Modern wisdom would have us spend much time discipling new believers.
But consider the following:
Philip had no time with the Ethiopian eunuch after his baptism (which occurred at salvation).
The Philippian jailor became a disciple in the middle of the night, and next morning, Paul was gone.
Paul was in Philippi for “several days” (Acts 16:12) and yet the letter to the Philippians is full of praise for their faith and good works.
In other cities, (for example, Thessalonica–three weeks, Berea) Paul was there only a short time before being thrown out of town.
I became a believer at age 11 through reading a children’s book and knew no other Christians for four years. Somehow I realized that prayer and reading the Bible were important, and after a few weeks I led the girl who lived next door to Christ, but other than that I had no contact with other believers.
I’m certainly not saying discipleship is unimportant, but in situations where it doesn’t happen, is the Holy Spirit enough?
Subscribe to Get Simply Church Updates
Join our mailing list to get occasional updates from me!
24 replies on “Is the Holy Spirit enough?”
As you pointed out in a previous post, one-on-one discipling may not be the best approach to making mature believers. It is certainly very open to the creation of pathological co-dependent relationships.
My guess is that the new converts found faith communities in which to nurture their new faith. Lone wolf religion may escape the dangers of co-dependency; but it does not provide the circumstances to acquire the psychosocial skills of interdependency and cooperation necessary for becoming a sacrament of Divine Love in the world.
Equipping the saints for witness in the world, by word and deed, to the reconciling power of the Gospel is a fundamental biblical imperative that requires the formation of uniquely Christian spiritual communities.
“The point of the spiritual life is not our personal private holiness but rather opening our selves so that the life of God can pour out on the community.” ~ Maggie Ross
“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.”
~ M. Scott Peck
“Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives. And when that person moves away, someone else arises to take his or her place.” ~ Parker J. Palmer
I like your emphasis on interdependency, Carol. In this country there is such a focus on independence that we can miss out on the corporate nature of our faith.
Individualism is the “dark” or disordered side of healthy individuation (http://www.giftscompass.com/?p=individuation_individualism).
We are a social species and can only realize our full human potential in relationship with others. The Trinitarian Mystery consists of three Persons, not three Individuals, subsisting in loving communion.
“Prepare to spend a long time making disciples, but anticipate miraculous acceleration!” is how my good friend Jerry Trousdale referred to what has been observed across sub-Saharan Africa. He describes this in some detail in his book Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus.
The Ethiopian is a remarkable case, I believe. He “had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah” (Acts 8:27-28). Owning a personal copy of Isaiah, at a time when such would have been meticulously produced only by a scribe, is remarkable. This, coupled with the fact that he is reading the Hebrew or possibly the Septuagint (Greek) text of this passage, reflects a level of wealth and education that was not the norm. But most importantly, he was a person of peace–someone who is seeking to understand God.
In Philippi there are actually two conversion stories–Lydia and then the jailer. While we do not know whether or not these two groups ever joined together, neither came to faith as isolated individuals. Dr. Luke tells us that “she and the members of her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15). Speaking of the jailer, “immediately he and all his family were baptized….he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God–he and his whole family” (Acts 16:33,35).
But maybe the most germane of your examples is the church at Thessalonica. Paul’s premature departure from this church was a source of great concern for the apostle (1 Thess. 2:17-3:13). As you read the sections of Acts that describe Paul’s work, he is almost never alone for significant periods of time. One of those exceptions is detailed in the passage just mentioned.
Yes, the Holy Spirit is enough–when he chooses to work alone. But when he chooses to work through Jesus’ people, he may call them to take a long time making disciples.
As always, John, you share much wisdom. Thank you!
Personally, and from my own experience as a born again, Spirit-filled believer, I DO believe that the Holy Spirit is enough. God says throughout his word that he wants to teach us. 1 John 2:27 specifically states that we do not need anyone to teach us, but that the anointing teaches us about all things. If we have the Holy Spirit, that is enough ~ he will teach us. I believe the deception of our day is that Christians are taught they have the Holy Spirit when they believe. Without the evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, they do not have the anointing or any wisdom from above.
Being a disciple of Jesus and being a disciple maker of others is in obedience to
the Lord’s command to go make disciples ~ but what if our leadership encouraged them to let God will teach them, by his word and by his Spirit. Throughout the word Jesus warns us not to trust men, but to put our trust in him alone.
I do believe it is good to be in unity and enjoy fellowship and refreshing with our brothers and sisters in Christ – but there is nothing like “being still” and learning directly from the Spirit of Christ himself.
So why de-emphasize that in any way?
