Grab your Bibles and turn to the book of Mark. We are in chapter 3:13-19.
What is an apostle? Are there apostles today? What does the choosing of the 12 in the gospels mean for us?
The word apostle in the Greek is apostolos, it means messenger or someone sent as a representative with a message on behalf of another.
In the New Testament, I find 3 senses of the word apostle.
- It’s used to refer to the Twelve Jesus calls in chapter 3. The word apostle is used once more by Mark, in chapter 6. He refers to The Twelve on occasion, and uses the word disciples 45 times.
- After the gospels the twelve show up early in Acts when a replacement is chosen for Judas, but they soon fade to the background as the word apostle takes on a broader sense. After his conversion, Paul is referred to as an apostle. So is his early partner Barnabas. The title becomes more widespread as the church grows.
- Paul (1 Corinthians 15:9)
- James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
- Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6)
- Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
- Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25)
- Unnamed men with Titus (2 Cor 8:23)
- Andronicus and Junia? (Romans 16:7)
The apostles of the New Testament era were leaders who had an extraordinary call of God on their lives. They carried out ministries with extraordinary power and had a special purpose for a special time. Paul says that they built the foundation of the church.
“built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
As the church grew people began to show up among the churches claiming the title apostle. Paul contended with these false apostles and defended the ministry of those whose role came from God and not men.
These apostles were marked by signs and wonders. (Acts 5:12, 2 Corinthians 12:12) But maybe the most striking quality of the apostles was their dedication and sacrifice. (1 Corinthians 4:9)
3. A third sense of the word Apostles
In Ephesians 4, Paul lists five types of gifting God provides for the church for the purpose of building up the people of God: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. Some say that apostles and prophets left the scene after the New Testament was established, but that doesn’t seem to fit the context of the passage. It seems that there is an apostolic gift God gives to the church as long as there is a church. I think of people like John Wesley who had an extraordinary anointing from God and traveled throughout the world establishing the Methodist churches. Or of Bill Bright and the expansion of the gospel through Campus Crusade. I think of Henrietta Mears and the explosive growth of her adult Sunday School programs.
So Jesus chose twelve apostles, those twelve fade into a larger group of foundational apostles in the first century. Since that time God gives apostolic leaders to the church, people without the authority of the early apostles, but with something of their gifting.
The twelve do show up one more time after Act – in the vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation.
“The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
The twelve apostles Jesus chose have a symbolic role. In the Old Testament, the people of God were represented in the twelve tribes descending from the twelve sons of Jacob. They were representative heads of the nation.
This is called to mind in Mark 3. Jesus chose twelve men to be the representative heads of the church. They served a unique role, but in a sense they represent all of us.
We can see something of our calling and our relationship with Jesus in the history of our representatives. When Jesus calls the twelve, we find a representation of the calling of all disciples.
Here’s what I see in Mark’s account of that calling:
1. A life of discipleship is first and foremost friendship with the Lord.
He chose those he wanted and they came . . . he appointed twelve that they might be with him.
Why did he choose twelve? Because he wanted them. This is the essence of discipleship. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be wanted. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be called.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you”
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us…”
The basis of discipleship is God’s love.
The beginning of discipleship is God’s choosing.
The first and great purpose of discipleship is companionship.
Watching. Learning. Seeing what he sees. Caring about what he cares about.
2. A life of discipleship is deepened and confirmed with mountaintop experiences.
Mountains are the scene of extraordinary moments in the history of God’s revelation. We all know the scene of the giving of the Law in Exodus 19-20. Mark gives us 6 scenes set on a mountain.
- Jesus called 12 (3:13)
- Jesus prayed (6:46)
- Transfiguration (9:2)
- Preparations for Jerus. (11:1)
- Revelation of end times (13:3)
- Last moment of fellowship (14:26)
Mountains allow us to get away and to get above everyday life. Mountaintops give us fresh perspective. Away and above on the mountains, knowledge of God and of calling is deepened and confirmed.
A life of discipleship needs mountain moments. We all need moments dedicated to getting away and above to get perspective.
When’s the last time you have gone away to meet with God?
3. A life of discipleship is a community life.
Jesus called twelve. He sent the twelve in pairs. In the twelve Jesus was creating the beginnings of a new community. To be called to Jesus is to be called to a community.
You don’t choose that community. The twelve included men who would never have feen found in the same room together – Levi the collaborator with the Roman oppressors and Simon the Zealot whose was dedicated to destroying the oppressor and all who helped them. In Jesus, there is a center that is far greater than any difference that would otherwise come between us.
You will never find in the New Testament a believer who is sent out alone. You can’t life a life of discipleship alone. There is an interesting word in the New Testament – it is translated in the English as one another or each other. Fifty nine commands in the New Testament use the word.
- Love one another (John 13:34 – This command occurs at least 16 times)
- Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
- Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10)
- Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
- Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Be likeminded towards one another (Romans 15:5)
- Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
- Admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16) Greet one another (Romans 16:16)
- Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
- Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
- Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13)
- Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)
- Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15, 25)
- Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
- Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)
- Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21, 1 Peter 5:5)
- Consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
- Look to the interests of one another (Philippians 2:4)
- Bear with one another (Colossians 3:13)
- Teach one another (Colossians 3:16)
- Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
- Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13)
- Stir up [provoke, stimulate] one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
- Show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
- Employ the gifts that God has given us for the benefit of one another (1 Peter 4:10)
- Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another (1 Peter 5:5)
- Pray for one another (James 5:16)
- Confess your faults to one another (James 5:16)
- NEGATIVE COMMANDS (how not to treat one another)
- Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9) Stop passing judgment on one another (Romans 14:13) If
- you keep on biting and devouring each other…you’ll be destroyed by each other (Galatians 5:15) Let
- us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:26) Do not slander one
- another (James 4:11) Don’t grumble against each other (James 5:9)
You can’t obey God alone. You have responded to the call of Jesus. You have committed to Him. Wonderful! Have you committed to the community of His people?
4. A life of discipleship is a missionary life.
Jesus chose the twelve that he might send them out to preach. An apostle is by definition a messenger.
Mark 1:39 – Jesus was preaching in the synagogues and driving out demons. Now he imparts that work and authority to the twelve.
Jesus first chose and sent twelve to preach. Then he sent out 72. Later he extended that sending to all disciples.
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”
When Jesus saw crowds of people his heart was moved by their needs. He was moved with compassion. He was moved to action. He sacrificed his time, his energy and eventually his life to meeting the needs of the masses of the world.
Luke 10:2 tells us of another emotion Jesus felt when he looked out over the world. He felt a burden for help. The harvest is so great. Where are the workers?
Christian, have you said yes to God’s sending?
5. A life of discipleship is a life of authority.
Jesus chose the twelve that they might have authority to cast out unclean spirits. In some real way Jesus transferred authority over the spiritual realm to the twelve. There’s a lot here that we will set aside for a later sermon.
A life of discipleship is about friendship with Jesus, it is confirmed and deepened on the mountaintops, it is a life of community, it is a missionary life and it is a life of authority.
We are missing something really important. In fact the life of discipleship we have described so far is impossible.
6. A life of discipleship is impossible without the Holy Spirit.
Today is Pentecost. This is the anniversary of that wonderful moment when Jesus sent the Spirit and gave the church the one thing they lacked – supernatural power. The life of a disciple is impossible without this power.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”
Have you experienced the power of the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
This is the great need of the church and of the world, to be immersed in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown