September 14, 2012

Slaves of Christ

by Mike Riccardi

DoulosAs I began to preach the Book of Philippians recently, I noticed that right off the bat Paul identifies himself and Timothy as slaves of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:1). Now, most of the English versions have “servants” or “bond-servants” there, but the Greek word is doulos, which is properly rendered “slave.” In mentioning their slavery to Christ at the very beginning of the letter, Paul intended that the Philippians—who had been struggling with issues of steadfastness amidst conflict (Phil 1:27–30; 4:1), unity among believers (Phil 2:1–2; 4:2–3), humility (Phil 2:3–9), and joy amidst persecution (Phil 2:17–18; 3:1; 4:4)—would be reminded that they too are slaves of Christ Jesus, and that that identity would inform their responses to those situations.

It’s interesting to note that slave is a favorite self-designation for the Apostles and other writers of Scripture. James claims this title for himself in the opening verse of his epistle (Jas 1:1). The same is true for Peter (2 Pet 1:1), for Jude (Jude 1:1), and for the Apostle John (Rev 1:1). On top of that, Paul repeats that he is Christ’s doulos throughout his other letters: in Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Timothy, and Titus. The term is used at least forty times in the New Testament to refer to the believer, and the Hebrew equivalent is used over 250 times to refer to believers in the Old Testament. We may safely conclude that the Lord wants His people to understand themselves in this way.

At its core, the essence of the Christian life can be described as slavery to Christ.

Five Parallels

SlaveSo what does it mean to be a slave? In his excellent book, entitled simply, Slave, John MacArthur outlines five parallels between biblical Christianity and first-century slavery. The first is exclusive ownership. Slaves are owned by their masters. As Paul says to believers so clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20: “You are not your own. You have been bought with a price.” See, Christians do not exist in some world of untethered autonomy. We are not the masters of our fate—not the captains of our souls. We were bought with a price, and so we belong to the One who has paid that price.

“Therefore,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, because you were bought with a price and are not your own, “glorify God in your body.” Exclusive ownership implies complete submission. If we belong to Christ—if He owns us—then the rule of our lives is not our will, but His will—our Master’s will.

Third: there is singular devotion. No slave concerned himself with obeying other masters; his chief concern was carrying out the will of the one to whom he belonged. Our Master, the Lord Jesus Himself, reminds us in Matthew 6:24: that “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” The 19th century evangelist George Müller captured the spirit of slavery to Christ beautifully when he wrote:

“There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Müller and his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of even my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God” (cited in Slave, 153).

The slave of Christ is singularly devoted.

Fourth, the slave is also marked by a total dependence— he was completely dependent on his master for the provision of the basic necessities of life. In the same way, the Christian must humbly depend entirely upon the beneficence of our Master, and not at all on ourselves (Matt 5:3; 1Pet 4:11). And because He is a loving, kind Master, all our needs are met, and we are free to serve our Master unhindered and with all eagerness and joy. Finally, the slave was personally accountable to his master. And in the same way, Christ is the One to whom we will answer—the One to whom we will give an account. And that reality will have bearing on how we conduct ourselves now (2Cor 5:9–10).

Christians, most fundamentally, are slaves of Christ.

A Delightful Bond

To Live is ChristBut as you contemplate those five characteristics, I hope you recognize that slavery to Christ is not a drudgery. This is not a tyrannical, despotic relationship fueled by abject fear and forced submission. The picture is not someone whose will is constantly frustrated over and against the whims of his master, but of someone whose will is, over time and repeated exposure to that Master, lovingly and happily conformed to the Master’s will. Alexander Maclaren called it “the blending and absorption of my own will in His will.” So it’s not just, “I do what He wants, not what I want,” but, “As He teaches me and shows me more of Himself, what I want becomes what He wants.”

Nor was a slave’s status always automatically dishonorable. Instead, the status of the slave was linked to the status of his master. It was a great honor to be accounted a slave of Caesar. And in the same way, for Christians, being slaves of Christ was, as MacArthur says, “not only an affirmation of their complete submission to the Master; it was also a declaration of the privileged position every Christian enjoys by being associated with the Lord. No affiliation could be greater than that” (Slave, 97). In fact, Scripture applies that designation to Christ Himself in Philippians 2:7, where we’re told that in His incarnation, Christ took the form of a slave. And as we submit ourselves fully to His loving rule, we not only honor Him as our Master, but follow Him in His example.

