All apostles are disciples, but all disciples are not apostles. In fact it is possible for you to be a disciple of Christ. And you can learn to multiply the number of disciples in the kingdom church of Christ. I will explain what we mean by discipleship as we progress through today’s message.
All Apostles are Disciples
Before He ascended in a cloud to Heaven, “the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:16-20).
We know that these eleven disciples were specifically the eleven remaining apostles after Judas had betrayed Jesus, because we read this in Acts 1:2, 3: “Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” So we can conclude at this point that all apostles are disciples. But we need to dig deeper and ask, “Are all disciples apostles?”
The Eleven Join 120 Disciples in Jerusalem
Having returned from the mountain to Jerusalem, the eleven join with other disciples of Christ. These disciples are not apostles. They do not have the special task of revealing the mystery of the Gospel by divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their ministerial leadership. Follow as I read about the replacement of Judas as the twelfth apostle is selected for the first revelation of the Gospel on Pentecost Day. I will begin in Acts chapter one verse fifteen.
15And in these days Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren and said (and there was a multitude of persons gathered together, about a hundred and twenty), 16Brethren, it was needful that the scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spake before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to them that took Jesus. 17For he was numbered among us and received his portion in this ministry. 18(Now this man obtained a field with the reward of his iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19And it became known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch that in their language that field was called Akeldama, that is, The field of blood.) 20For it is written in the book of Psalms,
Let his habitation be made desolate,
And let no man dwell therein:
His office let another take.
21Of the men therefore that have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us, 22beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection. 23And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show of these two the one whom thou hast chosen, 25to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away, that he might go to his own place. 26And they gave lots for them; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. 
The Apostolic Disciples Compared With the 120 Disciples
The twelve apostolic disciples have a special office apart from the other 120 disciples. The 120 are Christ followers. And we may say they are all disciples. But only the 12 are apostles at this point in the history of the New Testament. Both will preach the Gospel. Both will make disciples. The difference is only the apostles will reveal the system of faith, the Gospel power of God to save souls from Heaven as the Spirit gives them utterance. The church of Christ will be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 3:20).
In comparison, all other disciples are students of the received God. For example, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Ti 2:15 KJV). And to become trained in God’s grace the common disciple must be educated in the Bible. Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
Discipleship: Learning from the Master Himself
Definition of a Keyword
2218. ζυγός zugos; (to yoke); a yoke: —pair of scales (1), yoke (5).
Compare 2 Passages:
Jesus says — “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:29 ASV)
A religious expert says — “One of the experts in the law answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.’ 46 Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.’” (Luke 11:45-46) 
You cannot get any plainer than comparing the two outcomes. The religious elite. The scholars. The scribes, pharisees, lawyers, anyone with the power of say-so-and so. The so-called experts in the law load the average person of faith down with burdens they can hardly bear, without so much as an at-a-boy, you can do this. Have you ever met an elder, minister, preacher, a pastor, or kookie religious guide like this?
So, Jesus comes along and says my pair of scales are fair. I will help you carry your own load. I will teach you how to carry one another’ burdens (Galatians 6:2). All you must do is learn of me. That, my friend is discipleship.
What Discipleship Takes
- Absolute Surrender of the Mind, Philippians 2:5
- Obedience to the will of God, Philippians 2:13
- Constant maturation of knowledge and discernment of Scripture Hebrews 5:12-13
- Willingness to admit our faults, we turn to Jesus as our advocate in Heaven (1 John 2:1)
- Always abounding in faith, 2 Corinthians 8:7
- One capstone verse is (Col. 2:6-7) “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Christian Disciples are Obligated to Reproduce
The only imperative in Matthew 28:19 is to “go and make disciples.”
Reproducing more disciples is the very definition of discipleship we are working with. The question must be raised, “Is the Church of Christ amenable to Matthew 28:19?”
- The immediate context is the command was given directly to the apostolic disciples before the ascension.
