A disciple is a person who understands His relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father. The disciple has believed in the saving work of Jesus upon the cross as the only means of his salvation. He understands that works do not save anyone (Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tim 1:9; Titus 3:5), and he understands his eternal and unbreakable position in Christ:
(John 3:15-16, 36; 10:28-30; Rom 6:22-23; Titus 1:2; 1 John 5:11-13).
The disciple is then a believer post-salvation where his first order of business is to maintain his fellowship with Christ by means of inculcation and application of Bible Doctrine through the Grace Apparatus for Perception and filling of God the Holy Spirit.
He learns that in order to maintain his fellowship with Christ, He must go to the cross not for salvation [LOUO – λούω (loo’-o)] but for experiential washing [NIPTO – νίπτω (nip’-to)] of his daily sins. This is accomplished via 1 John 1:9, and results in Eph 5:18, being filled with God the Holy Spirit. The result is fellowship with the Lord, walking in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, 1 John 1:7.
Definition, Carrying Your Cross Daily:
Occupation with the Lord Jesus Christ is the mode of operation for the disciple. The Lord Jesus Christ is the focus of the disciple, and the cross is applied to clear the way for him. Nowhere was our Lord more explicit and firm than when He mentioned discipleship in Luke 9:23; 14:27 “And He had said to them, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me”
This places emphasis on what the disciple should do, because “self” will not follow Him. Therefore, we are to “take up our cross daily,” which means daily dying; not physical death but death to self, our flesh, our sin nature.
Daily we should die to our sin nature which means obeying the authority of The Word of God and Holy Spirit over our souls and rejecting the authority proposed by the temptations of our sin nature, our old self. That’s what is meant by “walk in the newness of life” in Christ Jesus.
A disciple is one who is free from the old and free for the new. Believers should understand that bearing the cross does not refer to the trials which we call crosses. The taking up of our cross does not mean the stoical bearing of some heavy burden, hardship, illness, disastrous situation, or relationship. Enduring anything of this nature is not bearing one’s cross. Instead, it refers to the daily giving up of our old life, of dying to self.
The believer’s cross is the Cross of Calvary, the Cross on which we were crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20). There the eternal emancipation proclamation was signed with the blood of the Lamb, and sealed by the Spirit of God. Every believer is thereby freed from all bondage, but every believer is not aware of this liberating truth. Consider yourself to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Prov 8:17, “I love those who love me and those who seek me find me.”
Psa 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Matt 5:5, “Blessed are the humble for they will inherit the earth.”
Psa 25:9, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.”
Isa 30:18, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice, Blessed are all who WAIT for Him.”
Heb 10:36, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”
MATHETES – μαθητής (math-ay-tes’), from MANTHANO; a noun meaning, “a disciple(s), or pupil.” Literally, it means, “a learner from MANTHANO, indicating thought accompanied by endeavor.”
In contrast to DIDASKALOS – διδάσκαλος (did-as’-kal-os), “a teacher,” it denotes one who follows one’s teaching, for example; the disciple of John in Matt 9:14; of the Pharisees Matt 22:16; of Moses, John 9:28.
MANTHANO – μανθάνω (man-than’-o), from the root word MATH – ΜΑΘ = (to learn), it means, “to learn, be appraised, to increase one’s knowledge, to be increased in knowledge, educated, to hear, be informed, to learn by use and practice, to be in the habit of, accustomed to. To learn, especially by inquiry; to have learnt, i.e. to understand, know, learners, pupils, to learn to do, learn how to do, to perceive by the senses, remark, notice, to understand, comprehend. To learn; find out, discover; learn by experience; attend a rabbinic school,” (John 7:15).
MATHETRIA – μαθήτρια (math-ay’-tree-ah), feminine of MATHETES – μαθητής (math-ay-tes’), “a female disciple.” Tabitha in Acts 9:36.
SUMMATHETES – συμμαθητης (sum-ma-thay-tay), means, “a fellow disciple” in John 11:16.
MATHETEUO – μαθητεύω math-ayt-yoo’-o), from MATHETES; is the verb meaning, “to be a disciple, to make a disciple, become a disciple, made…disciples, make disciples.” In Matt 27:57, “being a disciple of a person, or being made a disciple,” Matt 13:32. See also: Matt 28:19 and Acts 14:21.
Disciples of Jesus is used in various ways meaning:
- In a wide sense of the Jews who became His adherents, John 6:66; Luke 6:17; John 19:38.
- The twelve Apostles, Matt 10:1; Luke 22:11.
- Of all who manifest that they are His disciples by abiding in His Word, John 8:31; 13:35; 15:8.
- In the Acts of those who believed upon Him and confessed Him John 6:1, 2, 7; 14:20, 22, 28; 15:10; 19:1.
The disciple was not only a pupil, but also an adherent. They are called imitators of their teacher; John 8:31; 15:8.
Two Distinct Calls: Matt 11:28-29
Matt 11:28-29, “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 humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
- First to salvation found in vs. 28.
In answering this call, the sinner lays down the burden of sin and guilt, and receives the gift of rest in his soul.
Rom. 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Gift of salvation, which Jesus died to secure, cannot be earned; it can only be received by faith.
Rom 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Second to discipleship found in vs. 29.
Once we have responded to the call for salvation, we find discipleship as the “yoke” of Christ. This yoke is said to be the “learning” process in preparation for service.
The new believer must 2 Pet 3:18, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This requires diligent study, for we are learning not just to know, but to do His will.
2 Tim 2:15, “Study (be diligent) to present yourself approved to God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
It is significant that the word “learn” in vs. 29 is MATHETE – μάθετε (Math-ee- te) which is the Aorist, Active, Imperative of MANTHANO – μανθάνω (man-than’-o), which means, “learn; find out, discover; learn by experience, attend a rabbinic school,” as in John 7:15. It’s also the root word for MATHETES – μαθητής (math-ay-tes’), which is translated, “disciple.”
All who believe in Jesus Christ for salvation should become disciples. However, experience and observation tell us that relatively few answer this second call.
At the very moment of salvation, every believer receives his very own spiritual life tailored to his own soul and personality. While every believer receives his own spiritual life at salvation, the function of that spiritual life is common to all believers. All believers have the same set of instructions–the mandates of Bible doctrine as revealed in the New Testament epistles.
The spiritual life possesses both individuality on the one hand, and uniformity of modus operandi on the other hand. The purpose of the spiritual life is never to change your personality, but to give your personality the expression that God designed for it in providing your own spiritual life.
The individuality of your spiritual life is based on the fact you have an individual soul; you have your own personality to go with your spiritual life. This is why the Holy Spirit teaches the human spirit as noted in Rom 8:16, and this is why the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit is so important to your own spiritual life.
The human soul of the believer is both the location of the spiritual life and the battleground for the spiritual life. There are two categories of the spiritual life. a) The absolute–the filling of the Holy Spirit. b) The relative–related to Bible doctrine in the soul.
Application Principles of the Spiritual Life:
(1) You and you alone are the only one who can live your spiritual life; no one else can live it for you.
(2) Consequently, you and you alone are responsible for your own decisions, good or bad, positive or negative to doctrine; which means you cannot blame environment, childhood, people, or anyone or anything else for your failure to live your own spiritual life.
(3) Your spiritual life was designed by God in eternity past and functions under Divine power only–the power of the Spirit, the power of the Word. Therefore, Bible doctrine and the filling of the Holy Spirit must have number one priority in your life after salvation.
(4) Since both the filling of the Spirit plus cognition, inculcation, and metabolization of doctrine are mandated for all believers, you have to undergo a change, and the first change has to be your scale of values. Sooner or later you must assign number one priority to Bible doctrine. The word of God is the revelation of God’s will, plan, and purpose for your life. You cannot know the will of God apart from Bible doctrine. You can pray that God will guide you; however, it is a prayer that will not be answered if Bible doctrine is not your number one priority. The only way that you are going to know the will of God is through the word of God.