My question to you is: Is this your identity? Do you gladly accept this title, a slave of Christ? Does the reality of your being exclusively owned and personally accountable stimulate you to be completely submitted? Singularly devoted? Totally dependent? By employing the slave metaphor, this is how the Scriptures describe a true believer in Christ.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Marty Crabtree

    This is a liberating message

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Paradoxically liberating!

  • Eli Jackson

    Realizing this truth about my real idenity in Christ has driven me to love Him more. The reason we Christians call Him “Lord” is because of His Lordship ! Sadly, I didn’t fully get it my thick skull until reading MacArthur’s “Slave”, but understanding that I am, to steal from Paul, bearing the brand marks of the Lord Jesus has been the biggest motivation of devotion and deterant from sin in my Christian life. Great post Mike.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Amen, Eli. You’re an encouragement to me, brother. Press on.

  • Larry

    I don’t think a true believer in Christ has a problem being a slave of Jesus. I believe the Holy Spirit within a person convinces them Christ demands total submission and as Master, when you seek to please him, he becomes so compelling, you are “moved” to submit and surrender. Whether or not the believer submits to this relationship is another story. Advising people that being a slave to another human being, was or is a “great honor” is problematic, particularly with the history of both the Jewish and African holocaust. Arguably, one can conclude the reason the KJV translators rendered the word “doulos” as “servant/bondservant” was, that the word “slave” was too aggressive for Bible speak as chattel slavery was underway in America as it related to Africans, now referred to as African-Americans, and there was nothing honorable it. Macarthur, does a splendid job explaining the true relationship between Christ and his bride and I’m grateful for the book.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Hey Larry, you make some good points. But one thing that I think is important to keep in mind in this discussion is that modern definitions and understandings of slavery should not cause us to detour from the biblical reality or the biblical language of Christian slavery. Pastoral sensitivity is always required, and the differences between the African slave trade and first-century Greco-Roman slavery must be clearly distinguished. As long as that’s the case, I don’t find it “problematic,” but biblical, to shepherd people through the idea that slavery to the God-man — indeed, a human being — was and is a great honor.

      Besides that, to be a slave of Caesar’s household in first-century Rome did, in fact, confer a relative honor that a slave of an unknown citizen did not enjoy. The association between the kurios and the doulos was such that the slave was linked to the status of his master, like I said in the post. And in the context of that societal reality, here come the followers Jesus of Nazareth declaring that He, and not Caesar, was kurios and soter, and that His followers were douloi.

      Using that language in that historical context spoke volumes about the Christian’s identity, volumes which the contemporary church sorely needs to recover and heed.

      • Larry

        Certainly Mike. I agree, that slavery to the God-man, Jesus IS a great honor. But that principle is problematic when intellectually someone is influenced to think slavery to another human being is a great honor. Just because 1st century ideology deemed slavery to Caesar an honor, I’d avoid that analogy, for the Caesar’s also thought they were gods to be worshipped. But again, I’m all for all of us that are believers, realizing we are indeed “doulos” to Christ. Love the dialogue.

  • Heather

    Thank you for this teaching, Mike. It is so poignantly true. Such teachings are so direly needed these days.

    If you’re so led, I’d like to know your thoughts on something in relation to your article, as it is the first thing that came to my mind when reading this article. When you talked about singular devotion, total dependence, and personal accountability, Luke 6:40 came to my mind: “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.”
    I don’t know how involved you are with modern-day discipleship, but most, if not all, of discipleship programs makes one man or woman a “discipler” (OR, to be Biblically accurate according to Lu 6:40 and Mt 23:8, a “Master” or “Rabbi”), over another younger man or woman. This seems to contradict the very point you made. How, then, are we to be a disciple to one master/rabbi, when, in reality, and in which you pointed out, we have been bought at a price to be a disciple to another Master/Rabbi, the Lord Jesus Christ? Even you brought to light the weighty truth of Mt 6:24, that no one can serve two masters. So, whose master are we? Do we give singular devotion to our Master, Jesus Christ, or do we take on another master through a discipleship program? Do we have total dependence on our Master, the living God, or are we to depend on our equal, a mere human? Are we only personally accountable to our Rabbi, Jesus, or are we to be accountable to our human discipler?

