TRANSFORMATION OF DISCIPLES
The word "disciple" in the Bible comes from the Greek word "mathetes", meaning "a learner". "Disciple" is a derivative of the Latin word "discipulus", meaning "scholar". The "disciple" is a student of, a pupil of someone. Jesus is the "master teacher", i.e. "didaskalos".
A disciple is one who accepts the views and teachings of the master teacher. When we give our heart to Jesus, i.e. when we become a Christian, we are accepting Him as the master teacher. We show this by water baptism, publicly confessing that we are disciples of Jesus Christ.
The word "disciple" is not sufficient to describe what Jesus taught the word truly meant... for we think of someone who simply follows a teacher, and attempts to learn from such teacher... but in the New Testament... the disciples of Jesus were followers of the Master Teacher... and were being transformed into His image.
Some amazing changes took place in the persons of His disciples;
Matthew went from a lying thief to a dedicated and loving servant of the Lord...
John was transformed from a "son of thunder" to an "apostle of love"...
Peter was transformed from an impetuous and changeable oaf, to a steadfast and firm leader of the church. So were all the disciples, but one, transformed... not simply educated.
Jesus had many disciples during His three year ministry. Many forsook Him, and ceased following Him, especially following the sermon on the "bread of life". The twelve followed Him to the last supper... there one chose to betray Him, and the other eleven followed afar off.
Those eleven were restored to discipleship by a loving and forgiving Savior... Since that time, all who confess Jesus to be the Messiah are considered to be "disciples".
Acts 6:1, 2, 7
"And in those days, when the number of disciples was multiplied. Then the twelve called the multitude of disciples unto them... And the Word of God increased, and the numberof disciples multiplied."
Acts 9:36 (feminine - "mathetria")
"Now there was at Joppa, a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas."
"The disciples were called Christians."
Even the ones not fully instructed in the Christian faith, those who had been baptized with only the "baptism of John"... were called "disciples". (Acts 19:1-4).
In fact, it was said of the disciples that they were "unlearned" (Acts 4:13). After three years of walking with Jesus, they could still be called "Unlearned" in many facets of what the world considers to be "real education." Discipleship to the Lord is more than education.
Much education of religious circles, then and now, is more detrimental than helpful. The disciples of Jesus did not need the Pharisaical schools of hypocrisy and judgmentalism. They needed to be near a loving Savior. They needed to be under the teaching of Jesus Who imparted more than book education. He provided a change, a transformation.
Therefore, in our present age, we must realize that all of us are called to be a "disciple," and to go into the world and encourage others to become disciples. We all have a ministry.
I Corinthians 12:13
"For by one Spirit, are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."
"For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing."
"...Go ye, therefore, and teach (matheteuo, meaning "make disciples") all nations (peoples), baptizing them... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
This "ministry" requires transformation, not simply "education". Many churches have tried to:
HELP OTHERS TURN OVER NEW LEAVES...
and AID SUPERFICIAL EFFORTS TO IMPROVE...
As seen in the lives of the disciples of Jesus, true discipleship is TRANSFORMATION, which is effected by experiencing the love of Jesus.
We, as the Lord's disciples of this age, are all brothers. We all share a family heritage with the disciples of all ages. We are all converts of the One true Teacher.
"Be not ye called 'Rabbi', for One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren."
Jesus knows the disciples of this age, as He did the disciples of the day when He came to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sins... He not only knows us, He has chosen us for a distinctive ministry...
We cannot apathetically choose to accept our call to discipleship, and neglect to get the change, the transformation, that we need. The twelve disciples of Jesus all needed changed and transformed... Each of the disciples of the Lord in that previous age needed changed by the Lord. Some want to come to the Lord Jesus, and fill a pew, give an offering, and hang on till heaven. But Jesus wants to transform us.
Discipleship is a New Testament term, and is not found in the Old Testament. We find "prophets" and "priests" in the Old Testament, but not disciples. Some could follow another, as Elisha did Elijah... but they were not disciples. Until the Master Teacher, Jesus, came on the scene... we do not find the concept of discipleship. From that time on, though, we find that all those who follow the Lord, are to be disciples.
Some disciples have a prophetic ministry, or an evangelistic ministry, etc... but their discipleship is their first calling, and the ministries that accompany such are secondary...
Discipleship is a higher calling than the callings of the Old Testament. Moses heard from God through a burning bush. Elijah heard God in a still small voice... Yet, all disciples of this age are to be walking and in relationship with the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ. We have an "ever-present" Lord with us daily, always... for He never leaves us, nor forsakes us.
