Lesson 6 The School Of God In Discipleship

Making disciples means teaching others to observe all the Lord’s commands. Therefore discipleship supposes a learning process. The disciple as a learner first listens, then observes, then practices what he has learned. There is a pondering of the ways of the Master which are often mysterious. There are crisis experiences, testings, times of drawing near, and times of failure. The Lord’s disciples were often astonished at His doctrine (Matt. 13:54; Mark 10:26), at His ways (Mark 5:42; 6:2), at His skill (Mark 7:37). He told them many precious things repeatedly, and they failed to understand (John 8:43; Matt. 15:16). Despite His many miracles, they were slow to believe (Luke 24:25; Mark 16:14). As the people of the Old Testament did not know the ways of the Lord, nor regard them when instructed, so the disciples often did not understand His ways when they followed.

It is that we might know the ways of the Lord and prepare for eternal fellowship with Him that we are being trained now. When we have what one might call “the eternal perspective” on life, it helps us avoid too much emphasis on present circumstances, which may be difficult. The growth of character for eternity is evidently part of God’s purpose for our present lives.

The Teacher

God is the Great Teacher in His school, the master instructor who is the Beginning and End, the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega. No student ever had a better or wiser teacher. Who is able to instruct the Lord on any matter (1 Cor. 2:16)? The Lord’s examination of Job develops this question very well (Job 38). It must be a source of amazement to all the heavenly host that man, God’s sinful creature, should presume to argue with God and pretend to a higher wisdom than the One who has all-knowledge.

God was the Teacher of Israel by means of His servant Moses (Deut. 4:5). His providential dealings were evident with the patriarchs, and He often communicated with them by direct revelation, by dreams and by visions. The Psalmist cried out to be instructed in the ways of the Lord (Psa. 25:4,8-9,12; 27:11). It is the Word of God which is the instructional instrument of the Great Teacher (Psa. 119). Life is the classroom. The disciple is the learner. God is the Teacher (1 Thess. 4:9).

“Teacher” was a very common form of address to the Lord Jesus, using the ordinary word didaskalos. It was one of His greatest functions. Whether by the seashore, in the ship, on the mountain, before the crowds, or with the Twelve, He was the Teacher supreme. Also, He was often accorded the respectful title of rabbi, meaning “my master,” a term given to Jewish leaders then and now as a religious title. This more formal address was used in John 1:38; 3:2; 4:31; 9:2; 11:8, by His disciples, and still retained by the traitor, Judas, until the end (Matt. 26:25; 26:49).

The most respectful title of all was rabboni, “my great master,” usually applied to the president of the ruling council (Sanhedrin), if he was a descendant of the revered Hillel. This was accorded our Lord by blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47-51) and Mary Magdalene (John 20:16). It should cause us to pause and reflect that a one-time demon-possessed woman and a blind man are the only two persons to give the Lord Jesus the supreme title of respect as a teacher. The supreme teacher has always been the Lord Himself, who invited all, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me!” (Matt. 11:29).

The Subjects

One often hears this statement: “I know that God is trying to teach me something, but I don’t know what it is.” As with any course of study, it behooves us to know the subjects we are taking. What is the Great Teacher seeking to convey to us?

1. About Himself. The chief subject of theology is God Himself. He complained that even the ox and ass knew their owners, but the nation of Israel did not know their God (Isa. 1:3). Well along in his ministry, the Apostle Paul still had for his goal, “that I might know Him” (Phil. 3:10). The greatest glory of any man is his knowledge of God (Jer. 9:24). He teaches us the fear of the Lord (Psa. 45:4), the ways of the Lord (Psa. 51:13), the Word of the Lord (Psa. 119:12,26,64,68) and the need to do His will (Psa. 143:10). We need to know the meaning of having a Master who has all-power, all-knowledge, all-presence; One who is perfectly holy, just, righteous, true, faithful, sufficient, loving and gracious; One who is infinite, self-existent, sovereign and beyond total comprehension. The chief purpose of Bible study is to know God. Every day we should make it our aim to know more of Him, experiential knowledge included.

