Discipleship in action is essentially the process of giving your life for the One who gave His life for you. It’s living this life in light of God’s gracious gospel. 1 Corinthians 6:20 explains, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” In salvation, He “bought” or "redeemed" each Christian, and the “price” was His blood.
1 Peter 1:18-19 explains “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Acts 20:28 says the God “…hath purchased (the church) with his own blood.”
Understanding that Christians are “bought with a price” and that price was “the precious blood of Christ,” the natural response of a grateful Christian is to “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The “reasonable” or logical thing to do, once a person has been born again, is to “present your (body as) a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God…” (Romans 12:1).
Being a disciple of Christ means living a Gospel-shaped life, endeavoring to further His cause instead of a carnal self-serving agenda that our sinful heart craves. It means pursuing His holy character instead of pursuing the pleasures of sin.
As Peter grew in his gospel understanding, he began to live out the implications of the gospel for the world to see.
Being a disciple of Christ is more than just the shallow, superficial notions often expressed by many Christians in America’s Bible-belt. It’s more than a sentimental attachment to your favorite Bible stories, and it’s more than the nostalgia of an old church building that you used to attend. It’s more than an emotional reaction to your favorite church hymn, and it’s more than verbal accent to a denomination or religious ideology.
So what does a life look like that’s following Christ?
As seen in the book of Acts, discipleship in action is made up of these ten elements; waiting, praying, co-laboring, yielding, preaching, serving, struggling, contending, rejoicing, and all along the way, growing.
1. Waiting - (Acts 1:4)
“Being assembled together with them, (Jesus) commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.”
After considering the apostle Peter‘s ups and downs throughout the gospels, we turn to the book of Acts and we see him living out his Christian discipleship. In a book about the “Acts of the Apostles” as enabled through acts of God, the first thing we see are the apostles obeying the command to wait.
When describing “Discipleship in Action,” and reading a book called “Acts,” we wouldn’t necessarily expect it to start with inactivity, but in one sense, it does.
They are waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Ghost as recorded in John 16:7-11, John 14:26-27, and restated in Acts 1:6-8.
On the heels of the “Peter, Do you love Me” conversation in John 21 and the instruction to be about the work of “Feeding my lambs/sheep,” opening Acts with waiting seems contrary, yet actually it’s essential.
To wait patiently and humbly on God‘s timing is a foundational recognition of His mastery over us. Religious people can easily get too big for their britches. In order for a Christian disciple to be useful in His service, it’s essential to be completely surrendered to His timing, and His perfect will. We must learn to submissively trust in His promises and rely on His direction.
There are many things that God says “shall” or will happen, and by faith, we wait.
Acts 1 opens with “ye shall receive power and after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…”
Ten days later, Acts 2 explains, “And suddenly… they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” He kept His promise and delivered on that promise according to His timing.
Today, in the 21st-century, we rejoice in that promise fulfilled, and we reap the benefits as the Holy Ghost indwells every believer. But, before He fulfilled that promise, the Lord made an additional promise in Acts 1:11.
As Jesus is ascending an angel explains that, “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
For a ten day period, the disciples were clinging to two specific promises that they didn’t know exactly when they’d be fulfilled.
The first of two was fulfilled in the Holy Spirit’s coming as recorded in Acts 2, and the second promise could be fulfilled even today!
Jesus is coming again and it’s with eager anticipation that we humbly and patiently wait on our Lord to fulfill the promise of His return. The apostle Peter stated his belief in Jesus’ return in 1 Peter 5:4 & 2 Peter 3:3-13.
Discipleship in action includes submitting to His timing and humbly waiting on Him in all things.
2. Praying (Acts 1:13-14)
The primary way that Christians show their dependence on God, and their willingness to wait on the fulfillment of His promises is through prayer.
Peter and many other disciples of Christ are praying in Acts 1:13-14.
Discipleship in action includes prioritizing the privilege of prayer. Well-pleasing Christians steward wisely the privilege of boldly entering God‘s throne room and humbly offering our praises and petitions before Him.
Consider with me what the prayer meeting in the upper room must’ve been like in that upper room as referenced in Acts 1. After all, many of the disciples named in verse 13 and 14 were personally taught how to pray by Jesus Himself. It’s very likely that they were praying with importunity. Certainly, as they supplicated, they were “asking, seeking, and knocking.“
Just as we would today, they were praying about the situations they were currently facing. They were praying about Judas‘ betrayal of Jesus and the potential appointment of Matthias (Acts 1:24).
Additionally, they were very likely praying for the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Ghost and Jesus‘ return.
As we should in our prayer lives, they prayed God‘s promises back to Him.
Instead of falling asleep, as they had done when they were young Christians (Matthew 26:36-46), Peter leads these disciples of Christ (about 120) in fervently praying for God‘s provision and direction regarding the situations of their day.
Instead of sleeping, they’re supplicating. Instead of taking for granted the privilege of prayer, they got serious about the action of an earnest prayer life.
3. Co-Laboring (Acts 1:1; 1:21-26)
Discipleship in action not only includes waiting and praying, but also co-laboring. Working with other people to advance Christ’s cause is an essential part of Christian life and ministry. A healthy Christian disciple recognizes the reality of interdependence as opposed to independence.
