Share This Episode
Grace To You John MacArthur Logo

The Master's Men Part 4: James the Son of Alphaeus

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
August 1, 2022 4:00 am

The Master's Men Part 4: James the Son of Alphaeus

Grace To You / John MacArthur

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1137 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

Delight in Grace
Grace Bible Church / Rich Powell
Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram
Connect with Skip Heitzig
Skip Heitzig
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Grace To You
John MacArthur

James, the son of Alphaeus, will sit on a throne, reigning over one of the tribes of Israel in the millennium. And what do you know about him? You don't know anything about him.

Well, what's the point? That God is the power, right? Not James. His work, his personality, nothing. His mark is obscurity, and I think it's kind of neat that the Lord put one guy in here who's utterly obscure. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. You know Peter and James and John, maybe Andrew, and you probably remember Judas. But what about the rest of the 12 disciples?

What do you know about them, and what can you learn from them? Consider that today as John MacArthur continues his study titled The Master's Men. In Grace to You's 53-year history, very few series have generated more positive feedback from listeners than this one, and it's certainly encouraging showing you how Christ transforms weak, flawed believers like you and me into instruments for His glory. So if you have your Bible or the study Bible app, turn to the Gospel of Matthew, and here's John with a lesson. Turn in your Bible with me to the 10th chapter of Matthew, Matthew chapter 10. The chapter begins with an introduction of the 12 disciples and follows from there to discuss their initial sending ministry. And just as a setting, let me read verses 1 through the first part of verse 5. Speaking of the Lord, it says, And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these.

The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector, James, the son of Alphaeus, and Levias, whose surname was Thaddeus, Simon, the zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. These twelve, Jesus sent forth. We've been looking at these individuals whom our Lord chose and sent to preach the kingdom, to heal, to cast out demons. We've found, I think, that it's fascinating to note that in spite of what is traditionally believed about them, they were very common men, very much like we are, very opposite, the saintliness that we may assume belonged to them in an almost otherworldly manner.

I was reading a quote this week by Henry Drummond, who was an author, preacher, who wrote the little book, The Greatest Thing in the World, on 1 Corinthians 13. On one occasion when he was in England, he was invited to speak at a very uppity, snobbish, high-class, west-end London club. Upon his arrival, he found all of the members present, and everything was arranged for his message.

And he began his speech with this very provocative truth. Ladies and gentlemen, the entrance fee into the kingdom of heaven is nothing. However, the annual subscription is everything. Now, those men in that club knew about annual subscriptions and entrance fees. That's how they got in.

It was a well-stated introduction. And that's how it is in the kingdom of God. The entrance fee is nothing, free gift.

The annual subscription is everything. Now, in the series from Matthew 10, we are examining men who were willing to pay everything. They were willing to go to the ultimate sacrifice. They were willing to turn their back on their profession, their lifestyle, their homes, their own choices in life, to follow Jesus Christ.

These twelve gave everything. They walked away from their nets, their tax tables, their political involvements, their enterprises, totally committed to following Jesus Christ wherever He led them. And may I suggest to you that they were a few among many who were not so willing. In fact, unnumbered multitudes followed Him. They were attracted by His personal magnetism. They were attracted by the power of what He said and its ring of truth and conviction in their hearts. They were attracted by His ability to do miracles and signs and wonders. They were fascinated by Him and by the things He said in their hearts.

They were attracted by the things He said and did. And so wherever you see Jesus, you see this mass of people following. Now all of these people in one sense or another could be classified as disciples.

For the word mathetes in the Greek simply means a learner. They were there taking it in, learning about Him. The word doesn't really say anything about their commitment. That's why chapter 10 of Matthew starts out with twelve disciples and then a verse later it says apostles. First they were learners, then they were sent when they had shown that they had learned their lessons. But not all were sent because not all were willing to learn all the lessons. For illustration's sake, look at John 6.

Go down to verse 66. From that time, many of His disciples went back. Back where?

Just back. Back to their former life and walked no more with Him. Why? Too much was expected. Too much was required. They weren't interested in total commitment. They bailed out. Free food, that's great. Healing, super.

Commitment, not interested. Verse 67, Jesus said to the twelve, Jesus said to the twelve, listen, after everybody leaves, guess who's still there? Twelve guys. What I'm trying to show you is these are not just sort of tagalongs.

These twelve are the ones who counted the cost, stuck it out, paid the price when the rest bailed out. And He said to them, will you also go away? And you don't understand that in English, you have to see the Greek.

The Greek is a class of condition that should expect a no answer. In other words, Jesus said this if you're looking at it in the Greek, you won't also go away, will you? Peter speaks for the group and says, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life and we believe and are sure that you're the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus points out that even among them, one of them is the devil.

But the point was this, the crowd was on the surface in the physical. Peter says, we've gone past that. We're looking at a spiritual truth. We see you as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. You got it, Peter. Now why did I take you to that passage? Turn back to Matthew 10. Because, beloved, I want you to understand that these men that we're dealing with in this chapter are men who have made the decision.

They've crossed the line. They've made the total commitment. They will follow Jesus Christ, eating His flesh and drinking His blood and paying whatever price there has to be paid.

Commitment. You remember the disciple who went away because he wanted to bury his father? Remember the disciple who went away because he wanted to say goodbye to his relatives?

The disciple who went away because he wanted comfort? That's not these men. These have made the commitment and paid the price.

This is the cream of the crop. Why do I say that? Because I'm about to introduce to you three men that we don't know anything about. And at least if we don't know anything else, we ought to know that they made the commitment, right? Because when you take obscure names, and we're going to be looking today at James, the son of Alphaeus, Lebbeus, surnamed Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot, at least if we don't know anything about them, the tendency is to sort of figure them as second class, sort of out of the way stragglers when the fact is they had made the same commitment that Peter and everybody else made. They crossed the line in utter total obedience to Christ. Now, we've been asking a question, and the question we've been asking is what kind of people does God use in His special service? When the Lord went out to pick people, what kind did He pick? And we found some interesting answers, haven't we?

He picked all kinds, all kinds of people. I mean, we have seen that the Lord can basically take any kind of raw material at all and use it for the advance of His glorious eternal kingdom. Longfellow could take a worthless piece of paper and write a poem on it and make it instantly worth thousands of dollars. That's genius. Rockefeller could sign his name to a piece of paper and make it worth millions of dollars. That's riches. A mechanic can take material worth five dollars and instantly make it worth five hundred, and they say it's skill.

An artist can take a fifty-cent piece of canvas and paint on it and make it worth thousands of dollars. And Jesus Christ can take a worthless, sinful life, wash it in the blood, put His Spirit in it, and make it a blessing, and that's called sanctification. And that's what the Lord is in the business of doing, taking rough raw material and using it. There's a church in Strasbourg. In the Second World War, it was bombed along with a lot of other churches. The people who went to that church came in after the bombing to see what was left of their beloved church, and they found that the entire roof had fallen in. In the middle of the church, they had a very beautiful statue of Christ with His hands outstretched that had been carved some centuries before by a great artist. It was a very important piece of art to the church, and when they came back and found that the church had fallen down, to their surprise, they found that the statue still stood remaining. However, one of the beams had fallen across the hands and sheared both the hands off. The townspeople hurried to a sculptor who lived in the town and said, would you be kind enough to replace the hands on our statue? And he was willing to do it for nothing. He proposed that to the church leaders, and they had a board meeting. After the meeting, they came out to announce to the artist that they had rejected his offer, the reason being they felt that the statue without the hands would be the greatest illustration possible for the fact that God does His work through His people, and the only hands He has are their hands.

So the statue remained without hands. In a very real sense, that's true. Jesus Christ chooses human hands, and sometimes they seem to be the most infirm hands, the least potentially successful. And as we have been looking at the apostles, we have been amazed, I think, at their lack of qualification. In fact, there is not an executive search organization in the country who would have picked up any one of these guys. They just didn't cut it by the world standards.

They just didn't cut it by the world standards. Group one had some pretty strong leaders, James and Peter, some pretty solid lovers of men, Andrew and John. And group two, there's some pretty good men there, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew. But James, the son of Alphaeus, Lebbaeus and Simon the Zealot.

Whoever heard of them? Now this is the least intimate group. Remember I told you they always appear in the same groups four, four and four, whenever the list of twelve is given, and it's given four times in the Scripture, and all the names always appear in the same group of four. They move away in intimacy from Christ. But they are all wonderfully chosen by the Lord. They all preach the kingdom. They all taught the truths of the kingdom. They all healed the sick and they all cast out demons. They were the first order of kingdom preachers after Christ Himself. And they will reign on thrones ruling the twelve tribes of Israel in the millennium.

I mean, they are remarkable for what the Lord transformed them into. What have we learned about them in terms of the kind of people the Lord uses? Well, He uses strong, dynamic, bold leaders like Peter who take charge, initiate, strategize, confront. He uses humble, gentle, inconspicuous souls like Andrew who quietly seek no prominence but bring people to Christ behind the scenes. He uses zealous, passionate, ambitious, uncompromising, task-oriented, insensitive men like James who wind up being early martyrs. He uses loving, sensitive, people-oriented, believing, trusting, intimate, truth-seekers like John.

