August 18, 2008
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What It Means to be a Disciple
The Apostle Paul writes to the saints at
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:1–4)
Before proceeding, a scriptural understanding of what “sin” is should be seen:
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he [Jesus] appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4–10)
The person who breaks the commandments is lawless,
and practices sinning. This person is of the devil regardless of now
“good” the person seems, for there were two trees in the
To eat of the tree of Life is to be born of spirit, and being born of spirit comes by being drawn by the Father (John 6:44, 65) and given the earnest of the Holy Spirit [B<,Ø:" 2,@Ø] that Jesus received when He was raised from the water following baptism. This is not something a person can do for him or herself. No amount of “goodness” or “good works” or professing that Jesus is Lord will cause the Father to raise the person from the dead (John 5:21) before time: every person will be part of the harvest of firstfruits, with Jesus being the First of the firstfruits, or will be part of the latter main crop wheat harvest, raised from the dead in the great White Throne Judgment. When a person is raised from the dead, or from being spiritually lifeless, is entirely the prerogative of the Father, for He is the only one who raises the dead. The Son will give life to whom He will by causing the perishable flesh of someone whom the Father has first raised from the dead to put on immortality, for all judgment has been given to the Son (v. 22). So both the Father and the Son must give life to a person before this person can cross dimensions and enter heaven. And no person was raised from the dead before Jesus, as the second or last Adam (cf. Rom 5:14; 1 Cor 15:45), received eternal life through receipt of the divine breath [B<,Ø:"] of the Father—for the “dead” are not the physically non-living, but the spiritually non-living … as life precedes death in this physical world, life follows death in the heavenly realm, with the physical forming a mirror image of the spiritual that reveals and precedes the spiritual (Rom 1:20; 1 Cor 15:46). As a person’s left hand is the non-symmetrical mirror image of the person’s right hand, the things of this world reveal the things of God, but reveal these things as the left hand reveals what the right hand looks like.
Plus, Jesus told His disciples that He had only spoken to them in figurative language (John 16:25): He used words describing the things of this world to reveal the things of God, but these words, describing the left hand, were unable to fully convey the scope and depth of the things of God. The words were just too “small”; therefore, since Jesus only spoke the Father’s words, His public miracles were an unspoken portion of the Father words that He uttered by the divine breath of the Father … the direct translation of “pneuma—B<,Ø:"” from Greek into Latin is spīritus, with both meaning “breath” or moving air. From spīritus comes the English word “spirit,” which doesn’t mean breath. Yet from “pneuma—B<,Ø:"” English speakers get the words pneumonia and pneumatic tools. So there has been a long term translation problem that has hindered English speakers from perceiving that the icon /B<,Ø:"/can only metaphorically describe the Father in John 4:24. Likewise, the icon /B<,Ø:"/can only metaphorically describe the new creature that dwells within the tent of flesh of the old self or old man, but in metaphorically describing both God and the new creature the Greek icon /B<,Ø:"/ conveys what “spirit” does not in English, and that is the range of power from the delicateness of rising air seen in heat shimmer to the force of a tornado uprooting trees and ripping apart buildings. Most disciples do not think in terms of having unlimited power when born of “spirit.”
The disciple born of spirit has the power to keep the commandments, but this is not what is seen even in the Apostle Paul, who wrote,
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. (Rom 7:7–12)
Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (vv. 13-20)
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (vv. 21–25)
In Paul’s mind, he could keep the commandments. But his fleshly body did what he did not want to do, did what he hated … his body was not “spirit,” but was flesh [soma—Fä:"]. His body was of the first Adam, not the last Adam, and his body was consigned to disobedience (Rom 11:32) as have been all of humankind since the first Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden for disobedience.
