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Newtown Bible Church

Called, Commissioned, and Common, Pt. 2 (Matthew 10:1-2a)

  •  God delights in bringing glory to Himself through the weakest of human instruments; His glory is displayed in our weakness. As a preacher / pastor I am constantly amazed, even bewildered, that He entrust such a glorious message to such a weak human instrument; I am constantly struck by my own inadequacies … but that’s just the point - its about His glory. But I am in good company here 2 Cor. 2:15-16 [The answer: NOBODY]
    •  Ministry and service in the Kingdom of God is not about our abilities, talents, or greatness; its about the grace of God who takes such sinners as you and men and uses us as vessels for His glory, so that it is only His glory on display. 
    •  This reality is nowhere better demonstrated than in the life of those who would be the Lord’s Apostles. 
  • Jesus commissions His apostles to be His ambassadors of the gospel of the kingdom. 4 portraits of God’s chosen messengers that should encourage us in our own ministry.

 

Review

  •  (1) Sovereign Selection: Matt. 10:1 “He summoned His disciples” Mk. ““He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted.” (a) Sovereign Choice (b) Response to Prayer (c) Perfect Will of God. 
    •  In other words, these were God’s men (even apostate Judas was there by Gods’ choice). They were not their by committee, but God’s Sovereign Selection.
    •  *This would be important because they had a hard road before them full of danger, rejection, persecution, and defection. God’s sovereign will for their lives would be a bedrock encouragement.
  •  (2) Specially Authorized: (a) Derived Authority (b) Limited Authority (c) Submitted Authority. 
  •  (3) Specifically Distinguished in at least 4 ways, we covered the first last week: (a) Mandate. Jesus specifically called out 12 apostles, this was not and arbitrary number, but purposeful. In other words, God has a very specific intention behind His selection of 12. 
    •  They are not the “New Israel,” but they represent the “True Israel.” Therefore the selection of 12 represent: (a) A judgment on Israel and an indictment on the failure of her leaders; (b) An ushering of all that the prophets looked forward to; the Son of David, the King bringing in the Kingdom. 
    • We looked at one of these last week in Matt. 19:27-30 “Sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” This is in the MK, not the ES. “Regeneration” refers to the rejuvenated earth of the MK, after Christ’s return at the end of the 7 year Tribulation (God’s wrath upon earth). It is at this point the 12 apostles will sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel - an activity that will not take place in the ES. 
  • A 2nd way the are distinguishes is by their Marks, in other words the specific works they were given to do. 

(B) Marks

  • (1) Apostles were marked as those who were witnesses of the Lord’s ministry, were witness of His resurrection, and were commissioned by Him (cf. Acts 1:21-22 [READ]; 10:39-41)
    • Paul (possibly the 12th) though he was not a witness of His earthly ministry was a witness of the resurrected Christ and specifically commissioned by Him (1 Cor. 15:8; Gal. 1:15)
  • (2) They were authenticated as Gods’ messengers through specific signs / miracles. This has always been God’s means of introducing an epoch change in the redemptive unfolding of His plan: Moses & Joshua (Law & Land [Ex. 4:1-6]); Elijah & Elisha (Age of the prophets after divided kingdom); the appearance of Christ (John 5 “believe on account of the works …”; (9:1-8; cf 4:23-24; 9:35),).
    • So it is with His apostles 2 Cor. 12:12 informs that there were certain “the signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles” which authenticated Paul’s message (gospel) to the Corinthians (Heb. 2:4 “Attested to you by …”). The purpose of signs was to authenticate the message 
    • (FN) These sign gifts are not for today, however. This is not to say that God never miraculously heals, or cast our unclean spirits, or the like. It is to say that it is not a specific gift given to an individual for the purpose of authenticating the message. 
      • With the close of the canon, after the final authoritative, inspired Word from God was given and recorded for the church the need to authenticate the message also came to a halt (more next point). 

