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Formula of Discipleship
Without exception, all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-10; 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Sin constitutes a barrier between man and God (Isaiah 59:1-2), the consequence of which is spiritual death or eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). To remove the barrier of sin from between man and God, Christ died upon Calvaryís cross even while man remained in the pleasures of sin (Romans 5:8). Not only did Christ come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), but only through the blood of Christ can man be saved (Romans 5:9). Jesus Christ alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). The words of Christ will judge all men (John 12:48). Those who love Jesus Christ will keep his words or commandments (John 14:15, 21). Jesus is also the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him (Hebrews 5:8-9).
These considerations are sufficient to cause thoughtful men to desire to become disciples of Christ. The application of the Lordís blood to the souls of sinful men is the only means through which the barrier of sin between men and God can be removed. Without coming in contact with the blood of Jesus Christ one can neither be saved nor be a disciple of Jesus Christ. One who remains outside the blood of the Lord chooses for himself an eternity away from the presence of God.
The New Testament contains a formula for discipleship. Formula means "A set form of words for use in a ceremony or ritual; a conventionalized statement intended to express some fundamental truth or principle; recipe or prescription" or "A prescribed form or method; a written confession of faith or doctrine." These definitions variously apply to discipleship both as it should be and as men have sometimes fashioned it.
When asked "What must I do to be saved?" we may recite a formula or plan of discipleship consisting of five steps without ensuring that the prospect fully understands the divine plan which he is prompted to accept. Lack of thorough teaching and understanding results in weak and unfaithful disciples. However, it is readily granted that a prospect for discipleship need not know all the counsel of God to be converted (Acts 8:26-39; 20:27). Further, it is acknowledged that new disciples are babes in Christ and thereby weakly (Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:2).
The five steps to discipleship or salvation are: (1) hearing the Word of God exclusively (Romans 10:17), (2) a resulting Bible faith (Mark 16:16), (3) repentance (Luke 13:3), (4) confession of Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and (5) baptism (immersion) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Would a mere outward observance of these make one a Christian? A disciple? Saved?
Jesus Christ has the words of eternal life which when taught will produce faith, the foundation upon which the whole of Christianity is based (Hebrews 11:6). Faith involves belief in the divine Son of God and all that he has commanded man to do. How is faith produced? "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
Repentance is produced by and is a direct result of faith. To repent is to turn from the practice of sin because of godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10) and toward the performance of righteousness or the bringing forth of "fruits worthy of repentance" (Matthew 3:8). Repentance is not merely feeling sorry for sins; Judas did this much but hanged himself instead of repenting. Repentance is a change of heart to do righteousness (God prescribed rightness) by which oneís conduct is also ultimately amended accordingly.
Confession of Christ indicates the willingness to become his disciple and obey him in whatever he commands. Additionally, confessing Christ is the same as accepting the cost of discipleship regardless of the pain or sacrifice required, even death (Revelation 2:10). Romans 10:9 represents the initial confession unto salvation that must be characteristic of the remainder of our lives (Matthew 10:32) to maintain discipleship. The failure to do the will of Christ is to deny Jesus Christ and to make void any confession of him previously made (Matthew 10:33; Luke 6:46).
Baptism is the point at which sins are washed away (Acts 22:16) through contact with the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7) and the time at which an alien sinner is saved (1 Peter 3:21). When baptism is reduced to a mere formality by which one can enter or join a church, it becomes void of salvation and as impotent toward salvation as a bath. As repentance and confession are outgrowths of faith, so is baptism. A failure to be baptized is a failure to believe (Mark 16:16) and a failure to attain the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
Hearing the Word of God, believing, repenting and confessing Christ are all in vain unless they lead one to be baptized or born again (John 3:3). Man cannot legitimately hope to see heaven without being born again.
Although, there is a divine formula which when observed will result in salvation, a formula alone, regardless of how divine in origin, will not save man. Recitation of a formula absent of conviction and dedication will not result in true discipleship. God has not discounted his scheme of redemption nor dare mere mortals cheapen the cost of discipleship.
When the God-given plan of salvation is made nothing more than a ritual or ceremony void of understanding and meaning, it can be no more acceptable to God than pagan and heathen rites. Israel offered feasts and sacrifices which God ordained, but because the outward form did not reflect the hearts of the people, they were rejected (Amos 5:21-27).
The recipe for salvation is deficient when it is missing any of the ingredients or when it is not followed absolutely. In addition to the five steps commonly cited, there are several other elements to which the Bible attributes saving power. Either each of these various elements works together for the salvation of souls or the Bible contradicts itself and is false. The Bible is inspired of God, infallible and true. Therefore, we know assuredly that Godís recipe for salvation includes all the ingredients by which he has through his Word said will save sinful men. The following items illustrate that there are several things by which souls are saved and that both deity and man participate in the salvation of souls.
These represent the formula and cost of discipleship and constitute the recipe to acquire and maintain true discipleship. There are no shortcuts by which one can attain or maintain discipleship. Each aspect of the plan of salvation must be taught, learned, believed and lived continually. Salvation is not attributed to any formula or equation apart from the complete adoption of Godís will for us. Men are to direct their entire lives by his divine will. Godís plan for saving man is not a magical incantation which when spoken mystically turns one into a Christian. Instead, his plan demands of men a different way of life which is only characteristic of the disciples of Jesus Christ