What is Discipleship?

What is a Disciple?



Now that we know we “belong to Christ”, where does the concept of a disciple fit in?



First, we need to understand what disciple means.



The Greek term μαθητής (mathētēs) refers generally to “student,” “pupil,” “apprentice,” or “adherent,” as opposed to a “teacher.” In the ancient world, it is most often associated, with people who were devoted followers of a great religious leader or teacher of philosophy.



It’s interesting to note that μαθητής does not occur in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. However, the concept of a disciple does occur in the Old Testament.



On a secular basis, the Greeks used the term μαθητής to refer to a “learner,” or on a more committed level, an “adherent.” The Sophists used it as an “institutional pupil.” During the time period of Jesus, μαθητής was used in Hellenism to refer simply to a “learner,” but apparently more often to an “adherent” of some wise teacher (Dio Chrysostom, Regno 1.38.6).



Regarding the nature of the adherence involved, Wilkins observes: The type of adherence was determined by the master; ranging from being the follower of a great thinker and master of the past like Socrates, to the pupil of a philosopher like Pythagoras, or being the devotee of a religious master like Epicurus. These were “disciples” in the Greco-Roman world of the first century.



There were also disciples in ancient Judaism. They were committed to a recognized leader and/or movement. Such as, Jewish adherents to Philosophical schools or to religious and political sects.


The Pharisees had their own disciples and they too claimed to be disciples of Moses (John 9:28-29).


John the Baptist had disciples who lived with him and followed him. They practiced his voice in the wilderness lifestyle and his teachings, some spun off and joined up with Christ.



Websters tells us a disciple is:



n. 1. One who receives instruction from another; a scholar; a learner; especially, a follower who has learned to believe in the truth of the doctrine of his teacher; an adherent in doctrine; as, the disciples of Plato; the disciples of our Savior.
The disciples
the twelve selected companions of Jesus; – also called the apostles.
Disciples of Christ
v. 1. To teach; to train.
  2. To punish; to discipline. (I don’t agree that this is a meaning of disciple, but this is more so about discipline – not the same word!)
  3. To make disciples of; to convert to doctrines or principles.
Sending missionaries to disciple all nations.


We see that disciple is a noun and a title, but also a verb. Discipleship demands action, not only as a follower, but as a doer!


The first Christian Discipleship started with Jesus when He gathered and ordained His 12 Apostles.


Mark 3:7-19

But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known. And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: And they went into an house.



You have now been drafted into Christ’s family. Not only are you a Christian, but you are called to become a disciple. What does that mean? At its simplest concept, a disciple is a follower of Christ! We should spend each day trying to be more like Jesus in our mind, our lives and our actions.


1 Corinthians 11:1-2

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.



But, there is more to being a disciple than simple concepts. Jesus tells us what a disciple does. Disciples continue in God’s Word. That means we must study the bible so we know the word. The word is the truth. We must live by the word so we can continue in the word. It is herein where we begin our studies and learning.


John 8:31-32

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.



Our discipleship journey goal? To become teachers of disciples ourselves, as followers of Christ. How can we do this? By learning to live and walk like Jesus. He was the ultimate disciple maker!


Luke 6:39-40

And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.



Jesus gave us a great commission.


Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.   



Jesus sends us out!


Romans 10:15-18

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.  



You will now begin your wonderful journey of following Christ. To be Christ like in every aspect of your life. Wonderful things await you.



God Bless you on your journey!





For the Sake of the Call – Steven Curtis Chapman