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The Twelve Apostles: Called by Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 6, 2022 12:01 am

The Twelve Apostles: Called by Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 6, 2022 12:01 am

When Jesus called His twelve Apostles, they had no idea what was ahead for them. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his series in the gospel of Luke by identifying these men whom the Lord appointed to lay the foundation of the church.

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Now we are told in church history that all the rest of the apostles, apart from Judas, suffered and died for their faith. And it was said of John that he suffered and lived for the faith.

When Jesus called the twelve apostles, they had no idea what was ahead for them. But their faithfulness helped lay the foundation for the church. Throughout the Gospels, we see how they grew both in understanding and in obedience.

Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Stroll takes us back to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 6, to give us an in-depth look at the apostles. This is a very short passage, but one that is amazing in its historical significance because on this occasion, Jesus anointed twelve of His disciples and gave them the office of apostleship, the significance of which I'll mention in just a moment.

But let us recall that history notes that this small handful of men were those who were described as the ones who turned the world upside down. It is an amazing, amazing reality what God did with this handful of people and is continuing to do as a result of their ongoing influence. But the passage begins with the mention that it came to pass in those days that Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, that Jesus separated Himself from His disciples and from the multitudes, for seasons of prayer is not at all unusual.

But Luke adds the detail that He continued all night in prayer to God. It's interesting to me that of the twelve that were selected, one of them would be a traitor, and Jesus, we are told, knew from the beginning about Judas' plans and desires. And yet, in the course of this time of prayer, Jesus is wrestling among other things certainly about the decision to select the one whom He knows will betray Him. But we read that when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself, and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles. Now, frequently we talk about the twelve disciples and the twelve apostles as if a disciple was the same thing as an apostle, but of course that's not the case. Jesus had many more disciples than the twelve.

On one occasion He sent seventy of them out on a preaching mission, and yet from this larger band of seventy-plus disciples that were following Jesus, He selected twelve from that group to be apostles. Well, what's the difference between a disciple and an apostle? A disciple, the term in the New Testament means a learner.

It's a student. But in this period in Jewish history, disciples were not merely students, but they were also adherents to certain leaders, as for example to certain rabbis, or in the case of John the Baptist, those who were followers of Him. They were also John's disciples. And so those who followed Jesus, enrolled in His rabbinic school as it were, and were adherents of Him, and followed Him closely were His servants and students. But from that group, He selected apostles.

And then Luke goes on to tell us who it was who were in this group that had been selected for this office of apostles. The Scriptures tells us that the foundation of the church is not Jesus, but it's the prophets and the apostles. In the building metaphor, it is the prophets and the apostles who were described as the foundation, and Jesus is the chief cornerstone. Now the Bible says there's no other foundation which can be laid which is laid in Christ Jesus. But the whole foundation is built upon the prophets and the apostles. And I mentioned that for the same reason that if the church rejects apostolic authority, it has rejected the very foundation of the church itself.

And as the psalmist says, if the foundations be shaken, how can the building stand? And so the foundation of the church, which we're a part of even this morning, is built in large measure on these people that are mentioned here in this text. And so I want to take some time this morning and next week, and if necessary the week after that, to give a little capsule summary, a brief biographical sketch of these persons whom Jesus called to be apostles, some of which we hear a lot about in the pages of the New Testament, others we hear hardly any mention whatsoever.

But let's look at the list that Luke provides for us. He says he named apostles first of all Simon, whom he also named Peter, and Andrew his brother. Now at every list of the apostles that is given in the New Testament, the first person who is mentioned is Simon Peter. And that's a fascinating point because he was not the first disciple. His younger brother preceded him in discipleship, and it was his younger brother who introduced Peter to Jesus. So you wonder why that brother isn't mentioned first and paramount in all of the lists of the disciples that we find in the New Testament. But in any case, Peter is first on every list, and it's probably not because he was the first bishop of Rome or any such thing, but because he obviously had a position of leadership among that group of disciples and apostles.

He became, as it were, the spokesman for them. He's known, as we find throughout the gospels, as a man who was exceedingly impetuous and in many ways unstable, unreliable, and not dependable. His performance throughout the earthly ministry of Jesus would have earned him the nickname the sand rather than the rock. However, after the death and resurrection of our Lord, Peter was indeed the rock of the early church. But during, again, the ministry of Jesus, we see this wavering spirit of Peter. He's bold to walk out onto the water following Jesus, but also he's the one who when he doubts starts to sink. He's the one who distinguishes himself at the Caesarea Philippi inquiry when Jesus looked at his disciples and took a poll among them and said, who is it that men say that I am?

