This GROW 2012 excerpt is taken from
Vineyard College’s Next Level on
Discipleship which you can download in it’s entirety here
(mathetes in Greek) means a pupil of a teacher or an apprentice of a master craftsman. It has the connotation of a learner but also of a “doer”.
It could be large numbers, as in Luke’s description of the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17), or those who followed Jesus in itinerant ministry. A disciple of Jesus was someone who adhered to His teachings and did them, and thus they were spoken of as those who imitated Jesus (John 8:31, 15:8). This could be quite openly, as with the apostles, but also secretly, as with Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38).
This concept is further exemplified by the fact that early Christians in the book of Acts were called “followers of the Way”. In other words, they were known by their behaviour or way of life. In John they are described as those who “abide” in His Word, ie, live in adherence to His way of life, whereas in Acts they are described as those who believed upon him and confessed him.
The term disciple
is not used in the epistles. Instead, we find, “brothers, sisters, believers, saints and church”. In the Gospels, the term is used both of those who stayed and worked at home and of those who gave up normal life, left home for some time and walked around with Jesus. There are, of course, large numbers of the former and fewer of the latter.
In the book of Acts, we find established churches of believers in towns and cities and fewer comparatively who are able or called to pursue an itinerant lifestyle. Of those who are itinerant, the most mobile appear to be single and the married are more inclined to settle somewhere during their travels. John, for instance, seems to have settled and lived in Ephesus for many years and Philip, despite his earlier adventures in Acts, settles and lives with his prophetic daughters in Hierapolis, a resort and medical town about a day’s walk inland from Ephesus.
We do not find the term disciple in the Old Testament, although the concept is implicit in the companies or schools of the prophets. Another example is the apprenticeship of Samuel to Eli. Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah also had underlings who represented them and sometimes, as with Elisha, replicated them. Joshua also succeeded Moses after serving a term of apprenticeship. In another sense, the image of the people of Israel being in covenant relationship with their God is an early pointer to the relationship we have with Him.
At its core, though, I think discipleship flows out of the kingship of Jesus. From the Garden of Eden, God reveals himself to His people as Creator, as the King of Israel, as the One and Only God before whom we should have no other Gods. In the Exodus, He is portrayed as overwhelmingly more powerful than the gods of Egypt. By the time of the Psalms, He is described as the Lord of heaven’s armies. The church is in one sense an inheritor of this relationship as the “New Israel”, the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16) with Jesus Christ as its head. In Romans, we are saved if we believe in our heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead and confess Him as Lord. Confessing Christ as Lord is more than just repeating a formula and saying those words, it is making him the King, the Ruler of one’s life. Discipleship is based on this fact, Jesus is the King and we are not, and by virtue of His Kingship we are to submit to his rule and obey Him.
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