(C) Message

  • They were called to preacher’s; heralds of the gospel of the kingdom (10:5 “sent out”; 7 “preach”). This message turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6); it reset the course of human history; it is the reason we are here (church) today and it was entrusted to these men. 
  • (1) They were bearers of the New Covenant revelation would come through the Lord’s apostles. The “mystery” of Christ revealed through the apostles (“mystery” refers to what was previously concealed, but now is revealed) **(Eph. 3:2f [TURN TO - {10} - it is the message of God, of Christ, magnificently put on display before the not only the whole earth, but whole angelic realm. 
    • This was epoch making message; it was the mystery of the ages revealed, the eternal mind and plan of God in redemption revealed; the culmination of the prophets - Jews and Gentiles together as the one poeple of God - that God in human flesh has come to redeem fallen, sinful, rebellious men from God’s almighty wrath by bearing that wrath Himself, granting men access into heaven by giving to them the perfect righteousness of God. 
  • (2) They were given a glorious message with a specific promise regarding the Holy Spirit. 
    • It was a message they were not yet ready to deliver, but that He was preparing them for - “What I am doing you do not yet understand now, but afterward you will understand” (John 13:7; cf. Mk. 9:32; John 2:22).
    • They would understand after the resurrection, more specifically, after the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:13-15). After the coming of the Holy Spirit the message would go out loud, clear, and with great boldness (Acts 2)
  • (3) Apostles were God’s chosen instruments for setting the foundation of the church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor. 3:11). 
    • (1 John 4:1-6) it was apostolic doctrine that distinguished between truth and error. This ministry of their’s would find its completion at the close of the canon of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16; Jude 3; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 3:1-4)
    • It would be through them that Scripture, NC revelation would be handed down to the church (John 14:26; 16:13-15). for writing most of the NT (Matthew, John, Peter, Paul). The other writers were associated with one of the apostles (Mark / Peter; Luke / Paul; James & Jude the ½ brothers of Jesus; unknown writer of Hebrews - though associated with apostles).
  • (4) Not only the message (NC), but also the very structure of the church came down through the apostles (1 Tim. 3:1f)
    • (FN) There is not, then, and apostolic succession that continues on in their role and with their authority, either by office within the church, or to a specific individual. 
    • Now that revelation has been completed: “The faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3); “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable …” (2 Tim. 3:16).  

Such a momentous role in God’s revelation is marked by the eternal memorial to their name in the New Jerusalem

(D) Memorial

  • The new Jerusalem contains a memorial to 11 of these 12 men here. Apostles are forever honored in heaven (Rev. 21:14 [READ]): Eternity is forever stamped with their memory. Let me make a couple of notes here … 
  • (1) This is not a shining display of their greatness, but of God’s grace. Each of these men are sinners. Apart from God’s sovereign choice of salvation they would each be in hell. Apart from God’s sovereign grace of apostleship they would not be forever honored & remembered. It is God’s grace and glory that fills the new heavens and earth (21:23-24)
  • (2) Though they are honored in heaven, it is not so upon this earth. This should come as no surprise (“what is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” Lk. 16:15; cf. James 4:4 [and vice versa]). This is a fallen creation with fallen & rebellious men (Ps. 2; John 3:19), therefore it is not surprise if what God loves fallen men hate. 
    • It was so with Jesus, so it will be with His servants (10:22, 24); and the apostles would be no exception (1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:23-28). (Matt. 5:10-12). 
  • (FN1) This is very different from those who like to be considered modern day “apostles,” who parade authority - much like the false apostles at Corinth, who paraded their own abilities, position, and skills. Proud, self-aggrandizing. They seek the glory of men rather than the glory of God alone (John 5:44)
    • Apostle do have a different honor in heaven, but they do not have a different salvation, or faith from any other believer in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3; 2 Pet. 1:1; Matt. 20:1-16 [cf 19:27-30];  Lk. 10:20 “that your names are written in heaven”).
  • (FN2) As they were called to suffer, endure, and persevere for Christ so are we. For this reason, because they are humans just like us and we like them. Therefore we find in them great encouragement.  

