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Vanishing Disciples

Why does the word “disciple” suddenly stop being used in the New Testament?  While  “disciple” or its plural show up over 250 times in the Gospels and Acts, they don’t show up once in all that follows.

My guess is that there is a connection between this disappearance of the “disciples” and the fact that the Apostles Paul, Peter, James, and John also seldom directly quote Jesus in their New Testament letters.  Even though their Teacher had given his first disciples the responsibility of teaching others what he had taught them (Mat 28:18-19), Jesus’ New Testament letter writers (1) did not make a practice of directly quoting what they had heard him say; and (2) after the book of Acts, are not referred to (from Romans to Revelation) as “disciples” but rather as i.e. followers, saints (set apart ones); the church; adopted children; beloved of God;  and family of God.

Will wait for a bit to see if you have any ideas, and then later let you know what I’ve been thinking…


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43 Responses to “Vanishing Disciples”

  1. florida7sun says:

    “From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.” – Deuteronomy 4:6

    As Jesus prays for us seated at the right hand of Our Father, His Spirit is resident within us. A believer’s relationship with Christ is sealed by the Holy Spirit; the heavenly fire that burns within that comforts us, teaches and transforms us through the love of Our Lord and Savior. –Romans 8:9

    Being children of God, we are disciplined. – Hebrews 12:4-6.

    All who have sought the Lord’s forgiveness and have asked Jesus to live His life in us, therefore, become His disciples. But, beyond being disciples of the Word, we are far, far more.

    We have been forgiven of our transgressions: past, present and future. Not as a license to sin; being ever mindful that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

    God is resident; working is us, shaping and molding us into His likeness, as we work out our salvation in preparation for marriage – Romans 7:21-25

    Through sanctification the desire of every disciple, and collectively His Bride the Church, is to bring honor and glory to our risen Lord in sharing His peace and grace with others. He alone is worthy of our admiration and love. – Hebrews 3:1-6

  2. fre1 says:

    God is good at all times. God’s salvation is always faithful. I believe we can relate to Whitney’s situation because I believe we have all being at a position where we have made the wrong choices in life which didn’t please God. God bless her.

  3. poohpity says:

    Just a though before my morning habits. It would seem that may be due to them going from learning to telling. From being taught by the Master what He would have them do and how He handled things to being filled with the Spirit and telling others about the things they learned. The disciples went from walking next to God to walking with God in them.

  4. oneg2dblu says:

    Hello Friends… disciples… lovers…
    We don’t go from wanting to become a disciple to conquering it like a fully read book! But rather from being unfulfilled to recieving a filling, from unforgiveness to being always forgiven! We are lifelong lovers and learners,living it out now and even Forever, as we are His Disciples.

  5. yooperjack says:

    Maybe after the big disagreement in Acts chapter 15 that almost stopped the movement of the “Church” from growing, they went back to being “Religious.”

    When did they stop using the gifts of the Spirit that would be a clue? After all Jesus said: “you will be able to do what I do and even greater things than I do”. And being a disciple is following what Jesus did and finishing His work here on earth with the help of the Spirit and the name of Jesus.

    Or maybe there is no word for disciple in the Greek language?

    I haven’t a clue but just a thought.

  6. oneg2dblu says:

    yooperjack… great thought, maybe disciple or follower was changed to that hated wordly name of Christian!
    Where a Religion has grown wild and wandering! Gary

  7. oneg2dblu says:

    I don’t know if one can ever relate to a Christian entity or a religion, but when the relationship becomes a personal one, as one on one, then you can relate to Christ as you become His Disciple.

  8. narrowpathseeker says:

    I should probably take my cue from the quip, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”. However, I already know that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer(especially this drawer)and I am fairly sure that this is not a secret to the sharpies. So, I have long been ignorant as to what the difference is between the two words. Even after looking them up years ago in Vines Dictionary of Biblical words, I didn’t even understand the definitions given. I guessed it wasn’t important to MY Relationship at that time or God would have given me understanding. I gave it another try this morning and I still lack understanding. I am therefore longing to hear the REST of Mart’s thoughts on this subject and hoping that the right Timing has come.

  9. yooperjack says:

    narrowpathseeker: what makes you think Marts ideas are better than yours or anyone else on this blog? He may be more educated than some of us. Read the Word, the Spirit speaks to the simple as well as the educated. This is not earthly stuff we’re talking about it’s spiritual Godly stuff.

  10. poohpity says:

    I would think that they were mentioned in the gospels and acts because those books were speaking about them in relation to Jesus and their time spent with Him. Quoting Jesus and the things He taught. While the letters (epistles) were written with other intentions in mind, like introductions, problems in the church, affirming their ministries, to refute Judaizers and show freedom in Christ, to strengthen believers, to thank people for their gifts, to give encouragement, to advise on responsibilities leading the church, to present the sufficiency and superiority of Christ, and to give warning and hope to believers.

    I do not believe that disciples are vanishing but after the indwelling of the Holy Spirit the have become more.

  11. poohpity says:

    For those of us who do not have a valentine, I would like to remind you that we do have the purest love every known to mankind through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Happy Valentines Day!! So know that you are loved, accepted and wanted. :-)

  12. poohpity says:

    For those of us who do not have a valentine, I would like to remind you that we do have the purest love ever known to mankind through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Happy Valentines Day!! So know that you are loved, accepted and wanted. :-)

  13. InHisHands says:

    HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY I Cor. 13 tells us that love is the greatest attribute, and we ought to love one another as Christ loved, so I pray today that the LOVE of God be evident in all our lives as we are *disciple*/followers (in training, all the time) of HIM.

  14. poohpity says:

    Happy Birthday, Mart!!!

  15. yooperjack says:

    Poohpity: All the things you mentioned are part of discipleship. Why didn’t they say so like in the book of Acts where the “Church” began?

  16. yooperjack says:

    Gary: I think you may win the prize, good thoughts.

  17. narrowpathseeker says:

    Yooper, I am well aware that God speaks to us regardless of IQ, but I am also aware that He oftens speaks through His people or even a donkey to speak to His people. I can’t count the times I have prayed about something and later picked up something written by Mart or other RBC writers and found Guidance related to that very prayer. AND yes He has used others on this blog to speak to me as well. I was not saying that Mart knows all, I am saying that God has used him often to speak to ME and that I am HOPING this will be another one of those times. I could be wrong but it appears to me that I have offended you somewhere along the way and if so I apologize for either being wrong or offending you……it was certainly not my intent. Peace

  18. Bob in Cornwall England says:

    Just been searching through the Amplified Bible and Apart from the Gospels and Acts the word disciple is also found in Isaiah, Romans, 2 Corintians & 1 Peter.

    Seems to me that the word disciple literally means someone who follows in the discipline of another like a guru or teacher.
    Jesus was known as Teacher or Raboni but He told us He would send us another Teacher or Comforter which is The Holy Spirit.
    Because of Jesus Death & Resurection and our Baptism in The Holy Spirit, He has given us the Power to become Sons of the Living God. As Sons and Heirs we are no longer disciples or mere followers of Christ, we are Brothers with Him who is the first born among many Brethren. As Brothers we are partakers of the same inheritance as Jesus.
    Jesus asked “can a disciple be greater than his master?”
    Jesus is The King of Kings and Lord of Lords and there is no one Greater than Him, but He said we would do even greater miracles than Him because He goes to The Father.
    So the disciples became the Apostles and followers of Christ became the Church doing even greater things than their Master.
    The letters were written to the Churches and to us to help us to understand more fully the wonder of God’s Salvation given to us through Jesus Christ and to help us fully Live in the Power & Love of The Holy Spirit and to excersise the Gifts and Manifest the Fruits in our daily living.


  19. yooperjack says:

    narrow: No you have never offended me no one has ever offended me on this blog. I was responding to your post at 11:34 AM. read it again then read my post in response to yours. If you read my post I respond to other’s as well, this is how we learn. I read to learn and write to teach. I haven’t learned how to read minds though but I’m working on it. LOL

  20. poohpity says:

    Jack you asked, “All the things you mentioned are part of discipleship. Why didn’t they say so like in the book of Acts where the “Church” began?” I would venture to guess that they may have thought that calling attention to themselves as disciples of Christ would have brought attention to them rather than point the attention to Christ. They seemed to be doing the work that was given to them rather taking pride in the identity of being a disciple.

  21. yooperjack says:

    Poohpity very good thought. We keep this up Mart won’t be able to give us anything we haven’t written already. LOL Good luck Mart. LOL

  22. poohpity says:

    Jack, trust me to say that he will be able to give us much more insight and the words he writes will teach.

  23. yooperjack says:

    OK!! I’ll be waiting to learn.

  24. Mart De Haan says:

    One of the facts behind the post question is what you already know. Jesus gave the conditions for being his disciple as follows:

    Luke 14:26“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple… 33So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

    These words were said to people who were familiar with the kind of education where learners studied under a rabbi, memorizing his instruction and trying to imitate him. So Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)

    During his 3 years of public life, Jesus also told his disciples that he was going to go somewhere (to his sacrificial death) where they could not follow.

    At the same time, the Gospels and book of Acts also refers to disciples as “followers” or “learners” in a general sense.

    That said, I’m still intrigued by whether there’s an important reason why Paul and the other New Testament letters teach the thoughts of Jesus without quoting him directly (usually) and why they encourage learning to know Christ– while dropping the specific language of discipleship.

    Am not just trying to tease you. I actually began this morning giving what I thought might be the answer. But wasn’t sure that I had done enough thinking about it. So pulled my answer and decided to throw out the question to you first.

    I still want to try and net out some thoughts tomorrow.

  25. poohpity says:

    I was wondering if dropping the specific language of discipleship was due to what happened with the Church in Corinth and the problems began to arise of the followers claiming to follow, Paul, Apollos or Peter similar to 1 Cor 3-4. If using the terms may have brought more light to the servants than to the Lord.

  26. poohpity says:

    It happens so much today when followers of Christ look up to the teachers rather than going to the Lord, the Bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit individually. It sort of seems like how people treat the Pope or other leaders that do not feel they are on the same area at the foot of the Cross as every other human being alive.

  27. yooperjack says:

    Mart: What about Matthew 28:19-20? I think there were some very good answers on this blog today.

    I have a question that has bugged me for years. Why did God tell the Jews to kill all those people in the Old Testament; men, woman and children by stoning them to death; yet today people do the same sinful things and it’s considered hate speech just to speak out about it?

    I know God is not angry with us anymore because of Jesus. But why did all those people have to be put to death for things that are accepted by society today. There is an answer. Here is a clue: They couldn’t do something that you and I can today that makes a whole lot of difference.

    Cancel that last post I hit the wrong button.

  28. bratimus says:

    With Paul and his writings or teaching, Paul was not choosen like the first disiples of Christ, that could be why he never wrote of himself as a disciple.

    With Jesus not on Earth any longer, the word disiple might not have been the right term to use any longer.

    They might not have quoted the sayings of Jesus due to the Gospels were not in wide circulation yet.

    The NT is made up of leters to belivers or the Church after the apostles witnessed and preached the message of Christ face to face to the people.

  29. oneg2dblu says:

    The very title which says vanishing disciples, where to vanish is to no longer be in sight, and the students obviously had remained, may mean that because Jesus in human form was no longer leading them, their form of being taught directly by a teacher had changed. So, the original context of that word association no longer applied to them as they were now guided by His Spirit and not his flesh. Just a thought which I certainly would not have been led to share if not following Mart’s leading through the spirit of his question. I’m going away now and where I go you can’t follow! Perhaps like my thoughts.. I think I know what I just said, but I will have to read it later. LOL :)
    Happy Valentines Day and Happy Birthday Mart!

  30. oneg2dblu says:

    bratimus, we just stepped all over each other, but it didn’t hurt! :)

  31. oneg2dblu says:

    When you dance within the rhythms of grace, its hard to step on other’s feets. Gary

  32. yooperjack says:

    Poohpity: This is a post you posted. I would venture to guess that they may have thought that calling attention to themselves as Disciples of Christ would have brought attention to them rather than point the attention to Christ. They seemed to be doing the work that was given to them rather taking pride in the identity of being a Disciple.

    What if it where just the opposite; they were proud of being Disciples and didn’t want to share that title with common people? They were men as you know.

    I wrote a letter to a T.V. preacher that changed his title from Bishop to Apostle with all the fancy duds and ask if his head wasn’t big enough already.

    Just a thought. This is getting interesting.

  33. florida7sun says:

    I read that the Hebrew word for disciple is “talmid;” meaning a student following a Rabbi. Once Jesus ascended, He was no longer physically present to teach. Disciples were then first called Christian at Antioch. The identifying brand “Christian” in the Jewish community was equivalent to calling a believer “not Jewish”.

    Looking forward to getting Mart’s insights.

  34. remarutho says:

    Good Evening Mart and Friends –

    Mart, you wrote:

    “During his 3 years of public life, Jesus also told his disciples that he was going to go somewhere (to his sacrificial death) where they could not follow.”

    According to the traditions of the church, each of the remaining followers of Jesus did meet martyrdom. The devotion to Christ – and the anointing of the Holy Spirit were mighty strong in each of them, and in all of them. The fellowship of “two or more gathered” keeps faithfulness and accountability (discipline) alive in the church.

    They surely took to heart the words Jesus spoke before he left them: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20) There is a paradoxical presence/absence feature to the fellowship of believers. Jesus’ promise is that he is present though absent. He promises the Holy Spirit and charges the disciples to be his witnesses. (Luke 24:48) Messiah is to be proclaimed, beginning from Jerusalem. All this is still in motion to the extent that Jesus’ followers continue in The Way.

    Jesus addressed his disciples in the plural (‘umin), not in the singular, most of the time. So, we receive what Paul, Peter and John repeat to us about Jesus – as a body – not as individuals. He still calls us to be united in turning from the worldly paradigm toward the kingdom that is near – in us – and growing in the world by our witness.


  35. poohpity says:

    Just wondering because the term is not used the fact remains that we are disciples of Jesus Christ because through the teaching of Paul, Peter, John and James they direct us to a relationship with the Lord. They trusted and had faith that it would be Jesus through the Holy Spirit who would continue to teach us. I think they taught us more of how to make sure that the voice we are listening to does not go against the teachings of Jesus and to pay attention to the distractions that we may be confronted with that can take us in a wrong direction.

  36. phpatato says:

    narrowpathseeker you said….”It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. However, I already know that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer(especially this drawer)…”

    Please draw comfort in knowing that you are not alone for if you were to look sideways, you will find me right beside you. :-)

    Yooper… I’d like to thank you for the laughs that you have given me today with your posts (1:01pm and 1:08pm). You are a very funny man!!! I enjoy your sense of humour. Thank you!

    And because I tend to think in a “keep it simple stupid” sort of way, I never knew that the word disciple could bring so much thinking to it…in context, is it the noun or the verb.

    Noun: A personal follower of Jesus during his life, esp. one of the twelve Apostles.

    Verb: Guide (someone) in becoming a follower of Jesus or another leader

    Is there not The Lordship Salvation Debate which debates the meaning of discipleship?

    Often man tends to dissect and inspect more than what is necessary. Sometimes keeping it simple-stupid is “less is more”.

    I await Mart’s response.

  37. poohpity says:

    I know for myself Pat I enjoy so much filling my mind with knowing and learning more about God. I sort of take Psalm 119 to heart. To wake up, all day long and before I go to bed thinking about the Lord and talking about Him and to Him. I understand about KISS “Keep it simple saint” in many areas of my life but the heart condition is transformed by thinking, learning, reading and studying God words then my mind is not filled with all the goings on all around us that tends to captivate our minds and take us away from God.

  38. fadingman says:

    I’ve also noted the disappearance of the word “disciple” (mathetes) after the book of Acts. However, just because the word doesn’t appear doesn’t mean the concept disappeared.

    One synonym of “disciple” is “follower”, and we are called to follow Jesus in the epistles. For example, compare Matthew 16:24 with 1 Peter 2:21: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

    Another synonym is learner. Ephesians 4:20-24 also compares with Jesus’ requirements for discipleship. It includes denial of self and walking in righteousness.

  39. Bob in Cornwall England says:

    Thanks Fadingman,
    Seems the message is he same but the words have changed.

    Rather like England and the USA!
    England for over a thousand years took the concept of individual freedom and gradually changed the absolute rule of state by a battle here and a signed agreement there(Magna Carter etc.) and eventually formed a Parliament that evolved & enforced these Ideas.
    The USA on the other hand (because of the concept already formulated) started with the Premis of freedom for all and enshrined it in a written constitution. Never to be violated.
    While Jesus was teaching and leading the disciples into a new way and teaching about a kingdom that was “near at hand”, Paul was stating what had become fact through the death and resurection of Christ.
    “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds”
    “Conforming not to this world”
    Living in the freedom that has already been bought!

    Just a thought!


  40. remarutho says:

    Mart & Friends —

    What emerges for me as I read the posts is that disciples become witnesses. Perhaps this is the difference between Hebrews and James among the epistles.

    We surely need both ag. teachers and field hands in the world. All teaching disciples (mathetes) become living witnesses (martuos). The closer the saints’ lives become conformed to Jesus’ life — the more is invested. When I finally put my money where my mouth is, I receive the freedom to live and die for him. (Psalm 72:14, 18, 19) and (1 Peter 1:18, 19)


  41. oneg2dblu says:

    Vanishing Disciples? I wonder if it is the twelve we are defining here, or is it just a word disciple?
    Here is a word of prayer from my heart I surrendered yesterday. “The Gift of Twelve I hold for you Lord, saying Happy Valentines Day. Where do your passions lie and who has your affection? Even you gathered for yourself a dozen fragrant ones to show your true love’s desire. You picked the twelve and gave them to us, you removed their thorns, you bundled them up and presented them for all to see as a gift for your affection. We who receive your gift daily are captive and yet held free forever. Be mine, as I am yours!”
    Forever Yours, Gary

  42. narrowpathseeker says:

    Phpatato, your humble and comforting response to my “not the sharpest knife” comment, was greatly appreciated. Valentines Day is also a son’s birthday who died several years ago. It is a time that I tend to reflect on all the “should ofs” ..”could ofs” and all I didn’t do right. I was in the middle of beating myself up when I clicked on the site to read your post. I smiled and thanked God for touching your heart to lift me up. God Bless you.

  43. gr8tlove says:

    I am new here, but would like to throw out an idea that might help this along. I think we need to consider the dates in which the epistles, etc where written and the dates in which the Gospels were written. As well, who was the author writing to or for. What language was used to express the ideas. What is the perspective- is it a going forward, a course correction or a looking back to remember.

    I think there should be enough truth in Romans 8:19 to encourage the mere believer to want to be a more faithful, obedient son of God. The only way to to know if we are on the right path is to follow the way, the truth, and the life of the SON, that is to be a disciple of Jesus, God’s Messiah. We can imitate Paul as well. Is everything else sinking sand?

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