    One line that you said sums it up: “…we are free to serve our Master unhindered and with all eagerness and joy.” Honestly, though, I wonder if we really are these days? Are we really at liberty to be a slave to Christ today? With the building and constant pressure in Christianity today to either be discipled or be a discipler, how can we say we still have this liberty? From where I stand, (watching my generation absolutely flocking to be discipled and not for a moment stopping to test the spirits or even see if it is Biblical), I see many discipleship programs actually hindering us from fully serving Christ, taking away our eagerness and joy of being a slave of Christ. Many of us are trying to serve two masters, and many don’t even know it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I passionately believe in “discipleship”…IF it is Biblical. I will never disciple (verb) a person, nor will I ever be discipled by another person. We are a disciple to only ONE Master/Rabbi, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ; Whom we are singularly devoted to, totally dependent upon, and are personally accountable to, all with the outcome of eagerness and joy to simply belong to Him and Him alone!

    • Larry

      @Heather. You don’t see “discipleship” in II Timothy 2:22?

      • Heather

        No, but I must not understand what you’re trying to get at, could you please clarify? It’s an encouraging verse, but I don’t understand what it has to do with the human discipler (master)/disciple relationship in discipleship programs today? Or, really, I don’t see what it has to do with Biblical discipleship of a relationship between our Discipler (Master), Jesus Christ, and us, as His disciples? We can follow righteousness, faith, charity, and peace with all believers, no matter what age, nationality, or gender, without a discipleship program, and rightfully so, as this is the function of the church, is it not? (1 Co 12:23-27; Gal 5:13, 6:2; Rom 14:19)

        “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22

      • Heather

        Larry, I was just googling “Rabbinical Discipleship” and found this excellent article! So honest. So real. So incredibly Scriptural! I don’t know who the author is, but he seems to be an elder at a church. He talks about this MUCH better than I did or EVER could. I was soo blown away at how much of what he says is exactly what I believe to be true!!

        Hope you enjoy… (Oh, and the 4th article more precisely talks about that verse)
        http://bible.org/seriespage/discipleship-its-definitions-and-dangers-matthew-231-12

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Hey Heather,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure if I grasp the ins and outs of everything you’re saying, but from what I gather it seems that you’re against any form of person-to-person “discipleship” whatsoever — that being discipled by another believer would necessarily indicate that we have two masters: Jesus, and that other person.

      If that’s what your position is, I disagree. I’ll try to explain why by responding to your comment piece by piece.

      Luke 6:40: “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.”

      I don’t know if this has much bearing on the issue, but the KJV translation of Luke 6:40 really doesn’t do it justice. The NAS better represents the Greek:
      “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” So the point is: after the training is complete, the student will be like the teacher. It’s a truism. So you should be careful to whom you look for teaching.

      I don’t know how involved you are with modern-day discipleship, but most, if not all, of discipleship programs makes one man or woman a “discipler” (OR, to be Biblically accurate according to Lu 6:40 and Mt 23:8, a “Master” or “Rabbi”), over another younger man or woman.

      I disagree with this premise. I think of a “discipler” as a mentor, or someone who is more spiritually mature than another preson devoting themselves to the special care of the spiritual well-being of a less-mature believer, sharing insights, offering correction, being accountable for prayer, etc. I don’t think it follows at all that such a relationship is the kind of thing that Jesus warned against in Matthew 23:8. And why limit it to 23:8? 23:9 says to call no man “father.” Surely that doesn’t mean call your dad by his first name, or that “dad” is permissible where “father” isn’t. Jesus is particularly denouncing the Pharisees, who set themselves up as popish authoritities over people because of their pride and love of prominence.

      Now, I would agree that if someone who claims to be discipling you is being pompous, prideful, and is lording their “advanced maturity” over you, you’ve chosen the wrong person. But there is a way for that relationship to take place without having the one person lording it over the other. We’re not commanded to abandon the teacher-learner discipleship relationship, but to do it properly, as Christians.

      Do we give singular devotion to our Master, Jesus Christ, or do we take on another master through a discipleship program?

      In light of the above, this question and the ones surrounding it present a false dichotomy. A “discipler” is not a master any more than an older brother or sister is a father or mother — any more than a more experienced fellow-apprentice, who seems inclined to help a more inexperienced apprentice, is a task-master.

