In this series we have been learning that Jesus’ plan to change the world is His church! This week we will see the method He has given the church for accomplishing this task – that is, discipleship and evangelism. Simply put, discipleship is when someone is taught how to follow Jesus and keep his commands in every part of life. Evangelism is when someone tells others the Good News about Jesus, inviting them to believe in Jesus and become His disciples.
1 Timothy 3:14-15, “14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
- God’s Household: The church is first of all a family. In this family, God is the Father and all Christians are brothers and sisters. “‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18). This shapes how we are to relate to God and to one another. Thus, Paul’s letter to Timothy is essentially the “house rules” for those who live in fellowship under God’s authority.
- Church of the Living God: The Greek word, ekklesia, refers to a gathering or assembly. Although there are many groups that assemble around various causes (such as sporting events and political rallies), the church consists of true believers in Jesus Christ that gather to worship the living God. The church can be thought of universally and locally. The universal (catholic) church is found throughout the world; the local church is where each individual disciple is connected to godly leadership (Heb. 13:17). These traits are common to every good and healthy church:
Ten Marks of the Church
- Confession of Jesus Christ (Mat. 16:18)
- Adherence to the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
- Proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 1:8)
- Shared life in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9-11)
- Christian love (John 13:34)
- Godly leadership (1 Tim. 3:1-13)
- Church discipline (1 Cor. 5)
- Trinitarian baptism (Eph. 4:4-6)
- Participation in the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
- The Great Commission (Mat. 28:18-20)
- Pillar and Foundation: Architectural metaphors are used to describe the church’s function. In a building, pillars are used to bear the load of the upper floors and roof; the foundation undergirds and supports the entire structure. If these structural elements are missing or unsound, then the entire building is unstable and prone to collapse.
- Truth: The church alone possesses and is responsible to practice and proclaim the truth of God. The truth, which is written and recorded in the Bible and embodied in the person of Jesus Christ, contains “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3) and speaks authoritatively to every area of life. Upon this “pillar and foundation” the church stands strong, and blessed lives, families, governments and societies are built upon it.
Matthew 4:18-22, “18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
THE CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP
“When Jesus came to his first disciples, he came to them with his word, and was present with them in bodily form. But this same day Jesus died and rose again. How is his call handed on to us today? To call us: “Follow me,” Jesus no longer passes us in bodily form as he passed by Levi the publican. What right have we then to leave all and follow him, however earnestly we desire to hear his call? For the men of the New Testament the call was unmistakable but for us it is a highly problematical, and uncontrollable decision.
How could we apply Levi’s call directly to our own lives? Did not Jesus adapt his words to suit different men and different occasions? What about the paralytic? He received forgiveness and healing. What about Lazarus? He was raised from the dead. He did not call them to leave their work and follow him, but instead he left them at home with their families and their jobs. Does it follow that he loved these less than his disciples? Who are we to come forward and volunteer for such an extraordinary and unusual life? Who is there to tell me and others, for that matter, that we are not acting on our own initiative and following our own wild fancies?
But that would not be discipleship. There is something wrong about all these questions. Every time we ask them we are retreating from the presence of the Jiving Christ and forgetting that Jesus Christ is not dead, but alive and speaking to us to-day through the testimony of the Scriptures. He comes to us to-day, and is present with us in bodily form and in his word. H we would hear his call to follow, we must listen where he is to be found, that is, in the Church through the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The preaching of the Church and the administration of the sacraments is the place where Jesus Christ is present. If you would hear the call of Jesus you need no personal revelation: all you have to do is to hear the sermon and receive the sacra- ment, that is, to hear the gospel of Ohrist crucified and risen.
Here he is, the same Christ whom the disciples encountered, the same Christ whole and entire. Yes, here he is already, the glorified, victorious and Jiving Lord. Only Christ himself can call us to follow him. But discipleship never consists in this or that specific action: it is always a decison, either for or against Jesus Christ. Hence our situation is not a whit less clear than that of the disciple or the publican in the gospel. When Jesus called his first disciples, they obeyed and followed him because they recognized him as the Christ. But his Messiah-ship was as hidden to them ·as it is to us. By itself the call of Jesus could be taken in many different ways. How we take it depends on what we think of him, and he can be recognized only by faith. That was as true for the first disciples as it is for us.
They saw the rabbi and the wonderworker, and believed on Christ. We hear the Word and believe on Christ.”
“The Cost of Discipleship,” by Dietrich Bonheoffer (pp. 249-250).
(1) Jesus stills speaks loudly and clearly through the Bible, and still calls all men and women to become his disciples.
- Matthew 28:18-20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(2) Jesus has established and commanded the church to make disciples in his name.
- Ephesians 4:11-13, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
(3) If you truly believe in Jesus, you will embrace his discipleship. If you disbelieve Jesus, you will reject his discipleship.
- John 8:31-32, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(4) If you are Jesus’ disciple, you will learn to preach and make disciples like Jesus.
- Matthew 4:19, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
By the Church making disciples, Jesus’ Kingdom will spread to all nations, and all people will know the truth that sets them free.