The Demands Of Genuine Discipleship

Gerald Polmateer


What is a Disciple?

A disciple is defined as one who follows another.

It typically means someone who is a follower of their teacher. In 1 Chronicles 25:8, a disciple is a student. A disciple would learn from the rabbi.

Rabbi is the Hebrew word for teacher. The talmid (disciple) of Judaism would learn from the rabbi (teacher) the rabbi’s ways, traditions, and sayings.

It was an intensive study for the talmid who would listen to the rabbi.

When Jesus called his disciples, they would have known what it meant to be a talmid (disciple) of Judaism, a student of a rabbi (teacher),

However, Jesus did something quite different from traditional Jewish rabbis.

Jesus called  called the twelve “To Come” and “FOLLOW Me.”

Follow ME!

The families of the twelve permitted the disciples (talmid) of Jesus to FOLLOW Jesus.

Notice the difference between traditional discipleship in Judaism and the radically new discipleship of Jesus?

In Judaism, a talmid (disciple) became the rabbi’s student to study.

In Jesus’ discipleship, a talmid (disciple) became the Rabbi’s follower to imitate.


The Rabbinic Use of Disciple


  • A talmid gave himself (as a learner) to Scripture and to Judaism’s religious traditions.
  • When someone finished his studies and was equipped to do the work of a rabbi, he was called a talmid.
  • A talmid could make independent decisions in religious law, although he has not been formally ordained or given public recognition as an authority.
  • Certain conditions had to be met to become a talmid who had not been ordained and was part of a guild (rabbi).
  • A man was to have a comprehensive knowledge of Scripture and tradition and be questioned by the rabbis on an ordination council before a final decision.
  • One could not become a rabbi without first becoming a talmid.
  • There is no talmid without a teacher, and he who had no teacher could not become a talmid just by studying.


The Marks Of A Talmid


  1. The first mark of a talmid was that he expressed external submission to the teacher.
  2. The talmid listened carefully to what the rabbi said and appropriated what he heard.
  3. The only task of the talmid was to acquire knowledge from his teacher and exercise critical reflection.
  4. The way a talmid learned from one another was to have one or two partners.
  5. One talmid would stand and expound on a passage while his partners would listen and ask questions.

The Judaic schools where a talmid studied were led by rabbis. The rabbi’s message and conduct directly influenced the school, both inwardly and outwardly. The rabbinical method of teaching, in which everything depended on listening, was designed to make the talmid a bearer of tradition.


The Mission Of A Rabbi


  • The mission of a rabbi was to teach what it meant to apply God’s Word in life.
    • A talmid apprenticed under a rabbi who knew the Hebrew Scripture and taught how to apply them to life.
    • The talmid (disciple) sought to study the text of Scripture and to listen to the rabbi’s words.
    • A talmid was expected to know the words of their rabbi by heart.
  • Once the prospective student had decided on the rabbi he wanted to study under, he would approach the rabbi.
    • The rabbi determined the final choice. Only the brightest and most scholarly were chosen.
  • The schools were named after the rabbi.
    • They represented various schools of thought about how to live out and interpret scripture.
  • When we read in the Gospels where Jesus chose His disciples, they already knew what it meant to be chosen by a rabbi.
    • They knew that a rabbi had not chosen them to study Judaism.
    • But Jesus chose them to FOLLOW Him.


What Is Genuine Christian Discipleship?

Jesus gave the command to his disciples:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 NASB)


“Make disciples” is the command preceded by the action “go.”

Baptism was an action by which a new believer named Jesus as their LORD, an action that renounced the governmental ruler as their lord. For this action of baptism, the disciple of Christ could be executed by the government as a traitor.

It also meant the person could no longer live as those in the world who most likely sacrificed to a god or gods.

Teaching the disciples to observe all Jesus commanded was an ongoing action of modeling Jesus’ life and remembering Jesus’ words. 

Disciples of Christ who “Follow Jesus” think clearly and live correctly BECAUSE they’ve become a talmid (disciple) of the Rabbi who called them to “Follow Me” and learn the cognitive level by the Word of God and at the practical level by the Works of God (Jesus’ life).



That’s our invitation to become a genuine disciple of Jesus!

Those talmids (disciples) who exhibit Jesus’ leadership qualities become the rabbis (teachers) of others in Christ’s Church.

As Paul wrote:

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2 NASB).

Only those with godly character and love for others, as exhibited in Jesus, with a corresponding knowledge of God’s Word, are qualified to be the rabbis of God’s people.

No personal giftedness or talents overcomes a lack of godly character in Christian teachers.

The Bible teaches that those who fail to exhibit godly character will eventually fail. Their ministries will fail; their lives will fail; their families will fail.

Humility as we the Rabbi’s life and teachings is necessary to see God work in our hearts.

For It’s about Him, not us.

Gerald Polmateer

Gerald Polmateer has been focused on making disciples of Jesus who reproduce themselves for 52 years. Because of how he was taught to grow as a new believer, he has been reaching others in much the same way he was taught. Gerald has reached people of all ages in the church and the community. As he has grown older, he has seen the need for a holistic approach to lifelong discipleship. This involves a variety of approaches to develop people at a deeper level. Wade Burleson has been Gerald’s online friend for years and believes Gerald’s guest article is particularly relevant to this day of evangelical celebrity Christianity.