      If we were to accpet your false dichotomy, we would have to abandon all forms of human instruction, including pastors and teachers. “I am taught by Jesus Christ Himself!” And yet I hope that we can realize that such a position makes passages like Eph 4 and 1 Cor 12-14 senseless. In the same way that we submit to teachers and preachers and other leaders for the sake of Christ and insofar as they are not contrary to Christ, we can benefit from a discipleship relationship with another fellow-disciple of Christ who is equipped for and committed to our spiritual growth.

      With the building and constant pressure in Christianity today to either be discipled or be a discipler, how can we say we still have this liberty?

      Whereas you see these as competing realities, I see the one functioning in the service of the other. We are not saved to be a spiritual island. We are saved unto a personal relationship with Christ, yes. But we are also saved to a personal relationship with all those who have been saved to a personal relationship with Christ. God has ordained that the institution through which He will work to bless the nations in this age is the local church — gatherings of believers who submit to a plurality of qualified men who are equipped to lead and govern that church. An extension of that “shepherd-sheep” discipleship is a “sheep-sheep” disicpleship relationship. It can be done poorly, but it also can be done well. And we should strive for the latter.

      Regarding the “biblical-ness” (lol) of discipleship from person-to-person, it’s noteworthy that Luke speaks this way in Acts 9:25. He speaks of Paul’s disciples who snuck him out of harm’s way. So, Scripture speaks of disciples of Christ who are also disciples of Paul. That’s because Paul taught what Christ taught. Insofar as a discipler teaches what Christ taught (i.e., insofar as he himself is a disciple of Christ), there can be profitable person-to-person discipleship relationships.

      Aside from this, I think Larry meant to quote 2 Timothy 2:2, not 2:22. That verse commands Timothy to entrust the teaching that he received from Paul (and which Paul received from Christ) to others under him who would be able to then, in turn, pass down to others under them. In such a way the “pattern of sound words” (2Tim 1:13) has been retained through the ages. I wouldn’t have any problem calling that process of “entrusting,” discipleship.

      To sum up, I think we can all agree that discipleship can be done poorly. The pride of the discipler, the potential for bad doctrine, etc. But I’d be equally worried that a position like yours (as far as I understand it from your comments) would leave us out of fellowship and would make us impervious to correction from other believers, which is <a href="http://thecripplegate.com/giving-receiving-and-inviting-rebuke/&quot;unwise. As I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing inherently unbiblical about a person-to-person discipleship relationship, and even if the practice is abused in some (or even many) cases, doesn’t mean that we should abandon the practice. It means we should do it right.

      Hope that’s helpful.

      • Heather

        Hi Mike, thanks so much for taking time out of your day to reply to my comment. I appreciate what you shared. I’m sorry I wasn’t clear on some points, I’d like to clarify in reply to your statements.

        “it seems that you’re against any form of person-to-person ‘discipleship’ whatsoever – that being discipled by another believer would necessarily indicate that we have two masters: Jesus, and that other person”

        Yes.

        “The NAS better represents the Greek”

        Yes, especially on “fully trained” (not that I know Greek; I’ve seen a comparison and agree with you)! I used the KJV because it more poignantly related to the slave/master issue you were speaking of. But, I don’t think it disregards the word “master” that the KJV used, as I’ve even had Jewish rabbi’s tell me that “master” is the true definition of “rabbi” even more so than “teacher.” I bring up Mt 23:8 because this is the very issue at hand. The Jewish tradition was for a rabbi to make his own disciples, so they could then in turn become a rabbi and make their own disciples, then they could continue the cycle, right? I believe Jesus was setting the stage for the entire Church to follow in the powerful statement He made in Mt 23:8. If that was the tradition His disciples expected to keep following, imagine their shock and surprise when Jesus radically declared, “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.” He obliterated their mindset of hierarchy they had known, and was creating a new priesthood where He would be the High Priest (Rabbi) and we would all equally be the priesthood (brethren). They weren’t to go and make disciples to be a rabbi over their own disciples anymore, but instead, they were to go and “make” HIS disciples so HE could be their Rabbi and they could become one with all the brethren (the Church), and within the church was set certain order, roles, and gifts, (as you brought to light), that we so desperately need for healthy spiritual growth!

