The Crux of Christianity

Bible Book: John  1 : 43
Subject: Discipleship; Jesus, Following

(John 1:43; 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 13:36; and 21:19)


The crux of Christianity is a call repeated throughout the Gospel of John. Christianity without discipleship is not genuine Christianity according to the Bible. John provides six inspired snapshots from the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Follow Me” is one of the central themes of His ministry. Our focus will follow this emphasis.

I. We see the invitation of discipleship.

In John 1:43 we read, “The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”

Dr. Kenneth Cain Kinghorn, professor of Church History at Asbury Theological Seminary, observes in Dynamic Discipleship, “Christian discipleship is unique because it begins with Christ’s call to man. This is another way of saying, ‘Christianity begins with God, not man.’ To begin with man’s ideas about God is to end with what man can produce or devise. When persons exclude God from their thinking they invariably arrive at naïve optimism or hopeless pessimism. To start with Christ, however, is to end with truth and fulfillment. Our encounter with God starts with his call to us, not with our decision to seek him.

During Jesus’ time, in both the Jewish tradition and the Greek philosophical schools, the disciple took the initiative as to which teacher he wanted to follow. Outside Christianity, the same pattern follows even today. We choose the books we want to read, the movies we want to see, the games we want to play. We choose our schools, our professions, and our teachers. We suppose that the same freedom exists in the realm of religion. We assume that we can choose which ‘God’ to follow. But such an assumption is at best only a half-truth.”[1]

From Matthew 8:18-22 we read, “And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’”

We read in Luke 18:18-23, “Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.”

Make certain that you have accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow Him or you will have eternity to regret it.

II. We see the illumination of discipleship.

From John 8:12 we read, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”

We read about children of light and children of darkness in Ephesians 5:8-14, where Paul writes, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, / Arise from the dead, / And Christ will give you light.’”

III. We see the identification of discipleship.

Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

Dr. O.S. Hawkins, President and Chief Executive Officer of GuideStone Financial Resources, shares the following about the Great Commission in Where Angels Fear To Tread: Confronting Seven Vital Issues Facing the Church, “Matthew’s account of the Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20] gives us the Mechanics (we are to ‘make’ disciples, ‘mark’ them by baptism, and ‘mature’ them in the faith). These are the mechanics of the Great Commission. Mark’s account of the Great Commission [Mark 16:15] gives us the Measure of it. We are to take this gospel to the whole world. Luke’s account of the Great Commission gives us the Message of it. What is it? (Luke 21:47) —“That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in . . . . all nations.”[2]

The Lord’s Supper is another way to identify with Jesus. We read in Luke 22:7-34, “Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.’
So they said to Him, ‘Where do You want us to prepare?’ And He said to them, ‘Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.’
So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.

When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!’ Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing. Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. ‘But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’ But he said to Him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.’ Then He said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.’”

We identify with our Lord Jesus Christ through the observance of the ordinance of Believer’s Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In these two ordinances Jesus says, “Follow Me.” While these are not the only ways to follow Jesus, they are important ways to follow Him.

IV. We see the itemization of discipleship.

Simply put, “itemization” is “an itemized list”. To “itemize” is “to set down in detail or by particulars.” Jesus sets down the particulars of being a disciple. We find another particular of discipleship in John 12:26, where Jesus says, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”

Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter (1903-1999) explains, “It is the servant who thus ‘follows’ who receives the daily anointing with heavenly unction, and is ‘endued with power from on high’ for special exploits.”[3]

V. We see the immigration of discipleship.

John writes in John 13:36, “Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.’”

Only genuine believers will immigrate to heaven, unbelievers will immigrate to hell. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” You will never get to heaven unless you follow Jesus.

VI. We see the isolation of discipleship.

In John 21:19 we read, “This He spoke, signifying by what death [Peter] would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”

Individually, Jesus calls us to follow Him. We read in John 21:20-23, “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You?’ Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’ Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?’ Peter was concerned about what would happen to John and Jesus said, ‘What is that to you? Follow thou Me.’”

We understand from tradition that Peter was crucified in Rome upside down because he felt he was unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ.


Some incorrectly assume Christianity does not involve discipleship. They erroneously think they are the exception or that they have an exemption.

Dr. Elon Foster (1833-1898) shares, “One day, thinking to amuse him, his wife [Ann (1789-1826)] read to Dr. [Adoniram] Judson [1788-1850] [American Baptist missionary to Burma] some newspaper notices in which he was compared to one of the apostles. He was exceedingly distressed; and then he added, ‘Nor do it want to be like Paul nor Apollos nor Cephas, nor any mere man. I want to be like Christ. We have only one perfectly safe Examplar,--only One, who, tempted like as we are in every point, was yet without sin. I want to follow him only, copy his teachings, drink in his Spirit, place my feet in his footprints, and measure my short-comings by these and these alone. Oh, to be more like Christ!’”[4]

An unknown poet penned these poignant words:

“‘Wilt thou follow Me?’

The Savior asked.

The road looked bright and fair,

And filled with youthful hope and zeal

I answered, ‘Anywhere.’

‘Wilt thou follow Me?’

Again He asked.

The road looked dim ahead;

But I gave one glance at His glowing face

‘To the end, dear Lord,’ I said.

‘Wilt thou follow Me?’

I almost blanched,

For the road was rough and new,

But I felt the grip of His steady Hand,

And it thrilled me through and through.

‘Still followest thou?’

'Twas a tender tone,

And it thrilled my inmost heart.

I answered not, but He drew me close,

And I knew we would never part.”[5]

In John 6:66, we read, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." John writes in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

Allow me to pose the question, "Are you merely a fan or Jesus Christ, or are you a follower?"

You will discover from a careful reading of Scripture that disciple is the original designation for believers. It was later in Antioch that they received the name Christian (Act 11:26). Dr. Luke uses the word saint four times and the term Christian two times in the book of Acts. However, he uses the word disciple twenty-two times. It is safe to conclude that every Christian is a disciple. Some are better disciples than others, but all genuine believers are disciples. Therefore, Jesus’ call to “Follow Me” is the crux of Christianity.

[1]Kenneth C. Kinghorn, Dynamic Discipleship (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1973), p. 14

[2]O.S. Hawkins, Where Angels Fear To Tread: Confronting Seven Vital Issues Facing the Church (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1984), p. 89

[3]J. Sidlow Baxter, Going Deeper: A Series of Devotional Studies in Knowing, Loving and Serving Our Lord Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Book House, 1959), p. 203

[4]Elon Foster, 6000 Sermon Illustrations: An Omnibus of Classic Sermon Illustrations (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1952, 1992), p. 277

[5]J. Sidlow Baxter, Going Deeper: A Series of Devotional Studies in Knowing, Loving and Serving Our Lord Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Book House, 1959), p. 203

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor Fist Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / / (251) 626-6210

© January 8, 2012 All Rights Reserved