Every Christian that has spent even a small amount of time in a Church has heard of the great need for disciples, often defined as disciplined ones. Although it does require great discipline on the part of the person endeavoring to walk as a disciple, a disciplined one is not the definition of the Greek word translated disciple.
The meaning of the word mathetes is, “learner, pupil. In the New testament more than this, a follower, one who follows both the teacher and the teaching." E. W. Bullinger.
The New Bible Dictionary says of this word, "The teacher pupil relationship was a common feature of the ancient world, where Greek philosophers and Jewish Rabbis gathered around them groups of apprentices or learners."
From Matthew chapter 5 through Acts chapter 21 we encounter the Greek word mathetes, translated disciple 268 times, 238 are in the Gospels and 30 are in the book of Acts.
Of the occurrences in the Gospels:
219 times it is used of the disciples of Jesus Christ. 10 times of the disciples of John the Baptist. 4 times as general statements about disciples. 3 times of the disciples of John and the Pharisees. 1 time of the disciples of Moses. 1 time of the disciples of the Pharisees.
It can be clearly seen that the term disciple was used during the Christ Administration. The application of this word during the Christ Administration is also clearly seen for a disciple was the one who followed Jesus and his teachings. A disciple was a follower not only of the teachings but also of the teacher himself. However, the use and application of this term in the Administration of Grace is confusing at best for the word disciple is never used in the epistles addressed to today’s believers.
What then is the right application of this term in the Age of Grace? Are believers supposed to be disciples, or something else? If we are to become disciples, then to whom should we disciple ourselves?
We speak of individuality in our culture but too often our culture simply trains people to be the disciple of another.
•In politics people are taught to follow one party. The platform, the doctrine of that party becomes the answer no matter what the question. This is discipleship. •It is generally from within that political party that we look for our answer man. The one who will have all of the answers for all of the problems. This is discipleship. •In religion we seek one person who we feel understands God and then we allow that person to do all of our spiritual thinking for us. Our view of God and our relationship with God is then based upon another's view, another's opinion. This is discipleship.
But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.
Paul separated the disciples, setting them apart from those who spoke evil concerning the things Paul taught. These disciples were followers of what Paul was teaching and also of Paul. But how can we be disciples of Paul since he died almost two thousand years ago?
To get a clear and accurate understanding on the subject of disciples we will have to look at God’s Word starting with the Paradise Administration and understand the reason disciples became necessary.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
What is the image of God? What form does God have that man was created in His image? It can’t be our physical form or appearance since males and females do not look alike and both were created in His image.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
God is Spirit and in the Garden, during the Paradise Administration, Adam and Eve were three part beings of body, soul, and spirit. It is this third part, holy spirit that was created in man to make him in the image of God. It is God’s gift of holy spirit that makes fellowship with God possible and fellowship with man has always been God’s desire.
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
After his resurrection Jesus Christ appeared to eleven of his apostles and those that were with them in his new spiritual body. They thought he was a spirit but he explained that a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones like him.
Holy spirit is not in the realm of the five senses. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, and you can’t smell it. But this spirit within Adam and Eve is what gave them their connection with God. It was through their holy spirit that Adam and Eve had perfect fellowship with God. It was through their spirit that God was able to give knowledge and understanding to Adam and Eve. It was through their spirit that Adam and Eve had dominion over the earth. It was through their spirit that Adam and Eve had been lifted up into the Kingdom of God, elevated above all things on the earth.
This is how God set things up; a family, fellowship between the three of them, Adam and Eve standing in the presence of God knowing that is where they belonged. Standing in God’s presence was their natural environment, their home.
But God gave Adam and Eve holy spirit upon a condition, the condition of obedience.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
With this condition God has given man freedom of will. If this condition, of not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, is not given then man has no choice but to be with God. With this condition man can choose to do something other than fellowship with God. This tree and the condition based upon it gave man freedom of will. God desires fellowship with man but God also desires man to choose to fellowship with Him out of his freedom of will. Adam exercised his freedom of will to deliberately disobey God and eat from the tree.
“…thou shalt surely die” is better translated as “…in dying thou shalt die.” The day Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he lost holy spirit, his connection with God. It’s called dead because holy spirit is gone.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
We weren’t dead physically before we believed God; we were dead spiritually because we didn’t have holy spirit. Adam died spiritually the day he ate of the tree. When Genesis 2 declared, “in dying thou shalt die” it spoke of Adam’s spiritual death and ultimate physical death. His physical death didn’t come for many years because he was perfect in body and soul, his gene pool had no imperfections before he disobeyed. But that day when he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil he lost holy spirit and died spiritually.
Without holy spirit Adam can no longer turn to God when he has a question or encounters something he doesn’t understand. Adam’s only means of learning now is by way of the five senses and that means he must learn by trial and error. It is these same five senses that cannot understand spiritual matters.
1 Corinthians 2:14
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
In order to understand spiritual matters you need to have holy spirit from God. It is absolutely impossible for a natural man to understand the things of God. They will be foolishness unto his five senses.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
The natural man, or the man of the flesh, is carnally minded and is an enemy of God. The natural man is spiritually blind and in total darkness. As man enters the Patriarchal Administration he is in great need of another to lead him, someone to teach him concerning spiritual matters for man has lost his connection to God. Man, who stood in the very presence of the Creator God, now finds himself without God. A vast chasm now separates God and His man, the chasm of sin. But man was not without hope.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
God offers hope to mankind in this Promised Seed of the woman. Man only needed to believe. Believing is an issue of the heart, not the muscle – the kardia.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Matthew 15:8-9, 17-20
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart (kardia) is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men…Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart (kardia); and they defile the man. For out of the heart (kardia) proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
Believing comes from the heart of a man. The heart is in the mind. It might not seem like it at times, but every man has a mind. Therefore, it is available for man to believe even though he no longer has spirit. Believing comes from the body and soul part of man. As long as something can be registered by one or more of man's senses, he can believe.