2. About The Centrality Of Jesus Christ. It has pleased God to reveal Himself in all fullness in the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 1:19; 2:9). He has given Him a name which is above every name, so that every knee must bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). He has given all judgment into His hands (John 5:22). In all things Christ must have the preeminence (Col. 1:18). He is Lord over all, central in time and eternity and is to be central in the lives of those who have discovered that they are complete in Him (Col. 2:10). “Christ is our life” (Col. 3:4). He has saved us, not to find satisfaction in seeking personal fulfillment, but to glorify Him. That is the purpose of our creation. Eternity will unfold in the great job of knowing more and more every day about the inexhaustible riches of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are learning this now when we make Him the central person in our lives.

3. About Ourselves. We need to realize the tremendous value that God has placed on us. We are made in His image in the moral and spiritual realm (Gen. 1:27; 5:1; 9:6). He cries out to us, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). He so loved us that He gave His well-beloved Son for us (John 3:16). The Son has mightily loved us and sacrificed Himself for us (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:4; 5:2), going even unto the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:7-8). One soul is worth the precious blood of the Lamb of God. That makes us of infinite value as persons.

When it comes to our flesh, our nature which has been corrupted by sin, our self-will, then this is a different lesson. We are not to put “confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3), nor rely upon self in any way (2 Cor. 1:9). “All flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of grass” (1 Pet. 1:24). The Psalmist pleads for God to help him in knowing how frail he is, how fleeting life is (Psa. 39:4). “The flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63). It is said to those who are weak, sinful and faulty, “They whom are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). How important for man to learn to rely upon God, not upon self! To lean upon Him, not unto his own understanding (Prov. 3:5).

We are destined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). All that comprises His character is to be implanted into our lives. We want to observe His attitudes, sense His priorities, imitate His relationships with others and give attention to people and their needs as He did. We want to adopt His principles of thought and action, His responses to situations and His way of speaking. We want to grow in love, the most emphasized of all Christian virtues. We need to be concerned about obedience, lowliness, faith, zeal, patience, kindness and holiness. True character is being Christ-like. We want to add to our faith every virtue commanded of God (2 Pet. 1:5-7).

The Purpose

The child of God is training for eternity, not for time. He thought about us in eternity past, choosing us in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). He predestined us to the adoption of children and heirs of God (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:17). He makes us an object lesson of His grace and manifold wisdom unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:10).

God has an eternal plan for us. We are now involved in building “the house of life” in the light of our eternal future (1 Cor. 3:11-15). Our future responsibilities correspond to our present stewardship (Luke 19:17-19). We are being prepared to judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3). We shall be worshipping forever in the very presence of the Eternal God (Rev. 5:7-14). Therefore, the purpose of the School of God is to prepare us for eternity.

God’s “thoughts which are to us-ward, they cannot be reckoned up in order… they are more than can be numbered” (Psa. 40:5). His voice speaks to us, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isa. 30:21). “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psa. 37:23). God has a plan for our lives, and it is glorious to seek and to live out the details of that plan.

The Discipline

1. Experiential. Learning must go beyond increasing information. Certain lessons cannot be learned merely from reading books, even the Bible. There are those things which must be learned, in a human sense, by experience. “Experience” is not used here in the sense of subjective feeling but in the context of “living through an event or events.” The Hebrew word paideia is translated chastening or instruction in our language. It is from the root meaning “child” and refers to child-training but is also used in the instruction of a disciple (Acts 22:3; 7:22). Hebrew children of an earlier day were trained in the Scriptures, in desirable moral or intellectual qualities and in behavior. At times, this involved physical discipline with a “rod” (Prov. 22:15; 23:13-14). It is interesting that the same word translated “chastise” is used in the physical sense of our Lord’s afflictions (Luke 23:16,22) and in a figurative way of God’s discipline of the believer (Heb. 12:5-11).

Strict discipline is a part of our training by God, and is largely taught in the classroom of life. Experience must never be used to override truth taught in Scripture. However, it can illustrate and make practical what Scripture teaches.

2. Corrective. This word for corrective training is translated “teach” or “instruct” in Titus 2:12-13,1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:25 and 3:16, referring to necessary discipline. In this last passage this word is translated “instruction in righteousness” and might also be rendered “discipline in righteousness.” The chastening or discipline is a sign of the Lord’s love and concern for our growth as sons (Heb. 12:6-7). There is emphasis on the necessity of right attitude toward this discipline if it is to be profitable. This is conveyed by showing the necessity of discipline. The result of this training is that “it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11 NIV). We must be receptive. Those who refuse instruction are not seen in a favorable light in Scripture (Psa. 50:17; Prov. 1:7; 5:12; 13:1). They are like mules, noted for their stubbornness (Psa. 32:9). The patience of God with such is emphasized in Jeremiah 32:33 and 35:13, but in Isaiah 50:4-7 there is a portrait of the coming Messiah as a true disciple, prepared above all to truly obey God. “The Lord God has opened my ears and I was not disobedient, nor did I turn back.”

