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The Theology of Discipleship

The Theology of Discipleship

Beholding Christ - Becoming Like Christ


Discipleship must be understood in order to properly understand what it means to live the Christian life.

To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow Jesus and to help others follow Him.

Mark Dever, in his excellent book, “Discipling” writes:

“The Christian life is the discipled life and the discipling life. Christianity is not for loners or individualists. It is for people traveling together down the narrow path that leads to life. You must follow and you must lead. You must be loved and you must love. And we love others best by helping them to follow Jesus down the pathway of life.” P.13

An understanding of discipleship is a necessity before we ask how discipleship actually occurs.

So, when does discipleship occur? How are we discipled and how do we obey Jesus’ command to make disciples?

Two Theological Distinctions of Discipleship

1. Where: Discipleship happens in the local church

Discipleship is the chief tasks of every local church on planet Earth. Jesus commissioned the church for this task.

Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all Nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and low I am with you always even to the end of the Age.”

We preach, sing, celebrate, pray and observe the Gospel in the local church for the purpose of discipleship. A local church is designed to be a Gospel-greenhouse of growth in Christ-likeness.

Again, Mark Dever is very helpful on this issue:

“The Bible teaches that the local church is the natural environment for discipling. In fact, it teaches that the local church is itself the basic discipler of Christians. It does this (discipling-work) through its weekly gatherings and its accountability structures, as well as its elders and its members”. P. 53

Hebrews 10:24-25 properly sums up what discipleship in and through the local church should look like:

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

The local church, with its Gospel-culture, covenantal relationships and regular rhythms of Gospel- reminders, displays the truth that it has been uniquely designed and built by Jesus Himself to make His people more like Himself.

2. How: Discipleship happens as we behold Jesus and help others behold Him.

Discipleship is an act of worship. It is a natural response to seeing the supernatural beauty of Jesus as He is revealed in His Gospel.

That’s what changes us. Seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

To disciple, someone is to pour into someone by pointing them beyond themselves, their sins, their insecurities, their guilt, their shame, and pointing them to what Jesus has done for them in the Gospel.

Are you making disciples? Are you intentionally pointing someone to Jesus, reminding them of the necessity of repentance and the grace awaiting the repentant?

Discipleship is a work that will never be completed on this side of eternity. But it does start on this side of eternity. Day by day, Sunday by Sunday, breath by breath the picture of Jesus and His glory revealed in His death and resurrection becomes clearer and when we behold the Risen Son we are changed. And part of that change that takes place in our hearts as we behold Jesus is to earnestly desire that someone else would see Him as beautiful too.