The term disciple comes from Latin discipulus ‘learner’, from discere ‘learn’[1]. In other words, a disciple is a follower, someone who follows a leader, and discipleship is a philosophy. To be a disciple is to be a pupil. It is interesting that the Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines the terms as a personal follower of Christ[2].

In essence, those who have placed faith in Jesus Christ and have decided to live a life committed to the principles contained in the Bible are disciples. Those of us who willingly have made the decision to live lives that reflect Jesus so that others might see him in and through us are to be considered disciples.

The regeneration process we experienced when we received the gift of the Holy Spirt when we believed (Ef. 1:13) is just the starting point of the process usually known as discipleship. The question is what does the term mean? Discipleship is the process of devoting oneself to learn from and become more like Jesus. This process involves learning the teachings of Jesus and following after his example in obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit.[3]

Discipleship is more than a four-week course that people new to the Church are required to take. It is not a course but a permanent and constant process of surrender, submission and devotion of ourselves to the transforming power of Scripture. In fact, discipleship is a central theological theme of the Gospels and Acts.[4]

Discipleship is a learning process. It requires time and effort. One cannot expect to be a disciple by just alluding or referring to oneself as a follower without actually knowing him, of whom one is saying one is a pupil. As a learning process, there are several things that being a disciple of Jesus means and involves. A disciple is expected to learn, through Scripture, from God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.[5] God also uses people to teach us something. The source of our learning process is God himself, who has made himself known and revealed in the Person of Christ and whom today we get to know through the Scripture.

Jesus himself set the example of what a disciple is and what characteristics a disciple ought to have. In the Gospel of Matthew, he presents himself as a suffering servant. He makes it clear he did not come to be served but to serve (Mt. 20:28). Therefore, we are to have the same expectation as both followers and servants of God. Suffering is expected. Discipleship is not an easy journey; on the contrary, it is a tough and rough one. The reward is worth the journey. The purpose of discipleship is to be more like he who called us, he who loved us.

There are some key character qualities in a disciple’s life that must be evident to those around him. It is not an easy journey, and it is not expected that the disciple must show evidence of all of them immediately after conversion. As it has been already stated, it is a process; when the disciple devotes himself to living a life that reflects Christ, the Holy Spirit will produce the expected changes as the individual adjusts his life as a direct result of spending time before the presence of God. The practice of spiritual disciplines, such as Bible reading, prayer, and meditation on Scripture, will result in a strong awareness of those things the individual needs to render and submit before God; in the end, his life will be transformed, and these character qualities will start to be evident.

I have come up with a list of 10 main qualities a disciple’s character must have:

  • Loving person. Jn. 13:34-35
  • Is Truthful. Mt. 5:37
  • Remains Jn. 15:1-17
  • Bears fruit. Jn. 15:8
  • Boldness Jn. 15:26-27
  • Detemination Mk.1:17-18
  • Promptness Mk. 1:16-20
  • Authority Mk.6:7
  • Humble Mk. 9:35
  • Peaceful Mt. 5:9

Footnotes:

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[2] IBID.

[3] Chris Byrley, “Discipleship,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[4] Walter A. Elwell and Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996).

[5] Manser, Martin H. Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser, 2009.