disciple (Greek)
a learner (from a root math, indicating thought accompanied by endeavor or discipline); In contrast to didaskalos, a teacher; hence it denotes one who follows or conforms to another’s teaching.
disciple (Greek)
  1. a learner i.e. pupil;
  2. one who follows another’s teaching;
  3. more than a pupil, also an adherent to the teaching and life of the teacher, hence spoken of as imitators.
Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

We have a lot of ground to cover, today. I will not be spoon-feeding in this lesson. You'll have to work your brain a little to keep in the groove. To get the greatest benefit, you will need to draw on material already covered.

In this series, we are attempting to find out what the Scriptures teach concerning the purpose, structure and function of a local church. We quickly found that the Bible does not spell out any exact structure or detailed program through which the local church is to function. Instead, we found principles of conduct and attitude. These principles are to be operative in the lives of those who are members of the local body of Believers. The function and structure of the local church is for the purpose of making disciples. The local church is to be engaged in making disciples who practice the third stage of the definition of a disciple, that of being like, or being an imitator of Christ.

The purpose of the church is quite clear. The function and structure of the church should only facilitate the purpose. As we saw in the last lesson, to achieve the purpose, there are many incremental steps or goals that need to be achieved in that process.

Through our studies, we have looked at many of those incremental goals that work together to bring us to the ultimate goal, the purpose. Paul uses several illustrations to help our understanding of this process of achieving goals as we reach for the purpose.

The purpose of the local church is or should be the same as God's purpose for every Believer. The only difference in the purpose of the individual Believer and the local church is that the individual Believer is striving to be like Christ, while the organized church is striving to provide the needed physical environment, teaching, fellowship, service, etc. to help the Believers achieve that Christ likeness.

The Holy Spirit, through the writers of the New Testament, has illustrated this process of achieving the purpose while moving from one goal to another by such terms as:

Each of these illustrations help us understand one aspect of this spiritual pilgrimage through a very sinful environment, to the ultimate state of being holy like Christ in eternity. Between the point of accepting Christ as our personal Savior, and the ultimate goal of being like Christ in eternity, there is a process, we have termed as discipleship, in which we learn to be imitators of Christ while on earth and still in this physical body. This imitation is not to be a false replica in which the Believer tries to look like Christ, perform the tasks that Christ did, dress like Christ, etc. Instead, we are to imitate Christ in His attitude, have the mind of Christ, and in His outward demonstration of His inward holiness, be holy, for He is holy, and be holy in our conduct.

To accomplish that humanly impossible task of being an imitator of Christ, God, in His grace, has provided many means by which Believers can move from an inner state of being carnally minded to the inner state of being spiritually minded. During this transformation of mind, Believers become a conduit or channel through which the Holy Spirit can demonstrate the holiness of God to the world around them.

The Believer is a conduit or channel at all times, either for spiritual evidences or carnal evidences. The outward evidence will be determined by whether the Holy Spirit, or self is in control of the inner man or the soul. If the Believer is carnally minded, the external evidences will be carnal. If the Believer is Spiritually minded, the external evidence will be Spiritual

This was the teaching of Christ, as well as all of the New Testament writers. Our outward actions are a demonstration of the spiritual condition of our inner soul.

Matthew 15:18-20 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."
James 3:8-15 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring can yield both salt water and fresh. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.

We can make excuses for outward behavior. We can identify bad behavior by a nice dignified term. We can blame someone else for our behavior. We can claim our rights as the reason for our bad behavior. But no matter how many verbal back-flips we do, outward behavior is an evidence of the inner spiritual condition.

The freedom we received in Christ, through Salvation, is not a freedom so we can do that which is wrong! But the freedom in Christ is a freedom from being a slave of those things which are wrong. In addition, that freedom in Christ released us from a code of rules and regulation designed to keep or restrain a person from doing wrong.

The freedom in Christ gives us the inner power to do that which is right. There was no such power in the rules and regulations of the Mosaic Law. There you find only commands to do and not to do, and a prescribed punishment when a person does not do as commanded.

The Mosaic Code or the Law, to which it is often referred, was an physical example of what is expected of mankind, if they were living righteously. However, the Law did not give, to the hearer of the Law, the right or the power to keep the commands of the Law. The Law only stated what must be done, and the penalty for not complying to its commands.

