And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:18-20)
Chances are if you’ve been in church you may have read or heard this scripture being read a couple of times either during Easter or during your church’s outreach week. If you’re not a church person there’s no need to fret. The scripture above is what we Christians call the great commission. These are among the last words Jesus spoke to his followers before he left the earth. If a man’s last words are anything to go by then the last words of Jesus must be important. In it he asks them and in extension us to go out and make disciples of all nations, to teach and to baptize. But what does it mean to be a disciple? After all that’s what we are called to be and also, if we are going to make disciples, we must first of all have a fair idea what the end product looks like.
In the new testament, the word disciple (including its plural form) occurs about 268 times. It is applied primarily to the followers of Christ and sometimes to the followers of John the Baptist and also those of the pharisees. It is also used in a special manner to identify the 12 Apostles. It is interesting to note that although the twelve apostles were disciples of Jesus, not all the disciples of Jesus were chosen to be apostles. The Greek word translated disciple in our English bibles literally means a pupil or student of someone. This is in contrast to the master or teacher. In all cases it conveys the idea that the individual not only holds the views of his teacher but is in practice an adherent.
A disciple is hence one who believes in the teachings of Jesus, rests on his sacrifice on the cross, is led by the Spirit and imitates the example of Jesus.
What about the term Christian?
Funny thing is the followers of Jesus didn’t usually refer to themselves as disciples. They called themselves brothers and sisters and were commonly known as the people of “THE WAY”. They saw themselves as belonging to one big family of God in Christ. As this family grew and began to expand, the outside world coined a name for them. In the book of Acts, we are told that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). When the people at Antioch saw the distinct lifestyle of the disciples of Christ, they had no options than to coin a name that reflected the identity of their master and teacher.
Today the term Christian seems a bit watered down, taking on various meanings and ideas. But at its inception the term Christian was more descriptive. What the Antiochians were getting across was that, these are the people like Christ. They reflected his teachings and his character in their everyday life. The term disciple has over the years been subsumed by the word Christian but basically, they are the same thing. A Christian should be a disciple, one whose lifelong commitment is to become in every way like his master, Jesus Christ. It should move beyond the title it has taken in our generation. The word must describe us.
This is who we are called to be. Not only that, we have also been sent out by Jesus to invite people from all nations and from tribes and from all tongues to enter into this lifelong commitment as well where they can rest assured on his sacrifice for them as he empowers them to become just like him. And they too will in turn go out and invite others.
This is our heartbeat over here at The Timothy Project. We want to equip Christians to become better representatives of Jesus and to help those who do not know Jesus to come into a committed relationship with him. If you just read this and do not have a relationship with Jesus and would like to know more about him and how to begin this relationship you can send us an email or reach us on any of social media platforms. We have personnel on hand who would be happy to help you out. God bless you and have a good day.