The name Christian was taken from a biblical source: “. . . and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Most don’t even know what a Christian is or even yet, how to identify one. This I do know, that if anyone follows new testament doctrine, they will become a Christian. Therefore, all faithful Christians have obeyed the gospel of Christ and continue in the apostle’s doctrine.
There is nothing in the word to denote of whom the person is a disciple. The New Testament refers to disciples of John the Baptist (Mt. 9:14), the Pharisees (Mt. 22:16), Moses (Jn. 9:28), and Jesus (Mt. 12:1). Our interest lies only in the last of these. Sometimes the word “disciple” is applied to the Twelve; all apostles were disciples but not all disciples were apostles.
The person who is a disciple acknowledges his ignorance and his need for a teacher who he is willing to follow. The disciple of Jesus recognizes “that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Discipleship breaks down into four categories: Learner: Follower : Teacher: Leader.
Christians are Learners
Anytime a Christian ceases to be a learner, he is in danger of falling from grace. God has never been pleased with a Christian’s quitting his study of God’s revelation. The author of Hebrews rebuked some with these words: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for some one to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food” (Heb. 5:12). Paul warned that those who lost their love for the truth were inevitably headed toward apostasy. For this reason, Paul wrote Timothy saying, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Tim. 4:13). Paul also commanded a young Timothy to “Study to show himself approved of God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). The disciple is a learner.
Christians are Followers
Secondly, a disciple is a follower. The man who knows the Christian religion revealed through Jesus is not necessarily a disciple; he must be an adherent to it. Jesus left a perfect example with the expectation that we should try to follow it (1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Pet. 2:21-25). “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24). The redeemed in heaven will be those “who follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev. 14:4). The disciple of Christ will try to imitate the life of Christ in his daily living.
Christians are Teachers
Thirdly, a disciple of Christ will become a teacher. Christian men become preachers and teachers in order to instruct the church and sinners who are without (2 Tim 2:2 f; 2 Tim 4:2-5). Christian women will become teachers of their own children (Eph 6:1,2) . Faithful aged women become teachers of younger women, teaching them to love and submit themselves to the authority of their own husband (Tit 2:3-5). The very nature of learning and following leads us also to become teachers. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:12-14). “The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). Unequivocally, the very reason for learning and following is for the disciple to eventually become a teacher in the capacity God commanded.
Christians are Leaders
A few good Christian men reach the elevation of becoming an elder or a deacon of the church of Christ. If they desire the office of a bishop, and if they meet the qualifications, they can become such leaders of the church. These men must be leaders of their own house and very adept in teaching the Word of God. These are their full requirements: “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:1-7). Similar requirements are also made for deacons (1 Tim 3:8-13). A church without elders is a church without protection against false teachers (Acts 20:28-30).
Conclusion: Jesus summed up these aspects of discipleship when He said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). If you profess to be a disciple of Jesus, you need to study God’s Word; You must follow the doctrine of Christ; Once mature in the faith, you need to become a teacher of His Word; and a few will become leaders of the local church. If you are a Christian, you are disciples of Christ.