When the Law was given, mankind was already under the bondage to Sin. With the giving of the Law, mankind was also placed under the bondage of trying to do that which they couldn't do. No, this was not sadistic of God! With the Law, God gave provision so that the offender did not have to receive the penalty. Instead, the penalty was taken by another.

By means of the Law and the complete Mosaic Code, there is a beautiful picture of God's provision that was to come in Christ. The Mosaic Code illustrates both God's provision for salvation from sin, and God's provision for the redeemed sinner to live a holy life in a sinful world. Even though the Old Testament Saints could not keep the Law, they were to live by faith in the promises pointed to by the Law, and many did, as we see in Hebrews 11. Without this elaborate picture in the Law and/or the Mosaic Code, it would be difficult to understand why and how God could make provision for Salvation and holy living by a sinner.

In Christ, we are freed from the bondage of rules and regulations that were powerless to make the keeper of those rules holy. In Christ, we received the power to break free from the bondage of sinning, and received the power of creation, the very power of God to become like Christ in mind and conduct.

To be like Christ in mind and conduct should be the aim of every Believer. Instead, many use the Christian life as an excuse to live as much like the world as they can! In Christ, we were set free from the power of sin, and we received the power of God to be holy, but even in salvation, we are not forced to be like Christ in this human life. After death and/or the Rapture, all believers will become like Christ.

Romans 8:28-29 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

As a Believers, we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. However, as seen in the context of this passage, that will not happen until after the Rapture. As a matter of fact, this will take place after the Rapture at an event called The Redemption of the Body, or the Adoption. In light of that fact, John tells us that any Believer who truly has this hope in him will, in their lifetime, be involved in the purification process we have called discipleship.

1 John 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

That sounds a lot like the passage in:

1 Peter 1:15-16 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

Over 160 times in the Bible, we are told to be holy, and many, many more times we are commanded to live in holiness by one term or another. Between the time of salvation and the rapture, the Believer can and should become more and more like Christ in this earthly life. This transaction, or literally transformation is a process that requires the same power of God as Salvation, and the same faith on the part of the Believer as Salvation.

This faith for Christian living, or discipleship
is directed towards other promises of the Word of God,
but the promises for living above sin
are just as real as the promises for salvation from sin.

We can't take the time to explore the Scriptures that bring out these truths. We have studied many of them in times past. However, we need to be reminded often that the sinner is saved by faith, and the Believer is to live by faith. That is the message of Romans and the other epistles.

The same power that raised Christ from the dead, is at work in our hearts to make us like Christ. The same faith in God and His Word that makes it possible for a sinner to be saved, also makes it possible for a Believer to become a disciple of Christ in holiness.

This freedom we have in Christ, to be set free from the power of sin and live unto righteousness, is a process that involves many aspects. For our study convenience, we have lumped all of these aspects under the term of discipleship. It is this process of discipleship or becoming like Christ that we are examining in these current studies. We have looked at many aspects of the process of discipleship, already. Too many to review at this time, if we are to present yet another aspect.

All aspects of discipleship have a direct affect on the Believer, and the programming and function of the local church. One aspect of that process is not more important than another. However, some aspects are more prominent in the development of church policy and programming than others. This next aspect is certainly one of those prominent factors that's needed to have a successful church program designed to make disciples. As with any other aspect of discipleship, the accomplishment of this aspect must be of God, for it is impossible by human means. As with all other aspects of discipleship, the Believer is to do some things, and not do others, in order to allow God to use the Believer as a channel through which God can accomplish this spiritual task.


The subject of unity is so prevalent and extensive in the Scriptures that it would be impossible even to read all the passages that deal with Biblical unity in one lesson. I will try to give you a representative sampling of those passages, and applications of this great truth to discipleship. It will take several lessons just to take a reasonable look the subject of unity. We will not cover this subject in one continuous series of lessons, but we will weave it into other related subjects. When we have a fair understanding of Biblical unity, it will also help in the understanding of many of the policies of MBF.

Many of the passages dealing with this subject are so long that we can't print the entire passage at one time. Therefore, you may want to follow along in your own Bible. I know, that takes a great deal of thumb and finger exertion. Well, as they say, "You'll just have to deal with it!"

Ephesians 4:11-13 And He [Christ] Himself gave [to the church] some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

Don't go to sleep on me now. I know you have this passage memorized and know everything that's in it. Humor me a little, and pretend that you don't know everything about this passage, and act like you are learning something.