(5) Only through living your very own spiritual life through utilization of Divine power can you glorify God and fulfill His will, His purpose, and His plan for your life.
- Discipleship is not for the elite in Christianity, but for all Christians.
- Salvation is the first step, commencing a life of discipleship. Salvation should not be seen apart from discipleship.
- Some have neglected discipleship in evangelism, tending toward an easy believism. They seem to be inviting men and women to have a kind of spiritual ‘affair’ with our Lord. They do not stress that the relationship is one of eternal commitment and far-reaching consequences. Others have over-stressed or over-programmed it, failing to realize that it is ultimately the work of God and a life-long process.
- We have erroneously applied our Lord’s relationship with the twelve and Paul’s relationship with Timothy to discipleship. We have confused discipleship with apostleship. We have overlooked the matter of gift and calling. We have confused spirituality with certain kinds of service.
- We have made the matter of discipleship primarily an individual enterprise, rather than a collective command to the corporate church.
The Aorist, Imperative use of “discipleship” gives us a sense of urgency. The reason for this is that discipleship means, “service.” And the service in view is the cause of Christ, who came into the world, “to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19:10.
We sense this urgency in the burden of Jesus when He said in Matt 9:37-38, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
The Belt of Truth
How to Study the Bible for Maximum Benefit and Growth:
|The Passage:||“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth.” Eph 6:14a|
|The Principle:||Discipleship demands daily Bible study.|
|The Practice:||Make time each day to read or hear the Word of God.|
In the preparation of the Roman soldier for battle, the first article of equipment taken up was the broad belt. To it were attached the sword and breastplate with other necessary articles. Remember that Paul wrote Ephesians from a Roman prison. This “prison” was in fact “house arrest,” where he was under constant guard by Roman soldiers (Acts 28:30). These were members of the elite Praetorian Guard, many of whom he led to a saving faith in the Lord (Phil 1:12-13).
Paul saw in the belt and shoulder strap which supported it, an analogy to the importance of personal Bible study. Everything in the life of a believer depends upon it. The word of God is the foundation of all spiritual life. The goal is to “stand” in the face of the enemy, and the means to that end is to take up each article of armor.
In terms of discipleship, this means to establish the daily disciplines of the Christian life.
We are told, in Rom 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Since faith is born out of receiving God’s word, so also it must be sustained. The word of God strengthens our soul and gives us confidence in God, resulting in courage for life. It is in the Bible that we find the answers to the problems and difficulties of life. To say, “The just shall live by faith” (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38) is the same as saying “The believer must live by the word of God.”
The Belt of Truth – The Importance of Personal Bible Study:
The Key to Growth:
Spiritual hunger is one of the first evidence of new life. The soul that is renewed by faith craves the word of God. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (1 Pet 2:2-3)
Where this hunger is absent, there is reason to question the genuineness of the claim to conversion. Spiritual growth will soon be evident, as this hunger leads from simple “milk” to “strong meat” in the deeper truths of the word of God, (See: Heb 5:11-14).
The Key to Sanctification:
The word “sanctify” means to, “set apart to God,” and includes the idea of purification. This is the product of Bible study combined with obedience. We certainly cannot obey what we do not know. “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” (1 Pet 1:22-23)
Spiritual love can only come from purity, and purity is the product of faithful study of and obedience to the word of God. “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psa 119:11)
The Key to Stability:
At the moment of regeneration, the believer becomes a target of Satan and the fallen realm of angels. Only grounding in the word of God can provide necessary stability in the face of their organized attack on the soul. “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope sully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Pet 1:13).
Once again, the figure of the belt is used as symbolic of that which is foundational in spiritual life. It has been well said, “Bibles that are falling apart usually belong to those who aren’t.” Stability is the result of study!
The Key to Victory:
The spiritual life is a battle! The context of Ephesians 6 is conflict. The prospect is either victory or defeat. We see many defeated Christians, and the primary cause is the absence of effective study of the word of God. “And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb (faith in Jesus) and by the word of their testimony (the Bible), and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev 12:11)
Even when we fall into sin, it is God’s word, which restores and revives us.
“My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.” (Psa 119:25)
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)
The list of benefits from the study of the word of God could go on and on. All of these could be collectively called “wisdom.”
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psa 19:7)
Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt 7:24). As the “belt of truth” must be put on daily, following are some suggestions for daily Bible study for the new believer and disciple.
Be Prepared to Study:
Come to the word of God with a humble and teachable attitude. Begin with prayer, including confession of any known sins (1 John 1:9), and a request for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (John 14:26; 16:13)
Be Reverent Toward God:
When we approach the word of God, we are entering into His very presence. As Moses was told before the burning bush, “the place where you stand is holy ground,” (Exo 3:5). We must surrender to His authority, and be eager to obey when He speaks. The Spirit of God will speak to us through the Bible in that “still small voice” as He did to Elijah, (1 Kings 19:12). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov 9:10)
Be Consistent Daily:
The word of God is nourishment for our souls. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” (Matt 4:4). We should be in the word daily, just as we eat daily. You may not remember all that you read daily, any more than you remember what you ate last week, it will strengthen just the same.
Begin at the Center:
God works from the center to the circumference in our lives. He starts in the spirit, works through the soul, and out from the body, (Phil 2:12-13; 1 Thess 5:23). We should study the same way. Begin at the heart of the Bible, the Gospels. Learn about the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. This lays a foundation for understanding all the Old Testament and the Epistles. Remember that the Bible is one unit from beginning to end.
Don’t jump around! Read a book, chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. As a teenager, I used to read a chapter each day, and try to apply what I learned to that day. My children have developed the same discipline, and their gain is obvious. Recognize that what you don’t understand will become clear as other Scripture sheds light on it, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual,” (1 Cor 2:13).
Mark Twain said, “It is not what I don’t understand about the Bible that troubles me, but the things I do understand.” We should obey what we do understand, and leave the rest for God to make clear later.
The word will change our life if we let it. In learning the word, we are to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” to do the will of God, (Rom 12:2). It is the change wrought by an attitude of surrender that is the heart of true worship (Gen 22:5; Rom 12:1). This is why Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
In every PASSAGE, find the PRINCIPLE to apply to your PRACTICE.
Be United with Others:
The local church is ordained by the Lord as a place of worship, training and fellowship (Acts 2:42; 5:42). Find a Bible believing and teaching church led by a gifted pastor-teacher. The body of Christ, the church, is built by the teaching of God’s word (Eph 4:11-16). To fail to take advantage of this provision is “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” (Heb 10:25).
In all our study, we should make an effort to commit to memory what we are learning. Bible study is inhale that will later require exhale. This we will see under the “sword” figure of the armor. Any careful reading of the Gospels or Epistles will convince us that the authors had committed a tremendous amount of Scripture to memory. Memorization requires repetition, but there is no substitute for having the instant recall of a verse or principle at the appropriate time. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another…”, (Col 3:16).
How to Enter and Maintain a Life of Spiritual Power and Purpose:
|The Passage:||“Having put on the breastplate of righteousness,” Eph 6:14b.|
|The Principle:||Discipleship requires obedience to the word of God.|
|The Practice:||Be dedicated to the daily application of truth to life.|
The tense of the verbs here implies that before we can take our stand, we have to put on the armor. The breastplate logically follows the belt, both for the Roman soldier and for the Christian soldier. The breastplate was attached to the belt. Without the belt, the breastplate could not be secured. It was designed to protect the vitals, and speaks here of practical sanctification, or what we will call the Spirit-filled life. It is righteousness in the practical sense. Without it, we leave ourselves open to the devil’s attack. Sin in our life gives the enemy a place to work (Eph 4:27). The Roman breastplate only covered the front, for there was no thought of turning the back to the enemy!
