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The Messengers of the King

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
July 18, 2022 4:00 am

The Messengers of the King

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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I want to just explain to you some of the things behind His preparation and calling of these men, but I want you to see how they apply in your own life. I want you to make them directly applicable to you because I really believe that we're going to look at the way Jesus prepared and called these twelve, and it is a tremendous pattern for our own understanding of discipleship. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Out of the masses of people who followed Him, Jesus selected twelve men for His intimate circle of disciples. While you're probably familiar with names like Peter, James, and John, what about the others? Men like Bartholomew, Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot. Why were they chosen?

What made them stand out as potential servants of the Lord? John MacArthur starts addressing those questions today as he begins a study he calls The Master's Men. Now, as a starting point, John, talk a little bit about why it's valuable to look at these men.

Is it their flawless character or their unwavering faith that makes their lives worth examining? As you know, through the years, this has been one of my very favorite series on The Master's Men. And the book on this particular theme, Twelve Ordinary Men, has been one of the, I think, three best-selling books of all the books I've written through the years. And the reason this is so interesting and the reason the lives of these men are so valuable to us is because they are frankly so ordinary. Literally, the Lord used ordinary men to turn the world upside down. This is just a powerful series. It comes from Matthew 10.

Through the years, whenever we put this on the radio, we get a landslide response. You'll learn how the Lord chose the twelve, how He transformed their weaknesses into strengths, which was no easy job, and how He used the people that most would think were really not the best raw material. And in the process, we'll find out about leadership and love and courage and humility and commitment and power and faith and impulsiveness and how the Lord pulled all those things together to mold men who advanced the kingdom in the first century with power and literally did turn the world upside down. And the same Lord is still picking up common people and using them to build His kingdom.

Somebody said, why does He use common people so often? And I said, because that's the only kind there are when it comes to divine operation. You've got to pick a fallen sinner, convert him, and then find a way to use him. And that's what the Lord does. You're going to learn from the Master's men how the Lord will train you and how you can be used to influence others for the kingdom.

It's a great series. Once you get started, you kind of get caught up in the individual stories of these very well-known twelve disciples. That's right, great and encouraging stories. And friend, if God can use the disciples, rest assured, He can use you. To show you how Jesus transformed His closest followers and how He can change you, here's John MacArthur with today's lesson. With great joy, we come to the tenth chapter of Matthew. This chapter is marked in the first verse by the calling and the commissioning of the disciples. And chapter 10 is the record of their initial sending to assist in warning men of the inevitable harvest of judgment. Now the major thrust of the passage begins in verse 5. But before we get to verse 5, we have to really be fair about looking at the first four verses. They're very simple in terms of what they say.

And yet hidden behind them is some tremendous richness that I want you to see. I just want to mention three features of the first four verses. Three elements of the commissioning of the twelve. First their initiation in verse 1, their impact in verse 1, and then their identity is given in verses 2 through 4 as He names all twelve of them.

Now as we look at this, I want you to do some thinking with me, if you will. I want to just explain to you some of the things behind His preparation and calling of these men, but I want you to see how they apply in your own life. I want you to make them directly applicable to you because I really believe that we're going to look at the way Jesus prepared and called these twelve and it is a tremendous pattern for our own understanding of discipleship. First let's look at the initiation and we want to spend our time mostly on this, the initiation of the apostles.

And we only have one statement. And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them authority. Or having called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them authority. And as I was reading that, and having called unto Him His twelve disciples, I began to think, now how did He do that? How did He initiate this? How did He get them involved?

How did He get them to the place where He called them and then sent them? Well first of all, look at the phrase itself. The verb is proskaleo, and it's a simple term. Kaleo means to call. Prosk means toward.

It's an intense word. It means to call someone toward you so that you're face-to-face with them. It has the idea of a face-to-face calling so that one can receive a commission from the other. This is an official commissioning. He called them before His face to give them commands, to give them a commission, to send them, to instruct them. It's the same word used in the thirteenth chapter of Acts, verse 2, where God was calling those leaders who were in the church at Antioch, an official, if you will, commissioning. So it's time now for the commissioning of the disciples. And if you'll notice verse 2, He says they are the twelve apostles. They're the disciples in verse 1. They're the apostles in verse 2. They were disciples when they were learning. They were apostles when they were sent. Disciple means learner.

Mathetes means learner. Apostle is apostolo, it means to be sent. First they were learners, then they were sent. And so this is their transition from being learners in verse 1 to being sent in verse 2.

