Today many churches teach that discipleship with Christ is needed in order to be a true believer in Christ. Such people may give Luke 9:23-24 as an example in that it shows Christ speaking to a large number of people while stating that anyone that wants to be his disciple must take up their cross and deny themselves, and a person should also note that the scripture goes on to teach that anyone that wants to save their life will lose it while those that lose their life will save it. Overall, the danger in using such a passage of scripture to suggest that all Christians need to be a disciple (or student) of Christ, is that it can reduce a person’s reliance on God’s power to transform people and situations in favor of an admonishment of personal power and strength that brings about pride and boasting concerning a person’s ability to perform personal sacrifice.
The Conversion of Paul
Common knowledge among many Christians today is that Saul was converted to Paul the apostle of Christ through Christ appearing to him in Acts 9:4, Acts 22:7, and Acts 26:14, but what many do not think about is the fact that Saul was transformed from a person that killed Christians to a preacher of the gospel simply through Christ appearing in his life. Paul the apostle would have next become a disciple because of what Christ had done in his life, and discipleship with Christ would have been the only correct resolution for Paul to fully understand the new purpose that God had put in his life. In contrast, from a conversion from being a murder of Christians, most Christians in the world today have been baptized as infants, and they may never undergo the type of spiritual transformation and discipleship that Paul the apostle underwent because such children will hopefully be following Christ from infancy onward.
The Message of 1 John 2
In fact, the chapter of 1 John 2 reaffirms the advocacy of Christ in atonement for sin through him being an atoning sacrifice, the need for no one to teach a Christian, and the importance of doing what is commanded. In this way 1 John 2:3 assures believers that they can be certain that they have come to Christ if we do what Christ has commended. Obedience to God’s word shows that the love of God is made complete, (1 John 2:5) and living in Christ means living as Christ lived (1 John 2:6). Overall, one of the most important points that 1 John 2 makes is that the love for the world alienates a person from Christ, but in contrast the person that does God’s will can last forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
1 John 2:18-20 then goes on to describe the work of the anti-Christ while the following passage continues by promoting the anointing of the Holy One as being the source of truth without need for human instruction. Such a passage would thus rely upon the work of the Holy Ghost to lead a person into all truth (John 16:13) such that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to the believer. (2 Timothy 1:14) Passages such as 1 John 2:22 next show a reliance upon systematic theology for understanding who is a liar by giving a test to see who denies Jesus as the Christ, and the scripture goes on to stress how anointing teaches Christians. (1 John 2:27) Overall, the last and perhaps the most important part of 1 John 2 is that it concludes by teaching that everyone that does what is right has been born of God. (1 John 2:29)
Church Offices and the Early Church
Some may be surprised to learn that scripture teaches that Christ had a huge number of disciples beyond the standard twelve. In fact, John 19:38 and Matthew 27:57-58 show that Joseph of Arimatea was a disciple that prepared for Christ’s burial, and Luke 6:12-17 teaches that Christ called his twelve disciples and even designated them as apostles from a large group of disciples. In fact, Acts 6:1-3 teaches that after the resurrection that the number of disciples had been increasing, but even despite this fact the twelve apostles appointed seven deacons in order to serve needs that had not been met. Overall, one of the things that such verses demonstrate is that the early disciples may not have all had church offices but they may have had instrumental involvement in the life of Christ and had been associated with those in church office.
Another interesting point is that disciples increased rapidly as conversion of priests to Christianity increased rapidly according to Acts 6:7, and crowds of disciples sometimes existed (Luke 6:17), some had been female such as Tabitha (Acts 9:36), and some had been children of mixed marriages such as Timothy (Acts 16:1). The disciples of Christ are the ones that baptized people instead of Christ during his three year ministry (John 4:2), and what is most interesting is that a disciple named Ananias baptized Saul in Acts 9:9-19. Overall, the scripture even explicitly states that the work of Paul to preach the gospel was done for winning disciples for Christ (Acts 14:21-22).
In fact, the fact that the disciples had first been called Christians at Antioch as mentioned in Acts 11:26 can be used by some to suggest that all Christians are a disciple of Christ in some way. In fact, some may even believe that the entire work of the church is to make disciples of the nations and thus to carry on the work of the great commission. (Matthew 28:19) The only problem with such a view is that it may simply be false and in danger of leading many to an eternal alienation from God.
Christ can hide Salvation
In Matthew 13:11-20 Christ made clear that the secrets of the kingdom of God had truly only been given to a few, and that Christ spoke in parables in order to ensure that not everyone would be healed. The problem of misunderstanding had been so extreme that Christ even had to come back after he arose from the dead in order to teach people concerning himself. (Luke 24:26-27) Overall, Romans 9:16-18 even makes a case that salvation does not depend upon human efforts because God will have mercy on whomever he chooses to have mercy on.
The ancient Jews had a great multitude of sacrifices to atone for sins such that their blood would atone for sins, and when speaking to Jews in a synagogue, Christ made clear in John 6:53-70 that unless a person eats and drinks his blood that a person cannot expect to have any life in them. Despite all the disciples that Jesus had, John 6:66 teaches that many of Christ’s disciples turned away from him and would no longer follow him on account of such a use of Christ’s flesh and blood. The scripture only specifically accredits the twelve disciples in John 6:67-70 as being the ones that had remained with Christ.
One should thus not be surprised that in 1 John 2:2 that Christ would be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of Christian believers and the entire world. The same chapter (1 John 2) that talks about how anointing teaches Christians everything also communicates a clear message to both Fathers and children in the Christian faith. (1 John 2:12-14) One could even intuit (at this point) that Fathers would be able to derive their power to administer the atonement of Christ’s blood to Christian believers on account of the fact that the twelve disciples that Christ had called and chosen had not rejected the message of blood atonement applied from Christ’s sacrifice of actual flesh and blood. Overall, given such a point and also given the importance that 1 John 2 places on the act of anointing teaching Christians, one can see the foundations for the theological system known as sacramental theology that teaches that God works his special means of grace through specific individuals that make intercession before God in the form of the sacraments of the holy and apostolic church of Christ.
Some may reason that sacramental theology is correct in its assumptions that God can work miracles of the administration of special means of grace in the life of believers such that discipleship with Christ may be an small point that does not extend beyond the work of Christ through the priest to transform the believer by application of the sacraments of the church. Although such a problem may pose many issues with a person’s spiritual development and utility for God’s plan of salvation, one certainly should not deny the sacraments as sufficient in themselves for salvation. Overall, many churches will teach discipleship and doctrines of works as guiding forces for directing the course of a person’s salvation, and the danger in doing such things is that it can rob believers of the eternal security that is afforded by the sacraments in favor of a scheme of manipulation by church leadership to be unjustly enriched.