Matthew Chapter 10:1-4 (continued)
“Jesus called together his twelve disciples. He gave them the power to force out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and sickness. The first of the twelve apostles was Simon, better known as Peter. His brother Andrew was an apostle, and so were James and John, the two sons of Zebedee. Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus were also apostles. The others were Simon, known as the Eager One, and Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus” (Matthew 1-4).
Last time we ended our lesson talking about the heart of God— how He has great compassion on us and how He sees our human condition filled with pain, sickness, death, limitations and fears. And He has compassion on us and is so patient and tirelessly merciful. His grace so powerfully demonstrated in how gentle He is with us.
He handles us carefully so as not to break us although He can bend us at times. Even in His discipline God is gracious, we are told in the Psalms that He is slow to anger and His mercy is fresh each morning. Oh that we had the same hearts when dealing with each other.
Today we will take a look at the 12 men that Jesus called to follow Him for the purpose of teaching the doctrines of the New Testament church, and the New Testament covenant that He would empower in His own blood. Some of these men are famous, some infamous and others we don’t know much about.
We will endeavor to explore them and see what parallels we can draw out in comparison to ourselves. Often we think of these men as supermen, rather than ordinary men with a Super God.
Let us define what is an apostle? The requirements for being an apostle are given to us in Acts 1:21-22.
So we need someone else to help us tell others that Jesus has been raised from death. He must also be one of the men who was with us from the very beginning. He must have been with us from the time the Lord Jesus was baptized by John until the day he was taken to heaven.
Thus we see the basic requirements for being an apostle. One had to have been with the group from the very beginning, from the time when John baptized Jesus until seeing the Lord’s ascension. One then had to be an eyewitness of the life and testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. This eliminates any one in our time. No one in our time has ever seen the Lord or walked with the other Apostles as they saw the Lord’s public ministry. Now we see the apostle Paul, he describes himself as one who was “an apostle out of season.”
In 1 Corinthians 15:7-9, we see this:
“Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
In the books of Colossians, Ephesians and 1 Corinthians we are told by Paul that he was called of God to be an apostle. Paul may have been with the Pharisees that went out to see John the Baptist; we do know that he presided over the death of Stephen. He held the coats of the people who stoned him to death. And Paul did see the risen Savior face to face as well.
In Galatians 1:17 we are told that he went to Arabia first, then to Damascus and then back to Jerusalem. So Paul was called by God just like all the other Apostles; who are we to question God.
This is probably the most important part of the story of these Apostles. They were personally called by Jesus. Yes, even Judas, His betrayer was called by Jesus. The local church did not call the Apostles, and they certainly did not assume the title upon themselves. Jesus called them out and they left everything to follow Him. In Matthew 19:27 Peter is recorded as saying, “We have left all to follow you.”
The apostle Paul counted his past as “dung” so as to pursue his new calling in Christ. Even Judas would have left all to follow Him. This is very important for us to understand as we are apt to see a host of modern day preachers carrying the title “apostle.” None of these have been called personally by Jesus.
Even if they claim to have seen a vision of Jesus, they are not to be believed. We live in a period of “walking by faith and not sight.” Jesus even reprimanded Thomas for being a believer by sight and applauded those of us who would live by faith only. People do not see Jesus today like the Apostles did and they do not have personal encounters like Paul did. So there are no apostles today since none are personally called by Jesus.
In addition few if any of these so called apostles have left anything for Jesus. On the contrary they use their calling as an apostle to gain financially by fleecing the flock of the Lord Jesus for their supposed services. Peter left all for Jesus. These modern day apostle folks use their apostleship to gain all they can on the backs of God`s people.
This is an affront to the true calling that God put on these 12 men. These men came completely dependent on Jesus and His ability to supply their needs either directly or indirectly. Paul often refused to accept offerings from some of the churches; rather he set about doing the profession of tent making to make a living while still executing the office of apostle.
What is the point of having a calling and not having any power to execute the call? Thus, Jesus endued these 12 men with power. I have always wondered about Judas. Did he cast out demons as well? he heal the sick as well? How did he do these things if he did? I tell you the first 10,000 years of eternity are going to be spent with me raising my hand to ask a lot of questions. Jesus may even get tired of me asking questions.
Later, as we continue to study Matthew we will see that Jesus sent them out to use the power. But for our lesson today we will see that He gave them most of the powers that He had excluding raising the dead. In the other accounts in the gospels of Luke and Mark, I do not see Him giving them the power to raise the dead at this time. But that power would come later.
