WHAT IS A DISCIPLE?
T. PIERCE BROWN
When Jesus gave the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, He said for us to “make disciples.” The word is from “matheteusate,” which is first aorist active imperative, and is translated in the King James Version, “teach.” It is not the word used when He said, “Teaching them to observe all things,” which is “didaskontes.” We usually have been taught that a “disciple” is a “learner.” That is true, but it is not the whole truth, nor an adequate concept of what Jesus means. Certainly a man cannot be a disciple without being a learner, but a man can be a learner without being a disciple. Thayer accurately says on page 386 “one who follows one’s teaching” is a disciple. I have read from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but I am not a disciple of either! The fact that a man studies and can teach what Marx and Lenin espoused does not mean that he is one of their disciples — a communist!
So what Jesus wants is not merely a “learner” but ” a disciplined follower.” This does not suggest that he must have a “prayer partner” or “spiritual advisor” to do the disciplining, but it does mean that unless a person is willing to discipline himself to the extent that he denies self and takes up the cross, he cannot be a disciple, in the Bible sense. Thus the imperative is to make disciplined followers of Christ.
Since the disciples were called Christians (Acts 11:26), it should not be too hard for us to see from the Great Commission as well as anything else the Bible says about the matter, that a disciple is one who has been taught the gospel, been baptized, and taught to observe everything else Jesus wants done. If you do not want to submit to the authority of Jesus in all you do, you are not a disciple, no matter if you think you belong to the church, are an elder or a preacher. Our business is to teach in such a fashion that those who follow our teaching are disciplined followers of Jesus.