The book of Acts opens with a reference to Theophilus. The human penman for Acts is Luke. History tells us that Theophilus provided financially for Luke’s travels which facilitated his interviews and investigation through which he was able to write the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Theophilus depended on Luke, and Luke depended on Theophilus. They co-labored together to further the cause of Christ.
Not only that, but Acts 1 records the addition of Matthias to the team of eleven apostles, “that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship” (Acts 1:25).
They determined that this addition was necessary because of the death and betrayal of Judas.
Co-laboring with other purported Christians can be both very helpful, and at times, deeply hurtful. No doubt, there was disappointment, hurt and animus in the hearts of the other disciples over Judas‘ betrayal. Peter and the other disciples witnessed the ups and downs of ministry life with Judas. In John 13 Jesus humbly washed Judas’ feet as well as the other disciples. Later, Peter and the other disciples were there when Judas kissed Jesus and the Jews arrested Him.
Replacing Judas with Matthias must have been an emotional experience for Peter and the other disciples; possibly relief mixed with nervousness mixed with optimism.
For all they knew, Matthias could’ve been another Judas. Yet, they prayed together, expressed their trust in the Lord, (“Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men” vs 24), and understood they needed to co-labor with Matthias.
Discipleship in action is working with other believers in a Christ-like way. Peter instructs us to have “unfeigned love for the brethren.” (1 Peter 1:22)
Acts 6 records another explanation of interdependence and co-laboring with Christians.
The church’s spiritual leaders understood that their primary responsibility was to “give (themselves) continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word (6:4), yet the widows of the church were being neglected (6:1). The church leaders instructed the church to recruit some co-laborers. They said, “Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (6:3).
Discipleship in action includes the recognition of interdependence on the spiritual gifts, divine enablement and heavenly calling of other Christians who are willing to co-labor in His service for His honor and glory.
4. Yielding (Acts 2)
Disciples in action choose to yield to the Spirit’s control. This is a constant and necessary action for a Christian disciple.
When Peter “lifted up his voice” and began to preach in Acts 2:14, he was “filled with the Spirit” (Acts 2:4). Peter yielded control to the Spirit’s leading and as a result had the Spirit’s power upon him.
To be clear, the specific moment that a Christian is born again, he is baptized in God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) and in-dwelt by God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), however, throughout the Christian’s journey, he must continually yield himself to the Spirit’s control. Therefore, a believer can be in-dwelt by the Spirit, while at the same time quenching or grieving Him because of sinful choices. Yielding to God’s Spirit is a constant action for a disciple of Christ, and being “filled” or “walking” in God’s Spirit is an on-going pursuit.
For example, throughout the book of Acts, Peter is an individual who chose to yield himself to God‘s Spirit, however, Ananias and Sapphira are examples of people who could have been filled with God’s Spirit, but instead, they lied to the Holy Ghost and allowed Satan to fill their hearts. (Acts 5:3)
Discipleship in action includes a constant reliance on the leadership of God’s Spirit which is contingent on our yieldedness.
Like Ananias and Sapphira, Christians possess the potential to either walk in the flesh, and therefore produce the fruits of the flesh, or we can choose to walk in the Spirit, and therefore produce the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).
A regular action of a disciple of Christ is that of yielding, not to the flesh, but to God’s Spirit.
5. Preaching (Acts 2:14-36)
After waiting on God’s timing, and praying for God’s wisdom, and while co-laboring with other believers, and yielding himself to God’s Spirit, Peter begins to preach in Acts 2:14.
He boldly preaches the gospel. During his message, he refers to Old Testament passages, Joel 2 and Psalm 16, as he builds his cause that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.
He preaches that God has “raised up” Jesus and “loosed the pains of death” and that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; Joel 2:32).
This kind of Bible saturated, gospel preaching is something that every disciple of Christ is instructed to do. Every Christian is called to give the good news of Christ’s resurrection and atonement for sin to lost souls all around us.
This is discipleship in action. Doing the work of an evangelist and heralding the good news of Christ is not just the responsibility of a vocational pastor, but is the great commission/job of every disciple of Christ. Many passages of scripture instruct believers in this way but Romans 10 asks this question, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)
Every Christian, whether male or female, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, is called to be an ambassador of the gospel actively involved in preaching the message of reconciliation offered because of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
The apostle Peter not only personally preached the Word of God evangelistically as we all should, but he also instructed the God-called elders of the church to nurture God’s sheep by preaching God’s Word. 1 Peter 5:2 explains that elders or pastors are to “Feed the flock of God which is among you…” In order for members of the “flock of God“ to grow, they must be fed and nurtured through the preaching of God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:11-14).
Not only must every Christian disciple be involved in gospel giving/preaching themselves, but they also must be hearing Bible-based preaching from their local church pastor.
Bible-based preaching is powerful to the believer (1 Corinthians 1:18-23), because it provides their spiritual sustenance and therefore preaching is a regular part of the life of a disciple in action.
This concludes part 1 of Discipleship in Action. Part 2 provides a further Biblical explanation of 5 other important attributes of disciples in action. They are serving, struggling, contending, rejoicing, and growing. (Stay tuned as it will be published soon.)
The above article was written by James C. Johnson. He is the Pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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