He uses skeptical, analytical, mechanical, slow to believe, slow-witted, visionless, pessimistic, unsure men like Philip. And He'll use even a man with prejudice in his heart who is a seeker of truth and honest and open and clear-minded and deeply surrendered like Nathaniel. And He'll use an outcast, extortionist, tax collector, a traitor and the most hated man in his entire society like Matthew who knows he is a sinner and seeks forgiveness.

And He'll turn him into a meek and quiet, humble man who loves the riff-raff of society and who has a great faith in Christ. And now the last group, James, Lebeus and Simon. First, James, the son of Alphaeus. He would never make who's who. He would never be a guest on a TV talk show.

He would never be asked to write a preface for a book or to pray at a convention and he would never be interviewed by Christianity today. James, the son of Alphaeus, who is that? You know what the Bible says about him? Absolutely nothing.

That's right, nothing. Just his name. And he had a famous name. I guess he probably suffered because there was James, the son of Zebedee, who was a ramrod of a guy, a son of Thunder, the Bible calls him. And then there was James, the brother of our Lord.

And then there was James, the son of Alphaeus. Never wrote anything. Never said anything.

Never asked anything. Never did anything recorded in the Bible. In fact, in Mark 1540, he is called James the Micross, the little, little James. Guess who big James was?

Big James, son of Thunder. Little James. He was just little James.

The word Micross basically means small in stature. It could indicate that he was little. It also can mean young in age. It could mean that he was little and young.

It also could mean that he was least in influence. So he was little and young and not very influential. I kind of think he probably was all three of those things and that's why they sort of gave him that nickname, little James. James the Less, as he's called by Mark. If he was older than James, the son of Zebedee, they probably wouldn't have called him Micross because it would have confused people. They probably would have called him the elder James or the older James.

So it probably indicates that he was younger. And if he was big in stature, they probably wouldn't have called him little James. And if he had a lot of influence, they probably never would have nicknamed him little James. They probably would have nicknamed him something according to his influence like bold James or something. So it may well be that he was just a small little young fellow who wasn't a particularly powerful personality. You know, it's just encouraging to me the Lord doesn't depend on superstars, isn't it? People say, oh, you know, if only so-and-so would become a Christian, just think what would happen.

You'd be amazed what people say to me. James, the son of Alphaeus, will sit on a throne reigning over one of the tribes of Israel in the millennium. And what do you know about him? You don't know anything about him.

Well, what's the point? That God is the power, right? Not James. The Bible doesn't say a thing about him. His work, his personality, nothing. His mark is obscurity. And I think it's kind of neat that the Lord put one guy in here who is utterly obscure.

He's the most obscure of all of them. He didn't ask any questions. He didn't say anything.

We don't know anything about it. It may be that he just was obedient all the time, and there wasn't a lot to say about that. I mean, Peter appears a lot, but it's usually negative. James never appears.

Maybe he was just on target all the time. There is one faint tradition about it. The early church fathers say he preached in Persia. Persia is ancient Iran, and that he took the gospel of Jesus Christ to that land. And they refused to hear him preach, and they crucified him.

I wonder what the world would be like today if Iran had heard the gospel preached by James, the son of Alphaeus. The Lord uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things, silent, unknown soldiers. I thought to myself as I was thinking about this individual of Hebrews chapter 11, where it says, What shall I say more? Verse 32, Time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah and David and Samuel and the prophets.

We know those names. And then who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promise, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong. And then he goes on, women received their dead to life. Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourging of bonds and imprisonments, were stoned and sawn asunder and tested and slain with the sword, and on and on and on. Nameless, nameless, nameless people who died for their faith. And then he says, Of whom the world was not what?

Worthy. I don't know their names even. Can I add just an interesting note on James? Alphaeus is a common name.

So is James. But there's one other disciple who had a father named Alphaeus, and that is Matthew. According to Mark 2.14, Matthew is called Levi, Levi or Matthew, same one. And it says, Levi, Mark 2.14, son of Alphaeus. There is a remote possibility that James was Matthew's brother.

May I speak to you from my heart for just a minute? The apostles, and you see this, and it's just coming clear to me as I'm going through this series, the apostles demonstrate to us that it is never really the worker who is the issue in the kingdom work. It's never the worker. I don't think I ever really understood before what Paul meant when he said, So what is Apollos and what is Paul? It is God that gives the increase, 1 Corinthians 3.

