Belief is not Knowledge is not Obedience

January 1, 0001

Two of the critiques I have sometimes heard leveled at disciple-making movements:a) they add extra requirements (‘works’) to the Gospel b) without properly-trained teachers teaching what the text means, people will fall into heresy.

The idea of a disciple-making movement is, however, thus:

a) The “salvation prayer” is not a magic spell uttered to gain eternal fire insurance. This is a common “trope” in Christianity; we all know it. We decry “nominal” believers who “maybe prayed the prayer but don’t walk the walk.” Belief is important, as the first step. Yes, Romans 10:9 promises if we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart, we will be saved; this is good news for the guy in the prison cell, about to be executed, who finds faith at the end of a lifetime of evil. But it doesn’t mean we stop there.

b) Knowledge about what we believe and who we worship is important. God calls us to know him. But knowledge can be dangerous, too.

Jesus (Matthew 15:8) quoted Isaiah (29:13) where God says,

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”

I was struck when I read Isaiah 1 (especially in the Message version, but just about any translation is striking):

I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals They are a burden to me I cannot stand them When you lift your hands in prayer I will not look Though you offer many prayers I will not listen for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims Wash yourselves! Be clean! Get your sins out of my sight Give up your evil ways Learn to do good Seek justice Help the oppressed Defend the cause of the orphans Fight for the rights of widows … If you obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen You will be devoured by the sword of your enemies

Yes, properly trained teachers are important.

But DMM, DBS, CPM, T4T methodologies all say this: much (most?) of Scripture can be easily understood by anyone who simply reads it, guided by the Holy Spirit promised to each new believer.

There are direct commands in the Isaiah 1 passage.

There are obvious commands in all of Paul’s epistles.

1 Corinthians 13 doesn’t require significant exegesis in Greek; you don’t have to delve into the original language to understand the Sermon on the Mount, or Jesus' prayer at the Communion Table.

You can read Acts 2 and know what a church should do.

c) Obedience is important.

This is not a works-based gospel: obedience doesn’t save us.

Jesus saves (see Romans 10, cited above).

But as new citizens of Jesus' kingdom, we are obligated to obey.

If we do not obey what he tells us to do, then we have to ask whether “our lips profess him, but our hearts are far from him.” When you hear “obedience-based discipleship,” contrast this with the common situation in the West: we know much and do little.

Obedience-based discipleship isn’t a call to know less: it rather says, however much or little we know, we ought to do (and obviously we ought to seek to know God more–which means delving into the Scriptures more than we delve into the sayings of a famous pastor).

A “disciple making movement” is simply a rapidly multiplying movement of people toward Christ, who seek to follow him, know him, obey him, and lead others to do the same. is a new coaching website for existing or would-be DMM practitioners; it may be useful to you.