What if I said The Gospel of Luke has an account seldom taught from the pulpit? Assuming I am correct, why do you suppose that is? What’s the problem with Jesus’ teaching in Luke 10:1-21? Do you recall your pastor preaching from this text? Analyze it. I have. As someone who has heard hundreds of sermons, most from the New Testament, I wondered, “Why hadn’t I heard this?”
Let’s not dissect Luke 10 just yet. A proper foundation needs to be laid. Some major principles cannot be passed out like fast-food or we risk missing the point. They have to be digested slowly over time. This will be a several part series to give each reader the opportunity to meditate on the implications this account and others. Words mean different things to different people, so we must first agree on common words in the Bible.
What if “disciple” and “church” are being understood in ways God never intended? Write down your definition. Set it aside. Let’s put our definitions to the test.
Is it true that in much of the Gospels Jesus is teaching his disciples? (Luke 10:1-21 is just one example.) The Lord knew he would be with them a short time. His “trainees” had to quickly grasp his mission as well as know how to carry it out. So what was Jesus’ mission? (For Christians this is foundational.) I am not asking how would the Son of God achieve his mission, but what did he come to accomplish? Who better to offer the answer than the Apostle John?
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 ESV)
Matthew through Revelation confirm the above. Indeed, defeating Satan and reversing his evil work in the world was Jesus’ purpose, therefore, as disciples, it is ours! Let’s keep this firmly in mind as we look at “disciple” and “church.”
Jesus’ preferred teaching method was OJT (on-the-job-training), so could we say that a Biblical definition for “disciple” is “a follower” and also “a learner”? The two elements are indivisible. We are ready to be a disciple the first day we follow the Lord with an eagerness to learn. That may challenge what we have been told about discipleship, but where in the Bible do we see academic pre-requisites for discipleship? Following Jesus and learning on the job is enough (cf. Acts 4:13).
(One Sunday I responded to God’s call and went forward to surrender to Christ. That evening, in another church and in another town, I was teaching senior-high youth from a gospel tract I received that morning. I guess I never imagined I wasn’t qualified. Would you agree that as long as I followed and kept learning what it meant to serve Jesus, I remained a disciple?)
Most journeyman craftsman I know prefer taking on an apprentice with no background rather than a trade school graduate. The qualities that experienced carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc. look for are motivation to learn, ability to take direction, willingness to try, endurance and dependability. Remove one of these characteristics and the apprenticeship may be over.
It is no different in the kingdom of God. From our church training, there may be things to unlearn that are hindering our becoming an apprentice (Jesus’ disciple). Acclaimed religious teachers of Jesus’ time were to be avoided at all cost (Matthew 23:15). The Lord warned his disciples, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:11). Disciples were not to sit under their religious influence or call them teacher.
In Luke 10:1-21 the Lord commanded his disciples to go two-by-two into the towns and villages ahead of him. (He earlier sent the Twelve in Matthew 10:1. The core group, therefore, knew what to expect.) These two accounts and others emphasize the action word Jesus forever attached to discipleship. What is it? It is the verb “Go” in the imperative, the voice of command. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is an example. No action word is used more often in Scripture. We see it spoken by God perhaps a hundred times or more. So I ask, “In light of what we are seeing, is it possible to be Jesus’ disciple and be unwilling to go?” If the Lord says “Go!” and we say “No!” do we remain disciples?
Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons are bent on making disciples. Church people look at them in scorn as go two-by-two knocking on doors, but who is growing in numbers and which group is decreasing? Their message may be wrong, but at least their methods roughly resemble what’s in the Bible.
Again, recall Jesus’ purpose in his coming. Compare his mission to what occurred in Luke 10:1-21. In pairs, the Lord sent out a force of seventy-two disciples with detailed instructions. Were some unwilling or unable to follow instructions? Perhaps, we do not know because it is irrelevant. If so, by definition, they were not disciples.
The Great Commission stresses making disciples of all nations, but we’ve settled for converts (“Are you saved?” rather than “Are you a disciple?”) How can you and I make disciples unless we are one? How do we make disciples who follow, learn and go unless we have done the same? What we refer to as making disciples, is it more like producing pew-sitters, like we are? Kind reproduces after its own kind.
The Lord sent his eager followers (soldiers) across the countryside. This is where we begin to delve into the meaning of “church.” We will continue in Luke 10:1-21 next time drawing closer to answering why we haven’t heard this before.