Is every believer a disciple? Is being a disciple the same as being a saved believer? Is being a disciple of Christ a requirement of Salvation?
There is a mass confusion in the Christian community over these very questions. Believing that discipleship is a requirement of Salvation is called Discipleship Salvation or Lordship Salvation. It is such an important issue to settle in your belief as it is rampant false teaching and is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am addressing this head on by the Word of God to help you understand this deceptive teaching, as a believer, and for you to see the truth by proper context which matters greatly when seeking to understand Scriptures.
In John 8, we read this verse, which if read without the context, seems to show that a ‘true believer’ must be a disciple.
“…If ye continue in my word, THEN are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”(John 8:31-32 KJV)
The problem with isolating this one verse out of John 8 and making it a foundational doctrine and requirement of Salvation is simple. It is not what Jesus is teaching in John 8 if you read and see the context.
Jesus just saved a woman caught in adultery and thwarted an effort by the Pharisee religious leaders to discredit Jesus in His teachings (John 8:6). Teaching which these Pharisee leaders worried would diminish their power.
A discussion began that became very heated between these Pharisees and Jesus. We see this attempt to discredit Jesus as the Messiah start when Jesus makes a statement of rebuke to the Pharisees.
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I AM the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record IS NOT TRUE.” (John 8: 12-13 KJV)
Then Jesus responds with great authority basically telling them if they do not believe He is the Messiah that they will die in their sins (verse 24). Jesus told them He is the Messiah that Abraham looked forward to in faith for Salvation. He is the Messiah sent by the Father in verse 58. And they set their minds to stone Him to death.
In the midst of all this back and forth arguing, many watching Jesus’ responses to the Pharisees verbal attacks had believed on Jesus.
“As he spake these words, many BELIEVED ON HIM. Then said Jesus to those Jews WHICH BELIEVED ON HIM, If ye CONTINUE IN MY WORD, THEN ARE YE MY DISCIPLES indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and THE TRUTH shall MAKE YOU FREE.”
Do you hear echoes of Jesus earlier telling Nicodemus how to be saved in John 3?
“He that BELIEVETH ON HIM is not condemned: but he that BELIEVIETH NOT is condemned ALREADY, because he hath NOT BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18 KJV)
Yes. These are believers Jesus is speaking to now. While being confronted with the claims of the Pharisees, Jesus tells the believers listening to all this confrontation to continue in His word because the knowledge of the truth of the Gospel is the only thing that can set them free. Free from what? Free from their sin debt. The Pharisees then begin refuting Jesus claim to the believers in the crowd,
“They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be MADE FREE? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the SERVANT OF SIN.”
All are servants of sin unless they believe on Christ. He would soon be ushering in the New Covenant by becoming the ONCE FOR ALL sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10) for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2) as the Messiah that He claimed to be. He is encouraging the believers to be disciples in light of His claim of being the Messiah, God in the flesh.
Jesus continues addressing the crowd listening to this confrontational argument with the Pharisees stating,
“And THE SERVANT AABIDETH NOT in the house for ever: BUT THE SON ABIDETH EVER. If the Son therefore shall MAKE YOU FREE, YE SHALL BE FREE INDEED. “
We are free from our sin debt only through the narrow gate; Belief on Jesus the Christ, shedding His blood (John 3:14-18) and paying for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), died and rising from the dead which had not yet happened to Jesus but soon would.
We see here that Salvation hinges on BELIEF ON CHRIST as the prophesied Messiah that was to come; the only begotten Son of God who is God in the flesh by definition as Messiah.
The other point we learn in this passage is that being a believer does not mean being a disciple. They are not the same. A believer can and should be a disciple, but it is not a requirement of Salvation. Jesus was addressing the BELIEVERS. They are SAVED, DEEMED HOLY, RIGHTEOUS and REDEEMED and are NOT CONDEMNED by their belief on Christ. They are not saved by being disciples.
