John 8:30-31 As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
Can one be a saint, but not a disciple? It seems there are at least a couple passages (John 8:30-32, John 15:7-8) that indicate being a disciple is tied to works (the verses about taking one’s cross could also be included). Given “salvation by grace alone through faith alone”, it seems we are forced to conclude either (a) one can be a saint without being a disciple, or (b) works/obedience/discipleship are to be considered an *evidence* of true faith.
In typing this question, I decided to look up the words in the NT, and it appears that “disciple/mathetes” appears in the Gospels & Acts 268 times, and 0 times after Acts. While the term “saint/hagios” (when used to refer to believers) appears 60 times after Acts, and only 1 time in Matthew, and 4 times in Acts. If they are distinct terms, it seems odd that “disciple” doesn’t appear after Acts.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks and God Bless.
Thank you for your perceptive question and thoughts. They open the door to a wonderful truth.
The New Testament includes several usages of the word disciple, indicating various “levels” of discipleship. The broadest usage of the word refers to all believers in Jesus—all saints. But in the passage you mentioned in John 8, Jesus challenged those who had believed in Him to deeper discipleship.
According to Jesus, the way to become a “disciple indeed” is to “continue in my word.” The word continue is the same term translated abide in John 15, and abide is the picturesque term for dependence (John 15:4-5). Therefore, when you become a believer/disciple though faith, you can become a deeper disciple or a “disciple indeed” through continuous steps of faith. When you walk by faith you grow in grace.
The issue is not the evidences of true faith, as if you inevitably do works fitting for a believer. The challenge Paul gives in Colossians 2:6 is that as you received Christ (by faith), now walk in Him (in the same manner—by faith). The works that evidence deeper discipleship are by faith. However, they are not automatic, otherwise Jesus would not challenge us to continue/abide in His word and Paul would not insist that we walk in Him by faith.
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