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The Disciples of Jesus

I. Introduction
A. Near the beginning of His ministry, Jesus prayed all night long, and then chose 12 men to be with Him.
1. Not just to be with Him: disciples, then apostles
a. Luke 6:13 “And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.”
b. Disciple = student, apostle = sent one
II. God’s strange strategy to use men
A. Strange to our way of thinking — If you want something done right, do it yourself?
B. Jesus uses men
1. Does God need our help? No, He has blessed us by allowing us to help.
2. Serving: we don’t usually think of it as a privilege but in this case it is.
3. Eph.3:8 “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.”
III. Apostles today?
A. The uniqueness of the apostles
1. The twelveness of the apostles (35x in NT)
2. foundation-laying – Ephesians 2:20 “God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”
a. 12 foundation stones – Revelation 21:14 “And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
3. 1Cor.12-14 (12:31 “earnestly desire the greater gifts”: especially prophecy)
4. Although Judas was replaced as one of the original Twelve before Pentecost (by Matthias), there is no evidence that the Apostle James was similarly replaced when he was martyred for the faith after Pentecost.
5. In addition to these considerations, there are tremendous practical and historical considerations that argue for the cessation of apostleship. How would we be able to recognize them if there were apostles today? And how much authority would they have? Would it be feasible for them to be given equal weight to the original Twelve? Would they have the right and duty to speak authoritatively for God?
6. Other leaders referred to as apostles in NT
a. Epaphroditus - Phil. 2:25
b. Titus and the other brothers - 2Cor. 8:23
c. James, the brother of Jesus - Gal. 1:19
d. Adronicus and Junia? - Rom. 16:7
e. Barnabas - Acts 14:14; I Cor. 9:5,6
f. Silas and Timothy - I Thess. 1:1a, 2:6b
g. There is also good evidence that this lower case apostleship is synonymous with what the NT means by the word "evangelist":
(1) Timothy is called by both titles (1Thess. 1:1a, 2:6b; 2Tim. 4:5). This inclines us to think of the two as synonymous.
(2) Apart from the case of Timothy , the term "evangelist" is only used in cases where there is need to distinguish Apostle from apostle:
(a) First, the word "evangelist" is listed among the prominent gifts/offices in Eph. 4:11 alongside "apostle." Since the term "apostle' was being used to describe the first degree Apostles, it was not available to describe the second degree apostles. So, the term "evangelist" is used.
(b) But the word "evangelist" is conspicuously absent in the narrative of Acts except in 21:8, where it is used to describe Philip. Now if this particular Philip were an apostle, it would be very easy to confuse him with Philip the Apostle (Acts 1:13). So, in Philip's case, in order to distinguish him from the Apostle Philip, he is known as Philip the evangelist.
7. Paul - many places called an apostle, including fourteen from his own letters (e.g. 1Cor. 9:1, and at the beginning of each letter)
a. In I Cor. 15:3-10, Paul equates his apostleship with that of the Twelve.
b. In Gal. 2:1-2, 6-9, Paul specifically equates his Apostleship with that of Peter.
c. In an attempt to solve this problem, some have suggested that the apostles acted prematurely and mistakenly in ordaining Matthias to take the place of Judas Iscariot among the Twelve in Acts 1:15-26. This theory is fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is concluding that Peter wrongly interpreted and applied the OT Scriptures in v. 20. In addition, this theory doesn't really solve the problem of thirteen Apostles, unless we conclude that Matthias was never really an Apostle although he was counted and treated such by the other Apostles and by the churches and is said by Scripture to have been "added to the eleven apostles." (Acts 1:26)
d. The idea of thirteen Apostles may not be so far-fetched.
(1) For one thing, the apostles are never referred to as "the Twelve" once Paul's apostleship is established, except in Rev. 21:14, where the foundation stones of the walls of the New Jerusalem are said to have "the twelve names of the twelve apostles" on them.
(2) 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28, cf. Luke 22:30)
(3) Just before this we are told that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were on the twelve gates of this same city (Rev. 21:12). Which twelve tribes are being referred to?
(a) There were actually thirteen, if you count the two half-tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, each of which were considered and treated as full tribes.
(b) Perhaps the twelve tribes that are listed earlier in Rev. 7:5-8 are in view. This list includes Manasseh and Joseph (the father of Manasseh and Ephraim, whose tribe was split into two tribes as a reward), but leaves out Dan and Ephraim.
