OceanSide church of Christ
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THE MARKS OF DISCIPLESHIP
Victor M. Eskew
A disciple is defined as “one who sits at the feet of another.” The picture is that of a teacher-student relationship. Christians are the disciples of Christ. Jesus is their Master. Eagerly, Christians gather before their great Teacher to hear His gracious words.
The Master certainly knows His disciples. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his…” (II Tim. 2:19). Is it possible, however, for the world to know the disciples of Christ? The answer to this question is: “Yes.” The true disciples of Jesus bear certain marks that prove they are the Lord’s disciples.
First, disciples of Christ are obedient to the words of their Master. Jesus said: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples in deed” (John 8:31). The word, “continue,” means “to remain” or “abide.” It also means “to be held, kept continually.” It is not enough for the disciple to hear Jesus’ words; he must also put His teaching into practice. James put it well when he wrote: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves…But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:22, 25). Lack of obedience or partial obedience on the part of one calling himself a disciple of Christ causes the world to be confused about his profession. The world wonders how we can say we are followers of Jesus and not do what He says. In fact, Jesus wonders the same thing. “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
Second, disciples of Christ are people who love one another. Again, it was Jesus who said: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). The word “love” in this passage is “agape.” It is the highest expression of love one can have for another. Agape love refuses to do harm to another (I Cor. 13:5). This love seeks to provide for the needs of another (I John 3:17). This love will also warn and rebuke a brother or sister who has fallen into sin (Rev. 3:19; Luke 17:3). It is a love that will gladly sacrifice its life for another (I John 3:16). It should be remembered that our love for our brethren is proof of our love for God. “If a man say, I love, God and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also” (I John 4:20-21).
Third, disciples of Christ bear much fruit. Let’s again hear the words of the Master: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8). Fruit-bearing falls into two categories. A disciple can bear fruit by converting others to Christ. The apostle Paul was a disciple who excelled in this area of fruit-bearing. He longed to produce fruit, converts, all over the world. When he addressed the saints in Rome, he expressed this desire. “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, but was let hitherto,) that I might also have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles” (Rom. 1:13). Another way of bearing fruit involves the production of Christian attributes in one’s life. These are often referred to as “fruit of the Spirit.” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5;19-20). A true disciple produces an abundant harvest in both areas. He is “like a tree planted by the rivers of waters” (Ps. 1:3).
In order for one to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, all three of these marks must be present in his life. Some try to emphasize one mark about the other, but this should not be done. One might exhibit love and bear fruit, but if he refuses to abide in Jesus’ words, he is not a true disciple. In like manner, one could uphold the word and bear fruit, but fail in his love for others. Again, he is not a true disciple. When all three marks are vividly displayed, the world can easily see a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ. Such a life can have a profound effect on the lost and for the cause of Christ.