Newtown Bible Church

A Call to Discipleship (Matthew 4:18-22)


In the midst of this present darkness, Jesus Christ came as the “Light of the world” to reveal truth to a sin entranced, sin darkened, sin enslaved humanity. 

His mission was to reveal God and rescue sinners from His own wrath. He came with a message of hope, a message of judgement, and a message of repentance. 

And it is a message that He would entrust to His people. A people He would call out for Himself. A people who would follow Him and be His heralds; to be His lights in the world. 

But it is being light in a dark world, that means it is not an easy call, though it is an extraordinary one. It is a call that comes with a price, but following the example of One who has gone before and paid that price. It is a call count the things eternal more precious the passing treasures of this world. That is to say ... The call to discipleship is a call to forsake all to follow Christ

In our passage this morning, Matthew 4:18-22, I want you to notice:

3 Aspects of the Call to Discipleship. 

(1) Call to Common People

(2) Call to an Extraordinary Task

(3) Call that comes with a cost. 

Trans: Turn with me to our passage as we see this call to 4 of the God’s would be apostles … 

READ: Matthew 4:18-22

Trans:  Thus is the Lord’s call, and it is a call to … 

(1) Call to Common People. 

  • (18) “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother casting their net into the sea; for they were fishermen.”
  • Matthew has already noted that Jesus’ ministry was now settled in the region of Galilee, so now the Lord is found walking along the Sea. A.K.A the “sea of Chinnereth” (Num. 34:11; Joshua 12:3); “Lake of Gennesaret” (Luke. 5:1); and “Sea of Tiberius” (John 21:1)
    • Approximately 12 mi. long, 8 mi. wide, and 700 feet below sea level it is the world’s lowest body of fresh water and was a prosperous and busy center for the fishing trade. Josephus notes there were as many as 240 fishing operations along the shore. 
  • Walking along the Sea - as He has surely done many times before - He came upon two brothers “Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother casting their net into the sea”
    • A common activity, both along the shores of Galilee and for these two brothers. Some commentators go crazy here and make all kinds of wild connections between their occupation of fishing and their call to be evangelists’. However, these are completely unfounded. The metaphor simply arises from the reality of their occupation. While it is an apt picture, surely designed by God, it must not be pressed too far.
    • This was not the first contact Jesus had with these two brothers. John 1:35-42 records an earlier call on the part of Jesus. They were already aware of Jesus ministry, certainly had spent some time listening and learning from Him, and recognized to some degree, His Messiahship (John 1:41, 45, 49).
      • “Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi … where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ … He brought him to Jesus, Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter) … Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph … Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the SOn of God; You are the King of Israel.’”
    • The earlier context was the initial, though not final, call to His Messianic ministry. They followed for a while and then returned to fishing.
  • “for they were fishermen” - explanatory. They did not simply fish for a hobby, it was their livelihood. 
  • “having gone on from there He saw two other brothers” - walked a little farther up the coast of the Sea, now with Peter and Andrew in tow. “James [the son of] Zebedee … John” - “in the boat with their father Zebedee mending their nets” - a common activity after a day of fishing. Here they are with their father, likely at the end of the day, when Jesus comes with a summons.
    • Common scene, common men, common task - nothing exceptional; yet, the God of the universe; eternal God made flesh comes to them specifically, and choses them sovereignly to be uniquely used in His kingdom. 
  • Note: Jesus did not go to the schools of Jerusalem, nor the courts of temples. He went to the sea of Galilee to some fishermen fishing. This is against conventional wisdom! This is most certainly not the place we would have gone as Messiah to put together an elite team for the spread of the gospel. 
  • This is because man is always putting the emphasis on man’s ability rather than God’s glory (man-centered). God, however, is God-centered, and is committed that that which brings glory to Him. 
    • 1 Sam. 16:6-7 “When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him.’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected hi; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”
    • If it were up to you, or me we would have had the same attitude as Samuel and gone to the elite halls of learning, power, and prestige. But Jesus went to the shores of Galilee to find some common men, in a common work, whom He would use for an extraordinary task. 
  • God is always sure to defy the wisdom of men. Paul put it this way: 
    • 1 Cor. 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.”
  • God’s ways are higher than our ways, and God’s ways are wiser than our ways, and God choses to work in such a way that the glory goes to Him alone. 
    • Who can look at themselves and see in themselves something noble and worthy for God to have chosen them for great things. I tell, God will never use such a one to do His work, because He will not share His glory. God will use the one who is little in their own eyes. 
  • God uses common men, so that the message, the power, and the results are all from Him, through Him, and to Him so that He alone is glorified. 
    • How true this is in His walking along the Sea of Galilee to call a group of fishermen to bear the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and risen for the salvation of men: a message that would literally overturn the whole world. 
    • In just 200 years the entire Roman Empire, who had tried to extinguish the message and destroy the word, would itself make profession of Christ as the only true God. 
    • A message that would bring many countless souls living in darkness into the kingdom of light; from the misery of sin into the joys of salvation, forgiveness, and an eternal home, eternal rest, and eternal fellowship with Him.
  • God is not looking or extraordinary talent, intellect, ability (how often we think, if only so-and-so could get saved, what wonderful things they could do for the gospel) - though He may employ those things, what He will use is great faith; those who are willing to be used by Him. 
    • This is a great encouragement, because most of us feel and can identify with the feeling of “Whom am I Lord,” - like Moses when commissioned by God to go to the children of Israel. Or Paul, “who is adequate for these things … not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God … we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2 Cor. 2:15-4:7). 
    • If you feel that you are adequate, if your attitude is one such as look at all I have to offer the kingdom of God, and not amazement that God could and would do anything through such a weak vessel as yourself - then you are walking in pride and not humility. You have a wrong perspective of who you are and the kind of man God delights in using. 
    • You and I must be reminded that the power is not with us, it is with God; and the means is not our persuasive words, but the power of the Holy Spirit, working through His Word, through those willing to be used by Him; who simply will believe and follow. 

