The Cost of Discipleship?

disciplesjesus.jpegIf the great task of the church is to multiply disciples (Matt 28:19, 20), then we ought to be crystal clear on what a disciple is, right? So, would you join me in considering that issue? What’s a disciple? What does a good one look like? How is one made? And how am I personally (you, the dear reader) doing at it?

Today… let’s consider the cost of discipleship.

I will comment on this passage of Scripture more extensively tomorrow, but for today, I would like to ask for respectful, loving, cordial, BRIEF (15-20 blog lines MAX or I’ll gleefully edit you down), happy, sensible, non-belligerent, non-bellicose… okay, you get the idea… DIALOGUE on what this passage means.

If you would be so bold as to specify precisely what you see as the Cost of Discipleship, I would greatly appreciate it. Go on record. That way I can slam you tomorrow! In Christian love, of course. Just kidding. I’ll go on record tomorrow, okay?

So the question is precisely this: according to this important passage of our Lord’s teaching, what is the cost/s of discipleship? I’ll give some interpretive suggestions below.

LUKE 14:25 ¶ Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them,
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
towerbabel.jpeg 28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it–
29 “lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
30 “saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
31 “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
32 “Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.
33 “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
34 “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?
35 “It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

jesuswashedfeet.jpegSome ideas to consider:

Look at the context before you leap to conclusions.
How does GRACE factor in? Or does it?
How does the church today understand this paragraph?
How does the church today apply this paragraph?

    Don’t feel like it’s heavy homework or anything like that. Simply jot down a few thoughts or even questions if you like.


    11 thoughts on “The Cost of Discipleship?

    1. seems this particular passage is about weighing the cost and of planning, being wise and self reflective, not impulsive.
      most churches today are aggressive in outreach or consider being proactive in outreach as the way to ‘make disciples’, not all churches though…..some take the ‘by example’ approach……go out into all the world does not necessarily mean the missionary model we have now, does it? it can, i agree, but not necessarily. i’m not meaning to judge an action by it’s results but it seems that the more lasting ‘conversion’ comes from immersion, the by example and friendship, equal footing, vehicle. i’ve seen churches and missions play the numbers game, quantity over quality. why the rush?

    2. Thanks, Bill, for a great piece on Grace. I’ve really enjoyed reading your stuff. I really like your review of “God is not Great”. Thanks for all you’re doing to serve the Lord.

    3. I think Jesus was presenting a “new thought” to the Jewish concept of believing they must “obey” the Law to get to God. He wanted them to know God definitely had a “different” plan then they had thought before. To obtain this goal to be His disciple, it would take God’s precise plan and our decision. They must DIE – (“hate your own life”, “forsake all that you have”). Fortunately, God had already “planned” that Jesus would be the death substitute for mankind. Grace is God’s decision to let us decide. The cost is dying to our own efforts and receiving the new life He gives us in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. I think it’s a terrific deal!!!

    4. Disciple=one who has signed up to become what the Master is, by way of close association, observation, imitation; an apprentice carpenter (historically) would follow the Master Carpenter around for years, helping, watching, obeying, doing, until he became a Master.

      I think that also answers the question of cost; the cost is your life, your identity, your whole way of doing, thinking, acting, being. (On this topic, I love NT Wright’s commentary on the phrase, “repent and believe in me.” read page 250 in Jesus and the Victory of God)

    5. Steve,
      I read p. 250 in Wright’s book, and are you sure it’s the right page? If so, I might be missing your point. What did you want to have jump out at me?

      If you have time, and would like to expand, “the cost is your life, your identity, your whole way of doing, thinking, acting, being.” That sounds quite costly for a free gift.


    6. Verse 33: this seems like the key verse. I assume it’s is talking about the substitutionary aspect of being a Christian. Jesus gives up his life for you, you accept his death as your own, thereby forsaking all that you own. You then receive the life of Christ and his inheritance. Giving up what you cannot keep to gain what you cannot lose. So, we must count the cost but be sure to account for the treasures and resources of God in our calculations.

      It is God who completes the work in us, He builds the tower, He fights the army, He begins the good work in us and is faithful to complete it.

      That’s my best guess anyway. 🙂

    7. The cost of discipleship is, first off, Jesus’ gift (Atonement); without him there is no discipleship pleasing to God. Do you smile Dr! You should; I am!

      Our response is slavery to God. Paul’s admonition in 1 Cor. 6 (out of context, but applicable here.) “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” Paul says, “bought” in reference to being bought out of slavery. We were once “slaves to sin,” etc. We are now indebted to the one who “bought” us. The price? One spotless, blameless Lamb. I love Paul’s references to slavery, he, & the other disciples, referred to themselves as a slaves (almost each Epistle intro) & I would make the argument they recognized this as the normal stance of a believer to his Lord. Discipleship means obedience to your master (…”teach them to obey everything…”); obedience is worship (Rom. 12); Biblically, discipleship & Christian are synonymous. Sadly, this is no longer true.

      I would also add that in order for a person to be a disciple of Christ they must be a disciple of the church. There is no biblical evidence of a disciple being a disciple apart from the church. Furthermore, all biblical evidence points to discipleship to Jesus being done in & though others. Barnabas & Saul, Paul & Timothy/Titus, John & Ignatius? (who was Johns’ disciple?)

    8. Jesus is warning the crowd regarding the relational and societal effects of following him. Discipleship will change how you relate to:
      1: your family (v26)…hyperbole with “hate” in there..
      2: your self (v26)…you’re going to be different
      3: your society (v27)…”bearing the cross” meant ostracism, being treated like a criminal. Remember, this predates the crucifixion. Don’t think of The Passion here.
      4: your Stuff (v33)…”leave all that he has…”

      So…to paraphrase: Follow me. You’re cost is this: you may not be popular or rich. But, no biggie, because you’ll be salty! (how about “cosmically useful with a purpose?”)

      Grace: Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything in the passage. He just warns of the possible outcomes of following Him. The “cost” here relates to how our relationships change. It’s a passive thing. We follow Christ, and other stuff ensues.

      What do I win?

      Bob G

    9. “Remember, this predates the crucifixion. Don’t think of The Passion here.”

      It predates the crucidixion of Jesus, yes, but crucifixion would have been a common sight in 1st Century Palestine, especially following the great Roman purge of rebels in the years shortly preceding the ministry of Jesus. Jesus words to pick up your cross should be contextualized as, ‘follow me into the gas chamber…”

      As for my words, Bill, Jesus never mentions any ‘free gift’ in this passage… so I think we have to be careful about removing a statement made in a totally different literary context and applying it here, as though we could remove chapter four from Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ and insert it directly into the middle of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”

      Having said that, I would say that Jesus’s reference to the ‘cost’ is the cost of accepting the free gift. I can give you a free car, that doesn’t mean I plan on filling your tank with gas for the rest of your life!

    10. Hey Steve,
      Excellent points. Let me clarify my statements: Jesus’ audience would not have made the connection between his “carry your cross” statement, and Jesus’ future crucifixion. I think they would have considered his statements to be somewhate hyperbolic, what with hate your family, hate yourself, etc. So the way I think I would have heard him would have related to His call to “saltiness” and His warning to the impact it would have on my life/relationships, etc.

    11. PS It also should include page 251…

      He is helping to redefine the terms ‘repent’ and ‘believe’ according to the common meanings given to those words by the people of the culture (Josephus); removing the 2000 years of cultural religious and political connotations that have shaped our understanding of those words.

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