Wednesday, 23 September 2009

am I a disciple?

In the moments before his ascension Christ gave a unique commission. It is usually known as the Great Commission and has been the source of thousands of stirring sermons. Its most familiar form is in the language of the King James Version; And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 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. Matt 28:18-20 KJV. The King James version has the word 'teach' used twice but there are two quite different Greek words behind the passage. The New King James Version will illustrate this point; Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Matt 28:19.

We are familiar with the word 'disciple'; as a noun it is used often in the New Testament. But the word 'disciple' has a twin sister, a verb which really ought to be translated 'to disciple'. This word is only used four times in our New Testament; it is the Greek word mathEteuO. One of these references is to Joseph of Arimathaea who is described as being 'discipled to Jesus'; And evening having come, there came a rich man, from Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was discipled to Jesus… Matt 27:57 YNG. This is telling us that Joseph became a personal disciple of Jesus Christ. It was not that he subscribed to a particular set of truths, or that he had joined a community. It simply means that a relationship came into existence in which Jesus was the Master and Joseph was the Disciple. The 'becoming a disciple' was not a long drawn-out process but a point of decision in which Joseph recognised Jesus as his sole source of truth and guidance. Joseph did not join a Discipleship Training School, or commit himself to a course of study, he simply made a choice; Jesus Christ was to be his single channel of instruction and life.

The first eleven 'disciples' received a commission to go into all the nations and to bring men and women into this same unique relationship with Jesus Christ. John the gospel writer, contrary to some historical opinion, never had any disciples of his own, nor did Peter or Paul. Their life's work was to bring others to Christ himself. A disciple, after all, is one half of a matched pair; the other half is a master/guide. Those eleven men knew that Christ had forbidden them to be masters. They would have not misunderstood the great commission.

This poses an important question; am I a disciple? or am I the disciple of a disciple? Am I dependent upon Christ or am I dependent upon someone who has introduced me to Christ? It poses other vital questions too; am I fulfilling this great commission? I may travel the world preaching, I may be a great Bible teacher… but if I am not bringing men and women to the place of personal dependence upon Jesus Christ, I am not 'discipling the nations'. I may be able to boast of thousands of decisions for Christ and have seen miracles performed but if I am not bringing men and women to sit at the feet of Jesus Christ I am not fulfilling the Great Commission.


KingJimmy said...
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KingJimmy said...

Great thoughts Ron. If you don't mind, I would like to share with you and your readers a similar article I wrote some time ago in the same spirit of this thought you offered:

What is a disciple? --

Ron Bailey said...

Thanks Jimmy. We are clearly singing from the same hymn sheet!

KingJimmy said...

Now you know we don't sing out of hymnals of hymn sheets anymore Ron. We all sing "off the wall" ;-)