Volume. XVIII, No. 33
Sunday, 15 February 2004

From the pastor's heart: Be a disciple of Jesus

Since this year's theme is related to evangelism, I thought that it is appropriate to write something connected with the theme. I cannot think of any better passage than Matthew 28:18-20 on this subject of evangelism. "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. There are many things we can consider from these verses. I'd like to focus on one particular sentence in verse 19, " [you] teach all nations." If we see four words, "go, teach, baptizing, teaching", in verses 19-20, in fact, there is only one verb in full scale, and the other words are verbs in participle forms. It gives us an idea of the main thrust of this great commission. The main verb is " teach" in verse 19. This verb literally means, "make a disciple." The purpose of teaching is to make disciples. Therefore, it is necessary for us to focus on making disciples in our evangelistic outreach. This outreach goes not only to the community, state, and country where we live, but also to all nations. There have been some misunderstandings among believers about the scope of missionary efforts. It should cover here and all over the world. Let me return to the verb, "teach," or " make a disciple." If it is the main thrust of our missionary endeavours, then we ought to know what it means to become a disciple. If we need to make disciples from all nations, we ourselves ought to be disciples, too. If we are not disciples, then how can we make others disciples? Then, it becomes more important for us to know the meaning of discipleship than before. What is a disciple, after all?

The Greek word for "disciple" refers to a student, or apprentice, as opposed to a teacher. In the ancient times, it usually referred to someone who was a faithful follower of a great religious leader. I must admit that there is no occurrence of this particular Greek word in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint, or LXX). However, there was a concept of discipleship in the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah 8:16 says, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples." The Hebrew word for disciples in the verse is belimuda, which is translated as "among my disciples." We can find the word, " disciple," 29 times in the KJV Bible, and "disciples" 243 times. Out of these many occurrences of the word, there is only one verse in the Old Testament from which we find the word, "disciples." The Hebrew word is from a verb, lamad. It means "to learn" or "to teach" depending on the forms of the verb. At any rate, from Isaiah 8:16, we can find an indication that he had built up an inner circle of disciples whom he had personally taught. From Elisha's case, we can find some indications that he had gathered some people around him and taught them (1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 4:1-38). Isaiah 50:4 is more interesting. "The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned." The last word (the learned) is from a Hebrew word, limmudim from lamad. As an adjective, it means a person who is taught. The picture here is that God woke up Isaiah every morning and gave attentiveness to hear God's Word and learn from it. In this sense, he was a disciple of God. We also know that there were schools of prophets. One was under Samuel (1 Samuel 19:20-24). In the New Testament, the Greek word for "disciple" means "a learner," "pupil," or "a person who follows one's teaching." More widely, Thayer's Lexicon describes the word as "those among the Jews who favored him, joined his party, became His adherents" (p. 386).

From the meanings of the word, "disciple" we can deduct a few relevant points to us. (1) Disciples are learners. (2) Disciples stick to the lessons that they have received. (3) Disciples are adherents of their master. These points bring forth a few relevant applications, too. First of all, disciples need to learn from their master first before they can make other disciples. "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And 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. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." Disciples of Jesus learned from their master. They, then, turned to others and taught them. It is the way how Christian churches have passed the truth of God from one generation to the next. If a man himself is not a disciple, he cannot make other disciples. Or, it is possible that he misleads others into wrong ways. To be disciples of Jesus, we ought to be students of the Word. God has called his servants to be ministers of the word. Thus, one of the qualifications to be a pastor is that he must be apt to teach. However, if believers of Jesus are not learning, and they are not eager to learn, then how can they become disciples of Jesus who can make more disciples for Him? How can they fulfill the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His people? The Great Commission must begin in the heart attitude of the believers. Come to every Bible class, and learn from pastors. If not, we are not doing well. We are disobeying God. Secondly, disciples ought to adhere to the truth we have learned. There are boundaries we must keep. We must not be inventors of new truths, but the students of the truth. Thirdly, disciples must be close to their master and follow Him. Wherever He leads, whatever He commands, his disciples follow Him. The characteristics of disciples are shown in the characteristics of their teachers. The Pharisees produced their kind of disciples. The Saducees produced their kind of disciples. Likewise, the disciples of Jesus should have been able to reflect the characteristics of their master. Often, the Pharisees called themselves the disciples of Moses (John 9:28-29). Then, what are we going to call ourselves? Are we the disciples of Jesus? Really? Then, are we following Him?

I hope and pray that all of us will be able to think about these qualities of disciples and examine ourselves whether we are disciples of Jesus or nominal Christians. Next week, I'll see if I can talk about certain characteristics of the disciples of Jesus. Till then, remember that we ought to be disciples if we want to fulfill the Great Commission. This commission must begin to be fulfilled in our hearts first.


Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



1. Shorter Catechism Question No. 35: What is sanctification? Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

2. Please continue to pray for Sis. Myung Ki, Rev. Peter Clements, Rev. Moses Hahn, Mrs Lydia Choi, Mrs Irene Turner, Sis. Susan Varadi, and Bro. Daniel Ki. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8a).

3. Thank God for granting journey mercies to Sisters. Lee Lan Chong and Ayji Chong (Canberra)

4. Special Prayer for missionaries in Cambodia Rev. and Mrs. Stephen Choi (Phnom Penh), Rev. and Mrs Moses Hahn, Rev. and Mrs David Koo, and Preacher Chang (Kompong Som) and their ministries, Khmer Bible Students studying at FEBC (Singapore).

5. Flower rosters are available on the literature table for those who need a copy. There are still a few spaces to fill in.

6. Sanctuary Setup:For those who prepare the Sanctuary every week, please look at the notice in the P.A room next to the Sanctuary.

7. Membership/Baptism Service will be held on the first Lord's Day in March. Those wishing to be baptised or become members, please write and send your testimonies to Pastor Ki.

8. Looking Ahead: Easter Family Bible Camp at Douglas Scrub: 9-12 April 2004, Speaker: Rev. Prabhudas Koshy.



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