When we have a "prophetic ministry", or an "evangelistic ministry", we are simply doing a facet of our higher calling to a discipleship ministry.
"Verily, I say unto you, Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist, notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
The least of the disciples of our day, has a greater calling and status than the Old Testament prophets. We walk daily with the Lord Jesus, to Whom they simply received occasional prophetic truths concerning. We have a daily conversation to, and from, this Lord. The calling to discipleship is a high calling. We should value the benefit of being born in this age of the Kingdom. We are more than spokesmen for our Lord's occasional revelations. Rather, we are to be walking in a daily and constant relationship with the Lord Jesus, and doing His works now, as He would do if physically present. As we do these works, speak His words, and live a life of discipleship... we are being transformed into His image.
True discipleship is not simply "education" by the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, but it is a "transformation" by the Master.
Some speak out for the Lord without a change first occurring in their lives. This is dangerous and unwise.
"The prophet who shall presume to speak a word in My name, whom I have not commanded to speak, even that prophet shall die."
Jeremiah 23:21, 30
"I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal My words everyone from his neighbor."
"Woe unto the foolish prophets that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing."
"No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron."
Matthew did not remain a lying, cheating, thief of a tax-collector, he was transformed into the image of the Lord. Likewise, Peter changed, Thomas changed, Simon the political zealot changed. Only one did not change, Judas! He had the same education from the Lord, he saw the same miracles, he did the same evangelistic and healing ministry as the other 11 disciples... and yet he did not allow the Lord to transform him.
We need a call, a discipleship, a training period. A time when we walk with the Lord and allow Him to instruct and change us. From Matthew to John... these disciples followed the Lord and changed, i.e. transformed, more into the image of Jesus. They became valuable witnesses for the Lord... but had they began their ministry three years earlier, they would have failed utterly.
Christ is our life, our example of discipleship, and our life is to be hid with Him in God...
"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory."
The transformation of true discipleship begins when we are "hid with Christ." When we enter into that relationship with our Lord, we find that this Jesus wants to transform our lives... and the Spirit has come to this age of discipleship to aid our transformation. After we have been transformed, the Spirit wants to endow us with spiritual gifts... and bestow upon us with love...
Those who enlist others into transforming-discipleship, must first be discipled.
II Timothy 2:15, 24
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth... be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient."
The call to discipleship is a high calling. Many names and duties are described in the Word. These words indicate the nature of the TRANSFORMATION of discipleship. We are not "educated" into these things... we must be transformed.
As true disciples, we are to be transformed into:
AMBASSADORS... We are to personify the Lord, behave as He would, and represent Him to the world.
II Corinthians 5:20
"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ."
FISHERMEN... For we are to catch others, and bring them out of the world they had been living, and bring them into the kingdom.
"And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men..."
LABORERS... There is real work in discipleship.
I Corinthians 3:9
"For we are laborers together with God."
PROPHETS... We speak for the Lord, and are a mouthpiece for the Lord.
I Corinthians 14:3
"But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort."
TEACHERS... We must know the truth and impart it to others.
"And He gave some - apostles, and some - prophets, and some - evangelists; and some - pastors and teachers... For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."
SOWERS... The Word of God is to be sown into the lives of those with whom we have contact.
"Behold a sower went forth to sow."
REAPERS... We are to thrust in the sickle and gather souls into the garner...
"...and he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that he that reapeth may rejoice together."
SOLDIERS... There is a battle going on against the devil, and against the "old man" (ourself) that refuses to yield to the Holy Spirit.
II Timothy 2:3
"Thou therefore, endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
The Lord is the One Who has called us to discipleship. He did not call us to a ministry with false promises. We are called into this ministry knowing that it will be difficult, hard, and often seemingly impossible.
Reforming, education, human effort, etc... will never make one a "true disciple." Only transformation, by being in close contact with the ever-present Lord Jesus can effect a true disciple.
We, as transformed-disciples, will shine forth as lights in a dark world.
"Ye are the light of the world."
We must not expect the world to receive true disciples any better than they did the disciples of the early church. They faced persecution, crucifixion, and hatred from the world of that day. If we follow the watered-down, milk-toast gospel that espouses education, reformation, and superficial effort to try to do better... we would be liked better by the world who could understand that ... but we want transformation into true discipleship... and therefore... they hate us, as they hated Jesus.
"I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves."