Is it right to refer to believers today as "disciples", as this term is not found in the epistles?
"Disciples" were not only pupils, but also adherents; hence they are spoken of as imitators of their teacher (see Jn 15.8). There were disciples of John Baptist (Mt 9.14), the Pharisees (Mt 22.16), and Moses (Jn 9.28). They were adherents or followers of the teaching of these men. It is primarily of course used in the New Testament of the followers of the Lord Jesus. That there will be disciples throughout all the church age is clear from the Lords commission where He says, "Go ye therefore, and teach (i.e. make disciples of) all nations" (Mt 28.19). The Lord, then, expects His servants to not only preach the gospel, but to make pupils or followers of Him from those who believe. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11.26), so that a new name was given to them. It is true that the word does not occur in the epistles, but the truth of it may be found. In the Lords teaching in Johns Gospel it is to be noted that the great characteristic of true disciples is abiding in the Word (Jn 8.31 & 13.35). The Lord desires that in His absence there will be those who will be true followers or imitators of Him. These points should be sufficient to prove that the word "disciple" is applicable today.
While the above is true, we have no instance in the New Testament of believers referring to other believers as "the disciples" in a certain place. Today, for example, it is not the custom for Christians to refer to "the disciples in Scotland". It is better therefore to keep to Scripture usage. One reason for this is that in the strictest and practical sense, a disciple is a loyal follower of Christ, seeking to fulfil His Word. Sadly, even among believers, there is a great lack of this. Bearing in mind then the real meaning of the word, it is perhaps right to say that while every disciple is a believer, not every believer is a disciple. This is a searching and challenging thought that should cause every believer to ask, "Am I a disciple of Christ"?
John J Stubbs
Is it possible that Diotrephes was not a saved man, yet carrying out the work of an overseer, having deceived the assembly?
In the New Testament the word "church" has two distinct meanings:
There can be no mere professing believers in this first aspect of the church; however, such can be found in fellowship in a local assembly. Thus John says, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us" (1 Jn 2.19). These individuals had been in fellowship with the saints without being born again. Continuance is evidence of reality and their going out was a demonstration that they were false; these men were, no doubt, apostates. Sadly, we all know of those who were once in fellowship in a local assembly but are now right "in the world" and have no interest whatsoever in spiritual things.
As for Diotrephes, it would not be possible to say categorically whether or not he was a genuine believer. However, the features that marked him were not those we would expect of one who was saved:
Paul said to the Ephesian elders, "Also of your own selves (i.e. from among the body of overseers) shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20.30). Thus it is possible that Diotrephes was not a saved man.
David E West