Before God sends a man He brings that man up to Himself. In going to God first that man will then be better fit to go to man for God.
I want to fast-forward your mind today into the future. Pass over the Rapture, pass over the Tribulation, Pass over the Millennium Kingdom, Pass over the Great White Throne Judgment and pass over the dissolution of the heavens and the earth. I want to put you now in the new heavens and the new earth. I want to place you in Revelation 21, high up on a mountain overlooking the 1500 mile flat terrain.
I want you to look up and see the dazzling, radiant, glorious New Jerusalem, the City of God, descending down out of the heavens to be planted on that flat terrain. Upon landing the impact of its foundation with the ground causes a deep trembling in the earth. The vast, flat, open terrain before you is gone. This enormous city now sits in glory before you, swallowing up any land expanse you were just looking at. The immensity of this 1500 mile cube city made of diamonds and gold engulfs your whole field of vision.
Suddenly, somehow you’re raptured down from the mountain at the base of this city. Squinting because of its brightness you look up and its wall just goes up and up…you can’t see the top. Looking one way the wall just extends as far as you can see. You can’t see the end. You look the other way and the same endlessness.
Looking back in front of you you see the foundation is multi-layered. You’re too close to see it clearly because its so big so you scramble backwards farther from the wall and it becomes clearer as you do. Counting the layers you number 12 of them. Each layer is a different precious stone. Each layer extending as far as you can see to your right and to your left. And on each of the 12 layers you realize a name is blazened. Starting at the bottom you start reading up. “Peter” is on the first foundation. “James” is on the second. “John” is on the 3rd. “Andrew” is on the fourth one up. You soon realize that these are the names of the 12 Apostles as you keep reading: Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Mattias. You show confusion over that last name, Mattias. Then you remember, “Oh yes, Mattias was the replacement for Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.”
What has just been described is a creative description of Revelation 21 when John the Apostle describes the descent of the City of God in the New Earth. That city has a 12 layered foundation and engraved on those layers are the names of the 12 Apostles. Looking forward to the end, we see that God wall ensure they are honored and remembered for all eternity for their role as Apostles. Today in our passage, we look back at how it all started. Today we look back and see how they began as Apostles.
Selected, Stay, Sent, Synopsis
#1: The Twelve SELECTED by Jesus (13-14a)
Their appointment as the 12 Apostles came after their call by Jesus to be His disciples. In other words, in leaving their fishing boats Peter, Andrew, James, and John began following Jesus. After some time of following Jesus, Jesus then chose out of those crowds that followed Him the 12 who would become “The Twelve Apostles”.
Luke 6 tells us He prayed all night before selecting the 12. What was Jesus praying for? He knew which 12 He was going to pick, for it was the Father who was giving them to Him (Jn 17:6). Perhaps He was praying for those 12 by name and the careers that they were about to begin. Perhaps He prayed the enemy would be kept back. Perhaps He prayed for them to be strong in the spirit even if weak in their flesh. Whatever specifics Jesus prayed for, we learn that if the All-Knowing Son of God prayed on such occasion then we who are not all-knowing ought to pray. The choosing of our leaders ought to be done in earnest, intense prayer.
I don’t fail to notice that this selection occurs up on a mountain. Moses was called up Mount Sinai. Now the 12 are called up a mountain. Why does God do that? If I can speculate a moment, I think there’s something very fitting about going up a mountain in response to God’s call. The Bible often describes God’s place in heaven as a mountain. David asks in Psalm 15, “Who may live on your holy hill/mountain?” Before God sends a man He brings that man up to Himself. In going to God first that man will then be better fit, psychologically, to go to man for God. In responding to the call to come to God and then go for God, the man sees from the beginning of his career that he is under the authority of God in his work, now his life is in service to His Creator.
