Howard Synder posted fourteen ways that we can distort the gospel. h/t to Jim West. Number 10 was particularly striking to me:
10. “Believers” instead of disciples.
Jesus calls and forms disciples so that the body of Christ becomes a community of kingdom-of-God disciples. The New Testament rarely uses the word “believers.” Today this fact is distorted by the tendency in modern translations to use “believers” in place of “brothers” (in order to be more inclusive) or in place of pronouns such as “them.”
What counts is not the number of believers but the number of disciples, and thus the ministry of disciple-making.
Though Paul and Jesus (in John’s gospel) teach a great deal about salvation by means of faith, the question is still, “What does that faith look like?” We often take words like “believe” and “faith” and insert modernized meanings into the words. But Paul, nor Jesus really let us do that. For instance, Jesus tells a group of believers this, “If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples. (32) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.(Joh 8:31-32)” He wants the group of people who trust in him to be synonymous with people who do what he says. Similarly, Paul who says over and over again that we are justified by faith, notes what kind of faith this is in Romans 1:5, “Through him we received grace and a commission as an apostle to bring about faithful obedience among all the gentiles for the sake of his name.” Thus, for Paul, the very faith he later says justifies, is a faith that is obedient to Jesus. Not just Jesus as cipher for this or that theological position or political hobby horse, but the Jesus who says to do difficult things, “take up your cross,” “when you fast,” “make disciples of the nations,” “when you give alms,” “whoever wishes to be first must be the servant of all,” etc.
*Note: Bible translation used is ISV. I normally use my own, but was in a hurry today.