Biblical Discipleship & Edification

Not only is the church called to worship God, it’s also called to disciple His people.  This theme of Biblical discipleship is woven into the very fabric of the church’s mission.  In the Great Commission which Christ gave to the Apostles and disciples he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20.  Discipleship is part of the mission and commission of the church.  Put another way, if we don’t disciple we aren’t obeying Christ.  But what does it mean to “make disciples“?  While a lot could go into answering that question, here are two simple categories which can help us to think through what Biblical discipleship looks like.

Teaching

The first element is teaching.  We believe it is the task of the church to hand down “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” as Jude 1:3 says.  This is a task which the Elders of the church (who are required to be “able to teach” in 2 Timothy 2:24) are specially called and equipped to carry out.  The Apostle Paul sets an example for all Elders when he said, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house” in Acts 20:20.  That’s part of what the leadership of Kirk of the Plains wants to do: to “teach you in public and from house to house.”  As this verse makes clear, that means more than just a sermon on Sundays.  It happens in small groups and Sunday school, at Bible studies and church retreats, and over a cup of coffee or a shared meal.

But this teaching is not just abstract intellectualism.  Biblical teaching, humbly received, will always result in a changed life of obedience and action.  Look carefully at those familiar verses from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  Do you notice the divine logic here?  The Scriptures are first and foremost profitable for teaching, and yet this teaching is what equips us for every good work.  Biblical discipleship is the process of bringing truth and life together.  It is the task of seeing orthodoxy (right belief) shape orthopraxy (right behavior).  Simply put: what we believe affects what we do, and if we want to glorify and enjoy God, we must first be taught about who He is and what He requires of us.

Building Up the Body

Part of that obedience is worked out in the way we relate to one another.  We are called to “build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Ephesians 4:16, Romans 14:19, 1 Corinthians 14:26) as part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 2:20-22).  How do we “build up the body”?  One way we can understand that is to look at the various one another passages of Scripture.

When you look at these verses, a few common themes show up.

Unity. One third of the one-another commands deal with the unity of the church.

  1. Be at peace with one another (Mk 9:50)

  2. Don’t grumble among one another (Jn 6:43)

  3. Be of the same mind with one another (Ro 12:16, 15:5)

  4. Accept one another (Ro 15:7)

  5. Wait for one another before beginning the Lord’s Supper (1 Co 11:33)

  6. Don’t bite, devour, and consume one another (Ga 5:15)

  7. Don’t boastfully challenge or envy one another (Ga 5:26).

  8. Gently, patiently tolerate one another (Ep 4:2)

  9. Be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to one another (Ep 4:32)

  10. Bear with and forgive one another (Co 3:13)

  11. Seek good for one another, and don’t repay evil for evil (1 Th 5:15)

  12. Don’t complain against one another (Jas 4:11, 5:9)

  13. Confess sins to one another (Jas 5:16)

Love. One third of them instruct Christians to love one another.

  1. Love one another (Jn 13:34, 15:12, 17; Ro 13:8; 1 Th 3:12, 4:9; 1 Pe 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11, 4:7, 11; 2 Jn 5)

  2. Through love, serve one another (Ga 5:13)

  3. Tolerate one another in love (Ep 4:2)

  4. Greet one another with a kiss of love (1 Pe 5:14)

  5. Be devoted to one another in love (Ro 12:10)

Humility. About 15% stress an attitude of humility and deference among believers.

  1. Give preference to one another in honor (Ro 12:10)

  2. Regard one another as more important than yourselves (Php 2:3)

  3. Serve one another (Ga 5:13)

  4. Wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14)

  5. Don’t be haughty: be of the same mind (Ro 12:16)

  6. Be subject to one another (Ep 5:21)

  7. Clothe yourselves in humility toward one another (1 Pe 5:5)

Here’s the rest:

  1. Do not judge one another, and don’t put a stumbling block in a brother’s way (Ro 14:13)

  2. Greet one another with a kiss (Ro 16:16; 1 Co 16:20; 2 Co 13:12)

  3. Husbands and wives: don’t deprive one another of physical intimacy (1 Co 7:5)

  4. Bear one another’s burdens (Ga 6:2)

  5. Speak truth to one another (Ep 4:25)

  6. Don’t lie to one another (Co 3:9)

  7. Comfort one another concerning the resurrection (1 Th 4:18)

  8. Encourage and build up one another (1 Th 5:11)

  9. Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (He 10:24)

  10. Pray for one another (Jas 5:16)

  11. Be hospitable to one another (1 Pe 4:9)

Of course, Jesus and the apostles give many more instructions to the church; these “one another” passages are a good start, though.  Biblical discipleship means that we will take these commands seriously, and seek to work them out in the community of believers and in the wider world as well.

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