Until judgments are revealed for those who have been born of spirit and who die or have died before the fleshly bodies of disciples [the tents of flesh in which they dwell] are liberated from indwelling sin and death, or until this liberation occurs when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:30), the spirit of God [B<,Ø:" 2,@Ø] that dwells in the flesh as Paul’s new creature or new self or new man will be continually at war with the disobedience or sin that also dwells in the flesh—and whereas Paul did not understand why disobedience continued to dwell in his flesh, endtime disciples familiar with isometric exercises are better able to understand Paul’s actions (Rom 7:15). The inner struggle between the law of God in the mind and the law of sin and death in the flesh causes the new creature or new self to grow strong as the right hand pushing against the left hand causes arm muscles to strengthen. It is the struggle of the new creature against indwelling sin that produces spiritual maturity, or causes the disciple to washout. Grace, the garment of Christ’s righteousness, covers the disciple so that all of those times when the disciple loses a battle to indwelling sin are not seen by the Father. Only the disciple and Christ knows when a lost battle occurred, with both knowing how hard the disciple—that inner new creature—strived or fought in the battle.
Every person was born consigned to disobedience. All have come short of the glory of God. There is none righteous (Rom 3:10). All have sinned (1 John 1:8). So humankind is not divided by sin, or lack of sin, but by what it thinks about sin and whether it strives to overcome sin. The person whose mind is set on the things of the flesh is hostile to God, and does not submit to God’s law and cannot submit to God’s law (Rom 8:7), for being born of spirit—that is, the Father raising the dead—liberates the mind from bondage to sin with the flesh to await a similar liberation when baptized not in water (John’s baptism) but in spirit.
The older person or the disabled person readily recognizes that the aging or damaged flesh does not reflect the inner “personhood” of the person … it is this inner person who was baptized into Jesus’ death and who was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, [that] we too might walk in newness of life. It is this inner person about whom Paul wrote,
For if we have been united with him [Jesus] in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:5–11)
The fleshly body of a person doesn’t die when baptized, nor is the fleshly body of a person literally crucified as Christ was crucified. It is the old self or old man that is crucified with Christ and that dies when baptized. So the principle understanding that Christendom has lacked for most of its history is the wisdom the Apostle Paul possessed and left in his epistles, wisdom about which Peter said,
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. (2 Pet 3:15–17)
This inner new man or new self is neither male nor female: Paul wrote,
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:25–29)
Even after baptism, the fleshly body of a person remains male or female so it isn’t the fleshly body that is a son of God: it is the new creature that is neither male nor female. And returning to John’s first epistle, we find:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1–3)
This new self or new creature, born of spirit when the Holy Spirit was received, is under no condemnation and has been set free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:1–2) so that this new creature can keep the commandments of God by faith whereas the old self or old man could not keep these commandments because the person had been humanly born [i.e., born of water, or born of the water of the womb] consigned to disobedience, with this disobedience reinforced by the law of sin and death dwelling in the fleshly members of every person.
Now we are ready to look at perhaps the most important passage in Paul’s epistles:
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom 6:12–16 emphasis added)
The disciple that is the new creature born of spirit as a son of God and that still dwells in a tent of flesh is to present the members of this tent of flesh—the hands, feet, tongue, etc.—to God as instruments of righteousness, for sin no longer has dominion over the “personhood” of the person. However, if the person returns to sin and willingly presents the “personhood” of the person to sin as its slave, the person returns dominion over the person to sin, and the person is no longer under grace but is under the law even if the person was not before under the law.
The importance of this concept cannot be underestimated: the person who, as an infant, was sprinkled at a baptismal font is not the new creature born of spirit as a son of God. This dampened infant grew up to be an adult human being, not a mature son of God. It is within the human adult who has been drawn by the Father that a new creature is born of spirit—and when this adult human being, by faith, is baptized, the old self or old nature is put to death, or buried with Christ. The person is not put to death. So the disciple is never the tent of flesh (the person) that is male or female, outwardly circumcised or not circumcised. And when first encountering the reality of the person not being the son of God, but the inner new self born of spirit being one with Christ, there is usually a sense of being overwhelmed. Informational overload tends to hinder comprehending obvious relationships and correspondences.
