The Path of DiscipleshipMatthew 9:9-13; Mark 1:16-20; John 21:17-22Theme: Following Christ.This week’s lessons teach us the cost of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
LessonThe third element in following Christ is submission. In one of Jesus’ most important sayings about discipleship, the Lord pictures discipleship as putting on a yoke. This suggests a number of things, but chiefly it suggests submission to Christ for work assigned. It is the picture of an animal yoked to others as well as to a farm implement for labor.
A yoke is also the connection between submission and subjection. Submit comes from the two Latin words sub (meaning “under”) and mitto, mittere (meaning “to put” or “place”). So submission means putting oneself under the authority of another. Subject also comes from two Latin words, in this case sub (meaning “under”) and iacto, iactare (meaning “cast” or “throw”). It means being put under the authority of another. In other words, although the first word has an active sense (I put myself under another’s authority) and the second word has a passive sense (I am placed under that authority) the idea is nevertheless essentially the same. Moreover, it is connected with the “yoke” in this way. In ancient times it was customary for a ruler, when he had conquered a new people or territory, to place a staff across two upright poles, perhaps four feet off the ground, and require the captive people to pass under it. By this act they were seen to be passing under his yoke and submitting to his authority. When Jesus used this image of discipleship he was really saying that to follow him was to submit to him. It was to receive him as Lord of one’s life.
The fourth element in following Christ is commitment, for the simple reason that it is impossible to follow Christ without being committed to him. A lack of commitment means deviating from his path or falling away from him. On the other hand, it is impossible to be committed to Christ without following him, for a failure to follow really means being committed to some other thing or person.
Moreover, we must insist that regeneration precedes faith and that faith, which is the fruit of regeneration, inevitably issues in commitment to the Lord Christ. We live in an age of shallow doctrine and very shallow views of the work of God in salvation. What is regeneration? One author writes correctly, “Regeneration is the one and only avenue into a new realm of divine life, and only by virtue of this new-creation life is co-operation with God possible. ‘Being born again’ (2 Pet. 1:23) is something infinitely bigger than being pardoned and made happy. It is being brought to God (1 Pet. 3:18). It is a call henceforth to walk with God (Rev. 3:4). It is a transfer of heart allegiance. It necessarily involves submission to the rule of another kingdom. It is an altogether new realm of sovereignty and change of ownership.”1 If commitment to Christ as the living Lord is denied, the one denying it is no true Christian even though there may be a verbal acknowledgment of Christ’s deity and redemptive work.
The final important element in following Christ, the most basic expression of the call to discipleship, is perseverance. This is because following is clearly not an isolated act, done once for all, never to be repeated. It is a lifetime commitment which is not fulfilled here until the race is won, the final barrier crossed, the crown received, and it and all other rewards then laid gratefully at the feet of Jesus.
All this is to say that discipleship is not simply a door to be entered but a path to be followed and that the disciple proves the validity of his discipleship by following that path to the very end. David wrote about it in the well-known 119th Psalm. The section of that psalm which begins “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (v. 105), ends “My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end” (v. 112). That is it! The true disciple is the one who follows Christ to the end of everything.
1 Reginald Wallis, The New Sovereignty (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1974), p. 45. The book is written to emphasize “the all-important significance of the Lordship of Christ as the condition and goal of true discipleship.”
How is discipleship like putting on a yoke?
What leads us to commit to Christ?
What is indicated by a failure to follow Christ?
DefinitionSubmission: putting oneself under the authority of another.
Key PointDiscipleship is not a door to be entered but a path to be followed.