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Volume 19, Issue 1: Doctrine 101


Patch Blakey

Follow-up, in terms of Christian development or sanctification, was a term I first heard shortly after I became a Christian. For me, it meant that the person who communicated the gospel to me had the responsibility to keep tabs on me, and to make certain that I was being encouraged to walk faithfully with the Lord in my new life in Christ.

I recently heard of an evangelist who says that follow-up isn't biblical. His argument is that all a new believer needs is his faith in the Lord and a Bible, and his example of this was the Ethiopian eunuch.
Philip was sent by an angel of the Lord to proclaim Christ to an Ethiopian eunuch who was returning home from a visit to Jerusalem. Philip explained Jesus from the Scriptures to the eunuch, and at the eunuch's request, baptized him, marking him as Christ's. At this point, the Scriptures say, "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39).
There is no indication from the text that Philip ever went to Ethiopia to visit this brother, and encourage him to remain faithful in his walk with Christ. The eunuch went on his way rejoicing, taking with him whatever portion of Scripture he already had. But this is hardly the only biblical account we have of how to care for a new Christian?
What about the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul? What of the apostolic epistles?
During my earlier participation in a campus parachurch organization, I've also been taught that discipleship is done "man to man." Often quoted to substantiate this doctrine is 2 Timothy 2:2, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." Paul is communicating to Timothy man to man. But what does the verse say?
Paul is exhorting Timothy to pass on what he has learned from Paul, and there is a context in which the transfer of this instruction occurs—a body of believers. But even if the passage was referring to instructing men individually, Paul is referencing things he taught Timothy "among many witnesses," and Timothy was to instruct faithful men who would be able to teach others also.
In 1 Timothy, Paul states, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Tim. 1:15). What is the local gathering of these saved sinners called? Is it "disciple-makers"? Is it "maker of disciple makers"? No. These are terms foreign to the Bible.
The term that is consistently used throughout the New Testament for these gatherings of redeemed sinners is the church. "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2).
Disciples are followers of Jesus Christ. And where does the New Testament teach the followers of Jesus Christ to gather to be "discipled" by their Lord? "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb. 10:24-25). God's people are to assemble for worship where they meet with their Lord. It is for this reason that the Lord has given His church pastors, like Timothy, who are to "preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2). We also see that the church assembles weekly for communion: "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight" (Acts 20:7).
Therefore, we see that it is Christ who teaches His disciples, and it is He that nourishes them, both from the Word of God as well as through His table each Lord's day. And for the new "babes" in Christ, the Apostle Peter wrote, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:2). There is indeed "follow-up" for new Christians, and it is Christ who does it through the means of His church during worship each Lord's day. And He also does it for mature Christians at the same time and in the same way.
This is not to assert that Christians may not or can not be of spiritual benefit to their fellow believers. It is evident from the Bible that this happens, and is indeed commanded, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). Christians who are walking in the Spirit are to humbly correct their fellow believers who are not.
But this does not minimize the fact that most follow-up of Christians is done each week during worship through the ministry of the Word and sacraments by the Lord's ordained minister. After all, this was the purpose for Paul's two letters to Timothy, as well as all of his other epistles to the local churches.

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