Salvation vs. Discipleship

When studying the Bible and drawing doctrinal conclusions, it is important to pay attention to both similarities and differences. If this is overlooked, the Bible will be full of contradictions and question marks, which can lead to both weak faith and lack of growth in the Christian’s life. Often this results in the questioning of one’s own salvation. In other words, this is not about theological hair-splitting, but instead basic truths that have real and practical consequences in everyday life.

Different uses of the word disciple in the New Testament  

That salvation has always been “by grace through faith” is an example of a central unifying principle that runs through the whole Bible. One of the most important distinctions, however, is the difference between salvation and discipleship. The word disciple, which in the general sense means “follower” or “student”, is used 264 times in the New Testament. It is found only in the first five books – the Gospels and the book of Acts. Its meaning varies depending on the context: Jesus’ twelve disciples (Luke 6:13), believers who did not follow Jesus publicly (John 19:38), public followers who did not believe in Jesus (John 6:60-66) and those who both believed and followed Jesus (John 8: 30-32). Thus, not all believers are necessarily true disciples.

Dr. Stegall says: “All true disciples of Jesus are believers in Jesus, but not all believers in Jesus are true disciples of Jesus.”

Seven distinctions between salvation and discipleship.

  1. Salvation is free (Romans 3:24) – Discipleship is costly (Luke 14: 25-31).
  2. The requirement for salvation is faith (John 3:16) – The requirement for discipleship is to “abide” in Christ (John 15: 4-5).
  3. Salvation is about the cross of Jesus (1 Pet 2:24) – Discipleship is about the cross of the Christian (Luke 14:27).
  4. Salvation is about what God gives us (Romans 6:23) – Discipleship is about what we give up for Christ (Mark 8:35).
  5. Salvation is about “coming to Christ” (John 6:35) – Discipleship is about “following Christ” (Mark 8:34-35).
  6. Salvation is a momentary event when someone comes to faith (John 3:16) – Discipleship is a process over time (Luke 9:23).
  7. Salvation is not something we deserve (Ephesians 2: 8) – Discipleship leads to reward (Ephesians 6:8).

A word of warning 

If we as Christians mix these concepts (which I did myself for several years) the Bible, as I mentioned above, becomes contradictory and extremely difficult to understand. In addition, it often leads to a life without certainty of salvation, where one constantly looks at his or her deeds and “sacrifices” to validate one’s own salvation.”