Session #024 Multus Discipulus
Scripture Matthew 4:25-5:1
Summary Building on the message “Follow” about discipleship, Henson dives deeper into the subject in this teaching. From Matt 4:25-5:1, the terms ‘multitudes’ and ‘disciples’ are explored, and common misconceptions cleared. This final session of Phase II ends with a challenge and a prayer of recommitment.
Multus Disciplus is Latin which is simply Multitude Disciple.
“Great multitudes followed Him – from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.” Matthew 4:25 – 5:1
There are two distinct groups in the verses, multitudes and disciples. It is clear that the multitudes were not considered disciples. If the people followed Jesus, does that not make them believers? If they are believers and not disciples, does it not mean that not all believers or followers are disciples? What makes a disciple distinct from the multitude? What is the difference between the two?
Multitudes in the Gospels
The term ‘multitudes’ is usually contrasted with disciples as it is possible that they are not believers yet, but mere observers. Multitudes were sent away by Jesus and keeping only the disciples with Him. If these are indeed believers, why would Jesus send them away?
Jesus also calls them Sheep without Shepherd (Matthew 9:36). This means that Jesus was not their shepherd – yet. That means they were not His sheep.
What did they believe about Jesus? They believed enough to follow but not necessarily in what Jesus wanted them to believe about Him (do we too choose what we want to believe?). They wanted a messiah to save them from foreign rule and oppression. When they did not find what they wanted in Jesus, they changed their minds and stopped following.
If many of Jesus’ disciples stopped following when they found it hard to believe in what Jesus taught, what more the multitudes? “This is a hard saying, who can understand it?” (John 6:60) “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.” (John 6:64) “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (John 6:66) Only those who truly believed continued to follow.
Does having a huge number of followers mean that it is correct? There is a crowd phenomenon called herd mentality or heard mentality [ Have you heard? People love hearsay, which after a while, can even become heresy.]
But … Great Multitudes Followed Him. Were these really following Jesus, or merely following the crowd? There were many who tagged along and yet, others sincerely went after Jesus and offered themselves as disciples.
Point to Ponder: One Can Follow Without Believing. But One Cannot Believe Without Following
Multitudes in the Book of Acts
Notice the difference and how the word is associated with believers and disciples.
Now the multitude of those who believed was of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common (Acts 4:32).
And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women (Acts 5:14).
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1–7)
Most significantly in Acts 11:19-26, persecuted believers (Cyprus and Cyrene) preached Jesus “and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” After which Jerusalem sends Barnabas to check things out “and a great many people were added to the Lord.” Barnabas gets Saul (Paul) and they “taught a great many people.” “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26)
These terms were synonymously applied to the great number of people who turned to the Lord, the multitudes. Believers, Disciples, and Christians (literally means followers of the Christ, or those belonging to the Christ).
What Discipleship is NOT
Discipleship is NOT an optional add-on to salvation. You do not get to choose to be a disciple. You already are the moment you believed in Jesus Christ. You are no longer your own, you belong to Him. What does it mean when you say that I do not want to be a disciple? You will not follow because you do not really believe. Or are you believing in the wrong things about Jesus? In the last days, many will fall away because of faulty beliefs and winds of doctrine.
Disciples are NOT a special class of believers
If you think disciples must be called or chosen, this is how you view discipleship – a privileged class of believers opens only to some but not all. All are disciples but we are separately chosen for different assignments and tasks. Jesus had not only 12 disciples but more than 500. 70 were sent out and 12 were chosen as apostles, for specific tasks. In Jesus’ inner circle, there were 3. Regardless of where you serve, frontline or backroom, everyone in the army is a soldier. You do not enlist and then decide whether you want to be a soldier or not. It is the same with the Army of God. We are a body of different parts with different gifts for different functions. All given by grace and to be administered under grace.
Discipleship is NOT a church programme or ministry
Many think that once they enroll for a discipleship programme; or if they attend church faithfully, do their quiet time daily, go for prayer meetings, it makes them a disciple. However, it is not what we do that makes us disciples; but it is who we are as disciples that determines what we do and how we live as followers of Jesus Christ. As a disciple, I would want to do the things that Jesus did.
Discipleship is NOT One Aspect of the Spiritual Walk
Discipleship is seen as one of many things in the church such as prayer, prophetic, worship, or Bible study. This diminishes discipleship to one component or compartmentalizes, which further leads to sacred vs secular. Discipleship is THE spiritual walk, incorporating all the above aspects and elements. Disciples live the kingdom principles in the church and every aspect of their lives and work. The right perspective and understanding of discipleship will radically change the way we live our lives and how we relate to one another.
- Husbands, as a disciple of Jesus, love your wives.
- Wives, as a disciple of Jesus, love your husbands.
- Parents, as disciples of Jesus, raise your children in the ways of Jesus.
- Fathers and Mothers, as disciples of Jesus, love and serve your children.
- Children, as disciples of Jesus, honour and obey your parents.
- Bosses, as disciples of Jesus, run your companies well.
- Employees, as disciples of Jesus, do your work well.
- Citizens of Singapore, as disciples of Jesus, stop complaining.
This is the gospel of the kingdom of God.
Disciples and Multitudes
“Disciples” is mentioned 274 times in New Testament (NKJV),
- 242 times in Gospels
- 32 times in Acts
- 0 in Epistles
Given Jesus’ Great Commission to “make disciples”, this can mean one of two things: The disciples failed big time. They only converted believers but never made disciples, OR there is simply no difference between believers and disciples. Hence, no need for any distinction.
In Revelation, “multitude” is mentioned 4 times, once in Revelations 17:15 to refer to those who oppose the Lamb and His faithful ones (disciples). Thrice as “great multitudes” who worship and praise God. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelations 7:9). “After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia. Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God.” (Revelations 19:1). “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia. For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns.” (Revelations 19:6).
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18–20)
Understanding disciples and multitudes will affect how we read and understand the Great Commission. Getting people (all nations) saved is good but it does not stop there. In fact, it starts there. Baptize Them In The Name is not just a dip in the pool, followed by the presentation of a certificate. There is a need to immerse them in everything about God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – His heartbeat, His kingdom, His ways, His will, His purposes. We call it Alignment. Teach them to observe All Things I have commanded you. Not churchy stuff and sub-culture but the kingdom. Not pre-cross or post-cross, but All Things. Also, teach them to observe and to obey. What Jesus says, do. What He assigns to you, know and fulfill it. We call it Assignment.
It is great that we have numbers in our church. Discipleship is a buzzword but no one really addresses this very fundamental point about believers and disciples. Many are still confused. Or presume it is not important. The question is not whether we are believers or disciples; BUT if we are faithful or unfaithful disciples of Jesus. Attendance-ship is nice. But more than just multitudes… what if churches were filled with great multitudes of disciples who boldly live for Jesus and His kingdom? What if every believer is awakened, aligned, and assigned?