The Basics of Disciple Making - Matthew 13:51–52
What is something you would like to learn? Perhaps how to cook some dish or cuisine, how to do some form of art, or how to woodwork or create professional-looking photography? Maybe how to play a musical instrument or play your instrument in a certain style. For instance, right now when I have a little free time, I’m learning to play guitar in the style of Texas Blues. Just something I’ve always wanted to do.
You might enjoy learning about history or science or some other subject. We tend to be eager to learn when we are learning what we want to learn, when we are learning on our terms. But we are not always so eager when we must learn on someone else’s terms. Like when you have to go through hours and hours of training as a new employee. Or kids, when doing your school work. There are some times and some lessons that just you don’t want to learn! Kids, how would like to hear today that summer has been officially shortened and school begins tomorrow morning at 8am? You probably wouldn’t be happy.
We like to learn – on our own terms. But what we find in the Scriptures is that God’s expressed goal in the expansion of his kingdom here on earth is to produces learners who learn on His terms. These learners are followers of Jesus whom he calls “disciples.” If we would follow Jesus, we must learn what He wants to teach us, when he wants to teach us, and we must learn it His way.
And what’s more, God’s plan is to involve his learners in the work of making more learners. God is making disciples through disciples. And so, believers in Jesus need to understand the basics of disciple making. What are the basics? Where does disciple making begin? Jesus points out two things listed on page 6 in your WG. Disciple making begins with: humbly receiving and hospitably communicating God’s revelation of the truth.
Now, earlier in Matthew, we saw Jesus teaching the crowds using parables and then explaining the meaning of the parables separately to only his disciples. This was to demonstrate that the kingdom belongs to God and He reveals it. In chapter 13, beginning with the parable of the sower, Jesus began revealing many things. He taught the disciples that the human heart is resistant to God, and yet God enables the heart to respond by grace through faith. Jesus reveals that in both the church and throughout the world, sin and righteousness exist side by side, even though the long-awaited kingdom has come.
But in the end, sin will be removed forever, while righteousness will remain. Jesus reveals that God’s great kingdom would begin small and quietly but would eventually cover and change the whole world, and that the great value of the kingdom would be hidden from the sight of many, yet there would be those who believe and who would gladly sacrifice everything to receive it.
And Jesus reveals that in the end, there will be a severe judgment of sin, a separation of those mercifully gathered to God from those justly condemned to hell. Notice again verse , Jesus says, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” The teacher-student relationship is clear. Leader-follower. He gives, they accept. It is merciful of Jesus to reveal these things. It comes by God’s grace, unmerited or unearned. They humbly receive. This is the attitude of a true disciple. Jesus’ brother James later wrote said as much to the first-century church when he wrote:
“let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak…receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Meekness, in other words, humility. The “word” is implanted by instruction from another. Paul makes a similar point when he tells the church plants in Thessalonica,  we…thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”
The beginning of discipleship requires humble reception of God’s revelation of the truth. If we would join God in making disciples, we must first be disciples. We must be learners. Notice Jesus’ responds to his learners in verse  And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house,” “Scribe” referred to a religious teacher. Scribes were first taught; then they taught others. The Jewish rabbis and Pharisees were scribes, but as Jesus carried out his earthly ministry, they were not responding with faith in Him and the kingdom. However, Jesus was choosing and training his scribes; he was equipping the teachers who would carry the gospel forward.
You notice the word “trained” in verse 52; that could be translated “discipled,” or you could read it as, “every scribe who has been made a disciple of the kingdom of heaven.” This is important because it is the same wording used later by Jesus in Matthew 28:19, where he tells his disciples to “go and make disciples.” As they preached the kingdom, they were to bestow the new covenant sign of baptism and to teach what Jesus commanded. They were to pass along what they had first received. In affect, they would be the scribes now. And this had been prophesied long before.
In Jeremiah 3 in the Old Testament, God says that in the NC era,  I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. Yet before those disciples, the future shepherds, could feed others, they had to eat.