Notice the structure. It is important! The structure of this passage is classic Paul. In vv.11-13, the Holy Spirit gives the reasons God gave the gifted men to the church. In this passage, you will see a single purpose to be accomplished by three plus incremental goals. I hope you remember the last lesson. Sometimes we are organized enough to teach some things ahead of time so we can understand others yet to come.

These gifted ones are...

This equipping accomplishes two other goals:

These three goals will bring about the main twofold purpose:

This twofold purpose is only one in essence.
You can't have the first without the second, and likewise you can't have the second without the first.

When each member is properly equipped, doing the work of the ministry, and edifying the Body, then there is unity and discipleship. When the local body of Believers allows those factors to be a reality and in harmony, then there are a number of things that take place within that body of Believers that are fantastic and literally out of this world. The results of this equipping, doing the ministry, edification of the body, unity and discipleship are seen in the following verses and introduced by that all important that.

Ephesians 4:14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

The local body of Believers is to be properly equipped, doing the work of the ministry, each edifying the whole body, in unity and personally growing to the measure and fullness of the stature of Christ. Folks, that's our job! This job description was prepared by God, not the staff of MBF.

This sequence is needed so that those jumping from one religious teaching, to another teaching, to another will grow from being immature unstable infants in Christ, into mature disciples who have grown up in all things into Christ.

It is amazing, even tragic to watch Christians. A religious new book will hit the market, sometimes even religious fiction. The new book will present some new thought, and Believers will flock to the book and accept that new thought without ever checking it out with the entire Word of God. That fad will finally blow over, and the same group will run pell-mell after the next new book with a new thought. This is even true of many pastors.

That type of action is a demonstration of spiritual immaturity. Christians, of that mind set, will never grow-up to be like Christ, because the little Biblical information they are receiving, draws them away from Christ, instead of to Christ. Those winds of doctrine cannot produce that which is needed for spiritual growth. Spiritual growth or discipleship is based on the truth of the totality of the Word of God, not the trickery of men and cunning craftiness by which they deceive. We don't have time to take this passage apart piece by piece, but if we did, you would see that unless a Believer is following the pattern laid down here, that Believer will always be whipped about by every wind of doctrine that comes along. That is no way to live the Christian life.

I have deliberately stayed away from looking at the Greek definitions in this passage. There are many Greek words in the passage of such a nature that it would take most of a session on each word. Someday, when things slow down after Christmas, that would be a good thing to do. That's a little staff joke. Things don't really slow down after Christmas. Therefore, we may never take a word for word study of this passage.

However, there is one word phrase we must look at. It is the phrase in v.16 of joined and knit together, which is one word in the Greek.

joined and knit together (Greek)
to frame together with close fitting joints suitable for strength or vigorous service, such as a chariot; to organize compactly and exactly

That's a good starting point to see the picture of Biblical unity, or being of one mind. It is not that everyone thinks the same things, but instead each is joined together in such a way that it provides both strength, and the ability serve actively and properly.

This Biblical unity or being joined and knit together is not some static thing in which we all, with faces raised to heaven, repeat the same code or move and look alike, perish the thought. Instead, this is a unity from diversity. This is Divine unity. Each one who is joined and knit together is different and performs different functions. Biblical unity is when each different part does its different task because they have been organized compactly and exactly. When this takes place, the whole body of these different member moves forward as one, with one purpose. That's Biblical unity.

Certainly the chariot, as referred to in the definition, is a good example of the Greek definition of this phrase. When our grandsons were here, I sat and watched the movie Ben-hur with them. Ben-hur is fiction set in the time of Christ, and there is a fantastic chariot race in the movie. Not some car race with explosions, and buildings falling down everywhere, but an exciting race of good horse flesh and stamina of real men, almost. The Greek and Roman chariots were workmanship of excellence, but even the Roman chariots fail to convey the full meaning of Biblical unity.

Remember, the Holy Spirit often takes a human word, and gives it spiritual meaning beyond the definition of the word, itself. The context will reveal any expanded spiritual meaning. When the Holy Spirit uses a word and expands or enhances its meaning, He never does injustice to the original definition.

The strength and functionality of a chariot certainly demonstrates physical unity, or joined and knit together. Biblical unity goes far beyond that type of static unity. Biblical unity is of that same type, except the parts that must be in unity are continually changing, and at a different rate of change. Look at the rest of v.16. This unity is brought about by:

When these things are operative in the entire body of Believers, then more growth takes place within the Body, for the purpose of greater edification of itself in love, and so we have another circle of ever growing spiritual maturity. Whoa! There is so much here it makes my head swim. We can't take all of this passage in detail, only some of the highlights.

