What does "disciple" mean when used in the Bible?
From the writings of the Rev. Billy Graham
Q: The word “disciple” today usually means that a person is part of a cult. But the word when used in the Bible meant something else, didn’t it? – D.F.
A: People in Jesus’ day knew what the word “disciple” meant. The Roman world was filled with philosophers and teachers who gathered students or followers around them, and those followers were called “disciples.” John the Baptist had a band of disciples around him, and so did the Pharisees (a group of religious leaders). But Jesus expanded its meaning by saying that everyone who truly believes in Him is called to be a disciple. “Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples’” (John 8:31, NIV).
What is a disciple? First, a disciple is a learner or a student. The Twelve whom Jesus called to be His closest companions were with Him day and night. They had a personal relationship with Him – walking with Him, eating with Him, sharing in His conversation, observing the way He lived, listening to Him preach to the crowds. But they weren’t following Jesus just to enjoy His presence. As Jesus’ disciples, they had a purpose: to learn from Him – absorbing His teaching, learning from His example, even profiting from His rebukes. And this was true for all His disciples, not just the Twelve. To be a disciple is to be a learner.
What keeps us from being the right kind of disciple? One factor may be laziness (or a lack of discipline). Or we may not realize how much we need to know and be guided by God’s truth. The psalmist was right when he wrote that the words of God give light and understanding (see Psalm 119:130).
Our journey through life is filled with all kinds of pitfalls and temptations, and unless we allow our minds and hearts to be shaped by Christ’s truth, we risk falling into all kinds of errors and dangers.
(This column is based on the words and writings of the late Rev. Billy Graham.)
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