Characteristics of a Disciple

An expanded reading of Romans 12:9-19


MitzvotJun 26, 2020

MitzvotJun 26, 2020


Jean-François Millet - Landscape with Christ and His Disciples (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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Since we are disciples of Yeshua, our lives should be guided by the desire to imitate our Master’s character and live righteously as he did.

Naturally, this should raise the question in all of us: Does my character live up to the high standard of what it means to be a disciple of our Master Yeshua? In Romans 12:9-19, Paul provides a long list of characteristics that define a disciple. We can easily weave the character traits described by Paul together with other Scriptures and classic Jewish sayings [1] to create an expanded reading of Romans 12:9-19 [2] that highlights the overarching biblical theme of what it means to possess a godly character that reflects our Master Yeshua.

Romans 12:9-19 (expanded version)

As disciples of our Master Yeshua, we are to “Let [our] love be genuine” (v.9), as it is written, “If you really fulfill the royal law and uphold the commandment to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:8, 16 adapted). Our genuine love of God and man should reflect God’s character and cause us to “abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (v.9), for “those who love the LORD hate evil” (Psalm 97:10).

By striving for what is good may we also “strive daily to love one another with brotherly affection” (v.10), “for the sake of heaven, like David and Jonathan” (Pirkei Avot 5:16), by “outdoing one another in showing honor” (v.10) and letting “the honor of your fellow be as dear as your own” (Pirkei Avot 2:10). Do not be slothful in zeal but “be swift as a deer to do the will of your father in heaven” (Pirkei Avot 5:20). “Be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope” (v.11), as it is written, “So now faith, hope, and love abide” (1 Corinthians 13:13). May our hope in God aid us to endure and “be patient in tribulation” (v.11). For “the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:3). Through faith “be constant in prayer” (v.12), joining in with the “prayers of all God’s people, which rise before God like incense” (Revelation 8:3 adapted).

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (v.13) for “is it not [for you] to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house?” (Isaiah 58:7). “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (v.14-15). And in this way be like the Lord, who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly” (v.16), "for he humbles the proud and exalts the lowly" (Siddur prayer). “Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (v. 17-19), as it is written, “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18). May the LORD strengthen us to fulfill the law of Messiah (Galatians 5:16) and thereby glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Endnotes:

[1] All taken from Pirkei Avot https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirkei_Avot

[2] Tying Scriptures together is a classic method of Jewish exegesis called midrash (“searched out”).

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About the Author: Jeremiah Michael is pursuing a degree in rabbinic literature from at a university in Israel. His desire is to bring a greater understanding of Jewish literature to Messianic Judaism. Jeremiah lives in Israel with his wife and daughter. More articles by Jeremiah Michael