They've been trained and now they're sent. Our Lord is calling them to work with Him. He's calling them to gather some of the lost and mauled and exhausted and prostrate, shepherdless sheep before the reapers who are the angels, it tells us in Matthew 13, come to cut them down and take them and throw them in the fire of judgment. It's time to evangelize. It's time to preach the kingdom.

It's time, as verse 6 says, to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and going to preach and tell them the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And so this is a critical point in the training of the Twelve and I want us to focus on that for a moment. There were basically four phases in Christ's training of the Twelve and I'm just going to give you these briefly. Number one was their salvation, or their conversion. And if you look sometime, not now, but some other time at John 1, 35 to 51, you find there an illustration of the initial calling to faith, or calling to conversion, or calling to salvation that our Lord used in the lives of these Twelve. He called many, but there at pinpoint several of them in John 1 who are well known to us.

And that is the initial calling. They were called to believe. They were called to Christ in a conversion sense. But then after that, they went back to their jobs, back to their secular employment, back to their homes and there came a second phase. And that is recorded for us in Matthew chapter 4, verses 18 to 22.

And this was phase two in the training of the Twelve. He saw two brethren, Simon called Peter and Andrew's brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishers. He said unto them, Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men. Now they had already been converted. I believe they had already been saved in the sense that we believe in conversion or salvation. They had already believed in Christ.

They had already affirmed that He was the Messiah as they did in John 1. But now He is calling them to leave the nets and to leave the secular employment and to leave their homes and to follow Him exclusively and totally. This is their calling, if you will, into ministry. They'd been called to salvation, that's phase one. Now they're called to attach themselves to Him permanently, that's phase two.

And He's going to make them into fishers of men. If you'd like to see this in perspective, this was their education. They were called out of their employment. They were called away from their livelihood and they were grown men. They were called away from everything they ever knew about making a living and they were called to follow Jesus around for three years to be trained.

This was their schooling. And by the way, their training encompassed a lot of people. For wherever Jesus went, there was a large number of disciples.

Some stuck around and according to John 6, some left and followed Him no more. But in the midst of this group were these special twelve and they were being trained along with everybody else and perhaps even more specifically because the Lord knew that the twelve were special. Now there is a third phase of their training, of their calling.

First to conversion, then to ministry. Thirdly, they are to be sent out and that's where we come in verse 1 of chapter 10. This is not the final phase, this is the third phase and this is ascending out and Mark tells us they were sent out two by two. They weren't ready to go alone yet. They had to have one another along for support. And may I also add that the Lord stuck with them very closely in phase 3.

He was like a sort of a mother eagle watching His eaglets as they begin to fly. He was always there and they're always checking back in all the time and letting them know how it was going. This was their internship. This was the time for them to go out on their first short-term missions assignment and get a feel for how it was out there, to do an internship. And then after a season of this personal labor, they returned to the Lord and they remained again a long time with the Lord being taught and taught more and more. And by the way, they learned better now because they had been out there and they knew where the trouble was.

And they knew what they needed to know and there was a little more desperation when they came back, scarred a little bit from this first shot at being on their own. Then there was a fourth phase of the training of the Twelve and that was after the resurrection and after the ascension. When Christ went back into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came into them and they then scattered and went into all the world, discipling the nations and that was the final sending of the Twelve. So there was a conversion phase, there was a calling to Himself for training phase, there was a first experience phase, and then there was a final sending.

And as we come into chapter 10, we're in phase 3. This is their first experience alone in the field. And He doesn't let them out very far, but just far enough to learn where the trouble's going to come from. Their initiation into ministry, so we call it the initiation. They were hand-picked by Jesus from all the other disciples who followed Him. He knew they were to be the ones, He even hand-picked Judas because that fit the prophetic plan as well. He chose these twelve men to be the ones who would go throughout the world to establish the church and verify His Messiahship and affirm His resurrection from the dead as well as His atoning death. He taught them and taught them and taught them and taught them that they might be the representatives of the dynamic of the gospel. Now in the process of training them, phase 2 and phase 3, Jesus was basically overcoming five manifest problems that they had, and I want to talk about those.

These five problems are very common in the process of discipling. I know the Lord is working with me because in a small sense, I am one sent. I'm not an official apostle, nobody is today. But I'm also sent, the Word is still true of me, I've been sent to preach the Word, so have you. And as I look at how the Lord works in my life, I can see parallels as to how He worked in their lives. And one thing really excites me and that is that He didn't have a lot to work with in their case, and He still doesn't in my case, and that's very gratifying. He really had a scruffy group of guys. In fact, if some phony religionist had written this gospel, if Jesus was some fraud trying to convince everybody of His perfection and convince everybody that He was God, He never would have picked twelve such crummy characters to hang around Him because by the time you get to the end of the story, you wonder whether He could ever pull it off with them. And some people might question His ability on that basis alone.