        A discipler, according to a Biblical model, is SO much more than just a teacher; he is absolutely a master over his pupil. I believe that even Paul was discipled by Gamaliel, according to Jewish tradition (Acts 22:3), but Paul left him because he became a disciple of Jesus instead, “whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” Lu 14:33. There is way more to it than just a teacher/student relationship, and I think Paul, clearly, understood that. The discipler is to impart the very life and character of himself to his pupil, so when the course of training is complete, the disciple will be fully conformed to his master’s image. How beautiful a picture if you apply it to the discipler being Jesus, and us being His pupils! Except, with us, we can’t be fully conformed to His image until we are with Him in heaven, face to face, with our beloved Master. His discipleship program is a beautiful lifelong program, or, rather, lifelong one-on-one relationship.

        “it’s noteworthy that Luke speaks this way in Acts 9:25. He speaks of Paul’s disciples who snuck him out of harm’s way. So, Scripture speaks of disciples of Christ who are also disciples of Paul”

        I have to be honest here and say I am totally confused as to how you read Acts 9:25 to bespeak of Paul’s disciples? In Acts 9:10, the first disciple in Damascus that was mentioned is Ananias, and we know, obviously, he was not Saul’s disciple. And then in 9:19, after Saul was baptized, he hung out with the disciples in Damascus that were already there before Saul even got there, so we know, again, they were obviously not Saul’s disciples. Then by 9:25, it simply says those disciples let him down a wall. I don’t understand why we would jump to the conclusion that those disciples in Damascus became Saul’s disciples between Acts 9:19 and 9:25? If anything, I would think that those disciples greatly encouraged and spiritually strengthened Saul, who was a baby Christian, not vice versa. “Disciple” is another way of saying “Christian” is it not (i.e. the “Christians” in Damascus let him down a wall)? Perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying?

        “Aside from this, I think Larry meant to quote 2 Timothy 2:2, not 2:22.”

        OK, thanks for the clarity, I was confused :) Right, I agree with you on that verse, only that I wouldn’t call it “discipleship” (as explained above), and I believe the Holy Spirit gave it to men to do and not women. (Thus, another issue with women disciplers in discipleship today, but that’s a whole other topic I’m not trying to get into here)

        “To sum up, I think we can all agree that discipleship can be done poorly. The pride of the discipler, the potential for bad doctrine, etc. But I’d be equally worried that a position like yours (as far as I understand it from your comments) would leave us out of fellowship and would make us impervious to correction from other believers, which is unwise.”

        hmm…I’m not quite sure how to reply to this? A position like mine. Forget my position. What about the position of millions of men and women disciples of Christ who have gone before us? (Heb 13:7) For nearly 2,000 years the Church has thrived without “discipleship programs,” and now we think we figured out the right way to run the Church?

        I’m not saying to be out of fellowship at all, and I’m sorry I gave that impression. I’m saying we should take the Word of God simply for what is says, and what it says is that we were bought at a price to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, not just in our imagination, but in reality. I take that literally. Even though we can’t physically see Jesus, like His disciples did when He walked on earth, we are still just as much His disciples as they were, and, in fact, Jesus even says WE have the advantage even over them! (Jn 16:7). Yes, it requires faith to walk in this way, but aren’t we told to walk by faith and not by sight? “Disciple” is something we are, not something we do, thus the reason it is never used as a verb in the Bible.

        Even the title of this blog says it’s for a new generation of non-conformists. Well, when I look at discipleship as it is being practiced today, some serious questions are raised in my heart and I am not going to conform to it if I am not sure it is of the Holy Spirit. That’s all.

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          K. One more long, clarifying response, and then this detour from the original post will be considered closed.

          I understand how the principle of Matthew 23 applies here. In fact, I said how it applies: “If someone who claims to be discipling you is being pompous, prideful, and is lording their ‘advanced maturity’ over you, you’ve chosen the wrong person. But there is a way for that relationship to take place without having the one person lording it over the other. We’re not commanded to abandon the teacher-learner discipleship relationship, but to do it properly, as Christians.” Which means that Matthew 23:8 is not, as you seem to take it, an absolute denunciation of any functional hierarchy among Christians. Certainly that hierarchy is visible in the elder-congregant relationship, as well as the husband-wife relationship. And certainly in the parent-child relationship of v. 9, which you also ignored. None of those relationships implies an ontological subordination or a super-spiritual status. It’s simply a functional relationship that, if done properly, can act in service of spiritual growth.

