Sometime ago, A. W. Tozer wrote, “that a notable heresy has come into being throughout evangelical Christian circles--the widely-accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need him as Savior and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to him as Lord as long as we want to!" (I Call It Heresy, Harrisburg, PA.: Christian Publications, 1974, p. 5f) He then went on to say "that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures."
Discipleship does matter. It matters for at least three reasons.
Sovereignty Commands It
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:1920a, NKJV)
The last words spoken by Jesus Christ just before He ascends into heaven are the marching orders for the church. These words seem so clear and undeniable. The mission of any local church is discipleship. There need not be a debate over why a local church exists or what its responsibilities are.
To disciple a person is to bring an individual in to a relationship of “pupil to teacher.” It was used to explain the process of “taking his yoke” of authoritative instruction, accepting what the teacher taught because he taught it, and submitting to announced requirements because the teacher requires them.
As the resurrected Lord, declared to be so by the resurrection, He directs his followers to make disciples of all people groups throughout the world by preaching and teaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. It is very foolish and a very egregious sin to disobey the Lord.
Sheepfold Expands (by) It
The body of Christ is sustained and expands by discipleship. The church is to grow by addition, not by attraction. Unfortunately, over the last 50 years or so the church has been playing largely with musical chairs. Churches have been grown by personalities, programs, and productions. Church hoppers have simply moved from one church to another as they are attracted by varying stimuli. The church, however, is to grow by having members added to have been as new converts are made.
As those new converts are made, they are taught, trained, and thrive as individuals who can reproduce themselves in others. We are told in Acts on four different occasions that people were added to the Lord or to the church, not attracted to the Lord or the church.
Sanctification Demands It
Discipleship implies more than what is understood by the word convert. It does go without saying that one must first become a convert prior to becoming a disciple. According to Howard Hendricksen, “…the term “make disciples” places somewhat more stress on the fact that the mind, as well as the heart and the will, must be won for God. A disciple is a pupil, a learner.” (Hendricksen, New Testament Commentary on Matthew, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973, p. 999)
Therefore, true discipleship takes the convert further in his or her Christian experience. We call this moving forward in one’s Christian experience sanctification. Truth must be learned and then practiced. Truth must be administered to and appropriated by one’s mind, heart, and will in order to remain in the truth. Our growth as healthy Christians depends upon biblical discipleship.