The Gift of Righteousness:
When we believe in Jesus Christ, we receive His righteousness as a free gift of God’s grace. This gift cost Christ everything, for “(God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” (2 Cor 5:21). God’s plan of salvation has never changed, for as “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness,” (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3) even so, “It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,” (Rom 4:24). “Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” (Rom 3:22)
The Practice of Righteousness:
Because God has already given us His righteousness, we have all the spiritual resources, through His Spirit, to live daily in a right relationship with Him. The Spirit of God empowers us to utilize our Spiritual resources. As we submit to God, we are available “to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,” (Eph 3:16). We have the power of God available to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death… So that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit,” (Rom 8:2, 4). It is the Spirit-filled life that is the “breastplate” that protects our Spiritual “vitals” from the thrust of the enemy!
The Spirit-Filled Life:
The New Testament places great emphasis on the ministry of the Spirit of God in the believer’s life. Unfortunately, there is today so much distortion among modern charismatics that most Christians are ignorant of the true nature and purpose of the Spirits’ working. I will not labor to deal with all the current false teachings on this vital subject. Put plainly, the work of the Spirit is to reproduce the life of Jesus in the disciple. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20). In another place Paul says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21). For this reason, Paul speaks of “the Spirit of Christ…who is in you,” (Rom 8:9-10).
Concerning the True Spiritual Life there are Four Commands:
Be Filled with the Spirit:
This command, which is found in Eph 5:18, speaks of the ideal Christian life. The word translated “filled” suggests, “supply for a deficiency,” (See: 2 Cor 2:16 and 3:5-6), along with the idea of being controlled and influenced by God’s Spirit.
The Present Imperative means, “keep on being filled.” This implies that we must cooperate. We see this cooperation in such phrases as, “Let not sin reign in your mortal body,” (Rom 6:12), and “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts… let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” (Col 3:15-16). Notice how the idea of “reigning or ruling” is repeated here. Paul assures us that “those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:17). This self-mastery is the Spirit-filled life!
Grieve Not the Spirit:
Turning to Eph 4:30, we find the first condition which interferes with the Spirit-filled life. The context of vs. 25-31 tells us that it is sin in our life that grieves the indwelling Spirit of God. In fact, vs. 24 is a plea to “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” This “new man” (Spiritual lifestyle) is living in the power of the Holy Spirit; that life that is pleasing to God. When we find that sin in our life has grieved the Spirit, we are told to confess it and forsake it that we might be cleansed and restored to a right relation to God, (Prov 28:13; 1 John 1:9). Daily self-examination and confession is essential to the disciple (1 Cor 11:28, 31).
Don’t Quench the Spirit:
In 1 Thes 5:19, “quenching” is when a believer is in complete reversionism /apostasy, where the ministry of the Holy Spirit is completely shut down in their life, except for Divine discipline. They have not yet suffered the third stage of Divine discipline; therefore, they are still able to repent, rebound, and recover.
Walk in the Spirit:
In the four Spiritual commands, two are negative (“grieve not” and “quench not”), and two are positive (“be filled” and “walk in the Spirit”). If the disciple has confessed any and all known sins and has chosen to yield to the Spirits leading, he may then maintain a life of spiritual power by “walking in the Spirit,” (Gal 5:16, 25). This implies a moment-by-moment dependence. Again, using the soldier analogy, Paul says, “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments (weapons) of righteousness to God,” (Rom 6:14).
In summary, we can say that the Spirit of God indwells every believer for the purpose of making us like Christ. The Spirit-filled life is the Christ-centered life. We will maintain a life under the control and influence of “The Spirit of Christ.” Such a life will be marked by the sure fruits of the Spirit (John 15:1-8; 1 Cor 13:4-8 and Gal 5:22).
It is God’s will that each believer be able to say, “Christ lives in me.” Then, it will be true of us that, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7). Then, and only then, have we “put on the breastplate of righteousness.” The believer is then protected in the “vitals” of the spiritual life, maintaining a right relation of fellowship with God.
The Sandals of the Gospel: Christian Service
|The Passage:||“And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” Eph 6:15.|
|The Principle:||Discipleship involves daily service to God.|
|The Practice:||Look for ways to serve God by serving others.|
The Roman soldier was famed throughout the ancient world for his ability to march long distances (up to 30 km in five hours), drop his pack, and go into battle. This capability was due to intensive training and endurance, and to the “combat-sandals” which they wore. These were the forerunners of the modern combat boot. Their heavy lugged soles gave secure footing, and the tight weaving of heavy straps protected the feet and ankles. The value of the sandal was realized only through much exertion, for which reason Paul calls them the “Preparation of the gospel of peace.” The word used here suggests a “firm foundation based on extensive preparation.” [Heb 5:14]
The Disciples Three-Fold Preparation:
“Sandals and feet” in Scripture are suggestive of service. For example, in the parable of the prodigal (Luke 15), upon his return to the Father, he is supplied, among other things, with new sandals for his feet. In Isa 52:7 and Rom 10:15 we read, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things.” Probably because of these verses, the sandals spoken of in Eph 6:15 are often only related to the work of evangelism. However, we must not overlook the fact that they are “the preparation of the gospel of peace.” I think it is safe to say that much evangelism goes on without much “preparation”.
Personal Preparation as a Priest:
In 1 Pet 2:4-10, we find a teaching unique to the New Testament. We are told that every believer in Jesus Christ is a member of “a holy priesthood” and a “royal priesthood.” The only royal priesthood in Scripture is that of the order of Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20) over which Jesus Christ presides as High-Priest (Psa 110:4; Heb 5:6, 10 and 7:21). As members of His body, we share in His Priesthood.
Our two-fold function is given as that of “offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God” and of “proclaiming the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” In short, the priest was to reveal God to men, and to lead men to God (Heb 5:1-4). The priest offered sacrifices for cleansing from sin, “first for himself and then for the people,” (Lev 16:24; Heb 9:7). Our offering is confession for our own sins, and intercession on behalf of others. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name,” (Heb 13:15). “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving thanks be made for all men,” (1 Tim 2:1). Having faithfully prayed for specific people, we are more prepared to proclaim to them the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Collective Preparation as a Body:
Beyond the personal preparation each must make, there is necessity of the entire body being prepared. Christian service is a team effort! No area of our service to the Lord stands alone, isolated from others.
Within the local church, various gifts are (or should be) at work to build up the whole. As the Pastor teaches the word of God by his gift, the result is “the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,” (Eph 4:12a), so that as other gifts begin to minister, they work “for the edifying of the body of Christ,” (Eph 4:12b). Since every believer is given “the manifestation of the Spirit…for the profit of all,” (1 Cor 12:7), we are commanded, “as each one has received a gift, let us minister to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” (1 Pet 4:10). We are not only all priests, we are all ministers!
United Advance as Ambassadors:
Only when individual believers are prepared as priests, and the body of Christ is being strengthened by many gifts, are we able to advance in the way Christ envisioned His triumphant church. “Upon this Rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it,” (Matt 16:18). Satan knows that the church united is a church triumphant and unstoppable. Little wonder then that he spends so much time working to divide the family of God. And he finds so many willing helpers! “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God,” (2 Cor 5:20). But the church that is unable to reconcile within itself will never have power in bringing men into reconciliation with God.
The disciple, then, is to put on the sandals, which will give a secure footing in service to God. This requires much preparation, as Paul suggests. We must develop, as a priest who is washed and cleansed for service, as a minister who builds up others in the body of Christ, and as an effective ambassador calling the lost to Christ. A local church where many disciples are engaged in these disciplines will be a powerful force for the building up of the saints and the winning of the lost to Christ. “He who wins souls is wise,” (Prov 11:30).