We do need to make a correction in the translation, and it will make a world of difference in the meaning of this passage. In the last part of v.16, we have the phrase "by which every part[Believer] does its share". As it is translated to English, that phrase would indicate that if the church had a need of $1,000.00 and there were 10 members, then if each member did "its share", each member would come up with $100.00. That is the farthest possible mistranslating I can imagine! Sometimes, mistranslating only make a little difference, but this changes the import of the whole passage. It is true, and it is taught elsewhere that one member should not be burdened and other members get off scott-free. However, that is not what is being taught in the verse or even in this chapter.

share (Greek)
denotes that which is used for measuring; a measure or meter

I don't know how the translators came up with share. Now, if the passage had said equal measure, then the word share would have been somewhat appropriate. The old KJV had the phrase translated properly. I don't know why the translators of the NKJV had to fiddle with it?

This same word is used three times in this one chapter. So, rational logic would say, unless there are factors to the contrary, use the same English word for the same Greek word. But then who cares about rational logic? Anyone who is interested in teaching or knowing the truth of the Word of God is very interested.

The three times this Greek word is used in this chapter are in v.7, v.13 and here in v.16. The other two times, this Greek word was used in the original, the translators used measure in our English text. But here in v.16, they changed and used share. We have already looked at v.13, where the word is used as the measure of the stature of Christ. That translation is certainly appropriate in this case.

Ephesians 4:3-7 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

The use of the Greek word for measure in v.7 will help considerably, and shed a great deal of light on v.16. The Holy Spirit is talking about unity in this whole passage. He is showing the unity of the Godhead, the unity of service, the unity of the body, etc. Then in v.6, we are shown that this One unified God is in every Believer.

Then we come to v.7, and we see a big but. The but does not indicate that Holy Spirit is going to tell us something different, or that He is going to say something in contradiction. In the midst of all this oneness, we need to understand that each Believer is different. Each Believe is different in size, looks and the such like. That is obvious to any casual observer. However, there is a difference we have in Christ that is far more important than the physical, mental, social, physiological, or any other differences!

This difference is one caused by God for the purpose of maintaining this unity, so that the Body can continue to grow and move as one. God gave each Believer a measure of Christ's gift, and with that portion of this gift, came the needed grace to properly use that gift for unity not for self or just for our own kin. This is a subject far to extensive to cover in detail now. In past years, we have delved deeply into this subject. So if you can, draw on that past knowledge to help in this present understanding.

So we can have a reasonable background and understanding of what our responsibility is in this doing our share, according to v.16. Let's look at a couple other passages that deal with this same subject. These passages will help us see, how we properly use our measure of Christ's gift to promote and continue the unity in Christ. By the way, if you are not using your measure of Christ's gift for unity, you are at odds with Christ, Who gave it for that purpose.

Ephesians 4:8-12 Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." 9 (Now this, "He ascended"-- what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
Romans 12:1-7 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;

God gave, and is giving gifts that are different. Some of that giving is based on our measure of faith (Now, that would be an interesting subject). But all of those gifts are so that we will function in unity as one body in Christ. In this passage, the Holy Spirit says about the same thing as He does in Ephesians 4. He goes on to say, if you have gifts, the grace to use them and the faith to receive them then use them. If you are not using the gift God gave, for the benefit of the whole body, you are sinning. If you are trying to use a gift you do not have, you are sinning.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

There is much here, but let me point out again a theme that is in all these passages. Your gift is for the profit of all the body. If you are looking to the church just for the profit of you and yours, you're wrong.

Many different gifts, but all from the same Spirit and for same purpose. This truly is unity from diversity. As we will see, God says when the world sees this unity from diversity, they will turn to God.

Back to our passage and its immediate context...

Ephesians 4:16 KJV From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

In this local church, we have different people at different levels of Spiritual growth and with different gifts or different measures of Christ's gift. Each of us are to be actively using what God has given us, for the benefit of all the Body, so that the whole Body will move ahead towards the purpose, and in unity.

If you are trying to use what God has given to someone else, or you are not actively using what God gave you, so that the Body will grow in unity in Christ, you have no reason to complain or point the finger if the church is not doing as it should. If the local body is not what it should be, and you are not using what God gave you to build unity for the benefit of the whole body, then you can see the problem when you look in the mirror.

© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998