The anatomy of discipleship

From the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 “(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.”

The imperative “make disciples” is the main thrust of this passage.  There are five aspects of discipleship that I would like to pull out which we must hold in tension with one another if our discipleship is to be well balanced.

  1. The authority of discipleship is founded in the resurrection of Jesus – “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”
    • Ephesians 1:15-23 “(15) For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,  (16)  I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  (17)  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  (18)  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  (19)  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  (20)  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  (21)  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  (22)  And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,  (23)  which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
  2. The scope of discipleship is directed at all nations – “Go… (to) all nations”
    • Luke 18:29-30 “(29) And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, (30)  who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.””
  3. The beginning of discipleship is with baptism – “baptizing them”
    • Ephesians 4:1-6 “(1) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  (2)  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  (3)  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  (4)  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— (5)  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  (6)  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
  4. The goal of discipleship is the teaching and observance of all of Christ’s commands “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
    • John 15:14 “you are my friends if you do what I command you.”
  5. The power of discipleship is the personal presence of Jesus’ Spirit
    • Galatians 4:6 “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!””

So, taking these five parts and combining them into one statement we can arrive at a definition of Discipleship:

Discipleship is the Christ-commanded and Spirit-empowered equipping of all true Christians everywhere through the church to fully know and obey Jesus.

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