Now notice here the fact that JESUS selects these men. John 17:6 Jesus states that the Father gave these 12 to Jesus. So here Jesus is calling those 12 that the Father already chose and gave to Him. Note that: He called them. And they came. He chose them. It was His initiative… His selecting. There were no applications. No interviews. No Job boards. Just divine decision of a sovereign God. This is God’s MO. He doesn’t consult the man He chooses. The man is simply confronted by God as having been chosen. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, David…all had the same experience. God appeared to them, and informed them they had been chosen for service
Now here is Jesus choosing His twelve. He said to them later on in Jn 6:70, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?” And again in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you”. Later Jesus would also enlist Saul of Tarsus, who would be known as the Apostle Paul. In Acts 9:15 God said, “This man [Paul] is my chosen instrument to carry my name to the Gentiles…”
He formed them into a distinct group. They were chosen from the rest of all the disciples. The Greek word means “to go off from” someone or some place, some sort of separating occurred. They were not the New Israel, although, they numbered 12 like the 12 sons of Israel. As the 12 sons formed the nucleus of the nation of Israel that would grow from them, so too the 12 Apostles formed the nucleus of a new community, the Church. From the 12 Apostles would be fruit (Jn 15:16), the exponential growth of Christians. The body of Christians in the world would trace their roots back to these 12 Apostles.
Apostles were unique in the history of the Church. Some believe that there are Apostles still today. As one studies the NT, it becomes evident that there were certain features of Apostleship that are impossible for today:
- Eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21-22)
- Eyewitnesses of Jesus during His earthly ministry (Acts 1:21-22)
- Enlisted by Christ personally (John 15:16; Acts 9:15; 22:14-15)
- Educated by Christ personally (Math. 28:20; John 16:13-15; Acts 22:14; Galatians 1:12)
- Empowered to do miracles, signs and wonders (2 Cor. 12:12; Mark 16:17)
- Ecumenical authority (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 4:17; 7:17)
- Established the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14)
#2: The Twelve STAY with Jesus (13-14a)
They would stay with Him all the time. They would be with Him continuously – for training. That training would pay dividends. In Acts 4:13, when Peter and John were standing before the leaders who killed Jesus and defending themselves, it says of the leaders: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Here’s one lesson from that verse: When you spend time with Jesus it is evident to others.
These 12 would stay with Jesus in privileged intimacy with Him – a privilege allowed to them alone. There were many more disciples, but only Twelve Apostles. They could ask Jesus in private sessions the questions they had. He would explain to them in much greater detail and clarity the subjects they inquired about. The crowds on the other hand would only get parables. These 12 would be the remainder who stayed with Jesus in Jn 6 when everyone else abandoned Him (Jn 6:66-71)
Application: MacArthur “spiritual growth comes best from close contact with a holy example”. Training in the Christian life demands close, connected, open, personal relationships with other Christians. Maturity happens around maturity. I say that for us to grow it necessitates spiritual relationships where spiritual things are talked about, the word of God is discussed, life is shared with a view to Jesus’ teachings, and prayer saturates. This simply is not happening enough.
Application: If you’re going to become like Jesus, which is the purpose of every Christian, then you have to get close to Jesus. You have to make Him your priority. You have to order your life in such a way that you are being fed His word: Get in Church! Use the memorization plan we have. Read the word at home! Review the notes to the sermon. There are endless resources available for people to study and learn and grow in their knowledge of the word.
But not just the word, you have to pray. How long have you been a Christian and how much do you pray at this point in your faith? How do you pray? Do you only pray at dinner, or, in crisis, or for health issues? Do you only pray when you’re driving or doing some chore? Do you have a plan to pray? A time set aside to pray? Are you learning how to praise God in prayer? Do you confess your sins and faults more? Do you pray for people’s salvation, for people’s repentance? Do you pray for your church? Do you pray for missionaries? Do you pray for your own growth – do you know how you need to grow? Have you yet grown to discover the peace that is only available from prayer? How do you pray? How often do you pray? This is not legalistic, regular prayer is biblically normal. The command of Jesus to “Watch out”, to “Be Alert” is always, always, always a command to pray. Prayer is how one stays alert and watches out and keeps the fire burning for Christ’s return. Prayer is how you spend time with Jesus. He got alone on mountains and in woods to pray to His Father. Where is your mountain? Where is your woods?