That attitude is the beginning requirement for spiritual learning. You want to obey God. You want to learn for this purpose, not for mere academic inquiry or personal adornment. For this reason, not many professed believers are good learners. Moreover, not many Bible teachers are good instructors from God’s perspective. Add to this that the Lord Jesus counsels would-be disciples this way: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29). When you have no wish to accept a yoke and no sense of need for humility before God or man, then you will not be a spiritual learner.

Much teaching has been too complex for the simple minds of ordinary people. Simplicity of expression, even in the most profound truths, was the mark of the Master Teacher. That is one reason why “the common people heard Him gladly.” They understood Him, at least in some measure, unlike the teaching of the more learned Rabbis. Those who fancy themselves as learned men often write and speak for the approval of their peers, not to help the common man know God. How does God speak to the unlearned? “Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there,” He says (Isa. 28:10). The Lord Jesus withheld certain teaching at times, in consideration of the listeners’ capacity. “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). If some seem “dull of hearing,” the Lord may give the milk of the Word when He would prefer to provide more solid food (Heb. 5:11-14).

The problem of absorbing, applying and living according to godly principles might be explained by these observations:

a) Said is not always heard.

b) Heard is not always understood.

c) Understood is not always agreed.

d) Agreed is not always done.

e) Done is not always continued.

The Word of God is the Spirit’s principal tool in producing spiritual transformation in believers. Yet it is evident that a typical believer listens to messages with little or no intention of singling out truths and personally applying them. He is a listener, not a learner, and he is not trying to listen to God. The practice continues in personal reading of the Scriptures. A small minority have achieved consistent fruit from devotional times in the Word, when God’s voice is clearly and accurately heard. Most “see print” when they read the Scriptures, as someone has said. They absorb information and facts. They agree with well-known truths. They review the familiar. They do their duty by reading the Bible and then close it, untouched spiritually. Nothing has truly been learned that will make any difference in their lives today. They didn’t really expect that to happen and it did not happen. Perhaps no one helped them learn how to develop this ability. Certainly, an effective spiritual helper would make sure this practice was happening daily. There are five major actions in the learning process.

How We Learn in God’s School

1. By Listening. This must be done with a view to taking heed. The Lord Jesus often said, “Let these sayings sink down into your ears.” Or again, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.” He complained when their ears were “dull of hearing” (Matt. 13:15). If we do not carefully listen to the Word of God or hear the Word when we ponder it in writing, then we learn very little. Those who have “ears that hear not” are condemned to their own ignorance (Psa. 115:6; 135:17) and will be given a judicial deadening (Isa. 6:10) for refusing to listen.

2. By Observing. The disciples were constantly watching the Lord. It was on the occasion of observing Him in the practice of prayer that they asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). The example of the Lord Jesus was their model and it is ours (1 John 2:6). it is always well in the most trying of circumstances to ask ourselves, “What would He do?” We will know what He would do by taking note of what He did in some parallel situation. That is why we should get up in the morning to pray for our enemies. This is why we must live a life of dependency upon Him and cultivate simplicity of life. That is why we must proclaim the Name of the Lord to others. Refusal to heed His example as applicable to our own lives is refusal to learn.

3. By Meditating. We have largely lost the art of reflection today. The constant assault of activities, television, radio, music, mindless rattling and plain noise have robbed the believer of time apart to think upon the Lord. It was while the Psalmist mused that the “fire burned” (Psa. 39:3). Learning comes not from mere reading or observation. We must take time to evaluate or sort out. When we evaluate, we begin to enter into experiences like recognition, understanding and perception. We bring together divergent things into a whole (synthesis). We enter into problem-solving which is a form of advanced perception. We are called by God to meditate in order to learn as disciples (Josh. 1:8; Psa. 1:2; 63:6; 77:12). The one who neglects reflection will dismiss from his mind the most profound of lessons or drown them out by ceaseless activity and social interchange.

