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  Bible Question: What does it mean to be a disciple today? What did it mean to be a disciple to the first twelve disciples whom Jesus chose?
Bible Answer: In ancient history the word disciple referred to an "apprentice" or a student under someone such as a teacher. By the time of Christ, the Greek word MATHATAS usually referred to a person who gave himself to a philosophy or religion. The master-disciple relationship was part of the Roman Empire of Jesus' day. History tells us that the Greek philosopher Socrates was a master teacher who had a following of disciples. While some master-teachers such as Protgaros required payment from their disciples, Socrates, Aristole and Plato refused money. The master-disciple relationship is the approach that Jesus used to train His disciples.
     Discipleship - Jewish Education. Jewish education was not interested in philosophy but in religious training. Jewish education had three major stages. The first one was called the House of Scribe or the House of Reading (Beth Sepher). This was the starting point, and it focused on the reading of the written law. The second level of education was the House of Instruction or the House of Learning (Beth Midrash or Beth Talmud). It focused on the oral law. The final or third level was advanced studies under a great scholar. The focus here was on principles of interpretation of the law. This was required in order to be ordained as a rabbi. Paul, the apostle, is an example of a Jewish boy who was a disciple under a great scholar. Here are the words of Paul.

  “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today. “And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, (NASB) Acts 22:3-4
Paul studied under Gamaliel, one of the great Jewish rabbis or sages. Tradition says that he was the grandson of the famous Hillel. This means that Paul, the disciple, had a great rabbi, Gamaliel, as his master. They had a master-disciple relationship.
     Discipleship - Jesus' Concept. Jesus approached discipleship differently. The gospels tell us that Jesus found His own disciples. He selected them (Luke 6:12-19). One of them, Simon, must have been surprised when Jesus asked him to follow because he was fishing.
  And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (NASB) Matthew 4:18-19
The Master called his own disciples (John 13:18), unlike Socrates, Plato and Aristole. Jesus taught His disciples in groups (Luke 6:20) and one-on-one (Luke 7:40). Jesus demonstrated His deity by miracles (Luke 8:22-56; 9:12-27) and He personally revealed Himself (Luke 9:28-45). Jesus also assigned personal ministry to His disciples.
  And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons, and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to perform healing. And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. (NASB) Luke 9:1-3
Jesus called them. He taught them. He openly revealed His personal side to them. He demonstrated the fact that He was a supernatural person, and He shared that power with them. He was preparing them to replace Him - to the degree that was possible - after He left. Jesus also encouraged them and expected them to be fully committed. Jesus revealed this early in His ministry to them. Many of His potential disciples decided to leave Him after they heard Jesus teach something they did not believe. But the twelve disciples remained with Him. So Jesus asked them a question to firm up their commitment.
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