- The gospel has already been preached to the entire world as it was then known, Colossians 1:6.
To answer this we must first include Mattew 28:20.
“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
- The apostles were to teach the new disciples whom they had baptized to observe everything that Jesus had commanded them.
- Therefore, the Great Mission of Matthew 28:19 is to be included in that observance perpetually until Judgement.
- Hence, the conclusion with a promise of our Lord, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Example of the Disciples in Acts
The kingdom church was firmly established in Jerusalem in Acts 2. Converts have risen into the thousands. A young scholar named Saul gained legal authorization to persecute Christ’s church. The result of this maltreatment scattered members everywhere. This did not stop conversions to Christ. It further enabled it. We read in Acts 8:4,
“They therefore that were scattered abroad, went about preaching the word.” (ASV)
This is direct fulfillment of Matthew 28:19 seen in action. The apostles revealed God’s Gospel. They taught and baptized disciples. Then they educated the new disciples to mature them into observing everything the Lord had commanded. The result? A massive discipleship movement that will become a major world religion. The movement that dominated Western civilization for two millennials. The movement that is now a major religion in 62% of countries south of the equator.
From Apostles to Disciples of Christ
The church is in a unique position. Only the church has the mystery of the Gospel to share with the lost of our world. Only we members of the Lord’s Church have the knowledge of God to make disciples. Carefully reflect on this reading from Ephesians 3:8-11. The apostle Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians,
8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; 10to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: (ASV)
He is talking about you. Grace was given to the apostles, to preach to the lost the unsearchable riches of Christ. That is, you could not find Jesus on your own. Somebody. Some Christian who knew the Bible told you about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in such a manner that your heart was pricked (Hebrews 4:12). Someone discipled you for Jesus.. And now you understand the way of salvation. You know how to worship God. You understand the grace of life. You perceive the sanctification of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ.
Discipleship: The Purpose of Your Life
Most importantly, you know the purpose of God in your life. It is an eternal purpose. The most important purpose of your life. It is to be a disciple of Christ. And that requires making more disciples by teaching them and baptizing them and teaching them to fully observer all things Jesus has commanded. The solitary meaning in your life is to glorify God and practice discipleship.
We know that we have a great mission. That is our calling. Let us talk about how to get started. The first word in Jesus’ instruction is “Go.” It is not a command to go across the planet like a missionary in a far away land. You could do that. Or you could walk across your yard and talk to your neighbor. I like to go to a coffee shop or fast-food restaurant because people seem more open to me there. You might feel more at ease talking to a coworker at lunch. Your hairdresser or somebody waiting at the hairdresser’s shop. You fill in the blank on where you go. The instruction to go is more like “as you go.” It is a leisure command. “As you go through your day, week, life…make disciples.” Our primary objective is to make the effort and leave the converting to God. Allow the Holy Spirit to work through the Word of God to convict the souls we teach, convert them to obey the Gospel, and sanctify their souls. In other words, prepare your self for discipleship by being a strong disciple yourself..
Importance of Baptism to Making Disciples (Discipleship)
It is impossible to fulfill Matthew 28:19 without baptizing. A separate article and podcast will go into more depth into the nature and necessity of baptism for salvation. Nevertheless something must be said here before closing.
Mark’s rendering of the great commission is, “And he said unto them, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned’” (Mark 16:15-16 ASV).
The formula according to Mark’s account is belief + baptized = salvation.
But no belief = no salvation, regardless of baptism or not.
According to Acts 22:16, baptism washes away sins. “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.” (ASV) If your sins are not forgiven by God’s grace, you are not yet a disciple of Christ. Discipleship includes baptizing those who believe. When the Ethiopian eunuch was taught by Philip in Acts 8, he wanted immediate baptism as soon as water was available. We cannot practice discipleship by neglecting baptism Scripturally. To learn more contact a church of Christ in your local area.
November 6, 2021
 Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries: updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.