Discipleship is a word that is so common in the Christian world that has taken so much of varied meanings and forms. Interpreted in so many ways and presented in so many shapes and colors and forms. To some extent, this word has become an institution in itself. But it is always good to get back to its origin to shed light as to what it really is and to see as well what have this become in our time today. Seeing the distinction between each times would give us a better understanding of its real meaning and value and intention even for us today.
Looking up its meaning from our contemporary dictionary today, we find that it as a state of “attempting to follow” a teacher and for the Christians, it is a state of attempting to follow Jesus. The word disciple from the Greek language is mathetes which comes from the verb manthano, to learn, hence its meaning ‘one who follows one’s teaching.’ In the sense used, it also implies not just one who follows teaching but also imitates the teacher.
Discipleship in the olden days are very much different from what we see discipleship today. Discipleship now to some, if not for the most, is going to a class or lectures or seminars and studying about the bible or teachings. To some, it is a set of things that need to be acquired in order to qualify them for the service in the ministry of God. But in the olden days, discipleship is done with students living with their teacher. They live in a common place, eating together doing things together. This could be seen when the first apostles were called (John 1:38-39). But today, it is no longer this way. To most, it is because such procedures are no longer practical and almost impossible to do. It is not to say that we copy of what was done before, but even the old ways in themselves hold a great principles by which even us today can get hold on and live by such principles. What do we mean by that? Discipleship in those days are done that way not only because of the cultural background (being communal) but because there is such a great spiritual principle underlying it. Looking at how the first disciples of the Lord Jesus, they lived with Him, There is an intimate relationship between them and the Lord. Whatever the Lord Jesus want to teach them He is able to show and tell it to them like the miracles that He performed in their presence (Jn.20:30-31). There is a close fellowship between the teacher and the students.
Though we no longer do the same today as before, still discipleship can be effective if we still hold on to the very same teacher that taught the first disciples. We believe that the Lord is in our hearts by His Spirit, then we should be more privileged today because His presence is alway here with us. Even the disciples then were not able to grasp those teachings of the Lord at first, not until He was resurrected did they fully comprehended because the Spirit was given them. In the same manner we His disciples of today, can know Him and his teachings because we have His mind in us. (1Cor.2:16)
Christian discipleship is meant to know Christ. As every teacher has his own subject, Christ our great teacher (Rabboni) has His very own subject and that is about Himself. He came about in His short ministry on earth teaching about Himself. In every teachings, He made it all pertaining to Himself. He said ..“I am the resurrection and the life..”(Jn.11:25) “ I am the living bread”(Jn.6:51). I am the good shepherd (Jn.10:11,14). I am the door (Jn.10:7). Even if He talks of the Godhead, He relates to Him. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”(John 6:40), “I and the Father are one”(Jn. 10:30). “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you(Jn.14:26).Even if He talks of other things, He also relates it to Him. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16). “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (Jn.13:34).
Having seen those passages from the Bible, it just points to one thing and that is every person needs to know Christ. Discipleship needs to be occupied for the most part of this one thing. Even the very existence of a Christian as an individual nor the church as a collective body will have to be for this purpose, that is to know Christ not only in words or teachings but most specially through life experience with Him. Even the very purpose of our commission as disciples of Him is for this reason to let people know Christ who is His teachings.( Matt.28:19-20).