Disciple Means Learner – of God’s Word

by Nov 8, 20170 comments

The standard lexicon for New Testament Greek defines the word “disciple” (mathētēs) as “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice” (BDAG, 3rd ed., 609). At its most basic meaning, the word disciple means learner.

But what kind of learning does Jesus intend for his disciples? What did he teach his original disciples? How does he teach us still today?

Disciple Means Learner of God’s Word

Jesus speaks bluntly about our relationship to him through his word: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). You cannot be a disciple of Jesus if you do not abide as a perpetual student of Jesus’ word. In fact, even the first sin arose from a failure to know God’s word.

But why? What makes Jesus’ word so important? Why isn’t discipleship possible without getting too caught up in the Bible?

The Voice of the Shepherd

To begin, Jesus says that he will lead, guide, and shepherd his people by his word. He describes himself as the Good Shepherd who leads his sheep out by his voice:

[1] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. [2] But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. [3] To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. [4] When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. [5] A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:1–5)

We may only relate to Jesus by listening to his voice. The true sheep of the Good Shepherd know their shepherd by his voice. When he speaks, they trust him. But when a stranger speaks to them, they flee from that strange voice.

The Word of the Father

By saying this, Jesus does not draw a distinction between his word and his Father’s word. On the contrary, Jesus insists that we listen to his word because Jesus faithfully speaks the word of the Father:

“I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” (John 8:26)

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10)

Part of the reason Jesus came was to faithfully proclaim his Father’s word to us. He is the ultimate Prophet (Heb. 1:1–2) through whom God speaks to us.

The Old Testament

But it isn’t as though Jesus only began speaking to us after his incarnation. Instead, Jesus claims the Old Testament as his words:

[39] “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me….[46] For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:39, 46–47)

Not only is Jesus the on who speaks to us on behalf of his Father, but he is the subject of his Father’s word.

Disciples of Jesus devote themselves to learning God’s word—all of it. Jesus does not permit us to put his spoken words (the “red letter” words) above the written words from the rest of Scripture. Instead, Jesus claims that all of the words of Scripture bear witness to him.

How to Become a Disciple/Learner of God’s Word

Jesus calls his disciples to rigorous, intentional, disciplined study of his word with our minds. Following Jesus as a disciple means that we must dedicate ourselves to learning from him.

Furthermore, Jesus tells us that learning at his feet is the “good portion” (Luke 10:42). It is a blessing to study God’s word, for in God’s word we see Jesus.

Here are a few basic suggestions to get starting studying God’s word.

Go to Church

A Bible-preaching church is the most important part of growing in your knowledge of the Bible. Jesus gave pastors and teachers as gifts to his church to teach his word to his people (Eph. 4:1–16).

Some people try to avoid going to church, trying to learn God’s word on their own. This, however, is not the way that Jesus appointed for his disciples.

So, go to church. Pay careful attention to the sermon, and examine what your pastor says against what the Scriptures say (Acts 17:11). Join Bible studies and attend Sunday School classes.

And by the way—if you are looking for a Bible-preaching church in Omaha, NE, let me suggest my own church: Harvest Community Church. We would love to have you join us!

Get a Study Bible

The good news is that you will never exhaust the riches that God has given to you in the Scriptures. No matter how long you study, you will always have more to learn.

The harder news is that there is a learning curve to understanding the Scriptures. To understand the Bible well, you need to have a working knowledge of language, history, genre, typology, and theology. Learning those subjects will take time.

A good study Bible can help by providing helpful commentary as you read. Articles, notes, and even diagrams can clarify what you are ready as you go.

Two good study Bibles I would recommend would be:

Also, I have written elsewhere an article listing out 5 of the Best Free Bible Study Tools that might help you.

Follow a Bible Reading Plan

The Bible is a big book, and it helps to have a plan for reading it. There are many different Bible reading plans that take you through the Bible at different paces. The main thing is to pick one and stick with it.

I have written a free, year-long devotional study based on the M’Cheyne Bible Reading plan. This study, called Free Daily Bible Study, will take you from Genesis through 2 Chronicles (the first part of the Bible) in one year. Subscribe here to get the study by email or listen to the devotions by podcast.

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