During the earthly ministry of Jesus the authors often made a clear distinction between the disciples of Christ, the religious leaders of the day, and the people in general that had an interest in knowing about Jesus. There are several examples of this, but one can be found as Luke recorded: “Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers…’” (Luke 20:45-47). Why did Jesus make such a distinction and should the same be done today?
Jesus made the distinction in such a clear manner because it was the truth. There were the disciples that listened to and believed in Jesus. The disciples were those individuals that were learning and eager to know more of the truth that Jesus was teaching. The disciples were those that were willing to follow Jesus at all cost (Luke 9:57-62). The faithful disciples of Christ today are individuals that have obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ and are striving to walk in the light of his path (John 14:6, 1 John 1:7). Jesus had fellowship with his disciples in the 1st Century and he continues to have fellowship with his faithful disciples of the 21st Century (1 John 2:24). Jesus made the distinction then and it must be made today.
Jesus recognized that there were those individuals, “the people”, that were being misled in their spiritual lives and doctrines, and that they were sincerely interested in knowing the truth. They were not the disciples of Christ, but they had an interest in spiritual things and truth. That is one of the reasons that Jesus spoke to his disciples, but at the same time in a loud enough voice so that the sincere people of the world would hear the truth. They needed to hear the truth so that they too would be able to make a decision regarding Jesus, either to believe in him or reject him. The words found in the book of Revelation can be applied in principle to those that would be disciples of Christ or have an interest in following him. “I could wish you were cold or hot” (Revelation 3:15). The people ultimately needed to make a choice and by hearing the truth they would be able to do that.
Jesus recognized that there were religious leaders of the 1st Century that used their position solely for personal gain. Their interest was not in serving God or conforming to His will. Their interest was not to serve the people of God or help them to be saved eternally, but their interest as Jesus said was to serve themselves (Luke 20:45-47). That same distinction needs to be made in the 21st Century as there are leaders in the religious world that are only interesting in the power and money that they can gain from “the people”. Sometimes there are leaders within the church that would desire the same. Jesus made a clear distinction between the true followers that were his disciples, the people in general that had an interest in spiritual things, but were being used and fooled, and the religious leaders that were only self-serving. The same distinctions must be made in the 21st Century also.