The word ‘disciple’ is the Greek word ‘mathētēs‘ and is defined in Greek
as ‘a learner, a pupil‘. A person is saved by faith and belief alone in Christ and what He accomplished for us on the cross. Apostle Paul wrote,
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV)
This belief on Christ is what saves a person. From this very moment of belief on Christ alone to save a person from their sin debt against God, a person is SEALED and the Holy Spirit indwells the believer (Ephesians 1:13-14). Salvation is not by works but belief on Christ alone.(Ephesians 2:8-9)
Discipleship on the other hand, includes working for the Lord and putting Him first in everything. Studying the Word of God to learn more and more about the knowledge of the truth in Christ. And then helping others understand. It is continuing on in the faith to becoming mature in the faith. Some believers get saved, and are saved by belief on Christ, yet stay babies on milk when they could be maturing to more knowledge in Christ.
If discipleship is a person surrending and working for the Lord, it can not be that being a disciple is required for Salvation because salvation is not of ourselves nor our works. Instead, Salvation is a GIFT to be received.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that NOT of yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: NOT of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS UNTO good works, which God hath before ordained that we SHOULD walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 KJV)
So a disciple and a believer in salvation are not defined as the same thing. A believer can and SHOULD BE a disciple. But the word ‘disciple’ and ‘believer in salvation’ are not defined as the same and being a disciple is not a REQUIREMENT of Salvation.
Lordship Salvation is the same as Discipleship Salvation. It is basically saying all believers MUST BE disciples and that we need to work to keep our salvation, or we were never saved in the first place. It is basically a disquised ‘works for salvation’ false gospel. That is not what is found in Scripture in proper context from what I see. And verses that believers in Lordship Salvation use are usually about our walk AS SAVED BELIEVERS and not about how to remain saved.
We read in Colossians 2 that when Christ died on the cross, we were made a ew creation called THE SPIRIT. When Christ was buried, so were we. When Christ rose, so did we IN NEWNESS OF LIFE. How is that possible? Because we are IN CHRIST. To God, Jesus sacrifice was completely and utterly sufficient. And so He took us as servants of sin, where He went in saving us. He nailed ALL our life of sins to that cross and said, IT IS FINISHED. And in the Greek that was penned it is an accounting term meaning, DEBT PAID IN FULL. Christ BECAME OUR SIN and paid for it all and now we are COMPLETE IN HIM.
“10 And YE ARE COMPLETE IN HIM, which is the head of all principality and power:
11 In whom also YE ARE CIRCUMCISED with the circumcision made WITHOUT HANDS, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh BY THE CIRCUMCISION OF CHRIST:
12 BURIED WITH HIM in baptism, wherein also YE ARE RISEN WITH HIM through THE FAITH OF the operation OF GOD, who hath raised him from the dead.
13 And you, BEING DEAD in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together WITH HIM, having FORGIVEN YOU ALL TRESPASSES;
14 BLOTTING OUT the handwriting of ordinances that WAS against us, which WAS contrary to us, and TOOK IT OUT OF THE WAY, NAILING IT TO HIS CROSS;” (Colossians 2: 8-14 KJV)
In Hebrews 7 we read this,
“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this HE DID ONCE, when he offered up himself.” (Hebrews 7:26-27 KJV)
Yes, Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Yes we strive to please Him in great gratitude and respect with our lives. We allow Him to work through us. We are to do good works after Salvation. Christ lives IN every believer. Yet, the fact is that our new Spirit resides in this corrupt Flesh until our bodily resurrection and we cannot FULLY surrender and not sin as if we are perfect and whole yet, though we strive to do so. Apostle Paul struggled as well as seen in Romans 7. So do all believers.
And when you think about it, Jesus is Lord regardless if we surrender to Him fully (or not) right? Salvation is not kept by our works and I cannot find any Scripture that Salvation hinges on being a disciple. What I do find in the Bible is that Salvation hinges on BELIEF ON CHRIST ALONE. (John 3:18, 1 Cor. 15:1-4. )