(2) Call to an Extraordinary Task: 

“He said to them, ‘follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men’”

     (A) Given with gracious, yet sovereign authority. 

  • Here is the call to full discipleship; no longer is it a casual relationship of learner, but the disciplined, personal, total call to discipleship.  It is a command to leave their current pursuits, interests, and earthly concerns to submit their lives completely to His sovereign direction and care. 
    • This is now the second of several calls recorded in the gospels (1) John 1:35ff; (2) here; (3) Luke 5:1-11, likely very soon after; (4) 10:1-2; and (5) 
  • Jesus uses and interesting term here. Many translations have it as, “follow Me”, however, You may also have in the margin of your Bible a note that says literally it could be translated, “Come after Me;”  - it is an adverb that has the force of a command
    • While a command is has a sense of gentleness. It is the same term used in 11:28 in the Lord’s call to repentance, “Come unto Me call who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest, take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”
  • In the case of James and John Matthew simply records that the Lord “called them.”
  • Another interesting and a bit stronger term that speaks of a definite call to a definite group, or individual.  
    • 1:25 - “called His name Jesus” - a definite name assigned to a definite (specific) individual. 
      • 2:7 “Herod called the Magi”
      • 2:15 “Out of Egypt I called My Son”
      • 23:7 “called a rabbi”
      • 25:14 - “called his own slaves” - slave owner, calling slaves to give specific instructions; the assumption is, all that he called came.
    • It is the same term used to speak of God effectually calling His own to salvation: Rom. 8:30 “And these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
  • So, it is a strong term that speaks of a definite call, to a definite group of people that produces definite results. Here in Matt. 4:21 it is the call to James and John to follow Him.  
    • The Lord would remind them on several occasions that it was He who called them and chose them, and for His sovereign purposes not their exceptional ability: 
      • John 6:70 “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’”
      • John 15:16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.”
  • It was God who chose them, and there is a wealth of comfort, humility, and confidence that comes from knowing this. 


     (B) To extraordinary work. 