Many modern day apostles advertise that they have the same powers granted to these authentic apostles, they do not. They cannot heal the sick, cast out demons or rebuke disease. These modern days “apostles” are powerless.
Luke 9:6 tells us that these apostles went out doing the job right away; they went from village to village telling the ‘good news’ and healing the sick. Wow, what a trip that must have been for these simpletons, as far as the world was concerned. God so loves to take the ‘no bodies’ of this world and make them super stars with His power. I cannot imagine the rush of adrenaline that ran through them as they went out and as they encountered the first healing or demon possessed person.
These men where never the same again and Jesus was laying the ground work for when He was no longer be with them. They went out and did the work and He stayed behind. He was there to cheer them on and also make sure their heads did not get too big. In Luke 10:18-20 when another group of followers had come back from a similar enterprise Jesus warned them not to let pride get in the way. He used Satan as an example of one who let God’s power go to his head:
Jesus told them: “I saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. I have given you the power to trample on snakes and scorpions and to defeat the power of your enemy Satan. Nothing can harm you. But don’t be happy because evil spirits obey you. Be happy that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:18-20).
It was important for the Apostles not to forget that it was God doing the miracles and not them. They were just vessels and nothing else. This is so hard for men to come to grips with. No matter what skills God has endowed us with, it is His gift to us and not any ability in ourselves. Thus the skills are given to us not to draw attention to ourselves but to enable us to point people to Jesus. When we stop pointing people to Jesus our skills become our weaknesses and ultimately our downfall.
All of these men were dead within 100 years after Jesus. John, we know lived to sometime after 100A.D. Peter and Paul were executed about 33-34 years after Jesus in the mid-60s A.D. James, the son of Zebedee was executed about 44 AD, 11 years after Jesus—by Herod Agrippa. Tradition tells us that James, son of Alpheus was thrown from the Temple Mount and stoned by the religious sects and the legend of Matthew’s death was that he died a martyr in Ethiopia.
Some of these men paid the ultimate cost, they died gruesome deaths. All suffered in one way or another under the hatred of the Jews and the fear of the Romans. There was a cost associated with being an apostle; these men understood that their lives were no longer their own and they gave of themselves. Some to the very last breath in the service of Jesus.
This outreach to a few villages was just the beginning of the ministry that these 11 men, Judas not included, would pursue. For all intents and purposes they reached almost the entire known world by the end of the first century. In the process, some of them had a part in completing the New Testament Scriptures and to then to take them to the churches from Western Europe to the Asian continent.
These men literally subdued kingdoms with the truth of Jesus. Paul tells us this in Philippians 4:21-22:
“Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”
Even in chains he had carried the gospel right into the very household of Caesar. Yes, these men affected the entire world with the gospel. Their examples of love and commitment to the Great Commission still sets the hearts of men ablaze for the cause of Christ. Their example is being followed by countless men and women who conquer death each day—leading someone to Christ. Families still give up house and home, fame and fortune and simply live to show others Jesus, for He alone has the words of life.
Don’t let their work die. We are here because of what these men did to carry the gospel to the ends of their earth. We should use the same tenacity to carry the gospel the ends of our earth. Better yet, God has brought the masses to us here in North America. What are we doing to get them the gospel? The Great Commission is still alive.
Matthew 28: 18-20:
“Jesus’ eleven disciples went to a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus had told them to meet him. They saw him and worshiped him, but some of them doubted. Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.”
Judas Betrayed Jesus
One cannot talk about the Apostles and not mention Judas. You know Jesus loved him. But Jesus chose him to be a sobering reminder to us that no amount of miracles or religious activity will ever make up for the lack of a true and genuine relationship with Jesus. In Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus said these words and I wonder if Judas heard them?”
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you.’”
How was this possible that this man could have walked and talked with Jesus for over 3 years? He may have even done miracles himself and seen the hand of God first hand. But he never humbled himself and trusted Jesus as his Savior. Nothing is a substitute for Jesus. This is a reminder to ourselves to check that we are truly saved and not just going through the motions.
We are reminded by the apostle Peter to give diligence to make your calling and election sure. Don’t be a Judas; don’t be one who has seen God and maybe even led others to the Lord in salvation but miss the very gift yourself.
“…being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3: 24).