Thursday, 12 June 2014

Digging Deeper into Disciples Pt 1

This is a kind of Post Script to the last blog and may be a little technical for some but if you read past the bits that are over your head you should still see why I am blogging this topic.

In modern church life we hear quite a bit about 'discipling young converts'. It has become the adopted pattern of many churches. I want to examine that concept. Not to criticise any attempt to encourage younger believers but because I think it can obscure an important Biblical truth.

The word 'disciple' is used over 250 times in the New Testament. It is scattered throughout the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles but vanishes without trace after a passing reference to an early believer whose name was Mnason.
Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge. Acts 21:16 NKJV.
So why does this word never make it into the epistles? I think the answer to that is really quite simple. The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles recount the story of the beginnings of many a pilgrimage. To become a disciple of Jesus Christ stands right at the beginning of that pilgrimage. By the time we reach the epistles we are addressing men and women who have already made their beginnings, they have already 'become disciples of Jesus Christ'. Consequently the writers all assume, safely, that the foundations are laid and the event of 'becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ' lies in the past.

There is a key pointer to becoming a disciple that is easily missed. It is the famous passage in which Christ declares that men and women can only know the Father through the Son and then encourages his hearers, whom he has just 'rebuked' for their lack of repentance, to come to him. If they come they will know the Father through the Son. We have an old hymn which captures the truth..
"Come to the Father
Through Jesus the Son
And give him the glory

Great things He has done'
They knew a thing or two those old hymn writers!

The Bible passage is well known to us.
All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 11:27–30 NKJV.
That picture is of an event which leads immediately into a process. The word come is not in the imperative mood, as a command, but is a gentle encouragement. But the imperatives follow quickly.
  • Take my yoke upon you
  • and learn from me...
The word 'learn' is mathete. It is from the same root as mathētēs, disciple. Suddenly we discover that this well known passage is not just a word of gentle comfort but a call to arms! He encourages them to come to him and then spells out the implications. The only way we will ever know the Father is by being yoked to the Son and abiding under his rule. We discover that these precious verses have a bit more bite than we had expected. They are a call to radical life change as disciples to a single master. be continued tomorrow.

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