BECOMING A DISCIPLE
"And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that he might send them forth to preach."
Jesus first called twelve disciples. He called them for a purpose. He had plans for them. This was not a social club, but a training school. The church (ecclesia, Greek for "called out ones") is a continuation of the calling our of the twelve disciples. We, as the church, do not meet for simply social reasons, but we meet to be trained and prepared by the Lord for a purpose. Notice the reasons that Jesus called the twelve together:
He called them to be with Him...
They saw His love, His mercy, and His sympathy...
They observed His suffering, His giving, His mercy.
Jesus wanted them to be with Him to see these traits.
They listened for nearly three years to His teaching.
He called them to preach the gospel
They had heard His message over and over.
Jesus had preached illustrated sermons...
He had told of a great harvest.
He told them to pray for laborers.
He told them to continue His work after He left.
These twelve disciples are someday to have their names graven on the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem. They will, in that day, be given each a throne from which they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel. They will receive great honor for being the first called to a special group willing to preach the gospel to the world.
Why did Jesus choose only twelve? This is the same number as the number of the twelve tribes of Israel... Israel was a spiritual circumcision, a special people, a peculiar people called forth to take the good news of God to the world... They failed, and the Lord turned to the "church" to replace their work of Israel... Now the church (ecclesia, "called out ones") carry on the work of Jesus.
Therefore in the replacement of this ministry of Israel, Jesus dispatched 12 disciples... They, and other disciples called since that time, are to carry on the labors of Christ. After the resurrection of Jesus they were called "apostles"... Matthias was elected to replace Judas. (Acts 2:37, 42, 43). The first 12 were the firstfruits of the great harvest of disciples in the church age. We, the church of disciples, are called to "be with Him" and to "preach" the gospel to the world.
"Now the names of the 12 apostles are these:
the first, Simon (who is called Peter),
and Andrew, his brother:
James, the son of Zebedee
and John, his brother:
Thomas (also called Didymus);
and Matthew, the publican;
James, the son of Alphaeus;
and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;
Simon, the Canaanite;
and Judas Ischariot, who also betrayed Him."
Paul in his account to the church at Corinth tells us that the Lord in His choosing, does not choose "many wise, ...many noble."Rather, the Lord chose the humble, lowly, obscure peasant folk. Jesus chose fishermen, a publican, and a political outlaw. They "left all" to follow Jesus. They found that poverty and lowly station are not hindrances to usefulness.
Jesus did not choose to include in the twelve:
Nicodemus, a great Rabbi...
Joseph of Arimathea, a rich and honorable counsel...
because they did not sacrifice position, place, and power... while Jesus ministered... The twelve disciples were willing to leave all and follow Jesus.
Jesus meant them to be "apostles", which in the Greek, literally meant, "one sent forth". An apostle is one sent forth as a representative of the one sending them. Jesus wanted these twelve to be the firstfruits of the ones who would represent Him in the church age.
In the "Didache", the term "apostles" is applied to many nameless people in the days of the early church. These apostles settled in no church. They were to be tested by high standards, set forth in the Didache. There soon were many apostles more than the twelve.
Paul included Barnabas as an apostle
(I Corinthians 9:5,Galatians 2:9, Acts 13:2, 14:4, 14).
Paul says that Andronicus and Junias were "of note among the apostles."
Paul included Apollos
(I Corinthians 4:6,9).
Paul included "Silvanus and Timothy" as "apostles of Christ"
(I Thessalonians 1:1, 2:6).
Paul called Epaphroditus as "your apostles"
The twelve apostles, who were of the first fruits of all apostles,were very different in temperament...
Peter was bold, impulsive, and eager...
John was thoughtful, quiet...
Nathaniel was believing and prayerful...
Thomas was skeptical...
Matthew was conciliatory...
Simon the Zealot was rebellious, angry, and impatient...
By being with Jesus, and by being taught by Him... they had changed... The ignorant men became learned men... The unprepared became prepared... The weak became strong... The doubtful and skeptical became believing... The angry and vengeful became loving... The called became sent... The difference was Jesus... He had called, trained, and prepared them... Then He gave them "authority"....
"He (Jesus) called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority..."
Jesus shared His authority with them. The preceding verses to this bestowment of authority showed Jesus teaching and healing. He then had told His disciples to pray for "laborers" for the "harvest", and their prayers were then answered when Jesus gave them the authority to do the work. Jesus continued after imparting authority to them to tell these twelve to:
heal the sick...
raise the dead...
cleanse the lepers...
cast out demons...
"And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power (Greek = exousia = authority) is given me in heavens and in the earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
This commission told the disciples to go forth to make more disciples... and those disciples are to do likewise... His authority to call disciples is our authority now... We are called to be disciples and to call forth more disciples... We are to do the works of Christ...
"...go ... preach, saying 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand...'"
We are still to be preaching that the "kingdom of heaven is at hand..." The "kingdom" is nigh, near, and it is so much more so for the disciples of this day, than it was for the day of the twelve who were called of the Lord...
DISCIPLES ARE A BLESSING OR A CURSE
"...if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it... but if it be not worthy, let your peace return unto you... shake off the dust of your feet... shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of judgment, than for that city..."
When the disciples of this day are received in a worthy and hospitable way, peace comes to them... The rejecters of the disciples of the Lord, will find great judgment. The Lord closely watches how the disciples, His apostles (sent ones) are treated. When treated properly, great blessing comes... but when mistreated, God sends great judgment...
