Webster on discipleship

John Webster’s 2005 Finlayson Memorial Lecture is one of the best essays I’ve read on discipleship. Those who tend to accuse Webster of rarely doing biblical exegesis would do well to note how he allows his exegesis of certain (mainly Markan) texts to shape and inform his argument here (while we wait for his commentary on Ephesians).

Anyway, here’s what he says about disciplship:

‘Discipleship is no exception to the rule that in all things Christ is pre-eminent. Grace does not fall away when we begin to talk of obedience to the call to be followers of Jesus, as if the divine conclusion were simply an initial impulse or cause, propelling us into autonomous action. The human venture of obedient discipleship, both in its beginning and in its continuation, is wholly enclosed by one fact: Jesus Christ is in our place. He has once for all replaced our corruption and disobedience by his pure embrace of the Father’s will; as substitute, representative and head of the human race, he has achieved our rescue and done what our ruined humanity cannot do: he has rendered obedience to God. If there is a corresponding human obedience – if James, John, and all the others, including we ourselves, do indeed obey his call and follow him – it is not in order to secure fellowship with God simply by fulfilling some command. It is because this movement and direction is one which has already been established in Jesus; what remains, therefore, is only that it be echoed, filled out and attested in our own obedience. To obey Jesus’ command is to follow him; it is not to start a fresh movement but to enter into one which precedes us and catches us up into itself’. – John Webster, ‘Discipleship and Obedience’. SBET 24, no. 1 (2006), 6.

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