“Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the LORD, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10 HCSB).
In both Hebrew and Greek, the word for “disciple” means “student.” A disciple, then, is one who studies. We tend to use the term disciple to mean a follower, but that is not the biblical idea of discipleship. Ezra provides the model of a biblical disciple: one who studies, who does, and who teaches. In fact, this is the progression of biblical discipleship: Study leads to doing, and as one progresses with study and doing, he or she gains the ability to teach others.
Our discipleship suffers because often we do not view study as a foundational ingredient of our becoming disciples. Instead of making disciples—who study the law of the Lord and observe it—we seek to make followers, which has a different connotation.
Some Christians segregate study from spirituality, fearing that study erodes one’s relationship with God and seeing a conflict between the head (study) and the heart (the seat of one’s true relationship with God). Just as an aside, while we identify the heart with emotions, passions, and deep feelings, in the Bible the heart was associated with the mind and learning (biblical people assumed the emotions lay in the kidneys). So, when the Bible calls on us to love God with our heart, it means to love God with our mind, our learning, and our study.
Biblical discipleship requires study. It’s at the very core of discipleship: “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40 NIV). Jesus indicated that the way one truly becomes like Him is by being “fully taught,” meaning that we study and practice His teaching. Jesus also said that the proof of our love for Him depends on our keeping of His commandments (John 14:15), not how we feel about Him.
If we are going to be true disciples of the Lord, like Ezra we must set our hearts to study the law of the Lord, which leads us to do it, and as we become fully taught—studying and doing—we teach others. The commission that Jesus gave His disciples was to “make disciples”—not converts or followers, but disciples.
How can we make disciples, students, if we aren’t studying and doing the words of the Lord? In order to disciple, we must first be disciples, and the way to do that was shown to us by Ezra the scribe: Study the law of the Lord, do it, and teach others.
Father, may we grow in our learning and doing of Your word to become more like our teacher, Jesus, so that we can make disciples of others for Your glory. Amen.