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The Twelve Apostles: Sovereignly Selected

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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March 20, 2022 12:01 am

The Twelve Apostles: Sovereignly Selected

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 20, 2022 12:01 am

Why did Jesus call Judas to be one of His Apostles? Today, R.C. Sproul continues his expositional series in the gospel of Luke to help us understand Judas' decision to betray Christ in light of God's sovereign purposes.

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The Bible tells us that Judas Iscariot was destined for destruction. How could God ordain that such a one would betray the innocent blood of Jesus and then be held accountable for such treachery? Could not Judas on the day of judgment say, what else could I do?

I was simply doing your will. We read in Scripture that Judas was doomed for destruction so that prophecy would be fulfilled. Does that mean that Judas had no choice in the matter? Was he forced to betray Jesus?

Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul preaches from Luke's Gospel and, among other things, explains how God's sovereignty squares with man's will. The last four apostles of whom we've not mentioned except in the reading include James the son of Alphaeus, also known as James the Less, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James, and then finally Judas Iscariot. Of the first three of these men whose names I just mentioned, there is precious little information given to us in the New Testament. Of the last who was mentioned, much has been written and much has been spoken of since his betrayal of our Lord. So most of the time this morning I will be given to Judas.

But before we turn our attention to him, let's look briefly at these first three. James the son of Alphaeus, who is also known as James the Less. We hear, as I say, almost nothing about him in the New Testament. What is perhaps most significant in the New Testament record of James is what was performed by his mother on two different occasions. She is mentioned, presumably his mother as she is known. There is a woman by the name of Mary who is said to be the mother of James and of Joses, and that presumably is this James. And what is great, I think, about James' mother was that she was one of the Marys who was present at the foot of the cross on the day of crucifixion, and also one of the Marys that got up before the break of dawn and went to the tomb of Jesus for the purpose of anointing His body with spices.

And of course, it was James' mother along with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to whom the angels announced the resurrection. Tradition tells us that he was also a missionary, as was many of the others. He went to Syria, but in the year 63 he was recalled to Jerusalem, and he was tried by the leaders of Jerusalem as a heretic. He was taken to the pinnacle of the temple and was told there publicly to renounce Jesus. Instead, he reaffirmed his conviction that Christ was the Messiah and the Son of God, whereupon he was thrown to the ground from the pinnacle of the temple. But that did not kill him.

It merely broke his leg. And so to finish the job, the executioners came and hit him in the head with a large stone and killed him. Simon the Zealot is interesting, of course, because of the nickname that he was numbered among that party or group of first-century Jews who were known as zealots. And the zealots were not zealous simply about spiritual matters, but the object of their zeal was political. These were the men who came together and were passionately committed to the overthrow of the Roman government and the hope of driving them from the land. By the way, it was the zealots for the most part who made up that mass of Jews who retreated to Masada and under the Roman attack were finally driven to throwing themselves off the mountaintop to commit suicide.

Some have described the zealots as ancient terrorists, similar to the Al-Qaeda that we deal with even today. But in any case, it's one of the strange acts of providence that Jesus would select for His inner core of apostles. On the one hand, a man who was a tax collector raising tribute to support the Roman cause, and a zealot on the other hand to work side by side with this former tax collector.

You talk about a miracle of public relations. This was accomplished by Jesus getting these two men on His team and getting them to work together. Tradition tells us that Simon also was a missionary.

He went to North Africa, to Spain, and then went to Britain. And there in the year 74 AD, he suffered martyrdom as he was sawn in half. Apart from Judas, ten of the eleven were killed for their faith, and their blood as it has been said again and again became the seed of the church. And their lives represent a testimony for us that to be a Christian at this time in history was to put your life on the line.

And there is no generation of Christians in all of church history in which that should not be something that every believer would be prepared prepared to do, namely to give his or her life in martyrdom for the Lord. Finally, we have Jude who is also named Thaddeus in the New Testament. And again, next to nothing is known about him except that through tradition we read that in 70 AD he was martyred by being shot with arrows and killed in that manner. And so that brings us to the last one mentioned, the man whose name is identified with treachery and betrayal, Judas Iscarias, of whom much is written in the New Testament indeed. And I want to consider this morning his role in the plan of God for redemption. Here we see that he was selected by Jesus to be an apostle. I mentioned in the first week that I guessed that when Jesus was praying all night before He engaged in this selection process of those who would be His closest ambassadors, that He prayed expecting with the knowledge that one and probably Judas would be the betrayer. I speculated at that point because we don't know for sure that Jesus knew that early that it was that it was Judas who would betray Him. My guess is that He did, but we certainly know from the Scriptures that He knew before the fact as He announced to Judas at the last supper as well as to the other disciples. Again, He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and led the soldiers into the garden that night in which Jesus was arrested and indicated in the darkness to the soldiers which one was Jesus by walking up to Jesus and kissing Him, thereby coining the phrase for all future history with the expression, the kiss of death.