The Shield of Faith:
|The Passage:||“Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Eph 6:16|
|The Principle:||We take up our shield by claiming God’s promises.|
|The Practice:||Begin to apply the promises of God to your daily needs.|
The Roman soldier spent as much time learning the use of the “shield” as he did the sword. They worked together as defense and offense. The shield was a large rectangular shape, like a door. Called in Latin the SCUTUM, it was made of wood, covered with leather, and edged with iron. Often before battle, it was soaked in water, for the very purpose of putting out flaming arrows.
See also: Heb 5:14; Jer 15:16; Psa 119:103; 22:26; Isa 55:2; Eze 3:1; Jer 3:15; Job 23:12; Pro 30:8
Just as the sandals suggest that we are advancing, so also the shield suggests that such advance will be met by resistance from the enemy. It is axiomatic that those who are most aggressive in the spiritual realm will face the brunt of opposition and persecution. For this we must be prepared. It is just after He has spoken of the peacemakers (ministers of reconciliation) that Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake,” (Matt 5:10) and Paul assures us that, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,” (2 Tim 3:12).
This shield is called specifically, “the shield of faith.” It speaks of faith, not as taking in God’s word, but as using it to meet life’s problems. It is an illustration of the faith-rest life. Jesus said one of the benefits of the life of a disciple is, “you shall find rest for your souls,” (Matt 11:29). We are told, “The just shall live by faith,” (Rom 1:17) as quoted from Hab 2:4. And the product of faith is rest, hence the faith-rest life! It means a life of inner peace and calm, based on trust in the faithfulness of God. In the midst of changing circumstances, our God never changes. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (Heb 13:8).
The immutability (unchangeableness) of Jesus Christ is reflected in the Word of God. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away,” (Matt 24:35). We can trust the promises of the word of God. In the trials of life, our souls can find rest by trusting in the unshakeable promises He has given us. In Hebrews 4, we are given an overview of the faith-rest life. And what is this life? In the book “Hudson Taylors Spiritual Secret” by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, chapters 14 and 15 relate how the great missionary, after years of spiritual struggle, found the way into what they called, “soul-rest.” This was nothing more than resting by faith in the clear and sure promises of God. Four times in both the Old and also the New Testament we are told, “The just (saved) shall live by faith.” This is the faith-rest life.
Ingredients of the Faith-Rest Life: Hebrews 4
The faith-rest life is entered into by mixing the promises of God’s word with pure faith. “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” (See: Heb 4:1-3a.) The verbs here indicate that we cannot enter until first we trust!
By faith we enter a sharing of God’s “rest” in His finished work. “The works were finished from the foundation of the world,” (Heb 4:3b). In Gen 2:2, we are told that God rested, because His work was done. Everything necessary for the fulfillment of His grand plan was put into motion. And so, we read that the Lamb of God was “slain from the foundation of the world, “(Rev 13:8), His kingdom was just as Surely prepared for all who believe “from the foundation of the world,” (Matt 25:34), and the names of all who would believe were “written…from the foundation of the world,” (Rev 17:8). This is why Jesus on the cross cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
Men are invited throughout history to enter into this rest, (Heb 4:6-9). Every generation of men has been invited to enter His rest. But to those who “harden their hearts,” and do not believe God’s word, He says, “they shall not enter My rest,” (Heb 4:5 & 7).
The faith-rest life is a moment-by-moment sabbath, (Heb 4:9-10). The word “rest” in vs. 9 is sabbatismos – σαββατισμός (sab-bat-is-mos’), meaning, “a Sabbath rest.” On the Sabbath, men were to “cease from their own works” and rest in the provision of God (See: Exo 16:22-26). When we claim the promises of God, we are resting in His provision for us. This means that we trust in His work on our behalf. “Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus Answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe In Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29).
The faith-rest involves diligent study of and active obedience to the word of God, (Heb 4:11-12.) The word “diligent” here is the same one found in 2 Tim 2:15. Since we must believe the word of God to enter His rest (Heb 4:2-3), it follows that daily rest requires daily study in faith.
We must be open to correction and confession of sin, (Heb 4:12b-13). God’s word convicts us and corrects our thoughts, motives, and actions. When we are “reproved” (2 Tim 3:16), we should confess our sin for cleansing and restoration to fellowship with God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9). Confession keeps us honest with ourselves and with God. Sin in our life breaks our communion with God, and unconfessed sin remains a barrier to the enjoyment of His power and blessing in our life. There is no rest in our soul when we grieve or quench the Spirit of God.
There is focus on Jesus Christ through prayer, (Heb 4:14-16). Later in (Heb 12:2), we are told to keep “Looking unto Jesus.” As He speaks to us through His word, we are to respond to Him in our prayers. Spiritual communication is necessary to maintain a vital spiritual relationship with God. No relationship can thrive without regular communication. Jesus represents us in the presence of God. We are to represent Him before men. We will only “hold Fast our confession” or witness, as we “come boldly to the throne of grace” in prayer. It is here we will find His mercy and grace to be all-sufficient for help in every need.
When we claim the promises contained in God’s word, we are taking up the “shield of faith.” In Heb 6:17-19, we are assured that the word of God cannot be broken. Claiming His promises will give us “strong consolation,” and the hope we receive will become for us “an anchor of the soul,” which can give stability in every trial of life. As a disciple, you will need to daily “take up the shield of faith,” and enter into the faith-rest life. By this alone are we able to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”
The Helmet of Salvation Personal Security and Stability in Life.
|The Passage:||“And take the helmet of salvation,” Eph 6:17a|
|The Principle:||My security in life depends on my security in Christ.|
|The Practice:||Live boldly on the basis of eternity, not in light of time.|
The soldier’s helmet was extremely important in time of battle. It was for the protection of the head, most vital of the body’s members. By a spiritual analogy, the head implies thinking, which is the basis for all our actions. The Scripture is clear on the vital importance of having a Biblical mind.
With the helmet protecting the head, the Roman soldier could advance boldly and fearlessly into the battle. Our helmet is called the “helmet of salvation,” because it speaks of a mind, or mental attitude, which is secure because salvation is certain. We have security in this life, because we have eternal life in the next. We call this “eternal-security.” It is the conviction that eternal life is eternal! It is not, as some falsely conclude, “provisional” or “probationary.”
The Roman helmet was made of bronze, equipped with extensions, which covered the nose, ears, and neck. Though impervious to any blows on the battlefield, the helmet was lined with fur and was soft and comfortable on the inside. Our salvation can stand up to any of the blows of life, for as Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … (nothing) shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:35, 39). Notice that he says no-person (who) and no-thing!
The application of this great truth is simply to live in that boldness which faces tests and trials in this life with the calm assurance that we are secure in Christ. I would encourage you to read and reflect on Rom 8:18-39. It is filled with the promise of security for the believer. And in this security, we have stability in life, which nothing else can provide. We are assured that….
Christians who deny the security of the believer’s salvation are never very bold. They believe in playing it safe. The early disciples were known by their boldness (Acts 4:13). They prayed for boldness (Acts 4:29), and their prayers were answered (Acts 4:31). Even Paul, one of the boldest of Apostles, requests prayer for greater boldness in Eph 6:19-20. We need to be bold in our witness and bold in our living. Even after Paul had failed through disobedience (See: Acts 21) and had been disciplined by God, he wrote from his prison cell expressing his assurance that, “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body whether by life or by death. For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” (Phil 1:20-21). How could he have such conviction and assurance? He tells us….
The Work of Christ IN You:
The Baptism of the Spirit, 1 Cor 12:13. At the moment of believing in Christ, you were placed into the body of Christ, which is the church. You are in the family of God! This means being “united with Christ” in the benefits of His death, burial, and resurrection, (Rom 6:4-5). In His death, the penalty of sin is paid. By His burial, the power of sin is broken, and in His Resurrection, the practice of sin is conquered!