          Your reference to Luke 14:33 is taken out of context. Yes, if anyone was to follow Jesus he, of necessity, had to forsake the teachings of another. But if, in one’s pursuit of Jesus, he follows the example and imitates the faith of men who are committed to admonishing and praying for him (Heb 13:7; Col 1:28; etc.), he is not following his “discipler” and Jesus; he is following his discipler as he follows Jesus. Again, you seem to allow no category for a disciple-making disciple.

          The discipler is to impart the very life and character of himself to his pupil, so when the course of training is complete, the disciple will be fully conformed to his master’s image.

          Yes, but everyone — both student and teacher — understands that we’re not perfect, and that in the areas in which the teacher falls short of perfection he will instruct his student not to follow him. The refrain is: “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” So, indeed, don’t follow me if I’m not following Christ. But just as plain: Paul is calling people to follow him, since he himself is following Christ (1Cor 11:1; cf. 2 Thess 3:7, 9).

          Regarding Acts 9:23-25: “When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples (οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, hoi mathetai autou) took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.”

          So, Saul is with the disciples in Damascus (9:19) and immediately begins proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues (9:20). Synagogues is plural, which means it’s more than one, and the verb “began proclaiming” in the NAS is translating an imperfect, which indicates repeated action in the past. So Paul went around, over time, from synagogue to synagogue proclaiming Christ. The imperfect tense continues — “continued to be amazed” (9:21); were saying (9:21); kept increasing (9:22); confounding (9:22); proving (9:22; a participle which retains the sense of the main verb; i.e., imperfect) — all of which underscore repeated, characteristic action, implying the passage of time.

          Then, 9:23 makes it explicit and says, “When many days had elapsed…” Thus, in that time, his great defense and proclamation of the Gospel had given cause for others to be imitators of him, as he imitated Christ. There were those who began following Paul’s example, such that they could be called “his disciples.” The KJV botches that translation, rendering it merely, “the disciples.” But the Greek is clear: the genitive autou is showing possession, and as a personal pronoun the nearest antecedent is in the immediately preceding phrase, “so that they might put him to death” (v. 24b) Him who? “Saul” (v. 24a). So, the same one who the plot became known to, and the same one who the Jews desired to put to death, is the one whose disciples helped him escape. There really is no way around that.

          The conclusion, then? Scripture speaks of disciples of Paul, a man. Thus, even if all we had was this one text (which would be to ignore everything I’ve written so far as well as what comes later), your no-human-disicpleship position is refuted biblically.

          Regarding 2Tim 2:2, though you might not want to call that discipleship, that’s precisely what that is, and is a text many “disciplers” turn to as they express their desire to help train the next generation of Christians, leaders or not. I understand the immediate context was speaking of leaders in the church, but there’s no biblical reason for which the principle could not be applied “sheep-to-sheep” as well.

          I loved your reference to Hebrews 13:7, a text which supports the idea of discipleship (imitating the faith of your leaders). I thought that was funny, but was surprised you quoted it in favor of your position. Then you made reference to “discipleship programs,” which leads me to believe that you’re aiming more at them than at discipleship in general. But the practice of older, more mature saints, mentoring, instructing, admonishing, encouraging, and training younger, less mature saints, is not “a new way to run the Church,” but is as old as the Church itself.

          I’m not saying to be out of fellowship at all, and I’m sorry I gave
          that impression.

          I find it difficult to see how your position leads you anywhere but there. Sure, you may go to church and have Christian friends. But if you’re opposed to any sort of instruction, guidance, or training from human beings, the moment anyone says anything you disagree with you’re able to pull the “I’m a disciple of Christ,, not you” card. I’m not saying you do that, but your position makes provision for just that, and I know people just like that.

          The bottom line is: I want to see Jesus. I want to know Him, worship Him rightly, and thereby enjoy Him like I was created to do. And if a discipleship relationship in which an older, godlier, more mature man wants to pour into my life out of his own faithfulness and love to Christ, show me my sin so that I can deal with it, and build into me godly habits so that I can be a more faithful disciple of Christ, that relationship can take place in a way that’s going to help me see Jesus better. So I’m for it.

  • http://adam4d.com/ Adam Ford

    Awesome post. What a message in that word.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      A wealth of significance indeed, Adam. Thanks for stopping by!