Introduction: Discipleship and Foundational Teachings
Jesus: the Pattern Life of Discipleship
In the last two sessions, we have discussed how our Lord Jesus was installed as the High Priest of the New Covenant. This was after He ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, as mentioned in the Book of Hebrews. He was sent to mankind, in the likeness of a man, to restore the way of Sonship. The Apostle John put it this way:
John 1:12-13 (NIV)
12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
This scripture states that those who truly receive Him, will eventually be changed or transformed to “be just like Him”. We, as His disciples, are to enjoy the life of the Holy Spirit, and will inherit all the blessings of the Father in Heavenly Places, which are none other than His household and His Kingdom. In this way also, the Kingdom of God will increase and it will ultimately subdue all things under the feet of Christ Jesus and then the Son will hand His Kingdom over to the Father, so that the Father can fill all in all. This is the perfection of all things into His wisdom, love, glory and order.
It was for this reason the Son was sent by the Father and, through His earthly life, He fulfilled His mission perfectly. This is why, on the cross, before He yielded His spirit to the Father, he said: “It is finished.” Even so, the work of the Father did not stop there, clearly the Son had it passed on to the disciples. He encouraged them saying “greater works will you do” in My name. Then He told them that He would be with them until the end of this age. These scriptures are often used to validate different beliefs or emphases in various ministries or understandings. However, the undergirding reality is clear and simple, and should be the same. That is that discipleship in the Household and the Kingdom of God, is the Work or Business of the Father. Even after His resurrection, the Lord was discipling others to continue the pattern and the work of His life.
Matt. 28:18-20 NIV
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We can therefore conclude, the disciples were sent out by the Lord and the primary purpose of their sending was and is discipleship. This is the very reason why they were called the sent ones, or apostles. We will continue this discussion later. Today let’s look at the pattern life of the Son and the way He went about the Work of the Father or the Business of the Father. In the next few sessions, we will look at the main principles of the apostolic ministry, in order to further build up a context for the topic of Genuine Discipleship.
We can see this pattern of life first through the creation of man. We have discussed this before in other writings. Please refer to one of Immanuel Sun’s writings: “From Image to Likeness”. If you want to do an in-depth study, please visit a series by a dear brother, Duane Stewart : “God’s Created Man”.
The essence of these writings are that: When God created man in His own image, He created him with a body, soul and spirit, which enabled him to fellowship with Him as a son would be taught and raised by his father. However, when man sinned, or missed this mark of God’s purpose and work, he was cast away from this kind of fellowship or relationship. He lost his birthright and inheritance, which was eternal life and the glory of God. So God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty of man’s sin in order to restore man back to His original plan and purpose for man. Paul wrote about this in His epistles:
Rom. 5:12-17 NIV
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
1 Cor. 15:45-49 NIV
45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
Before Christ came, darkness covered man’s mind, no one could fully unveil the mystery of God’s wisdom and glory. We can see this pictured in Genesis when the earth was without form or void and was in darkness, before light was created. The whole creation was buried in darkness and void (or formless), thus there was no life or order. God’s spirit was brooding over creation, yet there was nothing capable of comprehending or receiving the light, nor able to be endowed with the life of the Spirit of God, until man was created. In the same way, mankind has been locked in a state of spiritual darkness and void until the Spiritual Light of God, or the Word of God, was sent by the Father. Christ Jesus is the Light of God that dispels spiritual darkness and will eventually transform the natural creation into a spiritual creation.
Isa. 9:1-7 NIV
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Let’s look more closely at the statement: “For to us a child is born”. Here, “child” in Hebrew is “yeled”, derived from the verb “yalad ”. “Yalad” is translated as “born” here. The word actually means “beget, bare, bear, give birth, bring up, travail, mid-wife, etc”. So “yeled” should be understood to be: a young boy or a new born baby, which is what was in the act of being “born” or, in Hebrew, “yalad”. It also means the fruit of something, or the bearing of fruit.
Next we see: “To us a son is given”. First, let’s examine the word “given”. In Hebrew, it is “nathan”. It can mean many things, but in the context here it should be understood as “appoint, sent or grant”, as with a mission or an office. It also means suffering. “Son” in Hebrew is “ben”, which means a matured son, one who bears the family name. Actually it is often used in the context of the immediate offspring of someone, or a disciple of a teacher as a spiritual son or spiritual offspring. But the key meaning of this word is a title for an obedient son who is fully entrusted by his father. In other cases, “Ben often is used in this sense of a king’s relationship to God (i.e., he is God’s adopted son).” (Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (1:26). Nashville: T. Nelson.)
It would be a difficult task to explain every aspect of these words and their use in many diverse contexts and different meanings. Sometimes they are interchangeable. However, let’s look in the book of Hebrews so we can see the essence and context of the scripture in Isaiah.
Heb 5:5-10 NIV
5 So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”
6 And he says in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
The word “designated” here in the greek, is a translation of the Hebrew Word “given”. The significance and true meaning of this act, of the installment of the Son of God by His Heavenly Father, is often obscured. English translations render different words with their own connotations that can cause some confusion. The author of Hebrews quoted Psalm 2, where it is also talking about the Government or the Kingdom of Christ, the Messiah. The word “today” also needs to be properly understood. It actually denotes a very particular time, and that is when the Spirit and Body of Jesus ascended into Heaven. This is when the Father made a public declaration in the Heavenly Assembly and assigned the Son as the full representation of His Kingdom and His Work, which is the order of Melchizedek. Paul called it “the right time” or “the appointed time”. In becoming the Father to His Son, the authority and power of God was granted to the Son for the benefit of His people. Thus Jesus Christ has been, from that point on, more than our Great Apostle, but also our High Priest in the Heavenly Court, and the King of kings and Lord of lords, and as Peter would call Him, our Chief Shepherd.