The Regeneration of the Spirit, Titus 3:5. This is what Jesus Called being “born again” in John 3:5, 7. Peter uses the same phrase in 1 Pet 2:23. This means we have entered into Spiritual life as “a new creature” in Christ (1 Cor 5:17). We have been “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness,” (Eph 4:24).
The Indwelling of the Spirit, Rom 8:9. According to Jesus’ promises in John 13-17, the Holy Spirit has come to be our: Helper, Teacher, Guide, and Comforter in the Spiritual life. Christ is in us through His Spirit (Rom 8:10), and as we yield to the spirits leading (Rom 8:14), He will live in us as surely as He did in the Apostle Paul (Gal 2:20).
The Gifting of the Spirit, 1 Cor 12:7. Every believer is a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-20). Each member has a part to play, a task to perform. For this work, we are empowered by the Spirit of God. This gift becomes effective through the learning of the word of God, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” (Eph 4:12).
The Sealing of the Spirit, Eph 4:30. We are told here that we are “sealed unto the day of redemption.” In the context, the problem of sin in the believer’s life and the resulting “grieving the Holy Spirit” is addressed. All sin in our lives should be confessed and corrected quickly, yet there is great comfort in knowing that while sin will grieve the Spirit, it will not break His sealing of our soul for eternity.
The “helmet of salvation” being an assurance of our security in Christ. What He has done for us and in us will never change, because He never changes. He remains “The same yesterday, and today, and forever,” (Heb 13:8).
The Sword of the Spirit – Fulfilling the Great Commission
|The Passage:||“and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Eph 6:17b|
|The Principle:||The disciple’s only offensive weapon is the Bible.|
|The Practice:||We must be skilled in spiritual swordsmanship!|
The Roman short-sword and its use brought about a revolution in warfare in the ancient world. In the face of the long-curved sabers of the Asian hordes, and the great double-edged swords of the Thracian Barbarians, the sword of the Roman soldier seemed puny. Called the Machaira – μάχαιρα (makh’-ahee-rah) in Scripture, the word of God is likened to a “sharp, two- edged sword” (Heb 4:12). Its power was in its ability to pierce deeply. In fact in battle, the Roman historian Vegetius says that recruits, “learned to strike, not with the edge, but with the point.” (The Roman Soldier,” G.R. Watson). So ingrained was this training that he also declared the Roman soldier “laughed at those who would slash with the sword.” It is the power of the word of God to pierce the heart that the author has in mind in Heb 4:12.
Though the typical Roman soldier was small in comparison to the warriors of other nations, Rome conquered the world. This was done by intensive training, mental and physical discipline, and teamwork. It was the motto of Vegetius that, “There is nothing which constant practice does not make easy.” Though only about as long as the distance from one’s elbow to the fingertips, the Roman short-sword became the most feared weapon of the ancient world. But the secret to its effectiveness was in two disciplines drilled into the soldiers.
These were, firstly, to stand together. The Roman army fought as an indivisible unit. This is what the church should be! Secondly, the individual soldier learned to stand firm. That is, he knew that the success of the whole army was related to his personal victory.
Again, quoting Vegetius, “There is nothing which proved to be of greater service in action than for the men to learn by constant practice to keep their allotted positions in the line, and nowhere to close or to open their ranks disadvantageously.” Surely it was just this discipline which Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Philippian believers, saying, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Phil 1:27).
The word Paul uses for “Stand” (Stete – στῆτε) in Eph 6:11, 13, 14, was the battle cry of the elite Roman soldier. With their rigid devotion to duty, intensive training, and battlefield disciplines, these soldiers of old flung the borders of Rome far and wide. But we also have been given a commission (Matt 28:18-20). We are to advance with the “sword of the Spirit” for the expansion of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. In the battle for souls, we have been given only one offensive weapon. To use it well, we must practice and develop skill in utilizing its power to pierce the soul with the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Learn to bring the point of the word of God to bear on the needs of those around you, for the salvation of their souls, and the glory of Jesus Christ.
Tactics of Spiritual Swordsmanship:
- The proper use of the Spirit’s sword speaks of effective witnessing. Every believer is called to be an ambassador of Christ, 2 Cor 5:20.
- Persistent preparation prevents poor performance. Take note that the sword is not taken up for offensive use until first things have been mastered.
The Belt – Consistent, systematic Bible study.
The Breastplate – Practical obedience to God’s will.
The Sandals – Basic service in three areas of spiritual life.
The Shield – Learning to live the faith-rest life.
The Helmet – Conviction and stability based on eternal security.
- Become one with your weapon. To the Roman soldier, the sword was but an extension of his hand, eyes, and footwork. For the Christian soldier, the word is not an extension of us, but we are to become a reflection of it.
- Train constantly to develop greater skill. The more familiarity we have with the word, the greater ease we will have in using it to present Jesus Christ.
- Be unconditionally devoted to the King and His cause.
No matter how much preparation you have, ultimately, it comes down to overcoming all the fears and barriers, and proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior! The means for accomplishing this is found in the last aspect of the “full” armor.
The Spiritual War – Knowing and Overcoming the Enemy
|The Passage:||“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Eph 6:11-13.|
|The Principle:||The disciple is a soldier of Christ, engaged in an intense and invisible Spiritual war.|
|The Practice:||We are to take up the Armor of God, then to stand!|
In these few verses, we are introduced to the battlefield environment in which we live as soldiers of Christ. In this Spiritual war, the object is to avoid becoming a casualty, and instead to be an overcomer by means of faith. Basic orientation to this conflict requires that we know three things, which Paul reveals in these verses. These are:
Our spiritual adversary is the devil and his hosts of fallen angles. We read of his rebellion, which predates the creation of man, in Isa 14:12-15 and in Eze 28:11-19. Here we learn of the revolt of Lucifer, mightiest of the angels. He is called “The anointed cherub that covereth” whom God had created as “the seal of perfection” in wisdom and beauty. His unique position was “on the holy mountain of God,” which speaks of God’s Throne-Room. This, in addition to his covering of precious stones and his relation to music, implies that he was the High priest of the angels, leading them in the worship of God.
Picture then the tragic drama, which was played out in the heavenly places, as this closest created being to God formulated a diabolical plot to overthrow his Creator. Five times in Isaiah 14, he declares his intention to exalt himself above the Throne of God and make himself “like the Most High.” The sad Divine commentary is given, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor…you became filled with violence within, and you sinned.” And so, it was that Lucifer, “son of the morning” became “The great dragon…that old serpent…called the devil and Satan,” (Rev 12:9).
However, when Satan was cast out, he was not alone. His devilish scheme had deceived one third of the angels into joining in his rebellion, (Rev 12:4). These fallen angels, who became devils in their own right, make up the armies of which Paul speaks in Eph 6:12. Paul’s words picture Satan’s ruling council, having authority over world-rulers, under whose dark command an innumerable host of spirits carry out his will. And that evil will is to use every means to resist the righteous will and work of the God of heaven and earth.
When speaking of “the wiles of the devil,” Paul uses the word methodeia – μεθοδεία (meth-od-i’-ah). Satan’s crafty strategy to oppose God brought this invisible conflict into the human race. The record of the temptation of Eve, and the fall of Adam is recorded in Genesis 3. Since God had given Adam dominion over the whole earth, his fall passed this rule to the devil, who then became “the god of this world,” (2 Cor 4:4). On his continuing quest to exalt himself in God’s likeness, the devil chose to counterfeit everything Divine. In the place of faith, which depends totally on a Holy and Loving God, he substitutes religion, which tells man what he can do to improve himself. In this way, the lust for self-exaltation is passed from fallen angel to fallen man. Religion, in whatever form it takes, is the devil’s chief strategy to keep men from coming to God in faith.
