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Cost of Discipleship

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Luke 14:25-35

It is important to realize that the Synoptic Gospels[1] were written to a Christian audience for whom the basic issues relating to faith and eternal life were settled and plain.[2] These Gospels were written for the purpose of leading those who had already received Jesus Christ into a life of DISCIPLESHIP.[3] In this episode Jesus speaks openly to the crowds who were following Him of the COST of being one of His STUDENTS.

The Context of Jesus’ Statements

Luke 14 and 15 both refer to suppers. The supper in Luke 14, hosted by a ruler of the Pharisees,[4] probably lasted almost the entire chapter.[5] Also the host was a BELIEVER.[6] In fact, all of the teaching in Luke 14-15 is in reference to BELIEVERS [that is, fundamental to discipleship]. A summary of the teaching in Luke chapter 14 would be:

  • Preference of Mercy over Legalism (vs. 1-6)
  • Teaching on Humility (vs. 7-12)[7]
  • Teaching on Unconditional Generosity (vs. 13-14)
  • Teaching on Rewards (vs. 15-24)[8]

“Hating Oneself” (verse 26)

In verses 25-35 Jesus is speaking to the multitudes. Jesus was obviously not trying to win a popularity contest – for He spoke openly and clearly to the crowds who were following Him of the price they must pay to be students of His.[9] He says, “Unless you hate your father, mother, wife, children etc. you cannot be my student.” Jesus was simply saying that love for Himself must come above all other relationships for someone to be His disciple.[10] He continues, “You must even hate yourself”. That is, if my own desires or ambitions or self-comfort are in conflict with the will of God, I must be willing to submit myself to Christ’s will in order to become His disciple.[11]

“Bearing One’s Cross” (verse 27)

Jesus next stated: “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Jesus was saying that if I am not willing to be identified openly and stay with Him [with all of the reproach and, perhaps, suffering that might entail], then I cannot be His pupil [disciple].[12]

“Counting the Cost” (verses 28-30)

Next Jesus spoke of the necessity of completing His program of discipleship. Many may desire to start as His pupils but not have the wherewithal to finish.[13] People looking on would undoubtedly mock this disciple because he was not able to finish the training.[14] Therefore, I must “count the cost before I enter Jesus’ school or else I may come up short at the end.

“Ready for War” (verses 31-32)

Also, Jesus reminds his audience that to become one of His pupils is to involved in spiritual warfare. They are all “kings-in-waiting”[15] who will be engaged in battle with the “god of this age” Satan.[16] To NOT prepare for this eventuality is to ultimately be overwhelmed and capitulate in the Christian life.[17]

“Saying our Goodbyes” (verse 33)

Jesus then gives the “bottom line” to what He has said: “To be one of My pupils you must be willing to say ‘goodbye’[18]- up front - to everything you have.” In order words, one must be prepared to put all that is needed[19] into discipleship. We should count the potential cost and our willingness to pay it. Though discipleship may not actually require all -  it MIGHT require all [for example, our lives, family, money, strength etc] - and if we are not prepared to give all, our discipleship will fail.[20]

A Final Word (verses 34-35)

Salt refers to spiritual qualities which are necessary for discipleship.[21]  lost its flavorrefers to believers who have gotten away from the Lord. Such people need to “become salty again” - and repent.[22]


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[1] Matthew, Mark, and Luke are often referred to as “Synoptic Gospels”. Synoptic means “to see together”. They are distinguished from the Gospel of John which is written to unsaved people [John 20:30-31] and is basically evangelistic.

[2] There is an absence in the Synoptics of explicit statements of the type we meet everywhere in the Gospel of John [for example, John 1:12, 3:15-16, 36, etc].

[3] Note the purpose statement in Luke 1:4. Also, in Luke’s companion volume [the book of Acts] the word disciple μαθητής mathetes is used over 30 times [including its derivatives]. In Luke it is used 38 times. Luke was concerned with giving instruction for discipleship.

[4] Luke 14:1.

[5] Probably through verse 24.

[6] This is clarified in Luke 14:14. In Luke 14:12-14 “you” is always singular. Jesus was exhorting this man to live in such a way to gain reward at the Judgment-Seat of Christ.

[7] Just the opposite of the Pharisees and Scribes in Luke 15:2.

[8] That we are not to allow our earthly affairs to allow us from attending this Supper [the Millennial Banquet which probably will last during the entire reign of the Messiah]. That is, we are to put God first in our earthly affairs.

[9] See verse 25. Of course, eternal life is free [John 4:10, Eph. 2:9-9, Rom. 6:23, Rev. 22:17 etc. But discipleship is costly.

[10] This principle is also found in the Old Testament [Cf. Deut. 13:6-11, 33:9] Also see Matt. 10:37. Luke 10:27.

[11] This, of course, was taught in Luke 9:23-27 and was remarkably demonstrated in the lives of the twelve and of the Apostle Paul (Cf. Acts 4:21-31, 5:40-42, 20:24, 21:13-14). The text of Acts 20:24 can be translated, “I count myself as nothing nor do I regard my life as valuable to myself so that I might finish my course with joy and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify solemnly of the good news of the grace of God.” However, not all believers in Paul’s day [or in ours] had the same commitment to discipleship [Cf. 2 Tim. 4:10, Phil 2:21]

[12] For example, there were many in Jesus’ day who believed in Him [and thus had eternal life] but were not will willing to confess Him [be openly identified with Him]. See John 6:60-66, 12:42-43; Heb. 13:12-13. Also, to follow Jesus is to be a witness for Him [Matt 4:19]. I cannot serve Jesus unless I follow Him [John 12:23-26].

[13] Note Luke 8:13-14. To be rewarded I must complete the program [Cf. Luke 9:62, II Tim. 2:12, 4:7-8, Heb. 3:6, 14; 10:36, Rev. 2:25-26]. This clearly demands endurance [Luke 8:15, 22:28-30, Heb. 10:35-36, 12:1-3].

[14] Verses 29-30.

[15] Luke 19:17 , 22:28-30, Matt. 24:47, Heb.1:9, 3:14 etc.

[16] John 12:31, 14:30, 2 Cor. 4:4, Eph. 6:10ff. Of course, as Jesus reminded them, they would be in the “minority” when facing the opposition of the world.

[17] Examples of capitulating to the “god of this world” would be 2 Tim. 1:15, 4:10, 16. Jesus, of course, warned His disciples that some would even seek to kill them [John 16:1-4, Luke 21:16]. Acts 4:23-31 and 2 Tim. 4:17-18 represent examples of successful discipleship in this regard. Paul exhorted Timothy to “fight the good fight” of the faith [1 Tim. 6:12] and not give up - that he might be rewarded [“lay hold of eternal life”].

[18] The Greek word used here “ἀποτάσσωapotasso means “to say farewell to” [BDAG, pg. 123].

[19] All of one’s resources.

[20] Comment on this verse by Zane Hodges in an email exchange.

[21] Verse 34. See also Matt. 5:13. A real disciple is the “salt of the earth” because he has the necessary spiritual qualities. In fact, these qualities are strongly denied in the Pharisees and Scribes in Luke 15:1-2.

[22] That is the subject of Luke 15. Thus Luke 14, as a whole, concerns POSITIVE things about discipleship whereas Luke 15 concerns NEGATIVE.

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