It's a marvelous insight into the honesty of God as He sees Christ dealing with men who are weak. And we'll see that in a minute. But as we move to that, let me just tell you a little about the training process and a little about their initiation.

And a couple of things in the background. First of all, they were chosen sovereignly. That is apparent. They play a critical role in the history of the world and in eternity as well. And God had it all laid out so that they were chosen sovereignly. It says in verse 1, He called unto Him His twelve disciples. In fact, in Mark 3.13 is a wonderful statement. It says, He called unto Himself whom He would. It was His choice, His will, His sovereign purpose.

There was no executive search. It wasn't now. How many of you would like to be apostles?

Put up your hand. It wasn't that. If you can't succeed, if you're a lousy fisherman, maybe you'd like to go into the ministry.

It wasn't that. They were called by the sovereign will and purpose of God. He knew the men He wanted and they were not consulted and neither was anybody else consulted but God the Father. It was foreordained like Abraham, like Moses, like Jeremiah. It was foreordained like Isaiah. It was foreordained like John the Baptist, foreordained like the Apostle Paul who was called into the ministry against His will. And so did Jesus say in John 15, ye have not chosen Me but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should go forth and bring forth fruit. Sovereignly God chose these individuals and that has always been God's pattern. He chose Israel. He chose the apostles and He chooses His church and He chooses those who serve Him within His church so that we who are representing Him are the called according to His purpose.

Now may I add something to that? They were sovereignly chosen but secondly, they were chosen after a night of prayer. Yes, Christ chose whom He would but marvelously and wonderfully in His submission to the Father. It occurred only after He sought the Father's will.

This is such a wonderful thing in terms of discipling. As we select those that we'll pour our life into, it should be only after great prayer so that God can show us who it is that we are to give ourselves to. Listen to Luke 6, 12, and it came to pass in those days that He, being Jesus, went out into a mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God.

He prayed all night. Then this, and when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples and of them, out of the whole group, He chose twelve whom also He named apostles. They were chosen sovereignly. They were chosen after a night of prayer as the submissive Son in His humility sought only the will of the Father. And in John 17, He affirms that indeed they were the ones the Father wanted given by the Father to the Son. He says, I have manifested Thy name unto the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world.

Thine they were and Thou gavest them to Me. John 17, 6, He affirmed that they were the gift of God. And so these very special men, very special, were chosen by God and affirmed by the Son after all night of prayer. So they were chosen sovereignly. They were chosen through prayer. And thirdly, and this is what I want to focus on, they were chosen to be trained, to be trained. Training is an essential part. They aren't chosen just to be sent out.

There has to be a training time. And for them it was a training of three years, walking with the Lord. They left their nets. They left their boats. They left their crops. They left their businesses. They left their tax collecting stands. They left everything and they wandered around behind Jesus.

And some have criticized. One writer says they have no occupation. They've given up the pursuits in which they were engaged. They're fishing, they're tax gathering and they're agriculture. They carry on no business.

They simply walk around and behind their leader talking to each other or to him and when he speaks to the people who begin to gather, they listen just like everybody else. The only thing they do is go with him from place to place. They are idle and it begins to be a question whether it's not doing harm and giving rise to reproach that twelve grown men are being kept idle for no apparent purpose and neglecting obvious duties in order to do so."

End quote. Twelve grown men just roaming around like a bunch of freeloaders. I suppose you could look at it like that. But on the other hand, there has to be training. There are a lot of people who are called to Christ and maybe called to the ministry and they're like the guy who jumped on his horse and rode off madly in all directions. They just want to go.

They don't know where or to do what. But Jesus knew they needed to be trained, to be taught, to become disciples, mathetes, learners before they could be sent. Moses spent 40 years being trained, Paul only three years and these three.

Moses must have been a very tough case. Some of us have spent three years, four or five years in seminary. Others have spent years and years not in a formal education but learning the Word of God, maybe being taught by another Christian. But there has to be a training time before one can be sent. And I can't imagine any greater thrill than to have been trained by the Lord Himself.

Can you? I mean, when I think about that, it's just mind-boggling to just walk around. And in Matthew 11, 29, He said to the group which included them, learn of Me. Oh my, what a training. Listen, learning doesn't happen because you sit in a class and hear a lecture. Learning really happens when you watch a holy man or a holy woman walk through life. That's when you learn. You learn from the pattern and the consistency of life and that's what discipleship is.