  • He is calling them to the greatest task and privilege we have as the redeemed, to be witnesses for Christ; to be the means and instruments in His work of saving eternal souls.  
    • This is significant, especially in light of 4:13-17. The world lay in darkness, sin, rebellion, spiritual bondage and oppression of the evil one. Jesus Christ came as the “Light of the world” to break the power of sin, to conquer sin and the fear of death, to rescue a people from their sin and an eternal future of judgement, to an eternal future of joyously being lavished with mercy and grace. 
    • Jesus Christ came to “save His people from their sins” to “seek and to save the lost” to “not call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” So, His disciples, His chosen one’s were called to the same mission and to be heralds of that same message. 
      • 10:1 “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” 
      • 28:18 “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit.’” 
    • And so it is with every Christian: 
      • 1 Pet. 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a Holy Nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”
      • 2 Cor. 5: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
  • This is the only reason that the church is still here on earth - everything else we can do better in heaven. It is only in a world of darkness that the church has the opportunity to be light. Eternity rest on what a person does with Christ here and now; here is the time and place and the only opportunity men have to be saved - at death it is too late; eternity is sealed - (Heb. 9:27) - that we have the great task of proclaiming the gospel of salvation.

ILLUST: “When D.L. Moody once visited an art gallery in Chicago he was especially impressed by a painting called ‘The Rock of Ages.’ The picture showed a person with both hands clinging to a cross firmly embedded in a rock. While the stormy sea smashed against the rock, he hung tightly to the cross. Years later Mr. Moody saw a similar picture. This one also showed a person in a storm holing to a cross, but with one hand he was reaching out to someone who was about tot drown. The great evangelist commented that, thought the first painting was beautiful, the second was even lovelier.” 

This is a picture of the church, our mission, and how we need to understand our mission of evangelism. 

     (C) It comes with the promise of Sovereign enablement. 

“I will make” 

  • Such an extraordinary ask, committed to such common people is not going to happen by human resources, but by Divine enablement. God was taking these common, rough men, on as His special project to fit them for the work He would call them to do. 
    • Whatever God calls a man to, He also supplies the grace necessary for them to accomplish it.
  • It is God’s work, God’s doing, God’s plan. First they needed much training and learning, but they would, in God’s timing be vessels useful to the Master, and the means by which the message of Christ would go out to the world.
    • And from this group of Galilean fishermen, the revelation of Christ would be established for the church (Eph. 2:20 “foundation of the apostles and prophets”)
  • Let’s just briefly look at this group: 
    • “Simon, who was called Peter” - Peter the name assigned to him by the Lord. Peter the rock, who wold become the leader of the 12, was first a very rough stone that needed a great deal of shaping and work before he could be fully used of the Lord. 
    • “Andrew his brother” - though the only one of the 4 mentioned here who was not a part of the inner circle is nonetheless one called to be an apostle, a special emissary of the Lord. He is most often seen in Scripture brining other people to the Lord. 
    • “James and John” - always mentioned together in Scripture and referred to as the “sons of thunder.” They too were rough, impetuous, self-centered; yet through the Lord’s work they would become not only apostle’s but part of the inner circle of Jesus during His earthly ministry. 
      • “James” would have the added distinction of being the first Christian martyr killed by Herod Antipas I; while John would become best known as “the apostle that Jesus loved,” and the last apostle to die, thus closing off the apostolic age.
  • But note: this is what they would be, not what they were when Jesus calls them, and not what they were here in Matthew 4
    • Note: God is sovereign over the whole process. It is God who called, God who would sanctify, and God who would train and prepare them for the task He is calling them to. Yes they needed to be shaped. Yes, they as all of His church are the chosen means by which the message is proclaimed - yet the results are entirely the work of God. 
      • One plants, one water, but God causes the growth - therefore He receives all the glory. 
  • It is an extraordinary task that God calls men to; His work of redeeming His chosen ones from a world of sin and darkness, sitting in the shadow of death is committed to men. 

Trans: This call is only realized when one first responds to the call to repentance. The fruit of repentance is forsaking all to follow Him … 

(3) Call that comes with a Cost: 

