Disciples And Believers

One of the classic arguments of the easy believism “gospel” against the idea the unsaved must surrender to Jesus’ Lordship as a part of their new faith and must turn from known sin in their hearts at the point of conversion, is this is supposed to be confusing living as a disciple with salvation. Living as a disciple can be described as being and living like Jesus Christ – Our Teacher – by His power in an imperfect sense (see Luke 6:40), learning from Him (see John 8:31-32), serving others through God’s love (see John 13:35) and making disciples of others through His grace (see Matthew 28:18-20). One moderate easy believism teacher wrote:

“A further problem in this view relates to a misunderstanding of the term disciple. When Jesus called men to follow Him as disciples (Luke 14:25-35), He was not calling them to salvation. It was a call to follow Him as a learner, which is the meaning of disciple. Discipleship always follows salvation, it is never a part of it, otherwise grace is no longer grace. Furthermore, if discipleship is a condition of salvation, then so is baptism, because being baptised is part of becoming a disciple (Matthew 28:19,20).”

Easy believism followers are right in saying we cannot earn or deserve our salvation through living as a disciple or by anything else. Ephesians 2:8-9 shows this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” To say our living as disciples or our obedience or anything else merits our salvation is legalism and must be totally opposed. Acts 15:10 shows living as Jesus’ disciple has nothing to do with legalism.

We become disciples exactly at the point we are converted to Jesus Christ. It is nonsense to say we become believers without becoming disciples at the same time. In the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus did not command the Apostles just to make believers who later may become disciples: “Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…’” Here Jesus gives the normal order of our Christian lives. Firstly we become disciples. Then we are baptised in water. Then we are taught to obey everything Jesus commanded us.


All believers are disciples


Believers are disciples. Disciples are believers. Becoming Jesus’ disciple is a normal immediate result of a living saving faith. Believers can progress in their living as disciples of Jesus Christ as the years go by, but the commencement point is at conversion, not some time afterwards. Believers do not spiritually grow for years until they suddenly become His disciple.

Luke 14:26-27 and 14:33 contain expressions of certain aspects of the type of faith that receives God’s grace and the accompanying eternal salvation through Christ. In Luke 14:33, Jesus stated: “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” This verse is another way of saying we must surrender ourselves to His Lordship at the point of conversion (the point we become disciples) and from that time onwards. This is why the Gospel is also called the Gospel of the Kingdom (see Matthew 9:35). It involves surrendering to our King Jesus Christ.

It is true some believers will be more spiritual and fruitful disciples than others (see Galatians 6:1, Matthew 13:8 and 13:23). But to suggest some believers are not disciples is unbiblical nonsense. Under the New Covenant, the only so-called “believers” who are not disciples are unconverted believers-in-name-only.

The easy believism followers are partly responsible for the wicked totally unbiblical notion prevalent in many churches that living as disciples is a deluxe form of optional Christianity that some ordinary so-called “believers” choose not to follow. Easy believism claims these “believers” are saved by grace. But the truth is they abuse God’s grace and will tragically end up in hell.

We are not saved by faith plus living as disciples. But true saving faith always receives Jesus as Lord and immediately results in us beginning to live as His disciples in a sincere though imperfect way. Living as a disciple is not an optional extra but a normal fruit of real saving faith and of God’s grace through Christ towards true converts. Supposed converts who do not show genuine though imperfect signs of being willing to live as disciples of Jesus Christ probably do not have real saving faith. Instead they most likely have only a poor imitation of faith or have backslidden since conversion. Obviously, however, not us but God is the Final Judge of the genuineness of their conversion and present spiritual state.


Different New Testament usages of the word “disciple”


Do not be confused by the fact the word “disciples” is used in a number of different ways in the New Testament. The word is used for the disciples of the Pharisees (see Matthew 22:16 and Mark 2:18) and the disciples of John the Baptist (see Mark 2:18, Luke 5:33 and John 3:25). The word “disciples” is used also to refer to the twelve Apostles (see Matthew 10:1, 11:1, 20:17 and Luke 9:1).

The Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John use the words “disciple” and “disciples” to refer to those people who followed Jesus Christ before His death and resurrection (see Matthew 10:42, Luke 14:26-27, 14:33, John 6:66 and 8:31). But note John 6:60-66 reveals some of these people were only half-hearted disciples who did not have real saving faith in Christ: “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured about this, He said to them, ‘Does this offend you?… But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him...From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

But note those said in the book of Acts to be disciples of Jesus Christ after His death and resurrection are always born-again Christians with saving faith. In Acts 9:26, we see all believers in Jerusalem were called disciples and that not long after his conversion, the disciples in Jerusalem queried whether Paul had truly become a disciple: “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.” Their question implied if Paul was not Christ's disciple, he was not a believer either. Acts 11:26 says all Christians were disciples: “…And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

Constantly throughout the rest of the Book of Acts, all believers are referred to as disciples, not just the more spiritual or more committed believers (see Acts 6:1-2, 6:7, 9:1, 9:19, 11:29, 14:20, 14:22, 14:28, 18:23, 18:27, 19:9, 19:30, 20:1, 20:30, 21:4 and 21:6). In fact, only once in the whole of Acts are believers called “believers” (see Acts 5:14). On all other occasions throughout Acts, believers are called “disciples”.

