Age, Humility, and Discipleship

Discipleship, in the words of Mark Dever, is helping another person follow Jesus. Said another way (by Dever): Discipleship is doing deliberate spiritual good to another Christian.

Jesus commands Christians to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20), and Christians should count it a privilege to come alongside others to aid them in their walk with the Savior. We should also receive discipleship from others with gratefulness and a desire to learn. In light of Christ’s command in Matt 28:18-20 and, for that matter, the entire structure of the New Testament where believing relationships are an indispensable means of spiritual growth (e.g., Rom 15:14; Heb 3:12-15), discipleship should be central to our individual Christian lives and our corporate church life.

It’s likely, however, that when we consider the task of discipleship we think in terms of age. That is, in any given discipleship relationship, it should be the older teaching the younger. There is certainly biblical precedent for this model: Paul instructed Titus to have the older men teaching the younger men and the older women teaching the younger women (Titus 2:1-5). Wisdom typically attends and grows with age, so an older Christian will often have something of spiritual value to share with those who are younger.

But this is not always the case, nor would the Scripture have us conclude that age guarantees wisdom. We should not determine, based on mere age, that we cannot disciple or be discipled by another person. In his book, DisciplingMark Dever offers helpful counsel on this issue of age and discipleship.

Normally you would disciple someone younger than yourself. Having said that, Scripture is full of exceptional examples of the younger teaching the older. And surely, as we advance in age, we also want to advance in the humility of learning from those of our own age, and even those younger than us. Otherwise, we will have no teachers left! Personally, I find I learn much from friends in their twenties and thirties, even as I do from folks in their seventies and eighties (77).

In any discipleship senario, there will be, by definition, some asymmetry in the relationship. That is, there will be a teacher who has knowledge and a student who needs to glean and grow in that knowledge. In order to disciple someone, you must be able to teach them in some measure what the Scripture says and how they can apply it to their lives. You might be older than your disciple, or you may be younger. What matters is that you have something of spiritual value to offer them.

But also implied in Dever’s counsel is the truth that all of God’s people are called to be teachable and be ready to receive the truth of his Word, even when that truth comes from a younger disciple. The wise man is the one who listens to advice (Prov 12:15). Left out of this brief proverbial gem (and others like it) is any indication that we should first consider the age of the one who offered the advice before listening to it.

Indeed, as we grow in Christ, we should be cultivating the ability to receive wisdom from those who are younger without feeling threatened or fearful that our disciple might surpass us in godliness and theological acumen. Actually, we should pray that they would progress well past our level of spiritual maturity! We don’t hope for this because we are negligent, but because we want to see our brothers flourish in the grace of God.

The best disciplers, therefore, will be those who not only teach others well, but those who are ready to learn from the people they are disciping. Again, this doesn’t imply that the roles of discipler and disciple are equal–there is a teacher and there is a student. Nevertheless, that younger brother to whom you are ministering has the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, and it is likely he will have a few things to say to bless you in your walk with Christ.

[For more on humility and discipleship, please see my article 8 Signs You Are a Discipleship Bully at The Gospel Coalition.]

Reacquaint Yourself with the Trinity

How familiar are you with the Trinity? I’m not asking whether you believe that God is Triune. I’m asking how often you ponder and delight in the reality that your Creator and Savior is One God in three Persons. For many of us, the doctrine of the Trinity appears too lofty and complex for us to engage. We believe it, but we’ve never sought to think carefully through the theological nuances and practical implications of this biblical teaching. In this brief article, I want to reintroduce you to the Trinity and help you see how glorious and practical this doctrine is. Let’s start in the Old Testament. Continue reading “Reacquaint Yourself with the Trinity”

Which Paul Is It? An Argument for Paul’s Christian Experience in Romans 7:14-25

Romans 7:14-25 is one of the most debated passages in the Bible. There are three major positions that have vied for interpretational prominence over the years. One view sees Paul’s description of his struggle with sin as his pre-conversion experience. The other sees Paul’s description as his post-conversion experience. A third—articulated by Martyn Lloyd-Jones—argues that we ask the wrong question if we inquire about Paul’s spiritual status in Romans 7:14-25. Rather, as the Doctor asserts, Paul is explaining what happens when someone pursues sanctification according to the law rather than by the Spirit. Each of these positions has been articulated and defended by skilled and sound exegetes, a fact which makes me recognize, again, how demanding the task biblical interpretation really is.

I do not want to enter into the intricacies of the debate in this post. Rather, I only want to offer my defense of a post-conversion reading.  That is, I believe Paul is describing his Christian experience in Romans 7:14-25. Here’s why. Continue reading “Which Paul Is It? An Argument for Paul’s Christian Experience in Romans 7:14-25”

‘Why the Reformation Still Matters’ by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

Why the Reformation Still MattersFive hundred years ago this October 31st, a young Augustinian monk, disturbed about the Roman Catholic Church’s many pastoral abuses and doctrinal aberrations, nailed to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, a list of topics he wanted to debate with the local religious authorities. Although he didn’t realize it at the time, Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” would serve as the catalyst for a theological and ecclesiastical upheaval within Europe that would transform churches and whole communities around the world. By returning to the Scriptures as the fount of divine knowledge and rediscovering the doctrine of justification by faith, Martin Luther and those who followed in his footsteps opened a gateway of truth and life to those who had long walked in error and death. Continue reading “‘Why the Reformation Still Matters’ by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester”

Death the Intruder, Christ the Victor

Death is an intruder. And everything that leads to death—sickness, pain, old-age, heart-attacks, high-blood pressure, brain aneurisms, and cancer—are also all intruders. We live in world that is not the way it’s supposed to be.

But even before any of these intruders entered our existence there was a more primal intruder: sin. It was sin against God that brought about not only physical suffering like cancer and migraines, but inter-personal and social trouble as well. Broken relationships, divorce, hate, murder, racism, bitterness, family disputes, bullying, and betrayal all flow from the same source: sin. What happened? Continue reading “Death the Intruder, Christ the Victor”

Scripture, Tradition, and the Question of Authority

We affirm that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture.

 We deny that church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible.

The second article of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) deals specifically with the issue of Scripture’s authority. Article II affirms that the Scriptures are the “supreme written norm” to which human conscience is bound, while other written documents, although important, do not possess authority equal or superior to that of the Scriptures. Continue reading “Scripture, Tradition, and the Question of Authority”

Why Should Christians Seek Assurance of their Salvation?

I remember a conversation during college in which a friend confessed to me that he did not think it was necessary, or even possible, for a believer to gain assurance of their salvation. I was surprised by his comments, especially because we were attending a Christian college that emphasized all the biblical truths related to assurance of salvation: election, grace, faith, repentance, substitutionary atonement, the fully deity and humanity of Christ, and eternal security.

As it turns out, this was not an isolated incident. Over the past several years as I’ve wrestled personally with the issue of assurance and had opportunity to speak to others about it, I’ve found that many Christians do not rightly understand the biblical basis or importance of this doctrine. Assurance is essential to genuine Christianity and central to the New Testament’s theological framework, yet plenty of Christians are content to walk through life without the sure knowledge that they belong to Christ. There are, of course, those who claim assurance who have no right to; but it seems that there are an equal number of professing Christians who have either resigned to the fact they will never have assurance or that they don’t really need it. Continue reading “Why Should Christians Seek Assurance of their Salvation?”