And… Wouldn’t teaching people to hear God for themselves, study the Bible for themselves, etc. be a part of Discipleship?
Jon, the problem I see today is much of the disciple making “movement” is getting away from the Bible and getting into their own “systems”, with new words and terms and methods that are not all biblical. If people aren’t in the word and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach them, how will they discern false teachings and deception? I believe we must be obedient to the command of Jesus to go make disciples . . . but the disciple making process has to be based on the truth of God’s word and the counsel of his Holy Spirit or it will be fruitless.
I would say that teaching people to be “in the word and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach them” IS disciple making. At least a part of it.
I agree that disciple making should be done God’s way.
Agreed–see my note to Lisa above.
I agree with you, Lisa. One of the chief skills we need to teach new believers is how to hear from God for themselves. Plain teaching can make for a dry and sterile walk with the Lord, but there’s nothing like the adventure of hearing him for ourselves and learning to obey him.
I’m not convinced that the question that is the title of this article is legitimate in the context of Christian Discipleship.
The question is, “What has God commanded us to do?”
It doesn’t say “make converts and leave them,” it says “make disciples…, baptizing them…, teaching them… all that I have commanded…”
The question “Is the Holy Spirit Enough?” doesn’t make sense in this context. “Enough” in the sense that we can neglect our responsibilities? “Enough” that we can de-emphasize a basic principle of Christianity? (Teaching others).
P.S. Some of the people we see hearing the Gospel in the New Testament were already partially discipled in the ways of God via the Jews. The Gospel wasn’t necessarily always preached into a vacuum.
I’m not arguing that we should abandon new believers–as the last sentence in my post says, in situations where discipleship cannot happen, is the Holy Spirit enough. Maybe it was a bad title.
Judging by the picture, you are the author??
Maybe I’d understand more if I was a regular reader. Then I would know your style and temperament, etc.
I think I ended up here because a fellow house-churcher and facebook friend posted this on their timeline.
I suppose it is kind of like saying “if a person is an orphan, is God’s love enough?”
It is enough, but in fact, nobody is designed to live on God’s love in the direct sense only. We are meant and designed to receive God’s love for each other as well.
So… God’s Love (minus family love) is “enough” in a sense, but it is not according to design.
Similarly, The Holy Spirit’s presence will certainly aid a believer who has no one (or ones) discipling them, but that is now how it is designed to work. The Holy Spirit works through our fellow believers!
Although, I am sure you already know all that. 🙂
It seemed that the point of your article was to de-emphasize the role of discipleship while increasing the role of the Holy Spirit. Maybe I missed your point.
Those two items go hand in hand. There is no either/or about it.
Agreed! As in so many things, it’s a both/and rather than either/or.
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. 1 Jn 2:27 btw the great commission was given to the apostles not you…….Jesus told them, has Jesus told you directly not from a book….
Enough for what?
Founder, SeeingGod Ministries
Enough for a person to grow in Christ
I’m guessing that a lot of discipleship happened in community. I’ve just read through the book of Acts again, and it seems to me that, like with Jesus, that’s how much of it happened. I was looking for evidence of Paul or others having special time teaching those who assisted him. I suspect it happened through life-experiences rather than systematic teaching. I think it’s a healthy way to go. I’m now reading through the epistles, again looking for the same. Watch this space…
Although I believe that teaching has a great value and was commanded, I don’t believe that we still understand what teaching really is. The promise of “I will be with you” is there because we cannot be good teachers without His presence by His Spirit. Once we think we can do without His Spirit or when think we know now it then comes the moment that only His Spirit will be sufficient and less confusing for a beginning follower.
Teaching that is only aimed at head knowledge is, in my mind, a very poor second best. I know too many people who had to sit through hours of lifeless sermons as they were growing up and turned away from faith. It takes the Holy Spirit applying it to our lives for it to have an impact.
Die GNADE unseres HERRN JESUS CHRISTUS
und die LIEBE GOTTES und die GEMEINSCHAFT
DES HEILIGEN GEISTES sei mit Euch allen!!!!!!!!!!
Aus dem 2.KORINTHER 13;13
Google translate: The GRACE of our LORD JESUS CHRIST
and the love of God and the COMMUNITY
Of the Holy Spirit be with you all!
I did a study of that text in Mathew where jesus tells his followers-including phillip to go out and disciple people–then in acts chapter eight phillip gives the good news of jesus Christ to the eithiopian then the holy spirit yanks him away to somewhere else and the Ethiopian heads off back to Africa–no discipleship by phillip–I guess we know who the boss is.