Recently I received this email suggestion:
The Gospel of John says that many of his disciples went back and walked with Him no more (John 6:66).
I find it informative that these people walked with Him no more. You would almost consider them apostates, those who never were really saved to begin with. But John calls them disciples! These disciples are described as turning their back on Jesus but are nevertheless disciples. I think we see here that not all disciples follow Jesus. Some just no longer have the desire to follow Him. Imagine, disciples living such a life. Truly, initial faith in Christ is a one-time event. After that, you must determine how you will live the Christian way of life.
That is a great comment. Here are some truths, some of which W raises, about disciples of Jesus in the Gospels:
1. Disciples of Jesus literally followed Him around. John 6:66 shows this. Many stopped following Him around.
2. Jesus had some born-again disciples and some who were yet unsaved. See John 6:64, “But there are some of you who do not believe.”
3. While today we use the idea of discipleship and being a disciple of Jesus in a spiritual sense (since, of course, it is impossible to physically follow Him around when He is not here with us), that is based solely on the book of Acts. In Acts, we find the word disciple used 31 times to refer to believers in Jesus Christ who have been baptized and who are participating in a local church (i.e., are being taught).
4. The words disciple and disciples do not occur in any of the epistles. Paul never uses those words in his letter. Nor does Peter, James, Jude, or John in their epistles. I believe the reason we do not see these words in the letters is that the Apostles felt it important to limit the word to those who physically sat under Jesus’ teaching or, as in Acts, those who literally sat under the teaching of the Apostles.
5. The concept of learning about Jesus, a central aspect of discipleship in the Gospels and Acts, is certainly found in the epistles (e.g., 1 Cor 11:1; Eph 4:20; Phil 4:9; 1 Tim 2:11; Titus 3:14).
6. Another concept used in the epistles that was central to discipleship in the Gospels and Acts is following Jesus and following the Apostles in a spiritual sense. See Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 1:6; 2 Thess 3:7, 9; 2 Tim 3:10.
So what can we conclude from this information in Scripture? More on that in a follow-up blog tomorrow.