Discipleship? or Saintship?
Discipleship? Or Saintship?
The term ‘disciple’ appears one time only in the Old Testament, so it’s clear that the idea and practice of discipleship is almost solely a New Testament innovation.
In fact, the term disciple(s) occurs in the New Testament well over 200 times.
WEBSTER’S (Ninth New Collegiate) Dictionary defines “disciple” as first off, “...a follower of Jesus Christ in his lifetime”. More generically however, it goes on to add, “…one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another…”
So that a good, working definition of ‘disciple’ might be, “a follower of Jesus, assisting in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ”. And I think that most of those who emphasize making disciples, that is, those who practice ‘discipleship’, would accept that definition.
Saint(s) on the other hand, is simply, “…one of God’s chosen and usually Christian”. Modern practices with respect to using the term ‘saint’ as a designation for one unusually accomplished in holiness, miracles, church politics or missionary zeal and so forth, are not to be found in scripture. In scripture, it is NEVER given to man to make or to designate another man or woman, ‘saint’. That is God’s prerogative, and God’s only. In scripture, all saints are, by definition, God’s chosen “and usually Christian”. And it is God, who chooses, always...
And while the term ‘saint’ appears in the New Testament only five times before Acts 26:20…the term ‘disciple’ never appears in scripture again after Acts 22:16. In fact, both terms, ‘disciple’ and ‘disciples’ make their last and final appearance in that verse. Paul, Peter, James, John or Jude never use the term again (in the scripture). Nor does it appear in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
After Acts 26:20 though, the term ‘saint(s)’ occurs 55 times.
So it seems that the foundation of the church (on the day of Pentecost) pretty much draws the boundary between disciples and saints.
And the book of Acts is a transition. Acts, while speaking of ‘disciple’ or ‘disciples’ 26 times, is bringing us into the church age, and in doing so, is phasing out the term ‘disciple’ and replacing it with ‘saint’. And it isn’t only the term that is in transition, but the very real differences in experience and life between New Testament disciples and New Testament saints. For that barrier between the two, the church, is the key. For the disciples spoken of in the gospels didn't belong to the church, couldn't belong to the church, weren't "Christians" in fact, for the church hadn't come into being until the day of Pentecost.
And while after the foundation of the Church, saints may indeed be disciples, it does not necessarily follow that disciples made after Pentecost are also saints, or ‘chosen of God and Christian’.
In a practical sense, a ‘disciple’ can be one who accepts the teachings of Jesus, but in an intellectual manner or mental assent, just as one can be a disciple of Mohammed, or Confucius...or of Billy Graham. One can be a disciple of Christ, but being a disciple does not necessarily mean being a Christian, and thus, a saint.
One cannot however, be a ‘saint’ without accepting not only the teachings of Jesus (which makes him a disciple), but also His person as our savior, in both spirit and truth. It is an experience, not an attitude. It is an inward reality, not a mere mental acceptance or agreement in principle…nor even an intellectual exercise.
For the natural man (even the natural man who is a disciple) doesn’t receive the things of God, even if accepted intellectually, and assented to mentally. There must be the salvation experience.
So my question is…shouldn't we be about making SAINTS? instead of making disciples?
Have we been looking at this from the wrong angle, for lo, all these many years, and have thereby, all blissfully unaware, been making disciples while failing to make saints? Have we been practicing discipleship, and failing to practice saintship?
I am and remain sincerely yours in Jesus Christ,