They had to come to the table. But even after moving to that place of understanding, getting “scribe status” if you will, there is no indication that they ever stopped being disciples. They never stopped learning from Jesus, never stopped receiving from their living Lord.
It’s not as if after his return to heaven, the disciples stopped following Jesus. First and foremost, they were followers. Because no matter who teaches you or disciples you, the goal is knowing the living Jesus personally. This is why Paul tells the church in Corinth,  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” So, you could say that disciple making begins with humbly receiving from God and it continues with humbly receiving. We are ever-receiving. We keep learning until we die.
My first job out of college was as a middle school and high school English teacher. Grammar, literature, writing. And even as a teacher, I had to study and prepare for each day. Around that time, I read this anonymous quote: “the secret of teaching is to appear to have known all your life what you learned the night before.” All the teachers here today can probably relate. The same is true for all of you with your various careers, or with life in general. We must keep learning.
Do you have this posture toward Jesus, each day, and especially on the Lord’s Day, that you still have a lot to learn? We all know people who are not teachable, who bristle when someone tries to instruct them. They are quick to speak, slow to listen, and too proud to be taught. Make no mistake: a teachable attitude, with the mindset of a humble receiver, is the only appropriate attitude of a disciple of Jesus. In fact, for a true shepherd of Christ, even as he teaches you, you should be able to tell that he is a learner.
D.A. Carson makes an excellent point about Jesus’ words here. He writes, “Since Jesus’ disciples have now understood his parables, they can legitimately be called ‘scribes’ themselves, as can all of his disciples with similar understanding.” This doesn’t contradict what we see in Scripture regarding those who are especially gifted, trained, and called to preach and teach, but rather, it supports that God-designed system.
You come here and receive the preaching of the Word with a posture of reception. You get the benefit of all my study and preparation. You hear and understand, and then you go out and live your life. Who is the scribe of the kingdom where you work? You are, not me. I’m not there, you are. Who will be the disciple who can instruct others in your home tonight? Not me. You. The shepherds and teachers equip the church (Ephesians 4). If you are a learner of Jesus, you are able for the work of ministry to which God calls you in the setting where he places you. You can give – you can speak – out of what you have humbly received, which is the second part of what Jesus says here. Disciple making begins with hospitably communicating God’s revelation of the truth.
Look again at verse 52. Jesus says, “every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” This is the parable formula again, but instead of saying “the kingdom of heaven is like…” Jesus says “every teacher of the kingdom of heaven is like…” What are they like? Well, they’re like a host welcoming guests into his home. From within his storehouse or treasury, the host is bringing out his most prized possessions. They are varied; some are new, some are old.
Picture a host, preparing for guests in his or her home, with a deep desire in bless others using the things with which they have been blessed. The goal is not to brag, not to show off or selfishly boast about what the person has. The aim is not to impress others. There is no pretentious attitude, no conceit. The desire is to serve the guests, to show hospitality. The host says, in affect, “Come in my friend, the house is prepared and the table is set.
Sit at my splendid table in one of these comfortable chairs. I’ve been saving this fine food and fine drink for an occasion such as this. Relax and enjoy. Share with me in my blessings.” Folks, this is how we make disciples of Jesus Christ. We bring out, from our storehouse, our finest possessions: things like the grace of God, the law of God, his mercy, his love. We tell of his holiness, and his power, and of his sovereign rule over all things. We lavish on our guests the wonders of His glory. Our cup runs over, and out of that overflow, others receive and they come to understand.
This is essential for the preachers of God’s Word. It’s important to see here that verse 52 is aimed, in part, at the religious teachers of that time. Jesus was correcting the teachers back then; he is still doing that. James said that teachers would be judged more strictly by God. Why? Because teachers and preachers have great influence. Here at Good Shepherd, we believe in what is called Reformed Experiential preaching. There are different ideas over what “reformed” means, but the overarching idea is God-centeredness in all things. His sovereignty, his power, his wisdom, his Word, his glory. Everything revolves around God, not people. God drives everything. And the preacher must have experiential knowledge of God. Before a man’s preaching of the Word can come to bear on the listeners, the Word must have first come to bear on him. It must be changing him. The man must know the great truths of God by personal experience.
