All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV)
Christian men are called by the Lord to be men who build — who build their lives upon Scripture and its teaching, in order to become more like Jesus. But we’re not just to be building ourselves, but others. Specifically, as the Lord promised that He would build “His church”, or “assembly”, He uses us to do this (Mt. 16:18). And how does He use us in this grand building project? By making disciples of Christ. Thus, building men are disciple-making men.
I’ve created the acronym BUILDERS with eight essential characteristics of a man who is building his life according to God’s Word, and I’ve decided to write this article on the fifth one, which I see as next in importance:
Before discussing disciple-making, what is a disciple? A disciple is simply a follower or pupil. However, he not only listens to his teacher’s teaching, but also follows his teacher’s example. In the case of Christians, our Teacher — or Master — is Jesus, so we obey and imitate Him. In order to make disciples of Christ, then, we have to impart His teaching, as well as His lifestyle to others, in such a way that they follow Christ. This is what it means to be a disciple-maker.
Besides the Lord’s promise that He would build His church, there are several other reasons why good building men ought to be disciple-makers. In this article, we’ll examine these reasons, then think about how Scripture teaches us as men to make disciples of Christ.
Why Building Men are Disciple-Makers
The Lord Gave Us a Command To
The most important reason that building men should be disciple-makers is because our Lord issued this as a command to His first disciples that’s applicable to us as well:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .Mt. 28:18-19
Jesus actually introduces this command with the ultimate reason why the apostles should obey it. It’s because He’s been given “all authority in heaven and on earth”. The term “authority” means a delegated, or transferred, right, or power, to act on behalf of another. And who is the One who gave Jesus this authority? God the Father. But what is the extent of this authority? Jesus says that He possesses all authority, both “in heaven”, and “on earth”. Hence, He possesses every right and power in every corner of the universe to issue and fulfill His command.
But how do we know that this command is applicable to us as well? The first reason is found in verse 20, where our Lord explains that one of the ways in which the apostles make disciples is by “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. And what is one thing that Jesus commanded His apostles to do? To “make disciples of all nations”. That means that one of the commands the apostles passed down to this present day is the commission to make disciples. There’s another reason we can know that this commission applies to us: Jesus promises that He’ll be “with you . . . to the end of the age”. Now, obviously, the apostles aren’t making disciples now, so who is Jesus “with” in this great endeavor? He’s with any of His disciples who are making disciples in all of history, including now. Hence, since Jesus is with us to make disciples, He must still expect us to do so in the way He prescribes here.
To Provide Salvation for God’s Chosen People
Paul the apostle gives us one of the most important — yet one of the most neglected — reasons that we need to make disciples. This reason is that there are unbelievers in our lives whom God has already chosen to eventually save through us. Paul teaches this encouraging fact in his second letter to Timothy, where he says to Timothy,
8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.2 Timothy 2:8-10
So, why was Paul bound in chains as a criminal? For preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, which he also calls “the word of God”. And because this gospel he preaches isn’t bound, he explains that he endures “everything for the sake of the elect”. What does he endure? Suffering, including imprisonment, for preaching the gospel. And why does he willingly suffer for preaching? “For the sake of the elect”, or “the chosen”, “that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus”. Here, Paul is implying that, through his preaching of the gospel, people that God has already chosen before time began will obtain salvation (see Ephesians 1:3ff).
This preaching, which is essential to making disciples, is God’s chosen means by which He saves His chosen people. As Paul says in Romans 10:17 —
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
We are God’s Royal Priests to the World
A final important — and related — reason that we ought to be disciple-makers is that God has made us His royal priests to the world around us. Peter describes this role in his first letter, where he declares:
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.1 Peter 2:9
This verse is an allusion to these same descriptions that the Lord gave to Israel in the Old Testament. The one that most applies to discipleship is “a royal priesthood”. What is a “priesthood”? It’s a group of people that serve as priests. The simple definition of a priest is a person whom God uses to provide others with His forgiveness, blessing, and peace. As God’s priests, believers are called to provide unbelievers with access to God through the message of reconciliation — the gospel. In this verse, Peter explains that this gospel is to be communicated by proclaiming “the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”. Who is this One who called people out of darkness? The Lord Jesus Christ. So, God made us priests, so that we would declare the Lord’s “excellencies”, or qualities and acts, to the unbelieving world around us. This is the beginning of discipleship.
How Do Building Men Build Up Disciples?
Having seen the reasons why we should be disciple-making, it’s time to get to how we do this, and what our goals are for doing this. As I’ve already mentioned, the first step to turning someone into a disciple of Christ is preaching the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ to them. This is exactly what our Lord did when He began making disciples:
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”Mark 1:14-15
So, what was the message that Jesus proclaimed to people? It was the good news of God. It said that His kingdom had arrived with the coming of the King, and that all who heard were commanded to change their minds about Him, and to put their trust in His message. This is essentially the content of our message — God’s King has come to establish His spiritual kingdom of salvation, and everyone needs to repent and trust in Him. Recall also in the Gospels that, in the beginning of His ministry, Jesus bids His future apostles to “follow” Him, or to become His disciples. The reason they were to follow Him was because of their repentance and faith in Him.