If the disciple is not the tent of flesh, then the disciple is
invisible in this world and only “knowable” by the acts and actions
of the tent of flesh when the new creature wins a battle against the indwelling
sin lingering in the body; therefore, Christ has given His disciples a mirror
in which they can see themselves, with this mirror being the royal law (the Ten
Commandments). He has also had recorded the mirror image of the history of the
Church in the heavenly realm where the spirit
[B<,Ø:"], as if wind [B<,Ø:"], goes where it wills (John 3:8). This mirror
image history of Church is the history of ancient
circumcision is a type and shadow of spiritual circumcision, or circumcision of
the heart (Rom 2:26–29;
As the new creature born of spirit is invisible in this world, circumcision of the heart is also invisible in this world. It is only revealed when the uncircumcised person keeps by faith the precepts of the law and thereby has the person’s uncircumcision counted as circumcision (Rom 2:26). Therefore, the entryways or gates of the disciple circumcised of heart are not the door to the person’s house or the gate to the person’s property, but the mouth, the eyes, and the ears. As a result, the blood of a physical Passover lamb smeared on the doorposts and on the lintel of the house of an Israelite in Egypt forms the mirror image of a disciple drinking of the cup when the disciple takes the Passover sacraments on the night that Jesus was betrayed, with the lips of the mouth equating to the doorposts and lintel of a house in Egypt.
The gate of an Israelite circumcised of heart is not a physical gate or gateway, but the entryway into the heart and mind of the person. Hence, the stranger that sojourns within the person’s gates is not another person, but alien thoughts or beliefs—and “there shall be one law for the native and the stranger who sojourns among you” (Ex 12:49), with this law being the commandments of God. So every disciple needs to bring alien thoughts and beliefs into captivity to obedience to God (2 Cor 10:5).
There is a
tendency among babes in Christ to hypercorrect the errors of previous
disobedience, and it is this tendency to hypercorrect that the Apostle Paul
addresses in Romans chapter 14, saying: “One person believes he may eat
anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats
despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on
the one who eats, for God has welcomed him [or her]” (vv. 2–3). Too often what Paul
writes in Romans chapter 14 is taken as permission to neglect Sabbath
observance and to eat as Gentiles would eat and as instructions not to judge a
brother; whereas Paul clearly writes to the saints at
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (1 Cor 5:1–5)
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (vv. 9–13)
Likewise, the disciple who neglects Sabbath observance does not bring the temple [disciples are today the temple of God — 1 Cor 3:16–17; 2 Cor 6:16] into God’s presence when instructed to do so, but attempts to enter into God’s rest on the following day as the Israelites did when they rebelled against God in the wilderness of Paran (cf. Num chap 14; Ps 95:10–11; Heb 3:16–4:11). And Peter writes,
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Pet 1:13–19 emphasis added)
Where the Lord says that
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses to commandments to illustrate the movement of the law from outside of the person to inside the person:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matt 5:21–22)
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (vv. 27–28)
The movement is from hand [murder is committed with the hand] to heart [anger is of the heart], body [adultery is committed with the body] to mind [lust is of the mind]. And using these two commandments, the Sabbath commandment does not go to another day but regulates the desires of the heart and the thoughts of the mind on the seventh day. The commandment not to bear false witness goes from what the tongue actually utters to what the heart and minds intends to do with the words uttered: if partial truths are told with the intent to deceive, the disciple has broken the commandment. Likewise, the commandment not to take the name of the Lord [YHWH] in vain does not pertain to how the name is uttered orally, but calling or identifying oneself as a Christian or an Israelite yet not living as one.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:17–20)
Christendom almost universally teaches that Jesus abolished the Law when He said not to think that. Further, He said that the person “relaxes,” not breaks the least of the commandments will be called least in the kingdom, and those whose righteousness does not exceed the scribes and the Pharisees will not be in the kingdom … the Pharisees had the law but did not keep it (John 7:19). They were hypocrites, knowing to do right but not doing what they knew the law said. When the lawyer sought to test Jesus (Luke 10:25), the lawyer correctly answered Jesus about how to read the law: Jesus said, “‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (v. 28). The lawyer knew how to obtain the promise of inheriting eternal life, but he asked, “‘Who is my neighbor?’” He was not willing to accept a physically uncircumcised person as his neighbor. And Jesus relates the fictional story of the Good Samaritan.