If Christian disciples are only a special committed part of the larger group of saved believers, then many of these above references in Acts make strange reading. For example, Acts 14:20 and 14:28 would mean Paul and Barnabus only ministered to and stayed with the supposedly select group of disciples, ignoring the broader group of less committed but saved believers.

This weird idea there are two categories of saved Christians – believers who are not disciples and believers who are – is similar to the false Roman Catholic idea of there being two classes of Catholics – ordinary believers and the disciplined members of religious orders.


Disciples have fruit


In John 15:8, Jesus said a sign we are really His disciples is fruit: “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (N.A.S.B.) Such fruit will be real that others can see, though imperfect. In the original Greek, the word “disciple” here is a form of the word “mathetes” which means “a learner, pupil, disciple, apprentice”. [1]

In Luke 6:40, Jesus Christ described living as a disciple as continually aiming to live a life like Him: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Romans 8:29 and 1 John 3:2 also express that likeness to Jesus’ character, behaviour and image is God’s will for all believers. 2 Corinthians 3:18 shows the Holy Spirit is willing to transform us into the Lord’s image.

In John 8:31-32, Jesus describes His disciples as those who practice His teachings in daily living: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Believers will fall into sin (see James 3:2), but will have real signs of being Jesus’ disciples in their lives. Those so-called “believers” who live like the Devil every day, show no real signs of being saved.

Some disciples exhibit higher degrees of spirituality and fruitfulness than others. But all true believers are disciples who will have changed lives to varying degrees when compared to what they were before conversion.


A tragedy


Probably one of the most tragic things of all is the fact that many of the present-day ministers who preach an easy believism “gospel” are sincere people with a love for God. But they have been deceived by the smooth words and verses taken out of context used by those who originated the easy believism heresy. Also they have been seduced by various present-day self-promoting salesmen-type preachers who use their own outward “successes” as supposed proof that easy believism is the right gospel.

I have challenged numerous easy believism followers to prove from the New Testament that the things I have written about easy believism, faith, conversion and repentance are wrong. The only replies I have received are a few verses taken out of context and a list of “successful” large churches who preach easy believism. The large size of a church does not prove it preaches the right gospel. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has hundreds of millions of members. But this does not prove the official Catholic legalistic teachings on penance and justification are Biblically correct.


I pray with God’s love in my heart for the thousands of churchgoers who have been deceived and seduced by the easy believism “gospel”. In Jesus’ Name, I pray that they shall be freed from such bondage by the movement of the Holy Spirit on their hearts.


Giving birth to “Christianised” pagans


Tragically, “easy believism” and her adulterous sister named “abused grace” have given birth to hundreds of “Christianised” pagans in churches wherever they have been given a chance.

These “Christianised pagans” are told they are saved eternally even though they do not evidence any fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives, are totally carnal or fleshly, are totally unsurrendered to Jesus Christ in mind and will, have not received Him as Lord or King, have not turned from their known sins, show no evidence of growing in holiness to any degree and do not live as disciples of Christ.

Such “Christianised” pagans are religious. They hold a outward form of religion. They will attend Christian musical festivals, conventions, camps and social gatherings. They are “blessing freaks”, always wanting miracles and material blessings from God but not wanting Jesus as their Lord nor desiring to turn from their known sins. They know little about the teachings of the Scriptures, except mainly a number of their favourite proof texts which are often taken out of context and used to justify their rebellion and continuing sins against God.

Miracles, material and spiritual blessings from God are marvellous and to be desired. But Christianised pagans try to use God to build miraculously their own little kingdoms, instead of His.


Bible Study Questions


1.       What does living as a disciple of Jesus Christ mean?

2.       Are we saved on the condition of living as Jesus’ disciple? Or is living as Jesus’ disciple a fruit or result of having a faith which has received salvation by God’s unmerited grace? Give verses to support your answer.

3.       Is it possible to be a saved believer in Christ without also being His disciple? What verses support your answer?

4.       In what ways does the New Testament use the word “disciples”?

5.       In the Book of Acts, were the disciples a special group of believers who were more committed than more carnal but still saved believers?

6.       What does the New Testament teach about the fruit in the lives of Jesus’ disciples?

7.       What are “Christianized” pagans?


[1] Bauer, page 485.



Copyright © 2002 - InternetBibleCollege.net
Individuals may take copies of these works for the purpose of studying the Bible provided that this copyright notice is attached to all copies.