Pastor and scholar Joel Beeke writes, “Reformed experiential preaching is not merely aestetic, causing people to walk away thinking, “What a beautiful idea! It is not merely informative, imparting knowledge about the Bible and theology. It is not merely emotional, warming hearts and producing strong feelings. It is not merely moralistic, instructing and exhorting in what is right and wrong. All of these elements are present in good preaching, but none of them is the heart of the matter.” So, what is the heart of the matter?
Beeke says, “Reformed experiential preaching uses the truth of Scripture to shine the glory of God into the depths of the soul to call people to live solely and wholly for God. It breaks us and remakes us. It is both exhilarating and humbling. Such preaching brings us face to face with the most glorious and delightful Being in the universe, and also face to face with our own profound wickedness. By such preaching, the holy God binds himself to sinful men heart to heart with a word of blood-bought grace.” The preacher who receives from Jesus in this way, and the people who receive from Jesus through that preacher, can then say to those around them, “Come, see and enjoy the wonderful treasures of my God.”
If you would be a disciple of Jesus, a learner who would help make more learners, the you must know the great truths of God by personal experience. Like those first century disciples, you and I must suffer and be forged in the fires of life. You and I must come to terms with our past and contend each day with the thorns produced within by our sinful nature. And we must see how the gospel addresses every part of our lives.
What we know by personal experience is what comes forth from us. This is the case with the preachers of God’s Word. If there is no passion for the law of God in the man’s sermon, then be assured, there is no passion for the law of God in the man’s life. If there is no joy in and dependence upon God’s grace in the man’s sermons, there is no joy in or dependence upon grace in his life. No humble reverence in the sermon, no humble reverence in his life. No awe of God’s holiness in the sermon, none in the life. No deep gratitude for God’s mercy in the sermon, the life is the same. No deep conviction to obey God and remain faithful to his Word while preaching, come on, come on – those things can’t be present in his personal life.
The same is true for all professing believers. What comes forth from your mouth? Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12. There is nothing more basic to disciple making than an experiential knowledge of God. Not just the transfer of information about God, what we call “theology.” John Frame offers this definition of theology: “theology is the application of Scripture, by persons, to every area of life.” True discipleship means living according to the truth. We shouldn’t separate “understanding” from “application” in our minds when it comes to God’s revelation of the truth. If we don’t apply it, then we don’t truly understand. In fact, we might not actually believe it. You can’t honestly say, “My theology doesn’t line up with how I live my life.” No, you’re just confused about what your theology actually is.
Joel Beeke tells the story of when he completed six-months active duty in the Army Reserves. He says that a sergeant told him that if ever had to fight in a war, he must remember three things: First, how the battle ought to go, according to the tactics he was taught. Second, how the battle is really going, which is often different from the ideal. And third, the ultimate goal of the battle, which was victory for the American people. Beeke then points out that the sergeant’s advice translates well to experiential preaching, and I think it translates also to disciple making. Preachers, and then all members of the body of Christ, need to understanding these things
as we receive the truth of God and communicate it to others: First, how things ought to go in the Christian life, Second, how they actually go because of the sin in the world and in ourselves, and third, the ultimate goal of life – that we glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Do you approach God as one who humbly receives from the gracious Master, out of his glorious treasures? Have you received his great salvation by faith? And do you continually receive his love, joy, peace and hope? Do you sit with him each day at the table he has prepared for you? If you do, then you will begin to want others to come to that table. You will begin to want others to enjoy the rich hospitality of our God. And you begin to want to join our Lord in his disciple-making work.
Let’s pray together.