(4) There is obviously a lot of symbolism going on here. This is a work of art, not an architect's blueprint. The number twelve is used here not the for the sake of technical accuracy, but for the sake of symbolism. Although this may go against the grain of our thinking, this seems to be the way the Bible is written. Just as there were thirteen tribes of Israel that are sometimes referred to as twelve tribes, so can there not be thirteen apostles which are referred to once as the twelve apostles in the midst of a very symbolic vision? In other words, could it be that Paul was added as an Apostle during the story of Acts, and perhaps even continued to be called "the Twelve" on occasion since that term had become almost a title of the group instead of merely the number of its members, and since it clearly had symbolic meaning.
IV. Being Christ’s apostles
A. Jesus wants to make us apostles (with a small “a”)
1. He wants each of us to become a sent one.
2. “I will make you fishers of men.” applies to us as well.
B. Jesus is with us still, helping us to be sent ones
1. The process is a relational one. The goal isn’t just to use us. It’s a relational thing. He wants to walk with us and teach us.
2. He doesn’t just want people out there doing a good job for Him. He wants people who are walking with Him, and listening to Him, and learning from Him, and being transformed by Him. He wants us people who not only serve Him but who hunger for Him and delight in Him and enjoy Him.
C. This is not just an impartation of information.
1. God has ordained that Christianity spread not only by its truth being taught but also by its truth being shown.
2. It’s not enough for people to hear about it, they must see it. They must be shown what it looks like.
3. Jesus was the perfect earthly manifestation of His heavenly life. Then this divine life was passed on from Jesus to the apostles. And then through the apostles the life of Christ was passed on to others and eventually to us. And now we pass it on to the rest of the world.
4. “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil.4:9)
D. Jesus is with us when we’re together.
1. Apostles: with each other too
2. They never went out alone.
3. Plurality of leaders/elders
a. It’s a headache. It’s time-consuming. But you are much better off for it.
b. Link arms! You may not move as fast but you're less likely to fall and you'll help others along the way.
4. John 13:33-34 “A new commandment I give to you, love one another. This is how all men will know you are My disciples, because you have love for one another.”
5. Outreach via body life – This is the context for our outreach.
6. Our outreach will only be effective to the extent our love for one another overflows.
E. This is not an elite club of highly-qualified members.
1. Think about the Twelve:
a. They were nobodies (a fishermen, a tax collector, a political revolutionary, etc.) and became some of the most influential persons in history.
b. This is the same for us. (1Cor.1:26-29)
2. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” (2Cor.4) There’s a strangeness to it. It doesn’t really fit.
3. 1Cor.1:26-29 “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”
4. Acts 4:13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
a. They were astonished that these untrained men provided such a strong argument for their position. What does "recognize them as having been with Jesus" mean?
b. Bruce gives a good answer (p.102): “It says that they did this as they observed the confidence of Peter and John. The way they explained it to themselves is that these men had been with Jesus. He too sat at the feet of no rabbi, and yet He spoke with an authority that amazed the masters, even from when He was only 12 years old. They remembered it well. People had expressed the same surprise at HIM: John 7:15 The Jews therefore were marveling, saying, "How has this man become learned, having never been educated?"”
c. Now his disciples were doing miracles and standing up to the best professional challengers, doing the same things Jesus had done.
d. All of a sudden the apostles bear a resemblance to Jesus. How did this happen?
e. By spending three years with Jesus? Frankly, no. At the end of the three years they were all running and hiding and even denying they even knew Jesus.
f. It was the result of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He is the One who fashions us into the image of Christ.
5. And we won’t be treated with much honor – 1Cor.4:11-13 “To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”
F. We need to go from disciples to apostles.
1. This implies growth, training, continuous transformation
2. This implies the work of the Lord in training and equipping us.
3. God has chosen you to be with Him, but not just to be with Him.
4. It takes a good amount of discipleship to make an apostle.
5. If you want to be an apostle, you have to be serious about being a disciple and spending time with Jesus.
6. The perpetual student, always learning -- but he never does anything with it.
7. To be an apostle means that you need to be steadily, constantly filled with Jesus. You need to be under the influence. You need to imbibe deeply and continuously.
8. You have a lot of drinking to do. You can’t be a casual drinker and expect it to have the needed effect.
G. Judas – This is not supposed to be a pure group in this life.
1. Jesus called Judas into His inner circle, knowing that Judas would be a betrayer.
2. And He’s still doing it. He’s still calling Judases.
3. This doesn’t mean we tolerate betrayers. They got rid of Judas, once the fact that he was a betrayer became clear.