Must a Christian be a Disciple?
I believe the early apostles would be quite amazed to find that the teachings of Christ have been so altered in the centuries since the church was birthed that the terms Christian and disciple have been divorced from one another. A false mindset has been propagated throughout Christendom. People are told that Christ came to die for their sins and that they need to believe and confess their faith in His atoning work. Yet, any mention of committing to a new paradigm where Christ directs the course of one’s life is omitted, or left for a later time. If the call to discipleship is ever brought up, it is often presented as optional.
As the previous chapter declared, Christ only gave one invitation. He invited men and women to be His disciples by taking up THEIR cross and following Him. He presented no second option where a person could confess Him, but remain in a self-directed life. Indeed, Yahshua reproached people for acting hypocritically by calling Him “Lord” when they were not living to do His will and pleasure.
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Yahshua did not actually repeat the word translated as “Lord” twice as it is recorded above. In the Greek language in which the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament exist, a word is repeated to denote emphasis. Repeating a word was the equivalent of putting an exclamation point after it, or putting it in bold type. Christ was saying, “Why do you call me ‘LORD!’ and do not do what I say?”
This question, posed by Christ, has at no time been more appropriately asked than at present. Multitudes of people have been introduced to Christian belief apart from any emphasis on the need to adopt Christ as the Head and Ruler of their life. These same ones accept Yahshua as Savior, eagerly embracing His atoning work on the cross of Calvary, but placing their lives wholly at Christ’s disposal to be lived as He would choose is omitted.
One of the plainest Biblical witnesses of Christ’s call to discipleship is found in His last words to His followers before He ascended into heaven. It is in that passage that is referred to as “The Great Commission.”
And Yahshua came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The Great Commission spoken by Yahshua was not to “go and make Christians,” nor to “make confessors.” The commission was to “make disciples.” We need not wrangle over what is implied in the use of the word “disciple,” for Christ clearly defined what He intended by the use of this word.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master.”
Yahshua reveals that the goal of a disciple is “that he become like his teacher.” He also links the relationship between a disciple and his teacher to that of a servant (or slave) with his master. There is a very defined authority structure. A slave must obey his master. A slave lives to do the will and pleasure of the one to whom he belongs. Even as slaves existed in the Roman Empire, and were bought and became the property of their masters, so too has Christ purchased all those who come to Him for salvation.
I Corinthians 6:19-20
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price…
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
II Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them…
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
This truth of men being “purchased” by Christ is proclaimed extensively throughout the New Testament. Christians are not merely people joining a club, nor are they acolytes who embrace a particular form of belief or teaching. The entrance into the Kingdom of God is only through the blood of Christ. All who enter through His blood become the property of Christ, being bought with an exceedingly high price.
I Peter 1:18-19
Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
That all who receive salvation in Christ must become Yahshua’s servants is not unjust. Christ has taken men and women who were dead in their sins, and He has made them alive. This transfer from death unto life came at an exceptionally high price. Christ accepted death that He might give life to others. Is it not just that He would require all those who receive His life to surrender that life to be lived as He directs? After all, the life we have in Christ is not our own. Apart from receiving Christ’s life, we would be spiritually dead and separated from the kingdom of God. We would be lost and condemned in our trespasses and sin.
Consider how the church has cheapened this great gift that the Son of God has given to mankind. The church wants to be made alive in Christ, but they do not want to give their lives to Christ. They want salvation without sacrifice. The church wants the riches that are found only in Yahshua the Messiah, but they do not want to live the same life of devotion to the will and pleasure of the Father that He lived. The vast majority of Christians today wish to remain living the life of their own choosing, a self-focused pursuit of personal fulfillment and pleasure, while adding the benefits of Christ to their goody basket. Christ never offered salvation on these terms.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Yahweh has given us many ways to visualize the salvation He has provided to mankind. The grandest similitude found anywhere in Scripture is in the epic history of Yahweh delivering Israel from bondage in Egypt. In this event we see both the atoning work of Christ in the blood of the Passover lamb placed on the doors of the homes of those dwelling in Goshen, and we also see the IMMEDIATE call to FOLLOW wherever God would lead.
“Now you shall eat [the Passover meal] in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste – it is Yahweh’s Passover.”
The events of this first Passover Feast serve as a type and shadow of those things to be fulfilled in Christ.
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
I Corinthians 5:7
For Christ, our Passover, also has been sacrificed…
As the Israelites ate that first Passover meal 1,500 years prior to the birth of Christ, they were acting out in type the salvation that Yahweh would one day provide for all mankind. Yahweh would send forth His Son as the Passover Lamb to be sacrificed that man might be “passed over” by death. The Lamb of God would be slain that mankind might live.God instructed the Israelites to take a year old male lamb without spot or blemish, and to bring it into their homes. The lamb was to dwell with them for four days, and afterward it was to be slain and the blood put on the doorposts and lintel of the home. The death angel was to visit Egypt that same night. Wherever he saw the blood on the door he would pass over and no one inside would die. In every house where there was no blood, the firstborn males would die.
This aspect of salvation has been embraced by the church today. The church proclaims the death of Christ as a substitution for mankind. The Son of God died that men might live before God. Yet, this is not all that occurred on that first Passover. There was much more.
The Israelites were instructed to not only place the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorways, they were also commanded to eat the lamb and be ready to travel.
“They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste – it is Yahweh’s Passover.”
What do these things symbolize? The unleavened bread and bitter herbs, along with the Passover Lamb, were all types and shadows of Christ. The unleavened bread represents Christ’s sinless life. The bitter herbs symbolize that the life of Christ was very difficult. He was “a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). In eating each of these things, the Israelites were acting out annually the coming salvation of God. Not only would Christ’s blood pay the penalty for the sin of mankind, but Christ would send forth His Spirit to produce life inside of every man, woman and child who became a partaker of His salvation. Eating the Passover meal is symbolic of receiving the life of Christ into our bodies.
A great error in the church today is in thinking that Christ suffered so that they will not have to suffer. That this is profound error is revealed repeatedly in Christ’s invitation to men and women to “take up YOUR CROSS and follow Me.” Christ had a cross to bear, and so too do all who would come to Him for salvation. As the Israelites ate the bitter herbs, they were giving testimony to this bitter aspect of our union with Christ. Even as we become partakers of Christ’s life, we also become partakers of His suffering.
II Corinthians 4:7-10
But we have this treasure [the life of Christ] in earthen vessels [our bodies], so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Yahshua, so that the life of Yahshua also may be manifested in our body.
Although Paul wrote these words in the context of the experience of those who are apostles and ministers, the Bible reveals that this is the common experience of all who are members of the body of Christ.
I Peter 2:21
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…
The church today is very willing to accept the life of Christ inside them as they are born a second time of the Spirit of God, but they do not want to embrace the sufferings of Christ. However, apart from sharing in Yahshua’s suffering, no man can be perfected. It is those experiences that afflict our natural life that are the instruments the Father uses to bring forth a spiritual creation within.
I Peter 5:10
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
We enter into these experiences of suffering in the same way that Yahshua did. We yield our lives to be directed by the Holy Spirit. This aspect of salvation is foreshadowed in Yahweh’s instructions to Moses to command the people to eat the Passover meal “with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand.” Those who become partakers of the life of Christ, who are delivered from death into life, are to immediately be ready to depart their old life and yield themselves to go wherever the Spirit of Christ would lead them, and to do whatever Yahweh would ask of them.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
There is a tremendous consistency throughout the entire testimony of the Bible. Both Old and New Testaments reveal the two-fold aspect of salvation. Salvation is established through both faith and obedience. Not only must the Christian believe in the Son of God as the “Savior,” he must also surrender to follow Him as “Lord.”
For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Although it is common among Christians today to speak of the Son of God as their “Lord,” there are few who actually have embraced Yahshua as the Lord of their life. On that day when we must all give an account, Yahweh will judge all men with impartiality. Those who have surrendered their lives to live to do His will and pleasure will be afforded entrance into His kingdom. Those who have lived life at the direction of their own soul, while paying lip service to the lordship of Christ will be denied entrance into the kingdom.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘LORD!,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
This aspect of entering into our inheritance in Christ was also very plainly foreshadowed in the history and experiences of Israel. After partaking of the first Passover, the entire nation of Israel departed Egypt. At that time Yahweh did a remarkable thing. He gave them the pillar of fire and cloud to always dwell with them, and to serve as a guide in their travels. The pillar of fire and cloud stand as a type and shadow of the Holy Spirit whom Christ has sent forth as a guide for all those who have become partakers of His life.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Immediately after Yahshua was baptized in the Jordan River, the Spirit of God descended upon Him and remained. At once, the Spirit began to lead and direct every action of the Son of God.
Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.
This immediacy of being led of the Spirit is brought forth in Yahweh’s command for the children of Israel to eat the Passover meal fully girded and ready to travel. Tragically, this aspect of life in Christ is absent from the proclamation of the gospel today. If we were to re-write the history of Israel according to the experience of a large segment of the church today, we would have them lounging at ease in their homes, eating the Passover Lamb without the inclusion of bitter herbs. They would then remain in Goshen, continuing to eat from the fleshpots of Egypt and pursuing intercourse in the ways of a fallen world system. The tragic result is that Christians remain in bondage to sin and selfish living, rather than attaining conformity to the image of Christ.
The desire of God for all who are in Christ Jesus/Yahshua the Messiah is that, when they become partakers of His life, they at once yield all their remaining days to be lived at His direction and pleasure. We must depart from life in Egypt, which stands as a symbol of the world, and embrace a new paradigm where we accept suffering and reproaches that we might be transformed into the same image as the Savior of mankind.
Therefore Yahshua also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.
Understand then, that the invitation of Christ has never been anything less than discipleship. His invitation is “Come. Take up your cross, and follow Me.”
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