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CHRIST’S METHOD OF MAKING DISCIPLES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, July 15, 2018


Please turn to Matthew 10:1. It’s on page 1008 in the Scofield Study Bible. Look at the first half of verse 1.

“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples...”

The word “disciple” is translated from the Greek word “mathétés.” That word in the New Testament refers to a person who learns from a teacher and follows that teacher. It is applied to the twelve men who followed Jesus.

It is my purpose to show you how Christ called these twelve men, and how He trained them before they were born again. That is not the way it is done in most of our churches today. From tongues talking Pentecostals to Fundamental Bible teachers – all the ones I know do variations of the same thing. They usually get a new person cornered and say something like, “Do you want to go to Heaven?” They tend to press the new person until most of them say, “Yes, I do.” Then the soul-winner says, “Pray these words with me.” The bewildered new person mouths the same words as the “soul-winner” – who then says something like Joel Osteen says at the end of his sermons, “We believe, if you said that prayer, you just got born again.” In the better churches they write down the name and phone number of the one they prayed with – and then, a few days later, they send someone to “follow up” on the so-called convert. In my experience it hardly ever produces a real Christian! The person they prayed with is usually not a convert. They often either hide from the “soul-winner,” or they scream at him to “go away!” When you try to “follow up” on them they don’t respond well!

What is wrong with this method? It usually doesn’t work! In fact it hardly ever works. I have been a Baptist preacher for sixty years and that is my experience. Why doesn’t it “work”? Why doesn’t it produce disciples? It’s because most of us haven’t given enough thought to the way Jesus made disciples! That’s why!

You may think I’m teaching “Lordship Salvation,” but I am not. I am not teaching what John MacArthur and Paul Washer teach. To know why I reject “Lordship Salvation” please read what I said about it in our book Preaching to a Dying Nation, pages 117-119. The entire book can be read free on our website,. www.sermonsfortheworld.com Salvation occurs by trusting Jesus and being cleansed by His Blood.

But show me one place in the Four Gospels where Jesus led people to say a “sinner’s prayer,” and then followed up on them. You cannot show me even one place where Jesus Christ did that! He always did the “follow up” first. He let them know up front what they were getting into first!

That’s the way Jesus Christ got His men converted! He knew they needed to hear the hard truths of discipleship first – before they would truly trust Him and be saved!

“But,” someone may say, “the hard truths will scare them away.” Indeed! The hard truths will scare most of them away! Many of Christ’s disciples left Him. He didn’t beg them to stay. He said to the Twelve, “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67). Not all will go away! The ones who stay and learn will become rock hard disciples of Christ, and soldiers of the cross!

Dr. Isaac Watts spoke to the older kind of evangelicals in the 18th century. Isaac Watts said,

Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?

Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
   (“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

We cannot expect new people to jump head first into bloody warfare for Christ. It would be simpler if they did. But I didn’t become a Christian that way. I had to learn first that the cross-bearing Christian was the true Christian. I had to go through some tough discipleship before I trusted Jesus, before I became a soldier of the cross. And so must you!

What I just said is not practiced by most of our churches today! Nonetheless, it is true. “Sure I must fight, if I would reign, increase my courage, Lord.” That’s what the greatest evangelical hymn writer of the 18th century wrote. And that’s what tens of thousands stood ankle deep in the snow to sing before George Whitefield or John Wesley preached! But you won’t hear that hymn sung in very many services today! I think that may be why there are usually so few hymns on “Christian warfare” in the song books we use now. Hymns calling for Christian warfare and serious discipleship are far less popular now than they were in the 18th century when Isaac Watts wrote “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”

That brings us to the Gospel message itself. When did Jesus start preaching the Gospel to His Disciples? I Corinthians 15:3, 4 gives the basic facts of the Gospel:

“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” (I Corinthians 15:3, 4).

Jesus started giving the Gospel to His Disciples about a year after they began following Him. It’s recorded in Matthew 16:21, 22,

“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matthew 16:21, 22).

Peter had been following Jesus for about a year. Yet Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that He would “be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21). It is obvious that Peter still did not understand the Gospel at least a year after he had become a disciple of Jesus.

Later that year Jesus again gave the Disciples the Gospel,

“And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry” (Matthew 17:22, 23).

Notice that they had already seen Jesus transfigured. After they saw Jesus transfigured the Disciples failed to cast a demon out of a young man. When they asked Jesus why they could not cast the demon out, Jesus said, “Because of your unbelief” (Matthew 17:20). Then Jesus again gave them the Gospel, “They shall kill him [Jesus], and the third day he [Jesus] shall be raised again. And they [the Disciples] were exceedingly sorrowful” (Matthew 17:23 NKJV). The Disciples still did not understand the Gospel!

The third time Jesus gave the Disciples the Gospel is given in Matthew 20:17-19. The parallel passage is Luke 18:31-34.

“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:31-34).

The Disciples still did not understand the Gospel after Jesus taught it to them for two years,

“And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:34).

Even after hearing the Gospel several times, the Disciples still did not understand what Jesus was talking about!

But Jesus told them again, “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man [Jesus] is betrayed to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2).

Now, after hearing the Gospel over and over, one of the Disciples, Judas, decided to betray Jesus to the chief priests! (Matthew 26:14, 15).

Once again Jesus gave them the Gospel (Matthew 26:31, 32). Peter and the other Disciples went to sleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the guards came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and tried to kill the guards. “Then all the disciples forsook him [Jesus], and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

Now we come, finally, to the new birth, the conversion of the eleven Disciples. Judas had already hanged himself and never experienced the new birth. The resurrected Jesus met the other Disciples. He showed them His wounds,

“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

The beginning of their new birth occurred here, as Jesus “opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures” concerning the Gospel (Luke 24:46).

Now turn to John 20:21-22. Here is the new birth of the Disciples. The risen Jesus came to them,

“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:21, 22).

They received the Holy Spirit, and at last they were born again!

The old commentators agree with that. One should read Matthew Henry, and particularly John Charles Ellicott on Luke 24:45. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “I personally believe that at the moment our Lord breathed on them and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost,’ these men were regenerated [born again]. Before this they had not been indwelt by the Spirit of God...Jesus Christ breathed into these men eternal life” (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, note on John 20:22).

Dr. Thomas Hale also made this very clear, “The giving of the Holy Spirit was the most important event in the lives of the disciples. Because it was then that they were born again...This is when they received true and full faith. This is when they received spiritual life” (Thomas Hale, M.D., The Applied New Testament Commentary, note on John 20:22, p. 448).

I have given you this study on the new birth of Christ’s Disciples for a couple of reasons.

1.  It corrects the modern idea of the new birth first, followed by discipleship. That is the theory held by virtually all of our churches today.

2.  It gives us the method of Christ in making disciples: first you teach them, and then you work for their conversion. This is the opposite of what is given in a book by the Navigators, The Lost Art of Disciple Making. This book is wrong in my opinion. Jesus taught them to be disciples before they were born again.

Christ commanded us to “make disciples” in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19, 20 NASB).

“Go ye therefore, and [make disciples of, NASB] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

My scholarly pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin said,

“Only the verb ‘make disciples’ is in the imperative mood... In other words ‘go’ is not a command [here], but ‘make disciples’ is. It is the main theme of the Great Commission” (The Secret of Church Growth, p. 57).

Christ commands us to “teach all nations” – more literally translated as “make disciples” – W. A. Criswell. In fact the New American Standard Bible translates it that way, “make disciples.”

This was done for the first three hundred years in classes, where discipleship was taught to new people before they were baptized. Dr. Philip Schaff, the Christian historian, said, “The [length] of this instruction was fixed sometimes at two years, sometimes at three.” Hippolytus was the Bishop of Rome from 217 A.D. to 235 A.D. Hippolytus said, “Let [them] spend three years as hearers of the Word” (The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, part II).

This discipleship period came before baptism. There are at least two examples of the Apostle Paul teaching catechumens in the Book of Acts. Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch.

“And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people” (Acts 11:26).

Paul did the same thing in the cities of Lystra, Iconium, and, again, at Antioch,

“Exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

Dr. Schaff said, “The church was in the midst of a heathen world... she saw the necessity of preparing the [people] for baptism by special teachers... [the classes] were...a bridge from the world to the church... to lead beginners forward to maturity. The [learners] were not regarded as unbelievers, but as half-Christians [not yet disciples]” (History of the Christian Church, volume 2, p. 256). Dr. Schaff said this method “is still the case” in missionary places (ibid., p. 255).

We are going to turn our morning service into a discipleship class. I believe the failure of our churches to keep our own children, and our failure to enlist young people from the world, can be traced to the fact that the churches do not realize that young people today are heathens, pagans who must be discipled before they will experience the new birth, and live the Christian life. Southern Baptists lose 200,000 members every year who are only “half Christians” – never discipled! John S. Dickerson said that the evangelical population of young Christians will drop “from about 7 percent of Americans now to about 4 percent or less – unless new disciples are generated” (The Great Evangelical Recession, p. 314).

That is our goal! Our goal is to help young people reach their highest potential in Christ. We are here to help young people come into our church, become disciples of Jesus, be born again, and work to bring others into our church to learn from Jesus, trust Him, and be born again!

Young people, who are elect, will be ready for something hard and challenging. Those who are not interested in the challenge of real Christianity will weed themselves out. We wish they wouldn’t, but we know by experience that they will! Let not your heart be troubled when they go. Remember that Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Only the true disciples who are born again will stay!

Let us go forward together and prove to the world that our God is still alive and powerful. We made mistakes in the past. But we profited by our mistakes and experiences. We turned our failures into success. We will see more and greater success as we take the next step towards creating a strong church of disciples in the weakness of today’s apostasy. Remember, we will never stop, never retreat, and never give up. We will never stop until our good church becomes a great church – that challenges young people and creates in them a mighty army of disciples that are born again! Stand and sing number six on your song sheet, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts (1674-1748).

Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
   (“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).


WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Solo Sung by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith Before the Sermon:
“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).