The kiss of death occurs when somebody does something that seems on the surface to be affectionate, loving, or complementary when in reality it is an act of destruction and of betrayal. Now, I'd like to just take a moment to look at a passage that we find in the book of Acts. In Acts, it was very early in Peter's speech at Pentecost that we find in chapter 2 of Acts, verse 22, we read these words. Men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did through Him in your midst. As you yourselves also know, Him being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death, whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.

What I want us to focus on briefly this morning is this. Here the Scriptures tell us that Jesus was delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, that Jesus' betrayal was not an accident of history. It was not a mistake that took place when somebody was disillusioned and in his frustration sought worldly gain for the blood of our Savior. Now this act of treachery was ordained by Almighty God from the foundation of the world, and that causes us no small amount of consternation. How could God ordain and determine eternally that such a one would betray the innocent blood of Jesus and then be held accountable for such treachery? Could not Judas on the day of judgment say, What else could I do? I was merely fulfilling Your purpose. I was simply doing Your will. It was You who ordained that the Satan would enter into me, and then Satan made me do this diabolical act so that Judas would have as his trump card on the day of judgment the excuse, either the devil made me do it, or even worse, You Almighty God by Your predestinating sovereignty made me do it.

How do we deal with that alternative? Well, let me begin by saying that this is certainly not the first time in biblical history where we see wickedness perpetrated by people where they are working out the counsel of Almighty God. Consider, for example, the role that was played in the greatest Old Testament drama of redemption, namely the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt under the leadership of Moses when God heard the cries of His people and determined to redeem them from their slavery and from their bondage, the tool or the instrument that God that God used in His hand to effect the great exodus of the Old Testament was the most powerful man on the face of the earth, even Pharaoh the king, as it were, of the Egyptians. And the Scriptures tell us that in the confrontation between Pharaoh and Moses when Moses delivered the Word of God to Pharaoh and said, the Lord God said that you are to let these people go, that they may come and worship me on my mountain. And Pharaoh had been inclined to grant a request, and then we read, and God hardened Pharaoh's heart. And so Pharaoh obstinately refused to let the people of God go.

And so the series of plagues came, and were visited upon the people of Egypt and on Pharaoh. And after each plague, you would see Pharaoh beginning to relent. Until then we would read, and God hardened Pharaoh's heart.

And so he remained obstinate in his resistance to the mandate of God. And finally we're told that the reason why God hardened Pharaoh's heart was that the people might know and may clearly understand that it was God in His grace that delivered them, and not Moses or the will of the people or the benevolence of Pharaoh, but that salvation was of the Lord. But again, we hear this idea that God hardened Pharaoh's heart.

Well, the question we have here is twofold. Why did God harden Pharaoh's heart? And secondly, how did God harden Pharaoh's heart? Well, I think the Scripture is very clear as to why He hardened Pharaoh's heart, as I said a moment ago, so that it would be manifest, plain for anybody to see that it was the Lord God Almighty in His mercy and grace who was redeeming His people.

That was one of the purposes. The other purpose is that God's hardening Pharaoh's heart, and you have to get this now, was an act of divine judgment. It wasn't like Pharaoh was an innocent, righteous bystander who had only good intentions to do whatever he could to help these poor, oppressed, Jewish people.

No, Pharaoh was all together wicked. And one of the things that God does again and again in church history, and something that we should beware of, is that He exercises judgment in a poetic manner, where He will give people over to their own wicked desires. One of the things by which God exercises mercy and ministry to us is by restraint. He keeps us from living out, the fullness of our sinful inclinations. And if it weren't for the restraint of God, I can't imagine the degree of sin that I would have committed on top of what I already have committed.