Therefore God comes into concretion in order for man to be able to believe; Abraham had angels come to dinner, Gideon had the golden fleece, twice, Moses saw the burning bush, Pharaoh saw more than enough things to believe, and Israel saw the pillar of cloud by day and the fire by night and so much more.
In this manner people had the opportunity to register something with their senses and believe. Because this principle is employed throughout God's Word the Promised Seed of Genesis 3:15 could make this statement when he was ministering to Israel:
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?
Jesus could be seen, his life could be registered by the five senses. He always did the will of his Father.
In the Garden, before man sins, his fellowship with God was perfect. He had no concept of evil or wrong doing. His nature was pure, perfect, and godly. But man leaves the Garden with a corrupted nature, a sin nature. A nature that refutes anything it cannot learn by its five senses.
It was the actions of man that caused this great and awesome separation from God. And there was nothing man could do to regain his position with God. He could not work his way back into a perfect relationship with God. And it was unavailable for man to clean up or un-corrupt his body and soul nature.
So God acted to protect man until the redeemer would arrive by coming into concretion, in one form or another and giving His Word to guide and direct man. Some people chose to believe. Moses was such a man. He believed God when God appeared to him out of a burning bush. Then God, very graciously, gave Moses holy spirit, called spirit upon in the Old Testament. With spirit upon, man now has at least a communication link with God, like a telephone line and he has some spiritual understanding. However, man would not be able to see the full spiritual picture until Jesus Christ makes known God and strips away the cover the Adversary used to stay hidden.
What were the requirements for receiving spirit upon in the Old Testament?
None are ever given. It is God's choice and prerogative. Moses, and others who had spirit, never earned spirit upon. Not by good works or a loving personality. God, very graciously, gave.
Adam had a requirement for keeping spirit upon, “do not eat” - his act of disobedience cost him holy spirit - this does not however set a standard for the following administrations. Moses disobeyed, David disobeyed, others disobeyed and did not lose spirit upon.
It cannot be over emphasized; you cannot carry standards from one administration over to another administration unless God has done so in His Word. We always need to keep the administrations separate, except where God has intermingled doctrine, principles, or laws.
When Moses receives the law we have the start of the Law Administration. The doctrine of substitution, originated in the Garden, was carried forth into the Patriarchal, becomes law under Moses, and is fulfilled with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When God brings something through administrations you hold it as long as God holds it.
Moses had fellowship with God, he had God’s gift of holy spirit upon him.
He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
There are two points to recognize in this verse. First, Moses saw the ways of God and second, Israel saw the acts.
We'll look at Moses first.
Moses had spirit upon but we need to remember the administrations in which Moses lived and moved. He lived in the Patriarchal and the Law Administrations. During both of these administrations what is called spirit upon is not the same as the spirit within of our current administration.
Spirit upon is not a new nature. Moses had the spirit of God upon him but his nature was still five senses oriented. While in our administration holy spirit is created within, it is our new nature. By nature I am speaking of an in-born quality. It is in a human’s nature to reason. It is in the animal’s nature to move on instinct. It is in our new spiritual nature that we have been made a servant of righteousness rather than the slave of sin.
Another difference between spirit upon and spirit within is that spirit upon was by measure, that is why Elisha could ask God for a double portion and receive it. Spirit upon was by measure while spirit created within is the fullness of what God can give in this heaven and earth.
There are also distinctions in spirit upon. The first category has full spiritual authority, their spirit upon is without measure, and the spirit upon is on someone with a perfect natural nature. The second category has limited spiritual authority and is by measure, and is upon someone with a sin nature or corrupted natural nature.
In the first category we have Adam, Eve and Jesus Christ. All other believers in the Old Testament that had spirit upon are in the second category, including Moses.
Even with spirit upon Moses operated with limited spiritual authority and from the view of a man with a sin nature, a nature that was the enemy of God. Considering these things, what Moses did in his walk with God is awesome and amazing!
Now, when Psalm 103 says that Moses saw the ways of God, we need to understand that what he saw was a very limited picture. Therefore, he reminds God to be faithful and he asks God not to kill. If Moses had a full or complete picture of God these things never would have entered the mind of Moses. However, the limited view of God that Moses had was a much better view than that which the rest of Israel enjoyed.
And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
Moses and God enjoyed great fellowship with one another. Moses was so lit up from hanging out with God that the nation of Israel couldn’t even look at the face of Moses. Moses was a man of believing that saw the ways of God. This is the intimate fellowship God desires with every person and only a small taste of the relationship shared by God and Adam and Eve, and later Jesus Christ.
And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
Israel saw the acts of God; the deliverance from Egypt, the parting of the sea, manna from heaven, quail for meat, and water from a rock but they lacked the believing, they were afraid to speak with God. So they asked Moses to speak with God and then to tell them what God had spoken.
This is discipleship!
A disciple is one who follows both the teaching and the teacher. It was a need for men to become disciples from the start of the Patriarchal Administration. Men needed to disciple themselves to others who believed God and who walked and talked with God. When an Enoch, a Noah, a Moses, or an Abraham came along, men who believed God, others needed to hang on to their coat tails and follow. Due to unbelief they couldn't see God on their own. They needed the view of the one who was walking with God.
The problem with discipleship is the view. Adam and Eve had an unobstructed view of the heart of God while the disciple has a view of the back of someone else’s head!