Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Most Christians know that they are responsible to make disciples. But many don’t know how to do that or know what the goal is in discipleship. The Apostle Paul gave us an example for the goal and strategy of discipleship. He wrote the Colossians saying:
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:28-29 ESV
Paul took seriously the great commission of Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey Jesus (Matt. 28:19-20). Finishing this mission was more important to Paul than his own life (Acts 20:24). In these verses we see Paul’s aim in discipleship and his strategy to achieve his target. His goal was to help people become mature Christians. And he sought to do that through the means of proclaiming Christ, warning and teaching others. Notice that Christ was the central message Paul proclaimed. Paul knew that it’s the good news of Jesus Christ that every non-Christian needs to hear to become a Christian. And he knew that Christian’s must continue to be saturated in and grounded in the gospel of Christ for spiritual maturity to be developed in their lives. And this would require much teaching, preaching and even warning. Spiritual leaders must not fail to give necessary warnings to God’s people and they must not cease proclaiming the gospel of Christ, teaching the way of Christ. Kent Hughes commenting on this passage wrote:
“Christ-focused exposition progressively matures God’s people as they learn to see Christ in all of Scripture and to understand that the gospel is as old as the garden. Moreover, because Christ is “wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30), Christ-focused exposition presents Him as the source and sustainer of spiritual maturity.”
So the goal in discipleship is maturity in Christ, which is synonymous with Christ-likeness. Every Christian is destined, or predestined rather, to be conformed into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). In following Jesus, that is what we are to aim for in our own lives and that is what we are to seek for those whom we disciple. We want to talk about Jesus, think like Jesus, speak like Jesus and live like Jesus so that the influence of Christ would be greater in the lives of those we disciple.
Paul toiled and struggled to help others become mature in Christ because spiritual maturity doesn’t occur automatically. Yet, Paul didn’t struggle and labor in his own strength. It was God’s energy that worked in him empowering him to do the ministry God called him to do. In verse 29 we see human responsibility and divine power working together. We have a significant part to play in making disciples, but know that God does the heavy lifting with his power working in us to will and do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
Paul gave the credit to God and His grace for the hard work that he did. This is the perspective and practice of spiritually mature Christians. Spiritually mature Christians realize their inability to produce fruit (John 15:5) and be effective in ministry apart from the grace of God. Spiritually mature Christians give God the credit for their success and fruitfulness in ministry rather than getting puffed up with pride. Spiritually mature Christians also seek to help others become mature by discipling them and praying for them. Paul was a spiritually mature Christian who struggled on behalf of other Christians so they might reach spiritual maturity (Colossians 1:29, 2:1). The spiritually immature are preoccupied with their own struggles and are not freed up to struggle for others.
So here we looked at the goal in discipleship being maturity in Christ and how to help others get there. Are you mature a Christian who is discipling someone else so that they can grow into Christlikeness?