It isn't ten weeks in a class, it's walking with a godly person and feeling their heartbeat and hearing them speak and seeing them pray and spending time. And I'll be frank with you, it wasn't any easy job to train this bunch. The best of them, their leader, Peter, still didn't have a clue what he was doing even after the resurrection.

They were really a defective bunch. And it's good to see their defects because it gives us hope that God can use us. Now let me come to the five things I think Jesus had to work with to overcome.

And you're going to see them in your own life. They were chosen sovereignly, they were chosen also by prayer, and they were chosen to be trained. And in the training, the Lord had to deal with five basic inadequacies.

And it's the same with us and it's the same with the people we disciple. Number one, they lacked spiritual understanding. Now that's pretty tough to start with, right? You're going to work twelve guys into evangelizing the whole world only they have one basic problem, they do not understand spiritual truth.

Oh man, that's a tough way to begin but that's exactly what He had. They were blind, they were thick, they were dull, they were stupid. They didn't understand the parables. You know, I just can't help but chuckle every time the Lord says to them, do you understand this? You know what they always say? Yes, Lord. Always say that.

Yes, Lord. Did they understand? No, they didn't understand. But they were so dull, they did not know they did not understand.

And so they always say, yes, Lord, we understand. They didn't understand the parables. They didn't understand the precepts He taught.

It was so hard to get through all of their prejudices and their preconceived attitudes. Peter said to Him in 1515, explain unto us this parable. And Jesus said, are you also yet without understanding? I mean, don't you understand yet? There's a certain frustration there, isn't there? He rebuked them.

Haven't you got it yet? In Luke 18, just to show you how this goes on throughout the whole time, later on in their time together, He took them aside. Verse 31 of Luke 18, He says, Behold, we're going to Jerusalem and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.

Now that should have been a clue right there. All things written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. Wow, we got that.

We can figure that out. We know what the prophets taught. He'll be delivered unto the Gentiles, He said, mocked, spitefully treated, spit on, scourged, put to death.

And the third day, He'll rise again. All the stuff that had been presented in the Old Testament, some explicitly and some veiled, all that will be fulfilled in verse 34, and they understood none of these things. None of them. You know, if I were the Lord at that point, I'd say, are you sure these are the right twelve? I mean, we have been together a long...I mean, couldn't they have understood some of this?

None of this? But all the while they were saying, yes, Lord, we understand. Don't be fooled by those who think they understand what you say.

Be sure they do. They didn't grasp the parables. They didn't grasp the precepts. And as I pointed out there, they didn't even understand the suffering of Christ. In John 13, Jesus humbled Himself and washed their feet.

And Peter said, you'll never wash my feet. And Jesus says to him, Peter, you don't understand what I'm doing, do you? You don't understand, but you'll understand in the future. Lack of understanding. And that's part of the discipleship process.

You have to overcome that. How did Jesus deal with that? Simply by teaching. Teaching, teaching, teaching, teaching. In fact, when He came back after His resurrection for forty days, Acts 1 says, He taught them the things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven.

Just teaching, teaching, teaching, teaching. He dealt with their lack of understanding by instruction. You don't have to be naturally smart or charismatic to be used by God. As John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary, showed you today, God changed the world with ordinary people. The Master's Men, that's the title of John's series here on Grace to You. Well friend, the Master's Men is one of John's classic series. It lays out a clear pattern of discipleship, how you can disciple others, and how Jesus disciples you. To digest this important teaching at your own pace, download the entire series for free at our website, or order the 7CD album when you contact us today.

Our website, There you can download John's current series, The Master's Men, or another study, or any of his 3500 messages. John has a sermon covering every New Testament verse, and much of the Old Testament. Or to purchase the Master's Men 7CD album, perhaps to give to a friend, go to, or call us at 800-55-GRACE. And let me remind you that John has written a brand new devotional on the 12 disciples and many other heroes of the faith.

It's titled 40 Lives in 40 Days. Each chapter examines a biblical character, God's providence in their lives, and how God used them to accomplish His extraordinary purposes despite their many flaws. It's a great resource to supplement your personal Bible study or to use for family devotions. To get your copy of John's brand new devotional, 40 Lives in 40 Days, call 800-55-GRACE or go to Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to come back for our next broadcast when John looks at how Jesus helped His disciples overcome their greatest weaknesses. Join us for another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-23 07:56:01 / 2023-03-23 08:06:21 / 10

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