But, what was declared to all creation? Isaiah foresaw it by the Spirit of God:
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In every way, the Son had become the equal or the perfect representation of His Father.
Now, let us come back to the verse above. We can now see, Jesus was born of a woman, but was raised up or taught (discipled or disciplined) by His Father to be of His wisdom and His heart. So the Son was able to endure all the trials and sufferings and fulfilled the Will of God in His life completely, or without missing anything, in this, He was sinless. When He had done so, the Father was pleased to honor Him. The Father then installed Him and gave Him the greatest reward, A Name above all other names and a title above all other titles.
Concerning this, Paul says in:
Col 1:15-23 NIV
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
How then did Jesus grow up and go from being a spiritual babe (yeled) to be a mature son (Ben) of God? He was taught by His Heavenly Father, a way of life that Adam had forfeited. The Son is meant to be a disciple of His Heavenly Father.
This should be common knowledge for most of us. So we will not spend much time on it here, because the main content of this series will be about these things. We will only mention some key scriptures to consider.
First, let’s turn to Jesus’ own words:
John 6:25-65 NIV
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
30 So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
In verse 45, Jesus quoted Isaiah 54:13, where Isaiah was speaking of what was mentioned by Jesus as the day of Noah (Matt. 24:36-40), which is not about a natural flood but a spiritual one. Also mentioned here is the City or the House of God, where the covenant of Peace by the Blood of Christ has sealed a holy people and they will taught by their Heavenly Father, just like the Son was, and they will also become sons of God. How are they to be taught? By partaking of the bread and the wine which comes from Heaven, even the Life of Christ Jesus on the table in the House of God. As mentioned before, this is the fellowship that the Apostle John tried to convince others not to forfeit. “Our fellowship (communion) is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3b)
Now, the Life Jesus offered to others is His teachings, those HE was taught by His Heavenly Father. Let’s look at this in His life:
According to the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus was just 12 years old, he went up to Jerusalem with his parents to celebrate the Feast of Passover. They found him staying behind in the temple, discussing things with the teachers. Look in:
Luk. 2:45-52 NIV
45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
This clearly reveals that Jesus as a boy was being taught by His Heavenly Father. This also means that His understanding and wisdom was still growing at the time. This may be quite a shock to some shallow religious thinking that tends to idolize the Lord as someone who was outside the experience of man. That kind of thinking will keep one ignorant of the way of the Father unto His sons. However, the reality that Jesus learned in this way is in line with what was prophesied in:
Isa 7:11-17 NIV
11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”
The curds and honey, or the milk and honey promised to the Israelites by God when He established them in the Promised Land were not merely natural provisions. They symbolize the precious food of God’s wisdom and righteousness. It is illuminating for us to see that it was God’s design for His Son, Jesus, to grow in knowledge and discernment, that is to know how to “reject the wrong and choose the right”. You see, the same Spirit, or Anointing, the Son had will also be our counselor and will teach us all things.
So the Son had to learn all wisdom and understanding, through the discipleship and or discipline of His Father. Let take a moment and think about a couple of points here:
- This pattern life of a son being taught by God is the Word of God made flesh. Remember, before Jesus was born, his father Joseph was told by the angel of the Lord that the above prophecy would be fulfilled through the child Mary would give birth to. (Matt 1:20-23) In essence, the fact that the Word become flesh is not only the act of birth of the Son of God by the seeding of the Holy Spirit, it also denotes a process for the child of God to mature and grow into the full stature as a son of God. Jesus was also taught by the Spirit of God, just like we are to be taught by Him. This is the pattern life He wanted others to partake of as the bread from Heaven.
- Reject what is wrong and choose what is right. Do not the fruits of sin and death come from the tree of the Knowledge of good and evil? Obviously what Jesus partook of was NOT the same kind of wisdom that led man astray. Rather, it is as He testified, the wisdom that comes down from Heaven. Let’ read in:
John 3:10-15 NIV
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
Now, this is the wisdom that enabled Jesus to exercise Godly discernment and render Godly justice, or to rule in His Kingdom.
Isa. 11:1-5 NIV
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
This is the wisdom imparted to Him by the counsel of the Father. Let’s look at few prophetic words by David about the Lord’s life. They also speak in this light. That, as a son of God, we too are to receive the Father’s counsel.
Psm 16:7-11 NIV
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psm 32:8-10 NIV
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.
And it is this counsel and wisdom that is passed on to us as disciples of Christ Jesus. That is why the author of Hebrews speaks of the necessity of training or practice before one can attain a mature spiritual mind as a son of God.
Heb 5:13-14 NIV
13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Jesus mentioned the same idea here:
Matt. 5:17-20 NIV
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
This sums up the pattern life of our Lord Jesus Christ as a disciple of His Heavenly Father. Next time we will talk about His ministry of discipleship, which is the “hidden plan” of God.
Let us pray:
Father in Heaven, thank you for the life of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We praise You that unto us the mystery of the ages is revealed and the seal of Your Word is opened. Continue to give us richness from Your table and enable us to grow into the full stature of Your Life. Teach us and empower us to be more than able to hear Your word, but also able to put them into practice and receive the fullness of their benefits. Give us understanding and endurance, so that we can wisely and faithfully follow the example of our Lord Jesus. In whose precious Name we pray. Amen.