Coming To Terms With Discipleship -- By: Charles C. Bing

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 05:1 (Spring 1992)
Article: Coming To Terms With Discipleship
Author: Charles C. Bing

Coming To Terms With Discipleship

Charles C. Bing

Editorial Board
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Pastor, Burleson Bible Church
Burleson, Texas

Discipleship affects every Christian. Not only are we to be disciples, but we are to make disciples of others. But what is a disciple?

The meaning of discipleship has taken on greater significance with the unabating interest in the debate over the relationship between salvation and sanctification fueled by the Lordship Salvation controversy. Many on both sides are being challenged in their assumptions about what a disciple is. There remains a great need for biblical clarification on the issue. This article will look briefly at the confusion over the concept of discipleship, then attempt to define it from the NT data.

I. A Call for Clarification

For decades a chorus of voices has been calling for a more precise definition of the biblical concept of discipleship while the Church goes on grappling with fulfilling her great commission to “make disciples.” Christians have not lacked for books on how to be a disciple or how to make disciples of others. Too often these books are based on assumptions about what a disciple is while they take the meaning of discipleship for granted. Yet our understanding of biblical discipleship shapes our practice of evangelism, church growth, missions, and personal lifestyle.

A. Making Disciples

When discipleship became a buzz-word of zealous Christian groups, there were some who were not happy with how it was being used (or abused!). For example, in 1971, J. Dwight Pentecost introduced his book on discipleship with this note:

The subject of Discipleship is frequently discussed today. Men are called to become disciples

without any definition of the concept, and without any clarification of the requirements the Lord makes of those who are His disciples. Hence no intelligent decision can be made concerning this important question.1

Coming from a different perspective, but with the same concern, C. Peter Wagner wrote in 1973,

The biblical concept of “disciple” has become a key term in contemporary evangelical missiology. Faced with the fuzzy use of the term in much popular literature and preaching, a closer look at the New Testament meaning of the word, together with its implications for missions, is now overdue.2

Little progress seems to have been made since then, however. Books on how ...

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