The name Christian appears 3 times in the New Testament and not until Acts 11:26 when Barnabas went to Tarsus to seek Saul in 43 AD. This was 14 years after the crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. “Disciple” appears in 220 verses in the 4 Gospels and in 20 verses in Acts. In many instances in the 4 Gospels “Disciple” is used to refer to the 12 Apostles.
But clearly all are not referring to the Apostles including the following:
Luke 6:13 And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: 17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples,… 20 And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 40 “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.
Luke 14: 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
John 4: 1 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John.
John 8: 31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
John 15: 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
John 19: 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews,
Acts 6: 1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number… 7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem,
Acts 9: 19 …Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus
Acts 13: 52 And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit
The verses above and others convince me that in the 1st century before the word “Christian” was used; when a person was born again he was a disciple. He might have been a weak disciple who needed training, but he was a disciple.
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commanded His disciples to “go make disciples“.
In Acts 1 after the ascension there were 120 disciples, after Acts 2 there were 3,000 more. They were being discipled in Acts 2: 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 4: 4 many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. Acts 2: 47.And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
In a few days the number of disciples was above 8,120 because in those early years people were saved, devoted themselves to the teaching of God and became disciple makers in obedience to the command of Jesus.
John Dickerson in “The Great Evangelical Recession” said the church has stopped growing in the US at a rate greater than population growth. He says the reason is disciples have stopped training people to be disciple makers who can then go and reproduce themselves.
Will you consider these scriptures and join the disciple makers? If a few of us men and women continued without anyone dropping the baton we could meet the FBC goal of 2,000 involved in discipleship training in less than 5 years, reach all of Jacksonville in 10 years, Florida in 12 years and the US in 14 years.
It does not matter how old you are or how long you have been saved. I was 72 before I begin to disciple my first person One on One.
Henry Luke June 23, 2015