Is Discipleship Necessary?
by Sam Nadler
I have been privileged to see Messiah raise up many for His service. Sadly, I’ve also seen many casualties in the Messianic world – sort of Messianic failures. By this I mean those who have come to faith in Yeshua, but never matured enough to spiritually be able to care properly for others. Rather, their own issues, problems, and desires become the agenda for life. On the other hand, there are many others who have developed into wholesome, caring disciples who in some cases, despite difficult backgrounds and miserable experiences, have excelled in the faith. What makes the difference? Messianic Talmidut, aka, Messianic Discipleship.
For the Future: Discipleship
Without question, we need to bring the Good News to our people so they may believe in Yeshua and have eternal life. If we do not make disciples, the wisdom will die with us. Discipleship is the means by which new believers are enabled to grow in their relationship with God thereby developing spiritual understanding of the truths of God’s word and gaining wisdom to live faithfully for Him. Faith in Yeshua makes one a child of God; discipleship is God’s way for one to mature as His child. Just as there is no salvation without faith in Yeshua, so too there is no spiritual growth without discipleship.
Discipleship = dedication
Discipleship is important because the Scriptures exhort us to be dedicated, or discipled, servants and sons. In Genesis 14:14, Abraham’s dedicated servants enjoy the victory. In Proverbs 22:6, the dedicated child will not depart from the faith. In these verses, the Hebrew word chanak, meaning “to make narrow, dedicate, train, experience,” is used. It is the same word from which Chanukkah comes. This holiday is a time of rededication of the temple. Likewise, our Messiah expects all believers to be involved in this training and maturing process. He has commanded us, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me; go therefore and make talmidim (disciples) of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Commonly referred to as “The Great Commission,” in this passage Messiah commissioned His talmidim (disciples) and servants in the work He has for them.
Fruits of Discipleship
Discipleship is what spiritually stabilizes the believer in the faith. Undiscipled believers are “wandering Jews (and gentiles) of the Body of Messiah. We should no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:14-15). Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Messiah.
Discipleship is accomplished by studying and meditation on the Scriptures (Psalm 119:9,11). How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.
The New Covenant reiterates this. 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 complete, equipped for every good work (2Tim 3:16-17). Although these scriptures may be familiar, I wonder how often they are applied as a congregational training program for new believers in the Messianic faith.
Resources + Process = Results!
To have the right result (adequately equipped for every good work), we need to have the right resource (inspired Scripture). We also need the right process (profitable for training) for developing new believers into mature servants of God. Then they will be able to do all Yeshua has called and equipped them to do.
In Acts 20:20, Paul gives us his practice for discipleship which necessitates regular one on one teaching and training (house to house) as well as weekly Shabbat school class and sermon (publicly).
Besides personal areas of challenge to the new Messianic believer, we must help him realize his position as a child of God in the basic issues of: salvation, assurance, prayer, reading and application of Scripture, fellowship – both active and regular congregational involvement, and sharing faith with others.
Faith needs to become profitable or useful in a practical fashion. A Messianic disciple does not merely understand prayer; he actually prays. He doesn’t just read about Scripture; he regularly studies to show himself approved. In a loving way he helps build up the body of Messiah by sharing his faith.
Discipleship is the process of growing in God’s love and life. Thereby we may enjoy and share the great news of salvation and make disciples among our people. Ultimately, through discipleship we go from the tragic failure of a sinful lifestyle to becoming faithful followers of our victorious Messiah and live the fulfilling life God has planned for each of us!