By James Sanders
Does the epithet disciple rebuke us? Are we Christians and yet not disciples? Disciple is from the Greek mathetes, literally a pupil or learner. Mathetes (disciple) is formed upon the verb manthano, which has the basic meaning: “to direct one’s mind to something.” A disciple is one who had directed his mind; he is a pupil.
Some 250 times the word disciple or mathetes occurs in the NT but it is only found in the Gospels and the book of Acts. One of the first lessons of Christianity is that of being a disciple. In the New Testament we are introduced to disciples long before we read of saints, brethren, or Christians. Such is no mere coincidence. Saint, brother, Christian and disciple are all interchangeable terms but disciple strikes at our very being. Unless the full meaning of discipleship is understood, the gracious fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) can never be seen in us. We are to go on to perfection (Heb. 6: 1) but not until we become disciples.
A disciple is a learner but he is more than that. He is also an adherent. A disciple is an imitator of his teacher; “A disciple was not only a pupil, but an adherent; hence, they are spoken of as imitators of their teachers” (W. E. Vine). The Lord Himself said: “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. . . ” (Mt. 10: 25).
The disciple is the man who studies the teachings of Jesus and walks in His footsteps. He accepts the instructions of Christ not only in belief but in life. Without the application of the Word, there is no true discipleship.
A man is not a learner of Christ unless he learns His doctrine and he does not learn it, as he ought unless he puts it into practice. Whenever a disciple finds himself neglecting these duties, his very name rebukes him.
The command is: “Make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19 ASV). The example reads: “had made many disciples” (Acts 14:21 ASV). God wants disciples, not multitudes of the pious immersed.
List of References
Clarke, Adam. A Commentary and Critical Notes. vol.5. New York: Abingdon Press. n.d.
Kittel, Gerhard (ed.) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. vol. 4. trans. Geoffrey W.
Bromiley, Grand Rapids: Wrn. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967
MeGarvey, J. W. A Commentary on Acts of Apostles; with a Revised Version of the Text. 7th ed. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co. n.d.
Orr, James. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Wrn. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1939.
Vine, W. E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: with Their Precise Meanings for English Readers. Single vol. ed. Westwood, N.J.Fleming H. Revell Company. 1940.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 31, pp. 12-13
June 7, 1973