Thanking God for the Apostles


In Luke 6, we see a very significant event in the ministry of Jesus, the calling of the twelve disciples. It is significant not only for the ministry of Jesus, but the significance the apostles played stretches all the way to the new heavens and then new earth. We can see this significance in the Revelation, where we are told something about the new Jerusalem. Rev21.9-14
Revelation 21:9–14 ESV
Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The foundations of the New Jerusalem are named for the twelve names of the twelve apostles of Jesus.
Not only will the foundations of New Jerusalem be named for the twelve apostles, we are also told of their significance in the church. If you were to ask many Christians who is the foundation of the church, they would immediately answer “Jesus!”, but that is not what the scripture teaches us. Christ is the cornerstone of the church, but the church. If you are in the church, then scripture teaches us that we are founded on the apostles and prophets:
Ephesians 2:19–22 ESV
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
With all of this in mind, the passage we are examining this morning takes on perhaps greater significance than it would have had if we were simply to look at this as a description of a simple managerial action that Jesus took.
What we learn about the appointing of the apostles teaches us about how Jesus made decisions and how the decisions about what kind of people we delegate in leadership has great consequence, and so we must also consider how we should be very careful in how we put people into places of leadership.
The Bible has much to say about the importance of being careful about who is put into leadership. Many of the narratives of scripture tell us of both good and bad consequences of different leaders, so we can learn from that. We learn from Moses’ Father-in-law, Jethro, that leaders need good help to be effect, and this is reiterated in Acts 6, where deacons were appointed to do certain work so that the twelve could focus on their main job, as given by Jesus, to be involved in prayer and the ministry of the word.
We are given by Paul certain qualifications for some leadership positions in the church. Yes, the Bible teaches a lot about leadership. It is full of encouragements to godly leaders, and warnings to the ungodly.
In Luke 6 we see that Jesus prepared himself to choose the apostles through prayer, and that he chose men not based on what would be the normal qualifications we look for. In the end, we must conclude that Jesus chose these particular men based on Divine Providence. They were chosen for this task that would have eternal consequences. These twelve would be the foundations the church was built on and the foundations of the New Jerusalem to come.
Luke 6:12–16 ESV
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Our first lesson comes in the form of Jesus going to pray.
Luke 6:12 ESV
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
This was no quick prayer! Jesus was in constant prayer, and this is no exception. What do we see about his prayer here? First, he went out to the mountain to pray. He got somewhere alone. Bruce Larson said:

Spending time with God is the essence of worship. Everything else is stage setting. We can be in God’s presence, corporately or alone, as Jesus was.

Prayer together with others is important, but so is prayer one on one with God. Both types of prayer should be part of our Christian life. Prayer is a vital part of our worship, and yet it is often a neglected part of the Christian life. Jesus used public opportunities to show what prayer looks like. Sometimes just those closest to him were privy to hear his prayers, and other times he went alone to pray.
Matthew 14:23 ESV
And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
It is not insignificant that Jesus spent much time praying before choosing the apostles. We are not told any specifics about his prayer, but we do know from other places where the prayers of Jesus were recorded for us that he often prayed for the will of God to be done. He prayed that His people would be living in unity. He prayed that God would be glorified. He prayed in submission to the Father’s will. So I think we can safely say these were elements of his prayer that night as well.
So when we have a major decision to make, it would be helpful to take much time to pray. If Jesus need a night-long prayer before choosing the apostles, how much more should we spend much time in prayer before we consider or make big decisions? As we examine this passage together, may God grant us to have an increased sense of urgency in our pwn prayer lives. May He cause us to see the importance of prayer, and may we respond in considering how we may improve in our own prayer lives.
Now, we know he prayed all night, and this means he went through all the periods of the night. Have you ever stayed up all night outside? Or maybe not all night, but perhaps you have had occasion to be up a few hours before sunrise, and experienced that. When I was younger, I used to go hunting with my dad, and sometimes we would get up way before dawn to have the best opportunity to find what we were hunting for. Some people do the same to go fishing. There is something about being out when it is completely dark, except for the stars, and experiencing the early dawn, and very gradual increase of light. Jesus would have experienced all of this during his time of prayer. It is likely his robe was damp from the dew, and he experienced the cool part of the night as he prayed.
Then day came: Luke6.13
Luke 6:13 ESV
And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:
Let us take a few moments to discuss what an apostle was. In a generic sense, the term apostle means something like, “one who was sent”. It means a messenger, or emissary. Jesus chose these 12 and named them apostles. First, we must note the group he chose the apostles from. Luke tells us hie called his disciples, and chose from them twelve. Jesus didn’t pick random people from the street, he chose from among those who were already his disciples. This may seem like an obvious point to some of you, but I fear that in the church today, it is not always clear to everyone that people who are to help in the ministry must be from among those who are already disciples of Jesus.
I have known pastors and other church leaders whose philosophy is to get everyone involved, give everyone a position of some kind in the church. Usually what drives this is the idea that if you give someone a feeling of importance in the church, a “job” to do, then they will be more likely to further engage with the church and its mission. Maybe they will even get saved eventually! But this is not the right way to go about it. You see, that may be true in other organizations, such as a civic club or something, where you give someone some little title so they feel important and then that will somehow cement their commitment to the group.
So I have seen pastors or leaders in the church put someone in charge of something they have no business leading in. We need volunteers for the youth ministry, so we just grab someone and say to them, “come and serve with us”, without having discerned whether or not they are actually a committed disciple of Jesus! We haven’t even heard their testimony, or measured their understanding of any of the biblical doctrines, but we are putting them into a position of influence in the church. This can be dangerous to the mission of the church. Believing in Jesus is a bare minimum requirement to serve in his church. Being a true disciple is beyond just verbal affirmation that i agree with the church’s teachings, it is a demonstrated commitment to being a disciple.
Sometimes we see the 12 Apostles referred to as the 12 disciples. This may cause some slight confusion to people at times, since they think the term disciple applies to just these twelve. Disciples are learners, followers of a teacher. So all belong to Christ should think of themselves as disciples. When the apostles are referred to as the twelve disciples, it simply is a way to differentiate those who were the twelve from the others. Jesus once sent out 70 disciples for a particular preaching mission, but this does not mean they were Apostles in the sense that we are talking about.
According to the Lexham Bible dictionary, an Apostle is: Someone, or something, sent. Derived from the verb “to send out” (ἀποστέλλειν, apostellein). In the New Testament, usually refers to someone sent as an authorized agent by Jesus or the Christian community
Jesus was called an apostle and high priest. Heb3.1
Hebrews 3:1 ESV
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,
Throughout most of church history Apostles had at least these qualifications: They were personal witnesses to the ministry of Jesus, they had been eye-witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, and they were personally appointed by Jesus to this specific office. So there are not any new Apostles being added. We also consider that the apostles had authority based on their personal appointment by Jesus that no one in the church today has. That is why we say that God’s Word is our authority, not any current person serving in some ministry capacity. All of us are to come under the authority of the Bible. We also consider the authentic writings of the apostles to carry the authority of Jesus, since they were appointed by Him for this task. Peter referred to the writings of the Apostle Paul as scripture.
There are no new apostles in the church today. This is not an office that continued after the death of the original apostles. Now, we should note that one apostle was replaced. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was replaced by Matthias and you can read about that in Acts1, where we also see Peter give some qualifications of who was eligible. After declaring that Judas needed to be replaced, Peter said this: Acts1.21-26
Acts 1:21–26 ESV
So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
So here are qualifications Peter gave for the one who would replace Judas. “Have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us” In other words, they had to be witnesses of Jesus. They were not people who heard about him from someone else. They were eye witnesses. And they were also to be witnesses of the resurrection.
So Matthias was chosen to replace Judas. But what about Paul the Apostle? He was not one of the twelve. Yet he was a personal witness to the resurrected Jesus, and he was also personally appointed by Jesus to this office. Now, we will not discuss all the names here this morning, but let us note the list, that it starts with Simon, whom Jesus named Peter. Peter was the rock that the church would be built on. I want to read something written by RC Sproul about what some of this means, this naming of the apostles:
A Walk with God: Luke 24. The Commissioning of the Apostles (Luke 6:12–16)

The transfer of authority from the Father to the Son is, in turn, transferred to his own apostles, so they function in an absolutely unique role in the church. No minister in the church today has the authority of an apostle nor do any of the great theologians. All defer to the authority of the apostles, which resides in the fact that they were set apart and commissioned by Christ.

In the ancient world a person who functioned in the role of an apostle was usually a representative of a king or some important political ruler, who had the authority to speak on behalf of his ruler. He was usually serving in the function of an emissary, much as an ambassador would serve today. The apostle carried with him the authority of the one who sent him. Now that is crucial to understanding the role of the apostle in the New Testament. Jesus elsewhere said, when he sent out the apostles, ‘Those who receive you, receive me. Those who will not receive you, do not receive me.’ In fact, Paul says that the foundation of the church is the prophets and the apostles, with Christ being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). The church is established on the basis of the teaching of the apostles, not because they are special in and of themselves, but because it is through the apostles that we get the word of Christ. Sometimes people comment: ‘I believe what Jesus said, but it is Paul that bothers me; I won’t listen to the apostle Paul.’ But, we don’t know anything that Jesus ever said, except through the message of the apostles. Therefore when we try to put Jesus against Paul we are simply putting one apostle against another. An apostle speaks not on the basis of his own authority, but on the basis of the one who commissions him.

Sproul makes a great point. We wouldn’t know anything about what Jesus taught and did if it were not recorded for us in the gospels. And who wrote those gospels? The Apostles. We take their accounts as authoritative because Christ commissioned them to this task. Let us close with some consideration of Judas. Scripture teaches us that Jesus knew what was in the hearts of everyone and that He knew Judas was a traitor from the beginning. So why would Jesus choose someone who would betray Him? For starters, we can know that in Judas we have many warning lessons. We see what happens when greed grips a person. We see what happens when the tide turns against the Holy, and men abandon the Holy to find favor with the profane. In other words, when people choose to please men instead of God.
We see the destruction this caused for Judas personally, as he ultimately commits suicide and loses his soul. But there could be other lessons for us to consider. We can remember Judas when a Christian leader falls away, which sadly happens all too often, or has a moral failure. If Jesus felt secure enough in His church to allow this traitor in, knowing he would cause all sorts of problems and bring disgrace to himself and his position, then we ought to feel secure as well when someone we respect lets us down. When someone you loved and admired as a Christian leader lets you down, will you let your faith be crushed? Would that not be saying you cannot trust Christ because some of his followers have betrayed Him? If you would give up on the faith because of evil men or women in the church, then you must be saying that though the betrayal of Judas was not enough to destroy to faith of the other disciples who followed Jesus, the person you respected is too important to the church and that the church or the faith must fall since that person fell.
We should not be so disturbed when someone falls, though, as though our faith must be shattered, for our faith is never to be in people anyway, but in Christ alone. And the church, though it is not yet perfected, is still His church. And we are Christians because of Christ, not because of our Sunday School teacher, or pastor, or our parents, or even the person who taught us the gospel that believed in.
Our basis of truth is Scripture alone. Our salvation comes through faith alone. Our saving faith comes through grace alone in Christ alone , and when our lives finally manifest Christ, it is for God’s glory alone.
These are called the five solas: Sola scripture, in scripture alone. Sola fide, in faith alone. Sola gratzia, grace alone, sola cristus, in Christ alone, and sola deo gloria, for the glory of God alone!
Let us give glory to God that He, in his eternal and perfect plan to save all of those whom he calls to himself, that he determined who would be his servants the apostles, and let us glory in the fact that He has given us his word, by which we can learn of these things. Let us marvel at the saving grace of his cross, and let us thank him for all the good gifts he lavishes upon us, those spiritual gifts.
I am going to close by reading Phil1:3-29, where Paul notes towards the end of this reading that the mystery is revealed to the saints, the church, and that mystery is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Philippians 1:3–29 ESV
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more