Salvation and Discipleship
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
1st Thessalonians 5:5-8
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
Last week we talked about the End Times, and particularly, how the “Day of The Lord” plays out in scripture. We pointed out, from 1st Thessalonians 5:1-4 that the Church will not be part of the Tribulation, simply because we are not part of the coming judgment on the World and Israel, as seen in Daniel chapter 9.
However, that does not leave us without responsibility. The fact that we are “Children of the Light, and Children of the Day” means that we are not of the night and not judged with the world. But it also means we have certain responsibilities.
The fact that we have already been transferred into the Kingdom of Light is the security of our Salvation. But the fact that we are called to Live as Children of Light, is our call to Discipleship.
Salvation and Discipleship
So… what is the difference between “Salvation” and “Discipleship?” Is every saved person thereby also a disciple? Well…positionally, yes, perhaps they are. And, Yes, everyone who is saved is called to full discipleship.
But, relationally, and conditionally, no! Sadly, we do not always “follow Jesus,” though that is what He calls us to do! We need to see the difference, and how the difference applies to our lives.
Salvation Should Result in Discipleship
(Ephesians 2:8-10 “8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We are saved by Grace (unearned favor) through Faith (Believing God: ”He said it, we believe it!”) The result should be that we do the good works that He has ordained us to do.
Yes, my sins were fully paid for at the Cross: I am fully forgiven now. I have redemption now. Also, I am unconditionally accepted by God, now. I have Eternal Life now. But to actually experience that Eternal life, in any meaningful way,I need to step into the other half of that transaction. He says that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ unto good works…”
The life of a disciple is completely committed to the service of his Master. There are good masters and bad ones in the world. The disciples of an evil master commit evil works because they are committed to following their evil master, and carrying out his will. If that is how the broken, evil world handles discipleship, how much more should we be committed to carrying out the will of our Master? He is not only Good, Himself, but He is also the ultimate source of all Good in the world?
We can easily “say” we are committed to His service, but, when it comes to choices, on a daily basis, we need to begin asking ourselves, “Will this specific choice be to His credit and honor?” This is where we “put shoe-leather on our faith.” That has to become the central question: “What would He have me to do?”
The Example of Saul of Tarsus
Saul of Tarsus, in Acts chapters eight and nine, was persecuting the church, because he was committed to destroying it. He thought that by doing so, he was serving God, so he went after it fervently. (Interestingly, in John 16:2, Jesus had predicted that the time would come when anyone who killed Christians would think they were serving God by doing so.)
But Saul was unwittingly serving the Evil One. In Romans 5:10 we see that we all start out as enemies of God. (Saul thought he was a great friend of God!) In Ephesians 2:3, we find that we all are born Children of Wrath, and we are natural servants of the Evil One. (Saul thought, as a Jew, that he was already a child of God!)
But in Acts 9:1-6 we see a transformation:
1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
Notice the Order of Events:
- Jesus shone the Light on Saul. (Think of it as the “Gospel Light.”)
- Paul responded in faith, asking “Who Art Thou, Lord?” (Consider this to be the point of Salvation for Saul, as he responded in trembling astonishment and he believed Jesus!)
- Paul asked for orders! “What wilt thou have me to do?” (This is the beginning of Discipleship, immediately after salvation!)
So, by application of Ephesians 2:8-10, we can read the experience of Saul of Tarsus as an object lesson. (By the way, this Saul later changed his name to Paul: “Saul” means “asked for,” and it was the name of the first king of Israel. “Paul” means “little” or “insignificant.”)
How does Paul’s life form an object lesson to teach Ephesians 2:8-10?
- We can see that Grace came in the form of a blinding light from the sky and a voice calling to him, by name. (Not everyone gets this experience: in fact, it was unique to Paul!) But He was saved by Grace, just like everyone else!
- We can see that His Faith was instantaneous, but untaught. He simply Believed Jesus, more than whatever he had believed before. Jesus became his new standard! And that response of Faith to God’s Grace is how he was born again!
- The “Good Works that God had before ordained” for him to “walk in” were pretty spectacular. The remaining nineteen chapters of the book of Acts are largely about his travel and trials and ministry and the persecution that resulted.
(We see the rest of the story of Saul’s conversion, in Acts 9:8-19. In verses 15 and 16, we see Jesus saying what those good works might entail: Speaking to Ananias, who was sent to restore Saul’s sight, Jesus said, “Go thy way, for He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.)
Paul was one of the few disciples who got to see in advance what his ministry was to be. Most of us do not. We grow in faith, from the moment of salvation, and we learn that we truly are “called to discipleship.” There are no exceptions.
Making the Call of God Personal
We grow into a deeper understanding of that rather vague, uncomfortable idea, until it becomes our life’s guiding principle. At some point, we finally fully agree, that “If He bought me and I belong to Him, then it makes sense that I should be working for Him!”
And, ultimately, we find ourselves involved in full-time service of one sort or another. I have taught Bible for 45 years, always self-supporting. Until this last three years I worked secular jobs, as did Paul, to support myself and my family, but I still devoted myself to training young believers, and raising them up to discipleship. Some went on to become missionaries, some became pastors or teachers. Some served in other ways….but discipleship was the common thread in all their lives.
In my own case, I had never “asked” to become a Pastor: but now I feel honored to be permitted to feed the flock of God. There are others among you who are also gifted to feed the flock: this is not a “one-man show.”
Jesus said, “Feed My Flock!”
Every person who is gifted to feed the flock needs to be ready (at a moment’s notice,) to “put on his Discipleship Boots,” so to speak, and go to God’s “Sheep-food bin,” (we call it “the Bible”) and dig out enough “sheep food” to feed the flock, at least on an occasional basis. (If nothing else, choose to do so, just to allow the regular teachers a break. You need the opportunity to serve, and they need the opportunity to sit down and be fed, once in a while!)
Last Sunday night, I got sick. I was hurting everywhere, and I was running a fever, so I called on one of the brothers to take Wednesday night’s Bible Study in my place, and he did! Was it easy? Nope! It wasn’t! Would it have been easier if he had already prepared a lesson in advance and was just “chomping at the bit,” hoping to get a chance to share it? Well, yes, I expect it would have been: But the point is, he rose to the challenge, and he served. He fed the flock!
The “Thessalonian Challenge”
Notice the statements that are made in this short passage:
- All of you (believers) ARE the children of the Light, and the children of the Day.
- You are NOT of the night, nor of darkness. (How did you get that way? You were born again as the genuine children of God!)
- THEREFORE, (Because we have been born again, and we are children of the Light, and children of the Day,) then…what?
- let us not sleep, as do others; (Our lives are not to be “just like everyone else:” we have a new Master, and new priorities! Jesus said we are no longer of the World, and the result will be that we can no longer hope to “fit in.”)
- but let us watch and be sober. (The contrast is to be a constant difference in how we see the world around us, and how we respond to our surroundings. Our sobriety, and considering the eternal value (or lack of such) makes us automatic “misfits.”)
- (7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.)8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, (The world sleeps, but we are to be awake to the Spirit of God and the coming Judgment: The “Day of the Lord,” and the final judgment coming on sin. That ought not to put us to sleep!)
- putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
What kind of person is told to “put on armor…” a breastplate, and a helmet?
Only a soldier is told to put on a breastplate, and a helmet. (Only a serious disciple is called to fight for his master.) But the call to put on the Armor of God is extended to all believers. Why? Because every single one of us is called to discipleship! Not only that, but we are called to always be on full alert! God never says, “Stand down! Be at ease, there is no threat, here!”
In fact, in 1st Peter 5:8, He says, “Be sober, be vigilant; for your enemy the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
So, stop and think: do you truly think Satan and his servants are going to “take a day off?” The truth is, they do not! And, because they do not take breaks, we cannot! Our release will come soon enough, in God’s timing. And their final judgment will come shortly thereafter. But it is usually when we decide to “take a break” that we get into trouble!
We are Called to Rest, but we are not to “take time off from discipleship.”
(Can we rest? Absolutely, we can!) We are called to continual rest: but we are to rest in Him, not rest from Him. You married folks, ask yourselves: If your spouse said, “I’m leaving for a day or two: I need a break from being around you!” How would you feel? I would feel terrible! But when we decide to take off on a tangent and pursue worldly things, that is precisely what we are telling Jesus: “I am tired of attempting to walk with you: I think will go back to my old ways for a while!” That is not discipleship. Discipleship means following Jesus.
Do we fail sometimes? Yes, we do! And I am grateful that God forgives our failures. But don’t try to tell yourself it is not important to Him! It is! And it should be important to us, as well.
Lord Jesus, draw us along as Your Disciples! Teach us to walk as You walked, and Serve as You Served. Tear down our self-centeredness and teach us the sobriety to see the Holiness of God and desire to Imitate His Love and Grace.