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 (Living Waters 1986 Winter)
Believers, Disciples, and Saints
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James Lin

            “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed., and those who followed were afraid ... “ (Mk 10:32)

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus explained to his apostles that He was to be crucified there and would resurrect on the third day.  His disciples were unable to comprehend what the Lord meant.  Jesus determinedly left Galilee for Jerusalem, where He would fulfill the task which the Heavenly Father had entrusted to Him.  From the different reactions of the disciples and other followers, we learn the distinction between believers, disciples and saints.


Believers are those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and have received His precious blood for the remission of sins.  They were specially chosen by God from all nations to belong to Him (Jn 15:16,19).  Since they have the hope of eternal life, they must undergo the trials of the "wilderness" before they can enter the spiritual Canaan.  The advancement of a Christian begins as a believer who humbly accepts Christ' teachings.  Through the discipline of the Lord he becomes a disciple.  Eventually by his unceasing effort of pursuing spiritual perfection, with the help of the Lord, he becomes a genuinely righteous man - saint.  This process of continuous renewal is mandatory to enter the Kingdom of God.

Jesus said, "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Lk 13:24) Unfortunately, there are too many spiritually immature 'old' Christians today.  They mistakenly think that, after believing in the Lord and being born again of the water and the Spirit, they have already obtained the kingdom of heaven.  They relax in their spiritual cultivation and are gradually tempted by the world.  Finally, they become a "piece of land with thistles and thorns." (Mk 4:18,19) Even to the extreme as the scripture says, "they have a name that is alive, but, in actuality, they are dead." (Rev 3: 1)

These kinds of Christians are considered spiritual infants who are unable to consume ' solid spiritual food.  Their understanding of the word of God is literal and is unable to comprehend its spiritual meaning.  To them, the "truth" is not as interesting as miracles or material blessings. Just as when Jesus fed the five thousand men with loaves and fishes, they desired Jesus to be their King.  However, when Jesus taught them the profound truth - that His flesh is edible, and His blood is drinkable, they deserted Him.  For the truth was too hard for them to 'swallow' and 'digest'.

They followed Jesus for selfish gain and never considered giving; always asking from the Lord, but without any contribution to the house of God.  They constantly received the teachings in the temple yet hardly ever exercising it in their daily living.  This is just like the rich young man who questioned Jesus regarding eternal life (Mk 10:17-22).  Although Jesus loved him, he could not enter the heavenly kingdom because he failed to put God first in his life.  This is a common problem among many Christians today.


The Lord Jesus said, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Mt 22:14) Though the salvation of man is purely from of the grace of God, man should have determination and strive to draw near to Jesus and become His disciple.  We must not only accept His teachings, but also serve Him and preach his Gospel (Mk 3:14).  We should build a personal relationship with the Lord and not merely maintain a shallow acquaintance as the multitudes had with Jesus.  However, there are two criteria to be met in order to be close to the Lord.  The first is to pray unceasingly, speak to God face to face as Moses did, and the second is to meditate in His Word daily.

Jesus, when teaching His disciples, used a different approach (Lk 10:21-23).  The reward for being a disciple is a closer relationship with Christ.  Furthermore, God often reveals to him the truth and mysteries of His Kingdom through the Holy Spirit.  Paul was once filled with the Holy Spirit and experienced the third heaven.  The apostle John also was given many revelations of things to come.  These experiences all prove that they held an intimate relationship with the Lord.  God identified Abraham as His friend and said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do." (Gen 18:17)

Those disciples who followed Jesus for three years did not become perfect just by abiding with the Lord.  As a matter of fact, they often disappointed Him.  When Jesus revealed to them His coming death with a sorrowful heart, they were still selfishly arguing who was the greatest among them (Mk 10:33-41).  They listened to the teachings of Jesus daily, witnessed countless miracles, yet lacked faith in Him when the storm came (Mk 4:36-40).  When Jesus was captured, all of them fled with the exception of John (Mk 14:50).  Only moments ago, they were ready to follow Jesus to the death (Mk 14:31).  Their actions show us that the disciples still had no power and their hearts were not yet filled with the love of God (Jn 5:42).  Many workers of God in the church today are just the same.


Only saints can enter the kingdom of heaven.  They are spiritual and are Christ-like (Gal 4:19).  They not only have the knowledge of the love of God as the believers, or simply abide in the love of God as the disciples, but also have the strength to love God and man.

They have already reached the point as described by Paul, "to live is Christ" (Eph 4:24).  They radiate the love and glory of God.  Their lives are filled with His power and wisdom.  They possess the true righteousness and holiness and have attained the highest standard of the Lord - perfection (Mt 5:48).

Those who are maturing in the truth are like the sprouting seed which grows without self-awareness (Mk 4:27), for this is the wonderful work of God.  This spiritual transformation is visible by others and is favored by God.  Just as the Bible says, ". . . Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man." (Lk 2:52)

As the end of the world draws nearer, we as Christians have the hope of entering the eternal Kingdom.  We must strive hard to depart from the infant faith and grow toward maturity and perfection (Heb 6:1).  Jesus told us three parables in chapter 25 of the book of Matthew and instructed us how to prepare for the great tribulation, His second coming and final judgement: 1. the parable of the virgins - teaches us to pray watchfully and be filled with the Holy Spirit (Mk 13:7); 2. The parable of the talents teaches us to work diligently for the Lord according to our gifts; 3. The parable of the sheep and goats - teaches us to actively practice the Divine love.

These three preparations are extremely important today, and they are indispensable for the saints.  If we clearly understand the terrible tribulations and the judgment ahead, should we still waste time and lead a wanton life?  Should we not pray unceasingly, seeking perfection?  We must ask ourselves, "How far are we from the goal of sainthood?  How much more effort is required?" In examining these questions, let us be encouraged with the words of the prophetess, Deborah, March on, my soul, with might!" (Judge 5:21)