“And immediately they left their nets and followed Him” -  

  • “Immediately they left” Speaks of action without delay; a quick response, which is the only right response of faith; this is counting the cost of discipleship. “to release; forgive;” it has the basic idea of removal; separating from. 
    • 26:56 to speak of the disciples abandoning the Lord on the night of His betrayal. Same form used in: (Rom. 1:27 [“abandoned”])
  • This is the heart of a true disciple. 
    • Though they did not know everything it would cost them, nor did they know everything they would gain, but they knew they were exchanging what was passing away for something of eternal value. They knew enough to know that following Him was more valuable than fishing and the things of this world. 
  • This is an absolutely incredible act of faith. It was not simply fishing, it was their livelihood, it was all that was familiar, it was everything they had invested their life into, it was their future security. It was leaving all that to engage in an unknown and unfamiliar future. 
    • But notice “follow Me” - it was the glory and trustworthiness and value of the One whom they would follow. It was their trust in Christ that compelled them, and made the exchange the only reasonable choice. **It was not the loss of fishing, but the gaining of Christ that consumed them!
  • There are many levels of people who follow Christ: 
    • (1) Crowds
      • They followed for a variety of reasons, but when things became too much and the teaching to hard those with spurious, or superficial faith fell away: John 6:65-66 “And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’ As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” 
      • Others were simply not willing to pay the cost of sacrifice: Matt. 8:19-23 “Then a scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nest, but the SOn of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.’ When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.” 
    • (2) Jesus is calling for complete surrender:
      • 10:38; 16:24 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” 
    • For Peter and Andrew it was giving up what was familiar for the unknown, the secure for the uncertain, comfort for want. For James and John it was all that and the added element of leaving their father who surely was expecting to develop the business with his sons. 
      • Peter struggled with this a bit: 19:27 “Then Peter said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for my name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.”
  • This call, while in the sense of apostleship, is unique to these four. The same call to abandon all to follow Him is the same for all and everyone in the church. 

“The accounts of the call of the earliest followers ... are obviously not just intended to be historical because the readers of the Gospels are also summoned to follow Christ. The responses to Jesus’ summons are meant to be exemplary.”

  • The modern gospel says the call, or the emphasis to sacrifice will keep people away from the gospel, it will make it unattractive and people won’t come. 
    • Yes, that’s true of the self-centered, rebellious, unregenerate, pride filled heart of an unbeliever. The one who is truly convicted over their sin, struck with the holiness of God, made to feel the reality of eternity, brought to see the glory of God incarnate, God crucified, God resurrected for the salvation of those who come to Him. 
    • No loss of anything here could keep them from Christ. Only true of the one who thinks their life, their value, this world of of equal or greater value than their eternal soul, than the glory of Christ.

He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

  • This is the call of the gospel (8:22; 10:21, 35, 37; 19:29). Jesus must have first place in our affections and allegiance; He must be more precious and obedience to Him more binding than any person, place, or thing on this earth (Gal. 6, “I have been crucified to the world, and the world to me”). 
    • Jesus adds in relation to His own family, “Who are my mothers, brothers, sisters .. those who do the will of God.”
  • The problem is that we do not understand the stakes; we don’t understand what is really at issue here. Therefore, we have misplaced value, due to spiritual darkness and ignorance. 
    • Loss of fishing, security, comforts could not restrain them, because they were more compelled and motivated by the gaining of Jesus Christ and the rewards of an eternal kingdom that will not pass away. 
    • ILLUST: (Luke 18:18-25) “Rich Young Ruler.” 


  • This is the great grace and the great call to discipleship. He uses common people, for an extraordinary task, but with an uncompromising cost. 
    • As far as I know there is nothing extraordinary about anyone in this room  - sure some may be a little smarter, some more outgoing, some better looking, come with more experience but no one worthy to bear the message of Christ, and no one whom God needs in and of yourselves, to use to advance His work. His task, His mercy, His grace. His power, His work, our humble, dependent faithfulness.
    • You and I are nothing but common people, we are dust, clay pots, earthen vessels, but to those who know Christ God is calling you to be faithful to an extraordinary task. 
    • To be a part of His work of rescuing eternal souls drowning in a sea of darkness and sin, being swiftly carried by the current of spiritual rebellion toward the waterfall of judgement to fall into the darkness of hell. Your are a light; the church is a light. 
  • However, if you are to be used of the Lord you must first know Him, you must first count the cost of discipleship. 
    • This is a cost that is first counted at the call to repentance. It begins there - 4:17!
    • It begins with a life that has counted the cost of sin, eternity, of judgment, guilt, self-righteousness, and the passing pleasures of the world and gladly given it up to follow Christ. 

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