Nor can you imagine the degree of your sinfulness were it not for the restraining hand of God's grace upon your life. And if we go and we try to create a list of the most wicked people in the history of the world, people whose names will frequently appear on such lists will be people like Hitler and Stalin and Nero and Pharaoh and people of this ilk. What do these men all have in common? What they all had in common was the virtual absence of restraint upon their lives. They had that absolute power that corrupts absolutely, nothing to hold them in check except the sovereign restraint of God. So all God had to do to have a Hitler become a Hitler even more was to remove his restraints and let Hitler do what Hitler wanted to do, to remove his hands from Stalin and to let Stalin in his wickedness do what Stalin wanted to do, to take away the restraint from Nero, that Nero would live out the kind of life he was inclined to live. That's what it means to be abandoned by God, to be given over to Satan by God.

Martin Luther put it this way. When God hardened Pharaoh's heart, he didn't create fresh evil in that heart. There was plenty of evil already there. And so again the way in which God hardens the heart is by removing the restraints and giving one over to their own wickedness. Pharaoh's heart was already recalcitrant.

It already was a heart of stone before God had any of the plagues afflict him. And that's how God works in and through even wicked agents, even through the treachery of human beings. But it's not as though God forced the brothers of Joseph to act in that manner. The brothers of Joseph did exactly what they wanted to do.

They were jealous, and they wanted to get rid of their brother. And God used their wickedness. He used their sin.

He used their jealousy to prepare for the people of God to be redeemed. You meant it for evil. God meant it for good. God has never intended anything that has ever come to pass on this planet except for good. You asked me, does God ordain sin? The answer is easy. Of course He does. If He didn't, it couldn't possibly come to pass. Well then, is it wicked for God to ordain sin?

No. Sin is sin, and we don't call good evil or evil good. But God's involvement in it is perfectly holy and perfectly righteous. One more example.

Consider Job and the drama there. When Satan came and was boasting about he was going to and fro across the earth, and everybody there was in his pocket. And God said, well, have you considered My servant Job? And Satan laughed at God.

He said, Job? Of course he worships you. Of course he follows him.

You've given him everything a man could ever ask for, wealth and riches and fame and happiness and health and family. You've put a hedge around him. You turn that hedge away, tear that hedge down, let me at him, and he will curse you to your face.

And you know the drama that goes on. First thing that happens is the Sabeans come and they steal Job's donkeys and his oxen. The next thing, the Chaldeans come and they steal his camels. Now the devil stirs up the Sabeans against Job. The devil stirs up the Chaldeans against Job, and it's God who stirs up Satan to stir up the Sabeans and the Chaldeans. So how does God get vindicated in all of this? Well again, it wasn't like the Sabeans were these righteous, innocent cowboys that loved nothing but goodness and the truth.

No, no, no. They had been coveting Job's oxen and donkeys for years. They were cattle rustlers from the beginning. The only problem was there was a wall there, a hedge that prevented them from stealing Job's cattle. All God had to do was tear down the wall.

And here come the Sabeans. Here come the Chaldeans. They didn't need any fresh evil in their hearts implanted there by God. In all of these things, I'm trying to tell you what happened with Judas. Judas was a devil from the beginning. Judas was an unregenerate, corrupt, treacherous, lying, thieving crook before he ever met Jesus. And God worked through his corruption to bring about the greatest work of salvation in all of human history. Again, as was the case with the brothers of Joseph, Judas meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. Oh, that the Lord God would use us for His good purposes, for His kingdom. And when He finds us, that He works through our good intentions rather than our evil ones. But again, if the world were left to me, we would all end up in betrayal were it not for the grace and mercy of the God who redeemed me and who redeems you. It really stretches the limits of our understanding of God, doesn't it?

He allows evil, even works out His will through the evil acts of men, but is not the author of evil. We've heard a helpful explanation of that today as Dr. R.C. Sproul examined the life of Judas Iscariot. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Lord's Day.

Thank you for being with us. The Gospel of Luke is our focus each Sunday here on the program, and it's allowing us to really dig deeply into each passage of this book. As you continue your own study of Luke, let me recommend today's resource offer.

It's R.C. 's commentary on Luke. In nearly 600 pages, you'll find helpful insight into every verse. To receive the digital download, simply contact us with a donation of any amount when you go to And I think it's important to mention that our purpose here at Ligonier Ministries is to help you gain a deeper understanding of God and His holiness. It has never been or never will be our intention to replace the local church. So while we're thankful that you can enjoy Dr. Sproul's teaching on this Lord's Day, we hope that you are a member of a local church and that each Sunday you're availing yourself to the means of grace provided there. Renewing Your Mind is the listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Thank you for joining us, and we hope to see you right back here next Lord's Day.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-20 12:37:24 / 2023-05-20 12:45:23 / 8

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