Bible-Based Discipleship Transcends All Cultures, Connects All Peoples
The apostle Peter was one of the privileged few who became a firsthand witness of Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:1–8). He, James, and John caught a glimpse of Jesus’ glory, which identified Him with God (e.g., Exodus 14:20; 33:18–23; Hebrews 1:3). In spite of this unforgettable event repeated to his audience in 2 Peter 1:16–18, his main focus in this section of the epistle is the infallibility of Scripture due to its divine origin (2 Peter 1:19–21). Peter’s point was that while only three disciples witnessed Jesus’ revelation of His glory, all Christians have access to His Word, a reliable guide for faith and practice (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
Because our Creator Who knows us better than we know ourselves gave us Scripture, the Bible is applicable to every people group and is a necessary component of discipleship. This factor doesn’t mean, however, we always teach and disciple in exactly the same way. Jesus used the imagery of the new birth to describe salvation to Nicodemus (John 3) and of living water to the Samaritan woman (John 4). Scriptural truths never change, but we must make certain we communicate the Bible’s message in ways our audience can accurately understand and apply to their lives.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to disciple a man (we’ll call him Carlos) from Latin America who had a faulty understanding of marriage. Somehow, he’d gotten the idea that because a government official performed his wedding service, he was only legally married within the confines of his home country. Carlos reasoned that since he now resided in the United States and his wife remained in Latin America, he was free to pursue a relationship with another woman in the Memphis area.
As part of the lengthy counsel I gave him in order to show him the error of his way, I emphasized Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:6: “What God has joined together, let no man separate.”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” Carlos countered. God didn’t join us together; it was a government official.”
In Carlos’s country of origin, many Christians believe that even if a couple obtains a marriage license from a court and the state recognizes this union, the couple isn’t truly married if they don’t have a religious service. For this reason, Christians often have two wedding services: one before a judge, and one their pastor officiates. In Carlos’s case, a faulty understanding of marriage from a biblical perspective had become an excuse for him to contemplate cheating on his wife because he was lonely.
Remembering many from Carlos’s country held to this faulty notion of marriage, I changed strategies. “Carlos,” I began, “could you remind me again about your conversion experience?”
“Of course,” he said as his eyes brightened. Carlos enjoyed telling how God had changed his life. “I was a young man when Jesus saved me. Before I came to the United States…”
“That’s such a shame,” I replied, interrupting as gently as I could.
Carlos looked at me strangely, not following my line of reasoning. “Are you saying you think it’s a shame I was saved?”
“All I mean,” I continued, “is that if you were saved in Latin America, then you’re saved there, but not here. You need to be saved all over again in the United States.”
Carlos knew me well enough to know I was joking, but he didn’t understand my point. “Brother Mateo, you know it doesn’t matter where a person was saved. If he’s saved, he’s saved everywhere!”
I quickly added, “And if a person is married, it doesn’t matter where he was married. He’s married everywhere!”
The Lord allowed this point to hit its target, and Carlos soon realized how wrong he’d been a few minutes ago. An understanding of his culture along with a grasp of biblical mandates regarding marriage was necessary in order to understand where Carlos had gotten off track and to begin discipling him on this matter. Jesus discipled by explaining timeless truths in ways that connected with his audience. May we do the same so that we disciple well!