Union University R.G. Lee Society of Fellows

"What Makes A True Disciple"
John 1:35-42

by Rev. Stan G. Smith
Pastor, First Baptist Church
Henderson, TN

Rev. Stan Smith

Payne Stewart’s death brought national attention to a pertinent question, “What would Jesus do?”  In many of the photographs taken of Stewart, he wore a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet.  The bracelets became very popular across our nation, but many did not understand what they really meant. 

Webster’s definition of a disciple is “a pupil or follower of any teacher or school.”[i]  A true disciple is not just a student or a learner, but a follower: one who applies what he has learned.  Thus, a true disciple will ask, “What would Jesus do?”

  R. G. Lee tells of the pastor who startled his members one Sunday morning by asking the question; “What have you done today that nobody but a Christian would do?”[ii] 

In our text we find four characteristics of a Christian disciple.


I.          A Love for the Word of God

            A. They Hear It

As John the Baptist and his disciples were standing by the Jordan River, Jesus walked by.  Once again John states, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”[iii]  This was a biblical message.  John’s disciples understood this to be a declaration from God Himself.  They recognized John the Baptist was a prophet sent from God and that prophets spoke the Word of God.  They had followed John for some time and they listened intently to what John had to say.  When they heard John speak they knew his words were of God.

God’s Word is exactly what Christians need for direction in their lives.  “The Bible, not the church, is supreme in all matters of faith and conduct.  Church councils, committees and organizations and their decisions do not supersede the Word of God.  God’s Word is final.”[iv]

B.         They Heed It

It was not enough for the disciples to just hear what John said.  They took what they heard to heart.  True disciples will not only hear the Word of God, it will move them to action.  James states, “But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”[v]  I once heard a man say it is not how much we get into God’s Word that matters but how much God’s Word gets into us.  Reading, studying and applying God’s Word in our lives is essential.   

Dr. Lee tells the story of an old man who lived in a boarding house who was converted after a life of much sinning and manifold transgressions.  He would read the Bible and say loudly: “Praise the Lord!  Hallelujah! Praise God!”  The boarding house folks got tired of it.  One day, they took his Bible while he was at work and hid it.  In its place they put a scientific book full of dry facts and figures.  After reading it awhile, the old man shouted, “AMEN!  Glory to God!  Hallelujah!” They turned to him rebukingly and asked, “Why are you shouting? And what do you find in that book to make you shout?”   The old man replied, “This book says the seas in some places are five miles deep.  And the Bible says God has cast all my sins into the depth of the sea.  Hallelujah!”[vi]

A true disciple who loves to hear and heed the Word of God in his life will be able to rejoice in all things.   


II.        A Lasting Commitment to Christ

When the disciples heard what John had said, they immediately followed Jesus.  These men had heard John tell that One was coming after him who was mightier than he.  He even identified Him as the Son of God.  It was no surprise then that when the disciples saw Jesus walk by they left John and followed after Jesus.  As Jesus called other disciples, they would leave everything and follow after Him completely.    

The story is told of a pig and a chicken talking about their importance on the farm.  The chicken commented how she was very active in providing breakfast every day by laying an egg.  The pig replied that while the chicken gave her egg every day he had to give his life for breakfast.  The chicken was involved but the pig was committed.  

A true disciple is not just involved but is committed to take up his own cross and follow Jesus to the very end.  That is a complete and lasting commitment as described by Dr. Lee, “Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back again tomorrow.”[vii]


III.       A Longing to Know Christ

When Jesus turned and saw the men following Him, He asked them what they were seeking.  Why did Jesus ask that question?  Did He not know what they were seeking?  Jesus did not ask questions for information because He is omniscient.  He asked the question for the disciples to identify their desire. 

Notice their answer, “Where do you live?”  They had a longing to know Jesus more intimately.  The true character of an individual is not what he does publicly before people but what he does privately in his home.  Jesus Christ responded to their request with, “Come and see.”  The text states they went with Jesus to the place where He was staying and dwelt with Him for several hours.  A true disciple will spend time to intimately know Jesus.


IV.       A Leader of Others to Christ

Andrew is identified as one of the two disciples.  Notice what he did immediately.  He found his own brother, told him about Jesus and then brought him to Jesus.  A true disciple will bring others to Jesus.  R. G. Lee wrote “The greatest sit-down strike in the world has not been on the part of some labor union in some industrial or manufacturing plant, but in our churches.  Many who love Jesus do not seem to love Him enough to make any special personal effort to get others to give Him their hands and hearts in repentance and faith for salvation.”[viii]

Dr. Lee also relates this story as was told by Dr. R. C. Campbell.  “A blind Chinese man was taken to a hospital.  The missionary doctor operated, removing cataracts from his eyes.  The man went back to his home seeing and rejoicing.  In a few weeks he came back to the hospital.  This time he was holding the end of a rope to which forty blind people were clinging.  He had led them to the place where he had received his sight.  Should we attempt to do less in a spiritual way?”[ix]

            When Dr. Lee spoke to the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1948, he stated, “If our hearts are not 25,000 miles in circumference, they are too small.  If our arms do not embrace the whole world, they are too short.”[x]  A true disciple will seek out family, friends and neighbors to tell them the Good News and bring them to Jesus just as Andrew brought his brother to Jesus.

When Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, Jesus gave him a new name.  One of the greatest blessings in coming to Jesus is receiving a new name: disciple of Christ.  Let’s demonstrate the characteristics of a true disciple.

Written By: Rev. Stan G. Smith
Pastor First Baptist Church
Henderson, TN 38340

[i] Webster’s Dictionary

[ii] R.G. Lee, Modern Illustrations for Public Speakers, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publication House, 1955), p.36.

[iii] Holy Bible, John 1:36

[iv] Sermon by R.G.Lee, Charter and Command in notebook

[v] Holy Bible, James 1:22

[vi] R. G. Lee notebook

[vii] R. G. Lee notebook

[viii] R. G. Lee personal notes

[ix] R. G. Lee, Modern Illustrations for Public Speakers, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publication House, 1955), p. 38.

[x] Address to Georgia Baptist Convention 1948, personal notes.







Stan Smith has been pastor of First Baptist Church of Henderson, Tennessee since 1992.  A 1981 graduate of Union University, Rev. Smith attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas for the Master of Divinity degree. He and his wife Monica have four children, Jamie, Josh, Joseph, and Jesse.