“18 And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” – Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
Our church has summarized this statement as our mission, “To be disciples, that make disciples.” But this begs the question, “What is a disciple?” This is the aim of this particular article. It is no longer a given that when we hear the word “disciple,” that we understand what this entails. The Bible teaches that a Christian disciple is one who loves God and loves others. It is helpful to expand even further, a Christian disciple is one who loves God, loves their neighbor, and loves their brother and sister in Christ. Let us explore what this looks like in practice.
As we investigate the first of these aspects, it is important to note these are not independent of each other, but are interconnected pieces. A good working definition of a disciple, which I have borrowed from a fellow brother, is, “A fully committed follower of Jesus, who loves God by loving others.” This is helpful as we approach the question of practice. The heart of loving God is found in trust and obedience which conveys “full commitment.” We love God by trusting in His promises, and following Him in obedience, that is, keeping His commands. We love God by placing our faith in His promises and keeping His Word.
The primary way that we keep His Word is defined when Jesus summarizes the commands of Scripture into two points:
“29 Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’” – Mark 12:28-331 (ESV)
Thus we come to the next aspect of a Christian disciple, which is one who loves their neighbor. Meaning, we love other people that we come in contact with, not simply the person who lives adjacent to our house. We love our neighbor by serving and engaging with them. We seek to help them and know them. Jesus models this for us in this statement,
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (ESV)
Lastly, a Christian disciple is one who is committed to a community of believers, or a local church. This is the place where we consider one another, stir up one another, and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). We love our brothers and sisters in Christ by serving and fellowshipping with them (1 John 4:20-21). The Christian community is the only place that we make use of this word “fellowship.” It is vital to our understanding of Christian living and the implications of being a Christian disciple. It is the undeniable fact that we need each other, we are dependent on each other to grow in the practice of our faith, and a deep love and reliance on Jesus.
A disciple then is one who loves God, loves their neighbor, and loves their brother and sister in Christ. We do this by trusting God and obeying His Word, which is conveyed in serving and engaging our neighbors, and serving and fellowshipping with other believers. Our mission as a church is to be like-minded in growing as disciples of Jesus and discipling others in their love for God and love for others.