The word discipleship does not appear in the Bible although the title disciple or disciples does.
So what is a disciple and what does it take to be a disciple? An English dictionary defines the word disciple as one who is a pupil or learner. It follows then that being a disciple of the Lord Jesus implies he is the teacher and we are his pupils, learning from him
“And seeing the multitudes, he [Jesus] went up on a mountain, and when he was seated his disciples came to him. Then he opened his mouth and taught them . . .” (Matthew 5:1,2).
As any teacher he expects from his pupils, respect, an acceptable standard of behaviour, diligence in learning and putting into practice, to the best of their ability, the lessons He has taught.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)
“Now great multitudes went with him. And he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke14:25-27).
“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:22,23).
The requirement for putting instruction into action is also taught by the Lord Jesus apostles.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).
However, the Lord Jesus acknowledges that it is not easy for us to perfectly put what he teaches into practice and so is willing and able to forgive when we do not meet the required standard, whilst expecting better in the future.
“When Jesus had raised himself up and saw no one but the woman, he said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’” (John 8:10,11).
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Quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible