12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Acts 1:12–14 (ESV)
Boice, in his sermons on Acts, examines this period of time as a period of intense discipleship for the 120. He notes the following elements of their discipleship:
Obedience: Jesus had told them to remain in Jerusalem:
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4–5 (ESV)
In the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), Jesus describes disciples as those who “observe all that I have commanded you”. Obedience is a crucial element of discipleship – in fact, it is a primary aim of discipleship (not a bare grudging obedience and not a legalistic perfectionism). We cannot separate our prime directive from obedience:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37 (ESV)
Without love, there can be no obedience. And, without obedience and there is no love:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. John 14:21
A great trouble with many Christians is a failure to obey. We will often say that we cannot obey, or obedience is too difficult. We search for some shortcut to obedience – or for a sanctification which entails no obedience. Yet, as we can see, a failure of obedience is ultimately a failure of love for God in Jesus Christ.
These disciples loved Jesus and they showed that by obeying. Now this obedience may not have been as easy as it seems. Surely something could have demanded immediate attention – and after all a short trip back to the north would not be all that bad.
We must trust God to have given us good commands and then we must obey that which we have been commanded.
During this time of obedience they were continually with one another – which was the state of the early church. This is a necessary element of the Christian life. Boice writes:
People need people. This need is part of what it means to be a human being. One of the worst things that can happen to a person is to be utterly isolated form other people, and the converse of this is that if we are to grow intellectually, socially, and spiritually, we need others. Christians need other Christians. When you become a Christian, you do not become a Christian in isolation. Rather, you enter into the body of those who are also Christ’s disciples, and you find fellowship with them.
Discipleship is more than just one believer’s relationship with one other believer. It certainly entails that, but it requires an entire network of believers. We sometimes call this “accountability” or “small groups” – both of which try to institutionalize aspects of this necessary relationship. The entire body of Christian necessary for the proper functioning – – which means that each believer needs all of the other believers’ effects to be well.
Proverbs 18:1 (ESV)
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
Bruce Waltke in his commentary on the Proverbs notes, “Bent on indulging his cravings, the antiscocial person separates himself, and against all sound judgment he starts a quarrel or bares his teeth.” To seek one’s own desires (or the desires of one’s ignorance, 1 Peter 1:14) is directly contrary to the work of discipleship. The end of discipleship (sanctification) is to become like Christ (Rom. 8:29). If the end of the instruction is “love from a pure heart”, then such love cannot take place in isolation (this is not demean the necessity of solitude and silence, which have an important part in spiritual discipline). Love necessitates another to be loved. Christianity is a fellowship of believers (among other things).
Isolation brings sin, like still waters foster mosquitoes.
Prayer: Easy application. Any discipleship which does not include training in prayer, the practice of prayer and the encouragement of prayer is useless.
Study: This is an element of discipleship which we most often consider – perhaps there is studying outside of the particular meeting, but the meeting itself usually consists of some type of teaching or joint study of the Bible (often with some collateral reading – whatever you do, do not ever limit you discipleship study to only a collateral book; even if you rely heavily upon the book, always take everything back to Scripture and independently work through the applicable sections of the Bible – always).
Obedience and love which is flows out of and encourages further, prayer, study and fellowship.