I have come to see in the Scripture several different names associated with Christians. One is “hearer of the Word “(or Law). In Romans 8:13 we read “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified”. Also, in 2 Timothy 2:14 we are told that we should avoid disputing words because it does no good and “ruins the hearers”. This suggests to me that” hearers” are a group that is not yet sufficiently mature to discern good from evil in disputes that they overhear and could therefore be damaged by seeing Christians in conflict. And James 1:22 tells us to be “doers of the word and not hearers only.” Hearers may be those who come to listen only, curious, seeking, but not yet believing.
Then there are “believers”, those who’ve heard the truth of Jesus and have, by the work of the Holy Spirit, understood that He is God Incarnate, the Savior of mankind, and the personal redeemer for one’s own sins. Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 to set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. It appears that “believer” then is also possibly an early stage of Christian, too, still in need of much teaching and guidance.
Then there are “disciples”, also called “followers”, who also appear to be in the same classification as “doers of the word”. The Scripture is full of criteria for “disciples”- be like the teacher (Christ), to serve like his master, one who puts other loyalties aside and follows Christ, and many more.
There are also among this group those who are called “friend”. It appears to be those who truly seek to know God’s heart and be obedient to His will. It is an even smaller, more intimate calling among those who are believers and disciples. We see that even among Jesus’ 12 disciples, there were 3- Peter, James, and John- with whom Christ shared the more profound aspects of His life and ministry. They enjoyed privileges with Jesus in terms of access and teaching that the others apparently did not.
For some among the believers there is also the title “sons of God”, not in the generic sense, as in “we are all God’s children.” But the special privilege of heir with Christ and with full identification with the Father. John 1:12 says, “But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the power (Holy Spirit’s enabling presence) to become sons of God. In Romans 8:14 we read that all who are “led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Having the Spirit present in one’s life as a believer to enable them and truly being led by the Spirit are two different things, it seems to me. The latter is a matter of greater surrender, obedience, and attentiveness to the Word.) Being a “son of God”, according to 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 is a calling to personal holiness, to being made “perfect” and completely dedicated to God for His use. Hebrews 12:7-8 speaks of the chastising and disciplining that God does of His sons. (“Son” includes the female children’s rights, too!) This all suggests that not all who believe are automatically sons of God, but that they have the power to be sons if they obey and seek holiness and submit to God’s disciplining in their lives.
Follower/ Disciple/ Doer
Son of God
Where are you in this progression?