By Leow Yew Chong
One of the first instructions that our Lord Jesus gave before He ascended to heaven is found in Matthew 28:19-20 i.e., “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”. We notice here that Jesus’ instruction was to make disciples. The Greek word here is “matheteuo NT:3100”. Vine’s Expository Dictionary in describing this word in both noun and verb usage has this to say, “A “disciple” was not only a pupil, but an adherent; hence they are spoken of as imitators of their teacher. This is the same as described by Jesus in Luke 6:40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
Therefore, a disciple is not the same as a believer. A disciple is more than a believer. The disciple has taken every step to be trained to be like his teacher and master. He submits his life and will to be moulded into the image of his master.
In the context of this discussion, a believer just accepts that Jesus is the Son of God. Hence, we find that during Jesus’ ministry, many demons pronounced their acknowledgement of him. The rich young ruler in Matt 19:16-22 similarly believed in Jesus but couldn’t commit nor submit to Jesus. Likewise, with many other rulers during that time as written in John 12:42 “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue”.
So, how does one become a disciple of Jesus Christ? How can a disciple be trained? For that, we look into four accounts in the Bible that will assist us in becoming disciples of Christ.
Firstly, we look into the lives of apostles Peter and John as recorded in Acts 3 and 4. They healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and were arrested by the temple guards. When they were brought before the Sanhedrin, the people there marveled at the boldness of Peter and John, perceiving them to be uneducated and untrained (Acts 4:13), and realized that they had been with Jesus. Why this realization? Because Peter and John were at the trial of Jesus where Peter denied Jesus three times (Matt 26:69-75). The transformation was astounding!
Being with Jesus changed these two people’s lives dramatically. Throughout their journey in life, building up the brethren and ministering to the Word, they faced many challenges but they never wavered in their discipleship of Christ. Though they fell at times, they were never utterly cast down.
We can learn from Peter and John. While we may not have Jesus physically with us, yet we have the records of His ministry to learn about His life, teachings, conduct and wisdom, so that the world will realize that we too had been with Jesus.
Secondly, the life of Dorcas as recorded in Acts 9:36-42. We do not know much of her except that she was a good woman. The scriptures state that she was full of good works and charitable deeds. We may identify with her in that we were called without much sin such as murdering, robbing or evil-doing. We live a life that is a good and we help each other whenever we can. However, Dorcas after becoming a disciple of Christ, enhanced her life with additional good works and charitable deeds so much so that she was described as being “full of good works and charitable deeds”. What a wonderful tribute that was.
Thirdly, the Ephesians in Acts 19:18-20 were living in a cosmopolitan city with lots of happenings and events. They believed in Jesus as taught by the apostle Paul and companions, but were also not committed to Christ. How do I know this? We note that there was an incident involving the seven sons of Sceva who believed in the power of the name of Jesus.
These seven sons of Sceva attempted to capitalise on the name of Jesus by being exorcists but were severely injured in the process. This event became known throughout Ephesus and fear came upon the Ephesians. We may make an assumption that the believers there were “riding on two horses” i.e. they recognize Jesus Christ and accept His sovereignty, yet were not convinced that He should be the Lord and Master over their lives.
It was only after that incident that the people who had believed in Jesus repented. They came and confessed their deeds. More importantly, they “burned” their wealth, 50,000 pieces of silver, which is the equivalent of RM50 million today. They stopped living double lives and gave up their misdeeds and mistakes. Discipleship for these Ephesian Christians came at a cost but the reward was heavenly.
Finally, let’s look at the Christians at Corinth as recorded in 1 Cor 6:9-11. We note here that some of them were sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers. These accepted Jesus as their Lord and Master, turned their lives around, renouncing their past behaviour.
Was it easy for the Corinthians to shed off these behaviours especially since the city itself, according to historians, were given to these sins? It must have been very hard for them. But these brethren succeeded in changing their lives and they turned their back on their sinful past.
From these four accounts, we learn that being with Jesus had created in the early Christians the boldness and trust to proclaim His goodness and message. As disciples, they became more active in the service of the kingdom, until they were full of good works. The double lives that they kept hidden and separate were no more when they became disciples.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13-14