14 ESV
14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach

6. Committed (“hand to the plow”)

Luke 9:62 ESV
62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

7. Serving (selfless and sacrificial)

Mark 10:45 ESV
45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

8. Suffering (blessed yet persecuted)

Matthew 5:10 ESV
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

9. Rewarded (beyond comprehension)

John 12:32 ESV
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
John 14:2–3 ESV
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
The reward is being eternally with Jesus!
Now that we have all of the information about what it really means to be a disciple- let me ask all of us- have you ever made a disciple of Jesus?

How long would that process really take?

Matthew 28:19 ESV
19 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,
What we tend to think like in our churches!
How many of you were discipled after you came to Christ? For how long?
What does the Bible call new believers in Jesus? Spiritual babies! How long does it take to raise a baby? 12 weeks right? Discipleship programs last about that long in our churches. If we can get someone saved, baptized, and a member of the church we are done right? How long does it really take?
What the NT understands disciple-making to look like!

One Life to Life for Life

How do we know this is what Jesus expected when he gave us the Great Commission?
Matthew 28:20 (ESV)
20 teaching them to observe ALL that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
How long does something like that take?
How did Jesus go about making disciple while he was on the earth?

Jesus’ Upside Down Strategy

What conclusions can we draw regarding what Jesus meant when he said, “follow me”?
Imitate Him! Let’s seek to be Christlike not just in character only! Let’s seek to be Christlike in our daily living. Let’s make disciples!
What can we conclude would be the desire of a new believer?
My sheep hear my voice and they what? Follow me! Newly saved people have a supernatural, Holy Spirit produced, desire to know Jesus more and more and to become like him! What if we cultivated a culture in our church where everyone was being discipled?
What protective value would mentoring these new followers of Christ have on the local church?
From a discipler’s standpoint, how much time would need to be invested in a new disciplee?
A life time! One life to a life for life!
Anita’s good news video
Follow up questions-
What we are really striving for is a life on life relationship. This kind of disciple-making is so different that what we normally tend to see in churches.
Relationship vs. Program- what kind of culture produces lasting results?
Relationship vs program visual
This is not an easy process, but we don’t get to define the terms. Jesus does! He commanded us to make disciples and he gave us a personal example of how to follow him. Our job is to simply obey him because we love Him! And by the way it is the most spiritually fruitful thing you could ever do! But, it is not easy!

What is it like to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples?

Discipling the few is slow!

The Kingdom of God is a mustard seed and always will be.
Matthew 13:31–32 ESV
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Discipling the few is hard

People are complex and formation is messy!

Discipling the few is limiting

Keeping the main thing the main thing
Limits and rebellion are closely related. We have been resisting limits since the Garden of Eden.

Discipling the few demands a lot from me

I cannot give what I do not possess, and cannot help but give what I do possess. It requires I keep growing and learning.

So what does this mean for you?

Our prayer is that everyone in the church will engage in at least one part of the process of making disciples.

Follow ONE / Win ONE / Lead ONE

Matthew 28:19–20 ESV
19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
May God bless and enable us to be a spiritually healthy church, a spiritually reproducing church, a church with a culture of disciples who make disciples who make disciples, all for the abundant glory of God!
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more