Fundamentals of Biblical Discipleship Part 1: Every believer must be a learner
Before anyone can be an effective disciple maker, he must be “born again” and then walk as an “abiding” disciple. The word “disciple” simply means a follower. II Corinthians 5:17 says that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” This “new creature” born “from above” is to grow in Christ-likeness day by day, “transformed by the renewing of his mind!” The first fundamental of Biblical discipleship is that every believer must be a learner of the things of Christ. Think about the apostles. For three and a half years, this group of men spent day and night following Christ. They ate with Him, lodged with Him, listened to Him teach, and saw Him perform miracles. They walked in fellowship with Christ and were radically changed from their days as fishermen and tax collectors. These men heard the Sermon on the Mount, the Olivet Discourse, the Bread of Life Discourse, the Kingdom Parables, the Upper Room Discourse, and Christ’s interaction with Jews, Gentiles, publican, prostitutes, Pharisees, lawyers, lepers, and friends. The disciples were qualified to teach the things they had learned, only because they had spent significant time being taught under the ministry of the Christ.
Paul was the same way. After spending the bulk of his early life under the teaching of the rabbis, Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus. This event radically changed his life. In Galatians 1, Paul says that “the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ…it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem.” Paul claimed that the doctrines he taught were given to him by God personally. Paul was a learner before he was a disciple maker.
Paul’s beloved disciple Timothy was also a learner. In II Timothy 1, Paul writes, “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day…when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also…Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” Then in II Timothy 2:2 he writes that, “the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Paul was a learner of Christ; Lois was a learner of Christ through Paul; Eunice was a learner of Christ through Paul; Timothy was a learner of Christ though Paul; and Timothy was instructed to be a minister to men who would be learners of Christ through his ministry. Hebrew 5:12-14, says that, “when…ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God…For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.” This passage emphasizes that every believer needs to be a learner of Christian doctrine, and growing in their ability to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
Christian, there is no value in exhorting you to “make disciples,” if you do not first have the discipline to be a learner as you “abide in Christ.” Every believer must be teachable before he can “make disciples;” therefore, we must humble ourselves under those who “rightly divide the word of truth.” Paul sent Timothy, Aquila, and Priscilla to Ephesus and Titus to Crete because these believers were humble, having hearts that burned to know the truths of the Christian faith, and were willing to teach what they knew. We must be like these believers: humble, teachable, and growing in the faith! Remember that God transforms the believer who walks with Him. As the word of God is deposited into our hearts and “dwells in us richly,” the Holy Spirit “renews our minds” day by day so we will more clearly reflect the glory of God in our lives! Making disciples cannot precede the discipline of learning! “Making disciples” flows out of each believer’s lifelong responsibility to “abide in Christ!” Are you a maturing learner whose ability to “rightly divide the word of truth” has grown out a vibrant walk with God?