The Sovereign Call to Discipleship

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The shocking call of Jesus.

The way Jesus commenced his ministry was quite distinct from other teachers of his day. In fact it was remarkable that Jesus called others to follow him, and did not merely teach that they should be devoted to God. Studies from this period reveal to us that, “rabbis did not summon others to follow them. Instead, would-be disciples sought rabbis out and asked to serve as their disciples.”

But Jesus was different, he is the one who initiated the call, and further, he didn’t wait for a response. His call to be followed was effective. “He sovereignly and authoritatively called them to do so.” They dropped everything and followed him.

Other evidence from this period shows that disciples would typically study under a rabbi for a few years, graduate, and then attract their own students. Not so with Jesus, “disciples are called upon to follow Jesus literally and to leave their families.” Again, he doesn’t teach them that they should only follow God, “rather, he emphasizes the difficulty of following him and the cost of discipleship.”

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It’s often easy for modern day readers to be ignorant of the religious culture of Jesus’ day. This ignorance tends to flatten out much of the significance of what was actually going on in many of the events. A Jewish person would have been much more shocked at the actions of Jesus than we are. It’s easy to read past the significance of the details in the story. But it’s in these details that we see the uniqueness of the person of Jesus. Jesus acted the way he did because of his divine call. And within Jesus’ call for disciples to follow him instead of the ways of God lies the point that these details help reveal to us:

The deity of the Son. Jesus is God.

-all quotes taken from New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ by Thomas R. Schreiner

The Last Letter

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What would you include in your last letter?

If you were in Paul’s position, under house arrest in Rome, where we find him while writing a letter to Timothy at Ephesus, what would you have included in the letter to one that you considered a “son” in the faith?

I wonder, knowing the end was drawing near––as Paul did––and that this would mostly likely be the last letter to Timothy, if we would have written on the topics Paul chose to address? I think if we are honest and can look objectively at our lives, we will find that our priorities vastly differ from those of the early Christians. It would be sobering and convicting to read what we would write if in Paul’s situation. And if that were possible, would give us great insight into what have become our most cherished possessions priorities in this life.

It’s really hard to know what we would actually write, what our priorities would actually be, but we do know what Paul wrote and we can look to his example in this letter to Timothy to see what he considered his top priorities. Paul’s final word.

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  • do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord
  • share in suffering
  • follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me
  • what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men
  • share in suffering
  • endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain salvation
  • present yourself to God as one approved
  • rightly handle the word of truth
  • avoid irreverent babble
  • flee youthful passions
  • pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace
  • have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies
  • be kind to everyone
  • able to teach
  • patiently endure evil
  • preach the word
  • be ready in season and out of season
  • reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching
  • be sober-minded
  • endure suffering
  • do the work of an evangelist
  • fulfill your ministry

It’s quite an exhortation that Paul gives. Much of that list would probably be left out of my list. There doesn’t seem to be much about comfort there. In fact, Paul mentions to Timothy three times that he is to “share in” or “endure suffering.” This isn’t the picture that our western-minded Christianity has painted for us, is it? Far from it. We may unintentionally leave out much of what’s on this list, and I believe that’s because much of this list is left our of our preaching in this present generation. We don’t think on these aspects of the gospel anymore. We’ve forgotten.

And this is because we’ve begun to do what Paul warned Timothy of, “not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:2-3 ESV)

And because of this, the following is what we would probably include in our letters:

  • lovers of self
  • lovers of money
  • proud
  • arrogant
  • abusive
  • disobedient to their parents
  • ungrateful
  • unholy
  • heartless
  • unappeasable
  • slanderous
  • without self-control
  • brutal
  • not loving good
  • treacherous
  • reckless
  • swollen with conceit
  • lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
  • having the appearance of godliness

Brothers, let this not be so! Flee from these things! Let us keep our focus where Paul did, on the gospel of Jesus Christ:

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:8-14 ESV)