discipleship_graphic1aMatthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples”. This was Jesus’ final command to his disciples as He left this earth to return to the Father in heaven—five simple words that form one small statement. But this final command of Jesus summarizes His purpose for those who call themselves His followers, His disciples, those who wish to learn from Him. While this commission from Jesus has been performed for millennia since the ascension, it is often vague or misunderstood so that those who believe themselves to be “making disciples” really are not. So what does a disciple-maker do? What does it look like for one to make a disciple? In order to make disciples one must know what a disciple is, what the internal characteristics of a disciple are, what the external characteristics of a disciple are, how Jesus made disciples, how one will make disciples, as well as what success will look like in making disciples. This series will engage those topics continuing with: The External Characteristics of a Disciple. The gospel of John lays out the external characteristics of a disciple which include an abiding in the word, a loving one another, and bearing fruit.

First, a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ will abide in the word. In John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus used the verb abide, which means to remain, to dwell, to continue or to have a determined resolve.[1] This word carries with it the type of resolve a dog shows when it really wants to chase a ball, but stays put because the owner told the dog to “sit”. Paul uses the same word when he speaks of his desire to be with Christ yet truth that he will ‘remain’ in the flesh (Philippians 1:21-25). This type of abiding gives assurance to a genuine disciple. Confidence is built by consistence. And the consistent abiding for a believer is in the word. This word is the Jesus’ teaching, His example, His life, His commands. This word is the Word of God. It is this Word that God points us back to over and over and over again (Psalm 1, Psalm 119, Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Hebrews 2:1-4). Disciples abide in the word.Jonah

Second, a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ will love one another. In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This type of love is one that cherishes. it is a love that is a determined, willful, selfless love. It is the love Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 13 as, patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, not rude, not iinsistingon its own way, not rejoicing with wrong, but rejoicing with the truth.  This love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This love never ends. This is the love disciples show to one another. It is a love they display to other believers. It comes out in a multiplicity of actions (Mark 9:50, Romans 12:10, Romans 14:19, Romans 15:7, 14, Galatians 5:13, James 5:16). But the ultimate example of this love was in Jesus Himself who died for the sins of others (1 John 4:9-11). Disciples love one another.

Third, a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ will bear fruit. In John 15:7-8 Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The verb to bear means to produce, to follow a course, or to demonstrate the reality.[2] Jesus is illustrating for us the truth that a branch does not bear anything unless it is connected to the vine or tree. And as disciples of Jesus people will bear fruit. Fruit in this teaching of Jesus is referring to actions. Other places in the gospels Jesus constantly referred to actions as fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). And the ultimate fruit of disciple is described in Galatians 5:22. This fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These actions come as one has the Spirit that comes through connection with the Vine, Jesus Christ. Disciples bear fruit.

fruitSo are you a disciple? Are you evidencing the eexternal characteristics of a disciple? Do you find yourself abiding in the word? Is there a love for other believers evidenced in your life? Finally, are you bearing the fruit of the Spirit?

Make sure to stop by next week where this series on discipleship continues with How Jesus Made Disciples!

[1] Robert H. Mounce, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 479.

[2] Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.