We see this conflict immediately in Genesis 4. Because Abel believed God’s promise of a coming Redeemer (Gen 3:15), he offered, as the evidence of his faith, a lamb from the flock. By doing this, he was depicting his trust in the One and Only “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29). But Cain chose the way of religion, in rejecting the need for the sacrificial element in man’s redemption, he fell for the lie of the devil, that the fruit of his own labor was sufficient. Because his “religion” was rejected by God, he revealed the diabolical side of religion by killing Abel his brother.
In this we see, the root of all persecution of Biblical faith by religious fanatics throughout history, as well as all wars fought in the name of religion. Satan is “the god of forces,” (Dan 11:38), and will tirelessly work to impose his self-exalted rule upon all men. By a multitude of religions, the devil “deceives the nations,” (Rev 20:3, 8, 10) and leads men away from simple faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Bible tells us that the cross of Christ is the only means of our soul’s salvation. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved”, (Acts 16:31). Satan says, through religion, “trust in your ability to reform and improve yourself.”
For those who have entered the family of God, by faith in Jesus Christ, the devil’s tactics remain the same. He orchestrates his false ministers (2 Cor 11:13-15; 2 Pet 2:1-3) to proclaim a false gospel (2 Cor 11:3-4; Gal 1:8-9), to teach false doctrines (1 Tim 1:4; 2 Tim 3:5; 4:3-4), all designed to lead the believer astray from the path of simple faith and obedience in God’s word. Once we know our enemy and are wise to his strategy, “for we are not ignorant of his devices,” (2 Cor 2:11), we will be able to avoid deception and overcome his tactics. “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world,” (1 John 4:4), and “This is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith,” (1 John 5:4).
The key to spiritual victory is given in two parts here in Ephesians 6.
First, there is the putting on of the whole armor of God. This is accomplished by faith day-by-day. The life-style of discipleship is contained in the disciplines portrayed by the armor. As we trust God in each of these areas, we are “walking by faith, and not by sight,” (2 Cor 5:7). In every decision and action, we are looking to our Father in heaven for guidance and strength. We trust in His word and rely on His indwelling Spirit for enabling power to do His will.
With the armor on, we come to the second phase of attaining the victory. So, important is this final act that Paul stresses it four times from vs. 11-14. We are to “stand firm!” The word pictures the Elite Roman veteran known as the Triarii. As battle-tested heroes, these men took their place in the line with the motto, “No surrender, no defeat.” They would claim the ground on which they stood against all odds. When the child of God, by simple faith, chooses to stand on the word of God, regardless of the cost, he cannot help but win. No believer ever became a casualty through trial or temptation who met the foe with the battle-shout, “it is written!”
At the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus withstood all the wiles of the devil, (Matt 4:1-11), giving to all who would follow Him the key to victory, “Stand firm!” on the Word of God. In that crucial conflict our matchless Lord, even though weak from exposure and hunger, faced down the enemy of men’s souls and showed the way to victory. In His weakened state, Jesus displayed that victory comes not in our own strength, for the battle is “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts (armies),” (Zech 4:6). The devil shuddered each time Jesus uttered those words; he dreaded “it is written,” and we read, “Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matt 4:11). In just the same way, we are assured, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” (Jam 4:7). As long as you stand by faith on the Word of God, you will never “give place to the devil,” (Eph 4:27), and you cannot lose in your personal arena of life.
Let us then determine to daily put on the full armor of God. As we cast aside all confidence in ourselves (Phil 3:3), and place our full trust in the grace of God, we will be enabled to take our place in the line of battle, which God has allotted to us. As we “stand firm,” we will expand the borders of His Kingdom of Light, seeing souls “delivered from the power of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His dear Son,” (Col 1:13). By faith alone, we will conduct ourselves as “good soldiers of Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim 2:3), and “fight the good fight,” (1 Tim 1:18; 6:12). And at the battles end, we will stand before our Commander-in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ, and hear his commendation, “well done.” It will be reward enough!
Do You Worship the Work? “We are God’s fellow workers …” (1 Corinthians 3:9). By Oswald Chambers
Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. This will mean that all the other boundaries of life, whether they are mental, moral, or spiritual limits, are completely free with the freedom God gives His child; that is, a worshiping child, not a wayward one. A worker who lacks this serious controlling emphasis of concentration on God is apt to become overly burdened by his work. He is a slave to his own limits, having no freedom of his body, mind, or spirit. Consequently, he becomes burned out and defeated. There is no freedom and no delight in life at all. His nerves, mind, and heart are so overwhelmed that God’s blessing cannot rest on him.
But the opposite case is equally true—once our concentration is on God, all the limits of our life are free and under the control and mastery of God alone. There is no longer any responsibility on you for the work. The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him. The freedom that comes after sanctification is the freedom of a child, and the things that used to hold your life down are gone. But be careful to remember that you have been freed for only one thing—to be absolutely devoted to your co-Worker.
We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might …” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
The Conditions of Discipleship, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also …. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me …. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26–27, 33). By Oswald Chambers
If the closest relationships of a disciple’s life conflict with the claims of Jesus Christ, then our Lord requires instant obedience to Himself. Discipleship means personal, passionate devotion to a Person—our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a vast difference between devotion to a person and devotion to principles or to a cause. Our Lord never proclaimed a cause—He proclaimed personal devotion to Himself. To be a disciple is to be a devoted bondservant motivated by love for the Lord Jesus. Many of us who call ourselves Christians are not truly devoted to Jesus Christ. No one on earth has this passionate love for the Lord Jesus unless the Holy Spirit has given it to him. We may admire, respect, and revere Him, but we cannot love Him on our own. The only One who truly loves the Lord Jesus is the Holy Spirit, and it is He who has “poured out in our hearts” the very “love of God” (Romans 5:5). Whenever the Holy Spirit sees an opportunity to glorify Jesus through you, He will take your entire being and set you ablaze with glowing devotion to Jesus Christ.
The Christian life is a life characterized by true and spontaneous creativity. Consequently, a disciple is subject to the same charge that was leveled against Jesus Christ, namely, the charge of inconsistency. But Jesus Christ was always consistent in His relationship to God, and a Christian must be consistent in his relationship to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to strict, unyielding doctrines. People pour themselves into their own doctrines, and God has to blast them out of their preconceived ideas before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ.
The Warning Against Desiring Spiritual Success, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you …” (Luke 10:20). By Oswald Chambers
Worldliness is not the trap that most endangers us as Christian workers; nor is it sin. The trap we fall into is extravagantly desiring spiritual success; that is, success measured by, and patterned after, the form set by this religious age in which we now live. Never seek after anything other than the approval of God, and always be willing to go “outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:13). In Luke 10:20, Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice. We have a commercialized view—we count how many souls have been saved and sanctified, we thank God, and then we think everything is all right. Yet our work only begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation. Our work is not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace, and our work as His disciples is to disciple others’ lives until they are totally yielded to God. One life totally devoted to God is of more value to Him than one hundred lives which have been simply awakened by His Spirit. As workers for God, we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and those lives will be God’s testimony to us as His workers. God brings us up to a standard of life through His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that same standard in others.
Unless the worker lives a life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), he is apt to become an irritating dictator to others, instead of an active, living disciple. Many of us are dictators, dictating our desires to individuals and to groups. But Jesus never dictates to us in that way. Whenever our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced His words with an “if,” never with the forceful or dogmatic statement—“You must.” Discipleship carries with it an option.
The Service of Passionate Devotion, “… do you love Me? … Tend My sheep” (John 21:16). By Oswald Chambers
Jesus did not say to make converts to your way of thinking, but He said to look after His sheep, to see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Him. We consider what we do in the way of Christian work as service, yet Jesus Christ calls service to be what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief or doctrine. “If anyone comes to Me and does not love less his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). In this verse, there is no argument and no pressure from Jesus to follow Him; He is simply saying, in effect, “If you want to be My disciple, you must be devoted solely to Me.” A person touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says, “Now I see who Jesus is!”—that is the source of devotion.