4. By Doing. True learning involves a commitment to what we have learned. God is not educating us to merely observe or critique. Doctrine is to be applied to practice. That is the typical order of the epistles of Paul. The Lord practiced all He taught (Acts 1:1). He has called us to do the same. Those who are hearers of the Word and not doers are condemned by that Word {Jas. 1:22). It is self-deception. Teaching without accompanying practical training is contrary to the divine example. Making disciples involves practical training as well as head knowledge.

The School of God, under the Master Teacher, will therefore involve the disciples in hearing the Word of God, in observing the example of the Lord Jesus, and that of godly leaders and mature Christians who are proper models. Reflection will come by spending time in reviewing the lessons which come daily. Good teaching requires repetition. It is evident that this is not without limit. The disciple should cultivate a teachable spirit (Prov. 4:13; 8:33; 23:23). The learner obeys the voice of his teachers and inclines his ear to those who instruct him (Prov. 5:1). How much more should the disciple heed the Great Teacher!

5. By Instruction. What might the Lord be teaching us experientially? He may be expected to expose us to the great truths of the Word of God because of their effect in our lives. We should not expect lessons that are contrary to the Word of God. God will not cause us to neglect His Word while teaching us experientially. We must learn the ways of God (Matt. 22:16; Luke 20:21). We must learn all that Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:20). God will seek to implant the virtues of our Lord Jesus into our inner being. He will teach us how to love (1 Thess. 4:9). It is the preeminent Christian virtue (1 Cor. 13:13). He will teach us obedience (1 Sam. 15:22). How otherwise could we honor Him or instruct others? He will teach us faith, for without it we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). He will teach us hope, for it rests upon the promises of God (Rom. 8:20-25). He will teach us godliness (1 Tim. 6:2-3) for we are to be in His likeness. He will teach us zeal, because this challenges others and imitates our Savior (2 Cor. 9:2; John 2:17). He will teach us dependency on God’s sufficiency during our greatest needs (2 Cor. 12:9). He will show us a need for an end to self-will and death to self, for “except a corn of wheat falls into the ground and die, it abideth alone” (John 12:24). He will bring us to the cross and bid us take it to follow Him (Luke 9:23; Mark 10:21; Matt. 10:38). He will teach us that humiliation precedes glorification in God’s order (Phil. 2:5-9). He will show us that the earthen vessel must first be broken before it gives forth light (Judg. 7:20). The alabaster vial must be broken before it releases its costly perfume (Mark 14:3). It is the way of the cross.

Conclusion

What is the central purpose of this lesson? It is to give us a larger perspective about experiences in life from the viewpoint of God’s eternal purposes. We need to enlarge our vision beyond our present circumstances. If we are being conformed to the image of Christ, then character formation is very important in what happens. The lessons of some believers may differ from others, depending on what each needs to learn, what changes need to be achieved. God gives us comfort and encouragement at times, teaching us of His great love and compassion.

The Holy Spirit is called the helper. We need to know God continually wants to help us. The Lord Jesus is the Great High Priest who continually intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25). We often need to discover afresh that His grace is sufficient for us even when we feel weak or afflicted. The Apostle Paul wrote that he could pleasure in infirmities (2 Cor. 12:9-10). He sensed there was the opportunity for the development of patience, trust and the ability to comfort others (Jas. 1:2-4; 2 Cor. 1:3-6).

Lesson 6 The School Of God In Discipleship

1. An oft-given explanation to believers in distress is that “it’s just the will of God” or “sovereignty of God” meaning His right as supreme being to do as He sees fit. Read Romans 8:28-29 and write briefly how you might use this passage to help someone better understand and accept some difficulty.

2. How have you seen God working in your life that was instructive to you? How did this relate to your learning and character?

3. In what way do you rely upon the Word of God for direction in your life? How do you achieve this?

4. What are the major purposes of God’s instruction and dealing in your life experiences, as you interpret them?

5. What in your estimation makes you a good student in God’s School? Or what has made you a poor one? Consider the comparison given in Hebrews 5:12-14 in this connection. Why the differing growth rate? Consider the motivation of love for Christ or the depth of your faith.

6. What could you do to be a better student in the School of God? What major truth do you intend to apply to your life as a result of this lesson?