The worker is nothing. So the New Testament never even focuses on these guys. I mean, it doesn't say now, you people, the important thing is to study these twelve men.

Now, we want you to understand their career, their style, their method, their means. The Bible doesn't pick out the best preacher and give you his homiletic method. The Bible doesn't pick out the one who was the best healer or the most effective at something or another. It doesn't even deal with them. The only time the apostles are ever mentioned in the Scripture is when they intersect with Christ for a specific purpose.

He is the focus. There's never a diversion. You don't have any record of the career of any disciple. You don't have the record of any career of any apostle because they are not the issue. The human instrument is immaterial to God.

He can make the rocks cry out if He has to. The human instrument is not the issue. You don't have to be way up here intellectually or in the gifted category. That is not the issue. The Bible never deals with that. The focus is always on Jesus Christ and these people just go in and out of the picture.

And usually they ask dumb questions. You maybe have read the story of the man who painted the great painting of the Last Supper. He called in his friend and he said, I want you to look at it. I'm finished.

Evaluate it. He looked it over and he said to him, I want to tell you, those cups that you have painted on the table are the most magnificent things I've ever seen. His friend was dumbfounded instantly as the artist picked up a brush and some paint and just painted over every cup and said, I failed because I wanted you to see Christ.

You saw cups. It's a wonderful thing to be a vessel fit for the Master's use, but that's not where the focus is. I think one of the great tragedies of Christianity in our time and place is that we see the cups. We don't see Christ. We are personality oriented, studying the methods and means of men rather than experiencing the power of God. And I think part of the impotence in the church is because of this Christian superstar mentality.

That isn't the issue. Christ is the issue. So the Lord uses an obscure little fellow, unknown, unsung, could have claimed to been a brother to Matthew, but goes quietly unnoticed through the gospel narrative. And yet was no doubt a powerful preacher with a deep, deep commitment used by God. And someday you can read the heavenly record for yourself and find out all that the Bible doesn't say. You're listening to Grace to You with the Bible teaching of John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, as he continues his character studies of the 12 disciples.

It's a series he's titled The Master's Men. Well, John, today I want to ask a kind of personal question as we think about the variety of character traits, both the positive and the negative that we're seeing in the disciples. Is there any one of those disciples that you would say you most easily relate to personally? Well, I suppose people would probably say Peter, because I tend to assert myself and take leadership, whether I'm wanted or not.

I've never seen you do that. I think the Lord has sort of hardwired some of us to be in leadership positions, and it was clear with Peter. He had great strength, and he had the kind of personality that caused people to follow him, to want to know what he thought, to take his direction. So yeah, I think I identify with Peter. I also identify with the fact that sometimes Peter spoke too fast and acted too slowly and wasn't thoughtful enough. Sometimes his ambition got ahead of his humility, and sometimes he spoke without really thinking what he was going to say.

But I think sometimes for those who are strong in personality, there's that kind of natural tendency to want to come to the conclusion, the solution, the direction, and you're there, and you kind of feel the pulse to do that. So yeah, I think I would identify with Peter. Maybe I should identify more with John, who was content to take the second place to Peter in humility, and God used John in an incredible way, writing the Gospel of John, the book of Revelation, and three epistles, and Peter only got two short letters. So John did very well when it all fell out in terms of the role he played in writing the New Testament.

Yes it did. Thank you, John. And friend, if you'd like to dig deeper into the lives of each of Jesus' disciples, John has written what has become something of a classic. It's a book titled Twelve Ordinary Men, and you can order a copy today. Twelve Ordinary Men is reasonably priced and shipping is free, and you can order by calling us toll-free, 800-55-GRACE or shop online at

And like many of our resources, Twelve Ordinary Men is also available in Spanish. Get a copy for yourself or a few to give to loved ones when you call 800-55-GRACE, or visit our website And when you visit, make sure to take advantage of the thousands of free resources available there, including Grace Stream. Grace Stream is a continuous loop of John's verse-by-verse teaching through the New Testament. We begin at Matthew chapter 1 and go all the way through Revelation 22, and then we reset the cycle about every two months. So whether you have 15 minutes or a couple of hours, log on to Grace Stream and get saturated with God's Word. Grace Stream and much more is available free of charge at Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, inviting you back for our next broadcast when John looks at how Christ changed a violent man into one of his most devoted followers. Be here, won't you, for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-18 01:43:36 / 2023-03-18 01:53:48 / 10

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime