The goal of discipleship is stated clearly in many verses, one of which is:
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:5 (NASB)
The word “instruction” in the original is actually “commandment”. The implication is that the goal of discipleship is love coming from:
- a pure heart
- a good conscience
- a sincere faith
Note that though it is important that we have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, the emphasis is on love. Love is not a feeling alone. It has to do with the way we treat each other, and is the most important thing when determining the level of a person’s discipleship — as shown by many verses including:
29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (NASB)
Jesus and Paul emphasize the way we love God and others as more important than the number of sins that we do not practice, the level of our doctrinal purity or our acts of faith or of obedience. That is not to belittle the importance of the others, but rather to show the importance of the way we treat others.
Why is love so important? Many reasons, including that love is God’s nature and He wants His church to exemplify His type of love — His type of relating to others. Love seeks to benefit others for their good, and is unselfish. That means that MBBs (and all Christians) should relate to each other and those outside the church by acting unselfishly for their benefit so that people can know that we are His disciples.
Another reason God emphasizes properly relating has to do with the continuity of His church. One of God’s current primary means of working on Earth is through Christians organized in local churches. The church builds itself up in love — its members caring for each other by unselfishly building up others. If even one generation of Christians becomes purely selfish, the church would be irreparably harmed because the continuity of the church depends on each generation preparing and discipling the next.
The following verses show a pattern for growing in character and in love, which will make disciples useful and fruitful in the true knowledge of Jesus Christ.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:5-11 (NASB)
Keywords: MBB discipleship, love, church growth, next generation