In this doctrine concerned with disciples, as in all other instances, the student would do well to employ Bible terms precisely as they are employed by the Scriptures. The word disciple means no more than a pupil, a learner, or a follower, and is not equivalent to the terminology believer or Christian. Observe that when Paul came to Ephesus, according to Acts 19:1, he found "certain disciples," but these proved to be only disciples of John the Baptist and not Christians at all. They had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:9), and so, learning of Christ, they were rebaptized by the Apostle in the name of Jesus Christ.
While this term disciple is used interchangeably at times with the title apostle when referring to the twelve whom Christ chose to be with Him, the terms are not to be considered equivalent. An apostle is a hand-picked, qualified witness. None, therefore, became apostles who were not directly chosen of God, and it was required for membership with the Twelve that they have had association with Christ on earth. Strange assumption derived no doubt from Rome obtains on the part of those who claim for themselves an unbroken apostolic succession from the first apostles on. This claim must rest on something outside the Word of God, when no provision is made therein for continuation of the apostolic office, nor has it even been intimated as a possibility. It is pure assumption to claim that some ordination imposed by men constitutes one in line with the apostles of old. if such an order existed, it would be well for it to depend on apostolic success rather than on a supposed apostolic succession.
All believers are disciples in the sense that they are being taught of God through the indwelling Spirit and whatever instrumentality the Spirit may employ. The important fact is that the truth of Scripture reaches the believer's understanding and heart as a revelation from God (cf. John 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:912). The term disciple implies no more of a relation to God than that of learner. One revelation may come by means of the Spirit even to the unsaved, and that the way of salvation being revealed through the gospel. None other than those called of God, however, receive the gospel.
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