3 Discipleship Models Jesus Used


The Call To Discipleship

The call to discipleship is one that extends to every believer, but not all believers follow the call.  We find this true in the synoptic Gospels.  Although Jesus had many followers, only 12 were his direct disciples.  This is not to discredit the many who believed in Jesus, only the empathize that there is a distinction between those who believed in Jesus and those who followed him.  

Michael Jenkins, in his book Following the Master, says a provoking statement.  “All disciples are believers, but not all believers are disciples.” This statement reflects the sentiment painted in the Synoptic Gospels regarding those who followed Jesus and those who were his disciples.  John 2:23 -24 states  “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people.” 

The Discipleship Dilemma

This scripture sheds light on the dilemma of discipleship.  Although many believed in his name, not all were his direct disciples because of the reality of humanity.  What was it about humanity that Jesus knew he could not trust? Quite simply, he couldn’t trust them to follow Him.  He knew many would much rather prefer the idea of following him than to actually do it.  Juan Otiz, in his book disciple, provides a healthy answer to what a disciple is.  “What is a disciple? A disciple is one who follows Jesus Christ. But because we are Christians does not necessarily mean we are his disciples, even though we are members of his kingdom.”

Juan Ortiz makes the same distinction between believing in Yeshua and becoming his disciple.  As both men point out, not all Christians are disciples, only those who pay the price of discipleship and follow Yeshua.  Many Christians and church leaders follow Yeshua, but only until a certain point.  A scriptural example of this is found in Mark 10:17-21, which states: 

“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” 

Marks of Mediocrity

In this passage of Scripture, we find a rich young ruler who knew the Torah very well.  For the Jewish man, the Torah is the same as the Bible for Christians today.  Basically, he knew the Word of God well enough that he could discuss it with Yeshua.  His greatest downfall was not that he didn’t know God’s Word, it was that it wasn’t his life.  His life source was in his possessions, not the Word of God.  This is the reason Jesus used his possessions as a way to reveal the man’s life source.  The possessions in and of itself were not the issue, it was the weight they carried in the man hearts.  The possessions are what the man followed, not the word of God.  Because of this, Jesus knew he could not become a disciple.  

This is one of the marks of mediocrity that plagues Christians today.  Many Christians follow Yeshua, but only until a certain point.  They use Yeshua as a means for salvation, but not as their main source of life.  To nullify this, we should inspect the Gospels to find the correct version of discipleship.  Although it would be best to search all the Gospels, today we will inspect only one - the Gospel of John. 

3 Models of Discipleship

In the Gospel of John, there are three key models of discipleship that Jesus reveals to his followers: believing, belonging and behaving.  Through these three areas, Yeshua sheds light into the heart of God for humanity.  Mainly, how God desires for each of His children to know Him intimately.  


“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

It is the truth of God’s Word living deep within a person that marks a true disciple of Yeshua.  Jesus reveals that the heart of discipleship lies in the ability for one to abide in His Words.  A disciple that abides in God’s Word will experience freedom as a result of their relationship with the truth living inside of their heart.  The consistent deposit of truth not only allows disciples to grow in their faith, but it also positions them for a life of freedom.   Because truth abides in their heart, their faith is not dependent on circumstances that exist outside of God’s Word.  


“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

The second model that Yeshua uses as a discipleship distinctive is the element of belonging.  He makes it clear, the true disciples will be known by the way they love one another.  Love is the ultimate glimpse into the heart of God and the means of discipleship.  Through a community of love, disciples are in a relationship with one another in partnership with God and thus express the biblical mandate of Jesus. 

The call of discipleship is done in love, and through the virtue love, a disciple reaches his full calling.  The sense of belonging marks a disciple is the primary root of his tutelage.  By love, he was found by God, and through love, he beholds his brethren.  Through love, the disciple makes disciples of all nations.  


“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

A disciple is not made by mere words alone, he must have the actions that correspond with the title.  By bearing much spiritual fruit through good works a Christian is proven to be a disciple.  Not only does bearing fruit benefit the people around the disciple, but it also glorifies God, which is the disciple’s main purpose in life.  If a person is connecting to the true vine (see John 15), then the appropriate fruit will follow.  Bad fruit reveals the wrong connection.  A disciple displaying good fruit is the third and final model represented in the Gospel of John. 

The Results of Discipleship

The result of a disciple’s tutelage is that of friendship with God.  This is the ultimate goal for all believers that have embarked on the journey to know God.  Jesus says this in John 15:15 “ No longer do I call you servants, for the servant, does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

Friendship is the result of the various models of discipleship, and the primary vehicle for fellowship with God.  Thank you for reading today’s post.  If you are interested in growing as a disciple in Jesus, click here for a free 7-day devotion. 

Written by
Kyle Echols