Today we have substituted doctrinal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many people are devoted to causes and so few are devoted to Jesus Christ. People do not really want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started. Jesus Christ is deeply offensive to the educated minds of today, to those who only want Him to be their Friend, and who are unwilling to accept Him in any other way. Our Lord’s primary obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of people—the saving of people was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. If I am devoted solely to the cause of humanity, I will soon be exhausted and come to the point where my love will waver and stumble. But if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity, even though people may treat me like a “doormat.” The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of that life is its seeming insignificance and its meekness. Yet it is like a grain of wheat that “falls into the ground and dies”—it will spring up and change the entire landscape (John 12:24).
Commission by our Lord:
Apart from His sacrificial work on the cross, the most significant thing our Lord did upon the earth was to make disciples. Our Lord had written no books, He had built no organization; there were no physical structures or monuments left to commemorate Him. He had placed the future of His earthly work entirely in the hands of His disciples. Had they failed their task, humanly speaking, the church of Jesus Christ would not exist today.
In the last decade, discipleship has become a popular subject in Christian circles. The great difficulty is that when we use this term, we frequently mean something entirely different from that denoted by the Biblical term. For instance, we hear much talk about discipling others or being discipled. Being in close proximity to a great seminary, I have seen many young and enthusiastic theologs come and go. Very frequently, they will go to the pastor of their church and ask to be discipled, just like Paul ‘discipled’ Timothy. A friend of mine and fellow-laborer in the ministry used to respond to such a request, “And just how did Paul disciple Timothy?”
This is precisely the problem. We almost completely fail to grasp the Biblical concept of discipleship. It is interesting that we never find the term ‘disciple’ used with reference to the relationship between Paul and Timothy. As a matter of fact, we find the two primary terms for discipleship employed very frequently in the Gospels, sporadically in the book of Acts, and almost never in the rest of the New Testament. Did Paul really disciple Timothy, and if so, how? Most of the young men who desire to be discipled, and I say this seriously, ask more of me than does my wife. It is because of this lack of clarity as to what discipleship really is, and how it is done that we shall devote several lessons to its study. What was so important in the life and ministry of our Lord, should be very clear to us today who wish to be known as His disciples.
The Backdrop to New Testament Discipleship:
The concept of discipleship was not foreign to men in the days of our Lord Jesus Christ. The terms used in the New Testament of disciples had through years of use developed nuances important for us to comprehend. It is the distinctions between our Lord’s concept of discipleship from those of His contemporaries which is most crucial for us to grasp, for it is here that the great differences arise between Jesus and His opponents. It is also here that many present-day misconceptions find their origin.
In Ancient Greek, the verb MANTHANO is used to denote the process by which one acquired theoretical knowledge. A disciple was a learner. A man was known as a MATHETES or disciple, when he bound himself to another in order to acquire his practical and theoretical knowledge. The word was sometimes nearly synonymous with the term apprentice. There was never a disciple without a master or teacher. In some Greek circles, the teacher was paid by his disciples.
In the Old Testament, the concept of discipleship is strikingly absent. Men were, of course, to be learners of the will of God, but they were not disciples. In my estimation, the reason is to be found chiefly in the fact that there was no master worthy for them to attach themselves to. We know of the relationship between Elijah and Elisha, Moses and Joshua, and so on; but these men were known as servants, not disciples. Moses was, in the final analysis, only a servant of God, one through whom God revealed Himself.
Rabbinical Judaism, unlike the Old Testament, made much of the concept of discipleship. The advice of a pre-Christian writer was: “Take to yourself a teacher and acquire a companion.”
As R. T. France has observed, “Every Jewish teacher worth his salt had his circle of ‘disciples’ who ‘followed’ him (literally walking behind him as he rode or walked ahead), looked after his daily needs, and soaked up his teaching. Their teacher was the most important person in their Lives.”
In Judaism, one must learn not only the Old Testament Scriptures, but also the oral traditions, the traditions of the fathers. One would attach himself to a Rabbi, who would serve as a kind of mediator between the student and the Scriptures. One dared not to interpret the Scriptures independently, and could only speak with authority after years of study under a master. Since there were several masters, there sprang up several schools of rabbinical thought, each in competition with the others.
The New Testament Definition of a Disciple:
In the New Testament, the picture of a disciple is not as clear or simplistic as one might wish, for the terms, MATHETES (disciple, learner) and AKOLOUTHEO – ἀκολουθέω (ak-ol-oo-theh’-o) which means, “to follow,” are used in a variety of ways.
Not only did Jesus have His disciples, but so did John the Baptist, Matt 11:2; the Pharisees, Luke 5:33, and even Moses.
There is great diversity among those who are identified as the disciples of Jesus in the Scriptures. John (John 6:60, 66) uses the term ‘disciple’ to refer to those who are uncommitted, unbelieving followers of Jesus, motivated mainly by curiosity or impure desires. The masses who have come to faith and trusted in Jesus as their Messiah were also called disciples (John 8:30,31). Then, of course, the term was used particularly and most frequently of the twelve disciples, one of whom was His betrayer. Within the circle of the twelve was an inner circle of three: Peter, James, and John. In the book of Acts, the word ‘disciple’ seems to be used synonymously with the term ‘believer.’
What is a disciple? I suspect that Mark summarizes it best in his gospel: Mark 3:13-15, “And He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14And He appointed the twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, 15and to have authority to cast out demons.”
Who is a disciple of our Lord? Anyone who is deeply and personally committed to Jesus Christ by faith, who manifests the power and authority of our Lord, and who continues and extends His work.
Distinctives of Christ’s Discipleship:
Although the concept of discipleship was common knowledge in the days of our Lord, His teaching on discipleship differed greatly from contemporary thought. Several of these distinctives will serve to illustrate what I mean.
(1) Jesus called His disciples. In Jesus’ day, it was the followers who chose their master. The students chose their teacher or rabbi. But in Jesus’ ministry, it was He who chose them. Some of those who ‘volunteered’ their services were put off by the Master.
(2) The relationship between Jesus and His followers was more personal than pedagogical. In Judaism, the relationship between a rabbi and his disciple was largely a matter of academics. It was the impartation of knowledge. Granted, on the part of the disciple, there was a very pronounced dependency upon the Rabbi, but there was never the sense of intimacy which existed between Jesus and His disciples. Although Jesus taught His disciples, they perceived their commitment as a very personal one. It was only after His death and resurrection that His teaching was fully understood and valued. For example, when Jesus was crucified, the disciples were so taken back by the loss of His person that His teaching about His death and resurrection never occurred to them.
(3) The path of a disciple of Christ was far different that than of contemporary Judaism. One who chose to be a disciple of a great rabbi looked forward to the time when he, too, would be a great leader in Israel. The path which a disciple of our Lord chose to walk was the path of service and self-sacrifice. His disciples must take up their cross. They must suffer rejection and persecution. They, as their Master, must give up their lives in service.
(4) Christ’s discipleship was not a burden, but a blessing. It is obvious that the demands of our Lord’s discipleship were great. These we shall study in a later message. But it is amazing that in the final analysis, it is the disciple of the Scribes and Pharisees who has the real burden: Matt 23:4, “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”
How different is this from that of our Lord: Matt 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy, and My load is light”.
The Dangers of Discipleship:
Failure to fully comprehend the distinctions between the discipleship of our Lord and that of the Jews of His day would have led to disaster for the followers of Christ. The horror at Jonestown is perhaps the most striking reminder in recent times of misdirected allegiance. The warning of our Lord recorded in Matthew 23 addresses the dangers of discipleship as practiced by the Jews of His day.