(4) Surprisingly Common

  • Despite all that God ordained for these men to accomplish, they are not the most courageous and valiant men of Israel (cf. Gideon; Judges 6:12-13 [7:2])
    • These were not the elite of Israelite society, or education, or culture. As has been often pointed out, and is worth noting again, there are no Pharisees, Sadduccess, priest, scholars, and only a couple of any means. They are inescapably common, plain, and ordinary; a collection of fishermen, political activist, an outcast tax gatherer, and other unknowns.
  • And they continually display their weaknesses; let’s look briefly at how weak, ordinary, common, and like us they really are: 
    • (not quick learners) They miss the Lord’s point often (MK 9:32; JHN 20:9) 
    • Demonstrate pride and self-centeredness (LK 9:46)
    • Hard heartedness toward others (LK 9:54)
    • Weakness of faith (MATT 8:26; 14:31; 16:8)
    • These are the ones who at the Lord’s most desperate moment, the time when He most needed human companionship would all abandoned Him and leave Him at His darkest hour: “I will strike down the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter.” (MATT 26:31, *55-56).
  • Yet, these are the one’s that God would use to stand before kings; proclaim the gospel; change the world; and usher in the final age. Therefore, so it is precisely their commonness that gives us encouragement; despite their weaknesses God’s grace is greater. 

These are a model then, in many ways of the church.  

  • (1) Because of their weakness. 
  • (1 Cor. 1:26 “For consider your calling brethren that there were not many wise according tot he 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.”)
    • He is talking about the apostles and about you and me: all who are regenerate members of the church. You are not a Christian because of something great and wonderful about you, but in spite of your wretchedness and weakness (Rom. 5:8-10). You and I have absolutely nothing to be proud of (2 Cor. 4;6), but everything to be humble about and grateful to God for grace. 
  • (2) Because of their diversity. 
    • This is a second way they are a model of the church. They were an extremely diverse group of of men; outside of God’s calling them to salvation and then apostleship they would never have crossed paths, or had any kind of relationship. As a matter of fact, outside of salvation Simon the Zealot would have likely killed Matthew the tax gather (more on that later). 
    • This is a feature about the church that has always struck me. We sing, serve, pray, and fellowship with people that otherwise we would have no relationship with. We come from widely different social, economic, cultural, and educational backgrounds, yet we come together as the one people of God. We all meet together at the same point, we all fall down at the foot of the cross. We come from different stations of life and in the world, but at the cross we are all equally undeserving sinners who have received the grace to trust in Christ for salvation and to find in Him and His kingdom our all in all. 
    • So with this band of apostles; God would take an unlikely and diverse group and mold them into a band of faithful messengers through whom He would reveal Himself to the world. 
  • Lastly, let me end by asking a question and then answering it: Ever think, “Why these men? Why such a weak people?” We think sometimes, “If only God would save so and so, then they could really do great things (usually because of wealth, intellect, or popularity), but God does just the opposite. Why? Paul answers that: (2 Cor. 4:7 “But we have this treasure in  earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of  the power will be of God and not from ourselves;”)
    • It puts God’s grace is put on display and keeps us humble and little in our own eyes, and it provides great encouragement; that God could take even someone like me and make it a vessel for His glory (Act 4:13)
    • They provide encouragement because they are men of clay like us; in their failures we see our own and know we are not alone; in their victories we see the triumph of God’s grace in them and through them; in their faithfulness we have an encouragement to persevere and remain faithful to the Lord. 
  • They remind us that God is not looking for great men as the world counts greatness, but faithful slaves who are willing to do His will (Robert Murray McCheyne: "It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God."). **1 Cor. 15:10; Rom. 7:25.
    • They did not start out as the humbly bold heralds they became, but the Lord brought them along. He trained them; moulded and shaped them; he humbled them to make them precisely the slaves and workers He wanted them to be. 
      • It included both their triumphs and failures; their obedience and their sin; each unfolding a new dimension and depth to their grasp of the riches of God’s grace and sovereign love. Who picked them up when they fell and knocked them down when they stood too tall. 
    • What overwhelmed and governed their lives was not a sense of their own abilities, skills, worthiness, but an overwhelming sense of their weakness, sinfulness, that produced a deep rooted dependence upon God’s mercy, which was always abundantly more than sufficient to meet their greatest need, forgive their most egregious sin, and gently place them back on the path of righteousness. 
    • And so it is for us, and so they stand before us as beacons of hope and encouragement, and exhortation to press on in the Lord and to be strong in the strength of His grace. They stand as a testimony, not of great men, but the greatness of our glorious God and Savior, Jesus Christ; whom both they an we serve. And who takes clay pots and by His power makes them useful vessel for the shining forth of His glory.  
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