Every person will be in one of three categories:
1. Whoever keeps the commandments by faith and teaches them to others will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
2. Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
3. Whoever has the law but does not keep it, whoever teaches disciples not to keep the law, regardless of the great works done in the name of the Lord, even to prophesying in His name and casting out demons in His name (Matt 7:21–23), will not enter the kingdom but will be denied by Jesus when judgments are revealed.
Many are called, but few will be chosen (Matt 22:14), for few will actually deny self, crucify the old nature, and live as Jesus lived. And no disciple should ever place a stumbling block in front of another, but should seek to bring back a sinner from his wanderings (Jas 5:19–20) with mercy and fear and trembling, for the one who seeks to recover another also needs to be recovered by Christ.
Those who today place importance on the things of this world, who place importance on the flesh and things of the flesh such as how the name of Jesus is pronounced form the endtime equivalent to the Circumcision Faction in the 1st-Century CE. A Sabbath’s day journey is not, by disciples, a physical distance but how far the mind wanders on the Sabbath. Not lighting a fire on the Sabbath is a physical thing; thinking about work on the Sabbath is a spiritual thing and is the spiritual equivalent to lighting an industrial fire on the Sabbath so that metal can be poured on the first day of the week and work resumed.
The movement from physical to spiritual is not grasped immediately, the reason why Paul writes in Romans chapter 14 that disciples are not to judge one another, for flagrant transgressions of the law is not the subject under discussion. The subjects under discussion are matters such as whether a disciple should eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath: if eating in a restaurant causes offense, the liberty of the disciple who would eat is constrained out of love for his brother or sister so that this one does not eat. Likewise, if the disciple new in the faith serves another a pork chop out of innocence, the older disciple is not to then correct the new disciple, thereby causing offense, but out of love is to eat—the one who served the pork chop will be later embarrassed by the incident, but will not be slain spiritually as too many have been slain. … The baby killers that haunt the halls of splinters of the former Worldwide Church of God are legendary, but their reign will not be for much longer. In their “correcting” of new disciples, teaching them to spurn white sugar and such physical things, these baby killers have slain themselves, for where is their love for their brothers and sisters? It is in the “things” of this world and not in things that pertain to God.
What does it mean to be a disciple? It means rejecting the glitter and glamour of the things of this world, means rejecting following the crowd and doing one’s shopping on the Sabbath, means going it alone even in a crowd, means putting God first in thoughts every day and bringing those thoughts into captivity to obedience to the Lord. It usually means not having the things of this world, but having the promise of God to supply your needs today for today. With God, problems seemed to be resolved at the last minute, not even a day before they need to be resolved. Being a disciple means getting one’s focus off what can be seen with the eyes and heard with the ears, means not being alarmed by wars and rumors of wars (Matt 24:6), not looking to physical events happening in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jerusalem, but at mindsets that are the mental typology over which the present prince of the power of the air reigns and over which the Son of Man will reign in the future. Being a disciple also produces in oneself a sadness when the disciple realizes that friends and acquaintances, even spouses and children are not today obeying God—the urge is to try and get others to obey, to wear out friendships and strain relationships before realizing that unless the person has been drawn by the Father, the person’s time is not now and there is nothing that you can do to get the person into covenant with God. The person isn’t lost, but destined to receive a second birth at a later time.
Being drawn by the
Father makes a person special, but not because of anything the person has done.
The person is receiving an opportunity to grow in grace and knowledge, to serve
in the administrational hierarchy of the
What does it mean to be a disciple in this endtime era? It might well mean being martyred by those who will think they do God a favor. However, a remnant of today’s Christendom—disciples who keep the commandments and hold the testimony of Jesus, with the testimony of Jesus being the spirit of prophecy (Rev 12:17; 19:10)—will, in the second half of the seven endtime years of tribulation, be to the third part of humankind (Zech 13:7–9) what the two witnesses are to Israel in the first part. They will be witnesses to the power of faith that fed Elijah and the widow of Zarephath throughout the drought of King Ahab; they will be witnesses to this third part of humankind, born of spirit when the Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh, that no one needs to take upon the person the mark of death, the mark of the beast. The person does not need to buy and sell to survive. The person needs, instead, to have faith in God.
What does it mean to be a disciple? It means that there is work to be done, and very few laborers have been called to do this work.
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."
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