This morning I am reading passage after passage where the word 'disciple' (Mathetes - Strong's G3101) is used.
"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple... So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." - Luke 14:27, 33 ESV
It is pretty clear that there are some groups that believe that the word disciple is synonymous with the word believer and others that don't. The passages above are the primary reason. Today, I wanted to read the other passages, especially in the book of Acts, to see for myself.
"Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:" - Acts 11:29 KJV
One trend you see clearly is that these disciples have unity. They band together to do things. Even when there are differences they go to God and work them out.
"Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" - Acts 15:10 KJV
Leadership was very concerned about them and they were concerned about the leadership.
"But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him." - Acts 19:30 ESV
"I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them." - Acts 20:29-30 ESV
We know that a believer is 'one' who believes. The scripture is clear on this but from the context of word usage we can see that a disciple is someone who bands together with other disciples and things get accomplished.
Missions is done by disciples.
Some believers seem to do fine on their own... others really don't. The cohesive group dynamic provides stability. The shared vision gives focus. Grace is given and received in the group. Jesus is lifted up and present in a special way.
"Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." - Matthew 18:19-20 ESV
Dying to self is not automatic. We pick up Christ's cross and self is negated. If we don't or won't it isn't going to affect our position in Christ but it sure will affect our experience. The group is where the rubber hits the road. The band of brothers and sisters is where words are spoken that come from Heaven.
If you know me you know I am very pro-Church but what I see in Acts isn't a Church dynamic per se. The Church has seeds in the Gospels and is defined in the epistles and this Greek word is only used in the Gospels and the book of Acts. These disciples become the engine of the Church. They are the core that makes things happen because God uses the life they have laid down in the group. The Church then serves the community and has an impact on the world. The Church gives God's work a name in that community so that people know where to go and find Him.
I decided I would be a disciple long ago and I reaffirm that decision again day after day. When the group I am with blesses me or rubs me the wrong way I decide again that I won't go solo. I will take up my cross and let God move me if that is what is needed. That is what I see in the scriptures. That is my model. If I am isolated by circumstances beyond my control then I won't go negative against the other disciples of Christ. I will pray and consider myself as counted among them. I will repent to God on their behalf and choose to love and serve. My Bible shows me a life like this. I have seen people live like this. Some have been loved and some hated but they lived before God as men and women of integrity. It is possible because God is in it.
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." - Matthew 18:20 ESV