Last time, we looked at the Great Commission — Christ’s command for disciples to make other disciples, baptizing and teaching them to be fully devoted disciples of Christ. The second description of a disciple I’d like to point out is that a disciple will be like his teacher.
In Luke 6:40, Jesus tells His disciples, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” In the Greco-Roman world, before scrolls or books were readily available to the common man, a disciple learned by depending fully upon the authoritative instruction of his teacher. The end result of a life of learning from and imitating his teacher, should be a mature disciple who not only reproduced his teachers instruction, but also emulated the very character, ethics, and lifestyle of the teacher himself.
The disciple is not only to learn intellectual content, but is to experience a transformed will, character, and heart. Christians should never view learning or studying God’s Word as seeking information for the sake of information. It must always be approached as information for the sake of transformation.
Disciples of Christ should remember that the goal of discipleship must never be to make disciples who then resemble themselves, but rather to make disciples who imitate Christ, and Christ alone (Phil. 2:5; 1 John 2:6). The goal isn’t to make copies of the copies. The goal is to make copies of the original. Disciples of Christ strive to be like their Master, not just cognitively, but also in conduct.
In John 13:34-35, Jesus describes the distinguishing mark of a disciple: “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This command Jesus gave was not new in the sense that God had never commanded His people to love other before, for God had indeed commanded his people to have love for God and for other (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5; etc.). Jesus also knew the command to love was not a new command (Mark 12:28-31). However, what was new about Christ instruction in John 13 was the standard and basis by which the disciples were to love one another. The disciples were now to model Christ in the way He had shown them love. Christ’s command was also new in the sense that the love that the disciples of Christ are now to display is a more radical, utterly sacrificial love.
Summary of Passages
Disciple making is God’s imperative for the church. From Matthew 28:19, Luke 6:40, and John 13:34-35, it is clear that discipleship involves the initiation and the instruction of every believer into an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, evidenced by a transformation into the likeness of Christ, and a radical love for Christ and for one’s fellow believers. The goal of discipleship, put plainly, is to make every person a more fully devoted follower of Christ. If Christians are commanded to make these kind of disciples—that is, to lead others to become a complete and competent follower of Christ, the question then is how to go about creating a culture in the local church that fosters this kind of life of discipleship to Christ.
The task of discipleship in the modern church is a daunting but necessary one. Churches must not shy away from the responsibility given them by Christ in the Great Commission. To make and develop disciples who obey the commandments of Christ, are striving to become more like Christ, and are marked by love for both Christ and their fellow believers—this is the mandate of the church of Christ.