Matt 23:1-12, “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2saying ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3therefore, all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi. 8But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted”.
At first glance, the direct connection between this warning in Matthew 23 and discipleship may not be convincing. However, we must bear in mind that the meaning of the term disciple implies that the disciple submit himself to a higher authority, who will serve as his teacher, guide, and leader. This is the way the Jewish leadership regarded themselves and their position of authority. In effect, the whole clash between Jesus and the Jewish leaders was one of authority. They were greatly distressed over the fact that the masses appeared to be slipping from their grip, and submitting to the leadership of Jesus, (cf. Matt 27:18; John 4:1, 2; 11:47, 48). The warning of Jesus in Matthew 23 is at the heart of the dispute between Judaism and Jesus. It also exposes the critical danger threatening evangelical churches today.
The error of the Scribes and Pharisees was that they had exalted themselves to a position higher than that of Moses (Matt 23:2). They had boasted to the man born blind that they were disciples of Moses, (John 9:28). Such was not really the case, however. To have been a disciple of Moses would mean that they would have placed themselves under the authority of his teaching and doctrine. In effect, they had ousted Moses (that is the five books of Moses) by making the interpretation and application of these sacred writings subject to their own traditions and interpretations, (Matt 15:1-9).
In a more contemporary vein, I suspect that the authors of our constitution might roll over in their graves at the way the Supreme Court has changed the intent of the Constitution by their interpretations of it. This is precisely the error of the scribes and Pharisees. They had placed themselves in the chair of Moses. They were now over the Scriptures, judging them rather than being judged by them. Such is the case in much of religion today. Man is the highest authority. If Paul condemns homosexuality, that is just narrow-minded Paul, they would have us believe.
The scribes and Pharisees usurped the authority to subject men under them as disciples. In so doing they commanded men to follow the clever system they had created by codifying the Law of Moses into 365 prohibitions and 250 commandments. The effect was to place upon unsuspecting Israelites a burden which no one could bear, and which they did nothing to lighten (vs. 4). While they ingeniously devised ways to circumvent their own regulations, the masses were buried under them. It is no wonder that our Lord said to His hearers: “My yoke is easy, and it load is light.” (Matt 11:30).
The motives of the scribes and Pharisees were at the heart of their sin. They were proud and puffed up, just as Satan was when he fell. (Isa 14:12-14; Eze 28:2, 17). These men desired disciples because they basked in the glory and adulation of men. They desired the seats of prominence and greetings which puffed up their pride (vs. 5-7).
Vs. 8-12 are some of the heaviest words of the Word of God for church leaders. Here is described in the plainest of words the great danger of Christian leadership: We wish men to become our disciples. We aspire to have authority over others who become our disciples.
“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted,” (Matt 23:8-12).
Although this passage in Matthew has always been significant to me, I never really grasped its full impact until I came to it from the perspective of discipleship. Essential to discipleship is a master, or teacher to whom the disciple submits. The sinfulness of Jewish religious ‘establishment’ is beautifully contrasted against the humility of our Lord in this matter of disciples. They gloried in the limelight, while He came to be overlooked and rejected by the nation as a whole. He came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45); they lived only for the praise and adulation their position gave them.
Our Lord cautioned His own disciples and the crowds that the favorite titles of the scribes and Pharisees were not to be part of their religious vocabulary. The three titles, Rabbi, Father, and Leader, were never to be taken by men, nor were men to bestow them on mere mortals. There is only one authoritative teacher or Rabbi, our Lord Himself. No one dare usurp His title (as did the Jewish Rabbis). Moreover, there is to be no hierarchy among men in Christ, for we are all brothers (vs. 8). The title ‘Father,’ respectfully applied to Jewish men of prominence, belongs only to God. He alone is our Father. To take His title is to usurp His authority (vs. 9).
Neither should we assume the title of leader, or guide, for the Lord Jesus alone is our guide and leader (vs. 10). Greatness in the kingdom of God is not measured, as the Rabbis supposed, by determining how many disciples they had under their authority. It was rather to be measured in terms of service. It is the number whom we serve that reflects our measure of greatness in God’s sight (vs. 11-12).
Conclusions and Application:
Frankly, I am frustrated by the lack of understanding in Christian circles of this concept of discipleship. We use the term glibly, without any real grasp of its implications. Worse yet, I am frightened as I look about the Christian community and observe that the very same evils practiced by the Jewish leaders in New Testament times are blatantly evident in the church of Jesus Christ.
Many who are either poorly informed or insufficiently motivated find it easier to be the disciples of men than to become the disciples of Jesus. They cannot go to the Scriptures independently to search out a matter. Instead, they would prefer to read a man’s book on the subject, especially if a truth is presented in a very cut and dried or simplistic way. I do not condemn the use of books, or tapes, or printed messages, or listening to sermons ‘live.’ I do insist that an attitude of dependence and unqualified submission to any one man or group of men is wrong. The reason why we have so many authoritarian, dogmatic, puffed up preachers today is because people want them that way. How much easier to believe something because an authoritative, pulpit-pounding preacher does, than by personal study and conviction.
I cannot stop yet, for the other reason why so many ‘little popes’ are prevalent in Christianity (as well as the cults) is because there are men whose pride has been fanned by unwitting followers who have become their disciples.
I know it is difficult to explain to other people why we, as a church, do not have a man that we call ‘our pastor.’ But, you see, to take on a title such as that in our day and time implies that there is some physical head of the church, who usurps the place of our Lord. I remember well hearing one preacher refer to himself as the chief shepherd from 1 Pet 5:4, a passage in which Peter himself only dares to refer to himself as a fellow elder (vs. 1). In this same passage, the elder is forbidden to oversee as a lord (vs. 3, ‘lording it over’) but as an example.
We are a church that fallibly strives not to exalt men, but our Lord Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that we reject titles commonly used by other Christians. More than this, whatever the titles may be, we reject the concept of men setting themselves in the place of our Lord.
Perhaps the heart of what I am trying to get at so far as our church (or any other) is concerned is found in the use of either the definite article, ‘the,’ or the indefinite article, ‘a.’ If you say, Bob Deffinbaugh is a teacher, an elder, a leader, hopefully you are not terribly far from the truth. But when you say Bob is the minister, the pastor, the teacher, then we have a real problem. God has ordained leaders who guide and give counsel, but not in such a way as to elevate themselves above others.
Lest you think that this is only the problem of an individual (usually the full-time preacher, or senior pastor), it can also be a great problem collectively. I have read recently of churches in which the elders, as a group, have placed themselves in a position of total and unquestionable authority. In a rather dictatorial and arbitrary fashion, they direct the wife contrary to her husband. They tell a man what job to take or to turn down. In short, they assume the position of our Lord in the lives of their congregation. These things should not be! As I view the authority of an elder, it is not due to his title or office, but is a direct result of his work, his manner of life, and his skillfulness in the Scriptures (cf. 1 Thess 5:12-13; 2 Tim 3:10, 11, etc.).
Herein lies one of the great dangers in Christianity. Men and women seem to be more interested in being a discipler or a disciplee than a disciple. Worse yet, we are seemingly encouraging people to become our disciples rather than disciples of our Lord.
In Matthew 23, our Lord was warning His disciples not to look at themselves as did the disciples of the Pharisees. They were not to view their discipleship as a kind of stepping stone to prominence and authority. They were not to seek to get men to be their followers and to submit to their authority. They were not to take upon themselves either titles or positions which would exalt themselves while usurping the position and prerogatives of God Himself.
Let us not seek to disciple others, so much as to be disciples ourselves. Let us not seek to become disciples of men but rather followers of God. I fear that we have become obsessed more with the process, the practice, and the prestige of the discipler than we have with the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. I fear that we all too often equate the study of the Bible and theology with spirituality. I fear that there is far too much emphasis upon becoming leaders, rather than becoming servants.