By Baptizing Them Into God’s Name
According to our Lord’s instructions in the Great Commission, the second way we turn people into His disciples is by “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). The word “baptizing” comes from the Greek word, baptizo, which literally means “immerse” or “submerge”. So, what Jesus literally said was that His disciples were to immerse new disciples in the name of God.
But what did He mean by doing this “in the name” of the triune God? The Greek word translated “in” is eis, and in its most basic form means “into”, not just “in”. And since we know that what Jesus was referring to was at least water baptism, we can appreciate the symbolism of immersing someone into God’s name. Hence, the view I take is that Jesus wasn’t telling His disciples to baptize because of, or on behalf of, God’s name, but into God’s name. That is, what baptism symbolizes is a person being absorbed or immersed into the life and relationships that the Persons of the Trinity have with each Other. This is partly why Jesus chose baptism as the ritual to publicly show a person’s faith in Him.
By Teaching Them to Obey All Christ’s Commands
The third way we build up disciples of Christ, so they become better at following Him, is by teaching them to obey all that He commanded. This not only includes what He personally commanded His disciples, but also what He afterward commanded the early church through the apostles. Now, obviously, the Lord wasn’t saying that commands He gave to people regarding situations specific to them are included. The application for us today is that His teaching is to be taught, and any commands that can be applied to our specific situations are to be taught. This is because they express His will for those in those situations. Paul the apostle commands this handing down of the apostles’ teaching to Timothy in his second letter to him, saying,
2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.2 Timothy 2:2
But this teaching doesn’t merely include verbally teaching the Bible.
By Showing Them How to Obey Christ
As I said at the beginning, being a disciple of Christ doesn’t merely mean you follow His teaching, but also His example. This is partly done by learning and imitating His lifestyle and actions in the New Testament, but it’s also done by following the example of those who have followed Him for some length of time. Thus, one way in which we must build up disciples is by showing them how to obey Christ.
This pattern of life-on-life discipleship is taught in multiple places in the New Testament. One of the best examples of this is Paul’s description of the church in Thessalonica found in his first letter to them. Early in the letter, he recounts the conversion experience of this church, describing how they imitated Paul and his companions, so that they became an example to other believers:
6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
Note the progression. First, they became imitators of “us”, or the missionaries, and “of the Lord” — Jesus. So, they imitated Jesus by imitating Paul and his partners. Having become followers of Jesus through them, they then “became an example” to other believers. In other words, this church learned to follow Jesus so that they could show others how to follow Him.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul urges them to imitate him, and explains that they can do this by following another of his disciples:
16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.1 Corinthians 4:16-17
Notice particularly that Paul here says that he teaches his “ways”, or lifestyle, “in every church”. So, not only does he set an example of Christlikeness, but he also teaches it. In his letter to the Philippians, he says basically the same thing in a more general sense:
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.Philippians 3:17
Here, Paul’s not just giving one example of how to follow him, but multiple examples who “walk”, or live everyday life, like Paul.
So, we see from these passages that Paul, as an eyewitness and personal student of the Lord Jesus (see Acts 9; Galatians 1), commanded the churches under his care to imitate himself in the way that he imitated Christ.
By Being a Role Model for Less Mature Men
So how does this pattern of showing others how to imitate Jesus apply to us as men? Paul himself applies it to the relationship between mature men and less mature men of the church in his letter to Titus. In 2:6-7, he instructs this pastor to first teach younger men how to behave, and then to show them how to live:
6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity . . .”
Why was Titus to “show” himself to be “a model of good works”, and then to “show integrity [and] dignity” in his teaching? First, as an example to all believers under his oversight, but specifically as an example to the younger men, since he was a more mature man of God. This is the same relationship that Paul had with Timothy, his young spiritual son and disciple. Paul treated Timothy as if he was his son, so that he would imitate him as he imitated Christ.
Make Disciples and Build Them Up
Brothers, as slaves of the Lord, and as men of God, we need to be making disciples, and also building up our brothers and sisters. We do this by boldly, wisely, and diligently sharing the good news of Christ with unbelievers, by immersing them into God’s name, and then by teaching them both what Christ commanded, and how we are to obey His commands. This second stage of building up our brothers and sisters can’t be confined to simply teaching the Bible, but to also showing them what it means to be Christlike, especially as a man of God. So don’t just build yourself up through the Word and prayer, but urge others to build their lives according to the Word. Make disciples like our Lord Jesus did.
If you want help with making disciples at a place away from your regular routine, please consider setting aside the weekend of November 12-14 to participate in the 3rd annual Builders Summit. This is a Friday-Sunday Christian men’s retreat in the mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, where dozens of men plan on gathering to encourage one another to become more like Christ, including teaching by 2 graduates of The Master’s Seminary, and 4 BTWN podcasters and pastors. All lodging and food are included in the $150 registration, which increases to $200 on October 31. If you FLY IN, you can REGISTER FOR FREE. About 2 dozen spots are left. Get all the details at builderssummit.org