“The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26)
A disciple is a learner, but a learner supposes a teacher. In reality, the visible church is only a school, where Christ is the great teacher. The word of God contains all the lessons which are inculcated in this school. But as Christ is the sum and substance of the word, he is not only the teacher, but the subject of the lesson taught! “This is eternal life, to know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” “You have not so learned Christ, if so be you have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” “We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
A genuine disciple is not only taught out of the word, but by the Holy Spirit. External teaching, however correct, is not sufficient. We need internal illumination by the Spirit. “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” “If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Not that this divine instructor teaches anything different from the word. No! He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us. He is the Spirit of truth, and will guide the disciples into all truth. “As for you, the anointing which you received from him remains in you, and you don’t need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, you will remain in him.” (1 John 2:27)
He “reproves the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.”
But what are some of the lessons learned by the disciple in this school?
1. The worth of his soul.
2. The value of time.
3. Veneration for the holy Scriptures as the infallible rule to guide our faith and practice.
4. Our ruined and condemned state—”children of wrath, even as others,” “dead in trespasses and sins,” “without hope and without God in the world.”
5. The Spirit convinces the human heart, or rather, gives the soul a glimpse of the indwelling sin, by which it is convinced of total depravity. Oh, what a multitude of evils; what a fountain of impurity; what a mass of corruption! The heart is found to be deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. There is found nothing in it truly good.
What can be done? Where shall the sinner fly for relief? Where, but to the house of mercy—to the city of refuge? There stands One with wounded hands widely extended, who invites the perishing sinner to come to him for safety. The guilty soul hesitates—fears this invitation cannot be for one so unworthy. But no other door is open, and the kind, entreating voice is still heard, Come—”and him who comes, I will never cast out.” It ventures—trembling, it advances—it throws itself into the arms of divine mercy, and is graciously received, without merit, without upbraiding; becomes a son or daughter by adoption, and if a son, then an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ.
6. The disciple also learns to prize Christ above all people and above all treasures. “To you who believe, he is precious.” He values Jesus above all price as his infallible Prophet, his sovereign King, as well as an atoning Priest. The disciple learns to roll all its burdens on the Lord, and learns to live outside of itself, by desiring vital supplies from Christ, day by day. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
7. Again, the disciple is taught the beauty of holiness. Moral or spiritual beauty is the glory of heaven. External glory is nothing; but moral, divine excellence is the glory of God, comprehending all his divine perfections. To view this excellence, is the beatific vision in which the happiness of heaven consists. Oh, glorious state! Oh, blessed abode!
8. Finally, the disciple learns to know the reality and sweetness of communion with God. While many are contented to worship in the outward court, he desires to penetrate into the holy of holies, where he can hear the words of the divine oracle, and see the resplendent face of Immanuel. The apostle teaches that the most holy place is a type of heaven; and surely nothing on earth is more like heaven than intimate communion with God.