The Biblical Framework for Discipleship

In light of my new discipleship workbook released on March 16th, I will be posting 4 blog-articles on discipleship. Each blog will cover discipleship from a different perspective. 

  • In the first blog, "Clarifying Discipleship", I wrote on what discipleship actually means and what are some inherent aspects of discipleship according to Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20.

In this second blog, I'm going briefly and broadly show the four sides that frame what the Bible teaches about discipleship.

What does the Bible teach about discipleship?

1. Discipleship is an invitation to imitation.

“And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”” (Matt. 4:19, ESV)

When Jesus told the two brothers, Andrew and Peter, to come follow Him, He was inviting them into the rabbinical discipleship relationship of imitation. Jesus was essentially saying to all He called to follow Him, to come be like Him. We see this taught by Apostle John,

“the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1Jn. 2:6, NASB)

by Apostle Paul, 

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1Cor. 11:1, NKJV)

and even displayed long before in the Old Testament with the relationship of imitation between Naomi and Ruth, 

“14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. 15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” 16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.” (Ruth 1:14-18, NIV)

For believers, imitation means two things:

  • imitation = obedience—i.e. doing what Scripture instructs/commands

  • imitation = doing what Jesus did—i.e. acting out the heart of God (both sensibly and contextually)

2. Discipleship is a lifelong commitment of pursuit.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Lk. 6:40, ESV)

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, ESV)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20, ESV)

In these three verses Jesus makes it clear, discipleship is a lifelong commitment of pursuit. He says to be His disciple requires (i)being fully trained, (ii)daily denying oneself, (iii)daily taking up one's cross, (iv)daily following Him, (v)going and making disciples of all nations, and (vi)teaching other disciples to know and obey Christ. 

For believers, a lifelong commitment of pursuit means two things:

  • constant training, constant learning, constant application, and constant denunciation

  • pursuing Jesus, pursuing the lost, pursuing the development of other believers

3. Discipleship is the pavement of sanctification.

“The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”” (Lev. 19:1-2, NIV)

“‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 20:7, NIV)

“You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” (Lev. 20:26, NIV)

Did you notice the underlying theme of imitation in these verses? God told His covenant people to be holy because He is holy. In other words, "Imitate Me, and be holy." The invitation to imitation started with God during Moses' time with the call to be holy. And the call to be holy is the call of sanctification.

This then means, for believers, the process of our sanctification (being made holy, set-apart) is paved through our following Jesus—our discipleship.

4. Discipleship involves a great cost for it’s greater achievement.

“25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Lk. 14:25-33, NIV)

“27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matt. 19:27-30, NIV)

Jesus was unapologetic that there is a great cost that comes with being His disciple and that what its worth is so much greater. 

So, for believers, this means two things:

  • Nothing is more important nor more valuable than Jesus (or His work). Hold everything else loosely.

  • Nothing is more greater than becoming like Jesus, spending our eternity with Him, and helping others come to spend their eternity with Him. So no matter the cost, it’s always worth it.


Just as there are four sides in a square or rectangular picture frame, these four points frame the biblical portrait of discipleship. And just like a picture frame holds a picture, so these four points capture within them everything we know or will come to know about biblical discipleship. 

We learn Jesus to imitate Jesus. And as we follow Jesus (imitate Him), willingly enduring the costs (just as He did), it is through this that He makes us like Himself. That is discipleship.