The Importance of Discipleship

Before His ascension, Jesus sent forth the apostles into the world with the
gospel (Matt. 28.19-20). The call is to “make disciples” and part of the process
is to “teach” the principles of Jesus. This is not the only time the Lord
emphasized that the Christian faith is a religion where teaching and learning
are to be major elements.
Jesus is called “teacher” (Gr. didaskalos) some 49 times in the Gospel
Accounts; in fact, those who were in audience when Jesus taught knew that he
was “a teacher come from God” (John 3.2). He affirms that it is through hearing
and learning at his feet that we can come to have access to both Jesus and
the father (John 6.44-45, 14.6).
If Jesus is a teacher, then it follows that he must have teaching (Acts 4.2,
5.42, 13.12, 28.31), and this also leads us to the truth that there must be those
who learn and practice his teaching. The New Testament authors use the word
“disciple” (Gr. mathetes) for those who were students –learners – of the Lord.
Jesus had a school of disciples.
Discipleship means to not only learn a teaching, but to transform one’s
own thinking and lifestyle to reflect the teaching. Being a disciple is not like a
“cram session” in preparation for a test, where the student typically forgets
“everything” the moment the test is over. Instead, there is a lifelong devotion to
understanding the message of Jesus.
Jesus once said, “a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when
he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6.40). Again, to bring the point
sharper Jesus affirmed, “why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not what I tell
you?” (Luke 6.46).
The importance of discipleship is that it stands at the very heart of biblical
Christianity. If we miss this aspect of the faith, then we have missed the very
thing that defines us – we are Christians and we imitate Jesus (1 Pet. 2.21).
We cannot imitate Jesus without abiding in his teaching (Tit. 2.11-14). The
New Testament church demonstrated devotion to the apostolic teaching (Acts
2.42), so much so that they were known as disciples of Jesus (Acts 9.1).
Eventually, these disciples would be given a new name – Christian (Acts
11.26; Isa. 62.2). Hence, part of being a Christian is to be devoted to learning
the teaching of Jesus which is deposited in the documents of the New
Testament (1 Cor. 2.11-16, 14.37; Eph. 3.4). If we do not know what the Bible
teaches, we will not know how we ought to live our new life in Christ (Col. 3.1-
10). In the final analysis, only we can choose whether we will be a disciple of