DISCIPLES ARE GIVEN RHEMA WORD TO SPEAK FOR GOD
"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves (greedy rulers, hypocrites, false prophets)... be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves... beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues... and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them, and the gentiles... but when they shall deliver you up, take no thought, how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak... FOR IT IS NOT YE THAT SPEAK, BUT THE SPIRIT OF YOUR FATHER, WHO IS IN YOU..."
When we witness to, or are challenged by - persecutors... God will tell us what to say... This is speaking forth for the Lord, and not for ourselves... This is called, in the Bible, "RHEMA..." The blessing of rhema is great for us, the saints. It is marvelous to have God's word of rhema to speak in times of challenge and attack.
DISCIPLES WILL BE HATED
"...ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake, but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in the city, flee ye to another; for verily, I say unto you, you shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come..."
WORD OF KNOWLEDGE IS GIVEN TO DISCIPLES
"Fear them not therefore; for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed, and hid that it shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in the light, and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops."
The Lord has promised to reveal things to His disciples. If we sign up with the Lord, we will find Him giving us knowledge when we need it... He reveals facts to ministers to help in counseling... He reveals truths to His disciples to counter the lies inspired by the devil in others...
GOD WATCHES OVER DISCIPLES
"...sparrows ... one shall not fall to the ground without your Father... the very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows..."
The Lord loves His disciples of all ages. He cares so much for even the sparrows of His creation... and therefore He loves His own disciples so much that He keeps count of the very hairs on their heads...
DISCIPLESHIP WILL DIVIDE FAMILIES
"...brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father against the child, and the children shall rise up against their parents; and cause them to be put to death..."
Family will work against your discipleship... The family can bring great heartache to disciples... The heartache caused in the families of real disciples of the Lord, disrupts... but the Lord has warned us of such. We should not be shocked, but simply allow the Lord to help us deal with it.
"...came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be of his own household."
That is quite a price tag on discipleship. It is a great honor to be a disciple, but it also costs us much. The cost is worthwhile, for the remuneration of the Lord is greater by far.
HOW TO BE A WORTHY DISCIPLE
"He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me;
and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; And he that taketh not his own cross and followeth after Me is not worthy of Me..."
We must still choose to serve our Lord, in spite of the cost, the persecution, the deceitful treachery of our own family. If we do not so choose, we are not worthy of the Lord.
ACCEPTANCE OF A DISCIPLE IS BY OTHERS REWARDED
"He that receives (dexomai = accepts, approves, and gives ear to) you, receives Me, and he that receives Me receives Him that sent Me. He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receives a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward..."
God richly blesses those who are accepting of you and your message as a disciple.
THE LORD CONSIDERS DISCIPLESHIP TO BE A GREAT MINISTRY
"...more than a prophet... Among them that are born of a woman, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist, notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he..."
John and the prophets of the Old Testament looked forward to this age, but did not get to enter into this age. We, as His disciples, are in this fantastic, great age of the kingdom of heaven... You have a ministry greater than the prophets of the Old Testament...
THE MESSAGES OF DISCIPLES ARE OFTEN REJECTED
"whereunto shall I liken this generation? ...it is like children sitting in the markets and calling to their fellows, saying: 'We have piped unto you, and you have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and you have not lamented.' John came neither eating or drinking, and they say that he hath a devil... The Son of man came eating and drinking and they say: 'Behold, a man gluttonous and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners...' But wisdom is justified of her children."
We, as disciples, have a great ministry... We have a wonderful work to do... Our message is beyond (in scope and in greatness) any message of any political group... Some may want to save the whales... the rain forests... the democracy... or whatever... but we, as His disciples, are in the ministry of Jesus, of saving souls from an eternity of hell...
In spite of our great ministry, many will attack us, hate us, reject the message we bring from God.
THE LORD TOLD US HOW TO BECOME THE GREATEST DISCIPLE
"And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren... And Jesus called and said, You know that... they that are great exercise authority... it shall not be so among you, whosoever, will be great among you, let him be your servant... (diakonos = one who follows orders...)"
We need to humbly do our ministry... We are not here to fight over greatness, over position, over our standing in the group...
We need to humbly serve the One to Whom we have become a disciple....
The early church is made up of disciples... The disciples of Jesus were the ones Jesus chose to begin the work of the early church. They were the ones, chosen of God to go out and make more disciples... who were to do the same, and make more disciples...
You and I, are disciples of disciples, of disciples... We are part of the church... having been led to Jesus by another of the disciples... Thus the lessons taught to the disciples of Jesus are still valid for the disciples of today. Notice that many references of disciples deal with the last days...
The disciples of Jesus, were of two groups... There were the twelve... Who someday will be honored with one of the 12 foundations of the New Jerusalem named after each of them... This group is special, and were anointed to be the leaders...
There was also another group, we call them "the seventy". And they were not of the twelve, but were a ‘second generation’ group, who had a special calling. It may surprise you who some of them were. Luke spends some time telling about their calling and ministry... That makes his gospel unique... Matthew and Mark deal mostly with the calling of the twelve...
The next several lessons will detail the lives and ministries of the twelve... Then we will have several lessons on the seventy.
Following that, we will look at how the Lord used these disciples, and other disciples won by those in the development of the church...