Discipleship: Paul, Jesus, or Someone Else?

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Churches of Christ have been notoriously interested in Paul. I think a lot of this has to do with Paul’s dealing with church matters and we often found ourselves in conversations with other groups on how to do church right. Jesus didn’t really seem as interested in that in his ministry, the church hadn’t been born yet.

If you read Paul you cannot escape the need to follow Jesus. You cannot escape the idea that we need to be studying Jesus’ teachings (in the Gospels) as much as anything. Paul points us to Christ.

“11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

1 Cor 1:11-13

Ten chapters later Paul writes this,

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

1 Cor 11:1

Paul continuously points us to Jesus. Paul is following Jesus. We follow Jesus.

This doesn’t make Paul any less important. It doesn’t mean he is uninspired. It doesn’t mean his teachings lack authority. Of course they do. When it comes to discipleship, we follow Jesus. We can follow Paul to the extent that he helps us follow Jesus.

Who is the “someone else?” I am talking about other people in your life. You don’t really follow them either except to the degree they help you follow Jesus because they aren’t the ones who are doing the discipling. Jesus is. They help. Jesus is the one who disciples us. We can help each other follow Jesus better in the same way that we can follow Paul to the degree that he helps us follow Christ. People are facilitators not really disciplers. I believe Jesus is the discipler and we assist in the process.

This takes out the hierarchy and the poor power dynamics that often plague discipling processes. This also reminds us that we don’t have to be super Christians to work on discipling. Jesus is the expert. We aren’t.

Last, this means we need to be reading the Gospels daily to learn Jesus’ teachings. That is how Jesus defined making disciples in the Great Commission – baptizing them and teaching them the teachings of Jesus. That means as disciples we need to be constantly in the teachings of Jesus and we need to be teaching others these things as well

4 Responses

  1. I appreciate the reminder. On the other hand, Jesus definitely was interested in the church (Rev 2, 3).
    My preference goes to Ephesians 5.1 – Be imitators of God… When we look at Jesus, we see Him as the Perfect imitator – and we are expected to be the same…
    What worries me, is the seeming divide between the “Red Letter” christians and Paulists, rather than the balanced view. Notice, that in 1 COrinthians 1 he does NOT commend the “Jesus” group?

    1. Jesus is most certainly interested in his church. I was just pointing out that we failed to see Jesus as relevant for our discussions when they were on how to do church right rather than on discipleship.

      I am not sure how much info we get from Paul’s lack of commendation of the Jesus group in 1 Cor 1 because immediately after he says it is all about Jesus. We weren’t baptized in the name of Paul or Cephas but we were baptized in Jesus’ name.

  2. Legalist tend to focus on Paul and his teachings as they seem to be correcting problems in the church (institution), but what they really do is focus on correcting the people of the church. The letter to the Corinthians deals with how they treat each other in love, not how they operate as an assembly, even in the correction on the Lord’s Supper It is about how they treat each other. We seem to miss that larger context and want to focus on assembly structure.
    I think we should make a greater effort to focus on Jesus, because all over the letters the apostles do this. The apostles weren’t perfect examples of Jesus, but imperfect examples of Jesus. Only Jesus was perfect and a perfect example of God in the flesh.
    As great as Paul is he is not the savior and the letters just give us a glimpse of Paul to the saints, but Jesus is the window to the world.

    1. Acts keeps pointing people back to Jesus. It doesn’t discuss worship in any significant way. But somehow Acts is our book without us doing all they were doing. The letters do the same, as you mentioned. We should follow suit.

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