And the answer came, well, some say that you're a prophet or Elijah or Jeremiah or somebody like that, or maybe even John the Baptist come back from the dead. And then Jesus says, well, who do you say that I am? And it was Simon who gave the great confession, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And with that confession of faith, Jesus turned to Simon. He says, blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah.

Flesh and blood hath not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And thou shalt be called Petros the Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church. And of course, a few minutes, not long afterwards, after Jesus called Simon the Rock, He gave him another name because Jesus announced to His disciples shortly after the Caesarea Philippi confession that they were going to go back to Jerusalem, and there Jesus would be handed over to the Gentiles and be judged and be killed. And the Rock said, no, this will never happen.

We call that the first papal encyclical, which was not infallible, because Peter announced that he wouldn't stand for that and that Jesus could not go to Jerusalem. He told Jesus, forbid it, Lord. Imagine that, forbid it, Lord.

No, Lord, you cannot do that, Lord. What a way to talk to your Lord. But in any case, Jesus listened to His close friend and disciple and looked at him. And when he saw Peter, he saw something else, and he said, get behind me, Satan. It was that Simon Peter who gave that magnificent confession of faith, who during the trial of Jesus was confronted not by the authorities, not by the soldiers, but by a maid and said, are you not one of those who are the followers of that man? And he cursed with a loud voice, denying three times that he even knew Jesus. It was this same Simon Peter that met with the risen Christ on the shore of the lake of Galilee and was asked three times by Jesus, Peter, do you love me? And as he had denied Jesus three times earlier, now he affirmed his love for Christ three times. Lord, you know that I love you.

Then feed my sheep. Peter's ministry later was a time of great blessing to the church when persecution broke out in Jerusalem against the Christians under Herod. One of the apostles was slain, and we'll get to that in a moment. The other one was imprisoned who was Peter, and the rest of the apostles met in secret and prayed diligently for the release and for the rescue of Peter. And you'll recall that strange incident that while they were praying, their prayer time was interrupted by a knock at the door, and somebody went to the door and opened it. And there was Peter standing there, and they closed the door in his face and came back and said, I just saw Peter's ghost. Here they were praying that God would rescue Peter from his imprisonment, and when God does, they don't believe it.

They think it's his ghost. But anyway, Peter's ministry continued into the decade of the sixties, where at long last he was arrested by the Romans and under the tyranny of Nero, who also saw to it that the apostle Paul would be executed that same year, had Simon Peter thrown into the Mamertine prison in Rome where he was tortured for quite a period of time before he was then taken out of that prison to the Circus Maximus and was executed under Nero by being crucified upside down, because he didn't want to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus because he said he was not worthy to be executed in the same manner Jesus was. And so he was crucified upside down. Well, again, the first apostle, the first disciple who was called, had first been a follower of John the Baptist. And as he was in the company of John the Baptist and heard John the Baptist point to Jesus as the one who he was announcing as the coming Messiah, this first disciple, Andrew, came and transferred his allegiance from John the Baptist to Jesus, obviously with John the Baptist a great blessing and approval. And it was Andrew who went and got his older brother Simon and brought Simon to Jesus, and so the two brothers became disciples and both were elevated to the level of apostles. And every time we find Andrew in the New Testament, we find him bringing people to Jesus. That's one of the reasons that we chose him to be the patron saint of our church, that our church would be known for doing the same thing that this disciple did during the ministry of Jesus, bringing people to Jesus.

And that was his legacy. And then Andrew also suffered martyrdom, and he was killed in 70 AD, the same year in which Jerusalem fell, and his crucifixion was on a cross that was in the shape of an X. And tradition tells us that when he saw the cross that had been prepared for his execution, that he broke out in joy. He says, for my whole life has been for the cross. And he was delighted that he could join his Savior in death through crucifixion.

He was not nailed to the cross, he was tied to that cross, and he lived on that cross for three days of torture before he died. Now the other two disciples that are mentioned here are James and John. Now Peter, James, and John were normally considered to be the inner circle of the twelve. These three were present, for example, at the transfiguration.

I don't know where Andrew was on that occasion. But Peter, James, and John, just as Andrew and Peter were brothers, so James and John were brothers. They were known as the sons of Zebedee and were also known by the nickname the Sons of Thunder, because they wanted Jesus to bring down fire from heaven. These were firebrand disciples. They were not blessed, meek, and mild, James and John.

They were ready to turn the world upside down. And, of course, they were the same ones who also have the embarrassing reminder in the New Testament of having their mother intercede with Jesus and asking that when He came into His kingdom that her two sons, James and John, Jimmy and Johnny, could be placed at the right hand of Jesus. And it was on that occasion that Jesus had to rebuke them and said that those who wanted to be first had to be last and so on. But James remained a faithful disciple. In the early church, it was known that there were two James among the twelve, James the son of Alphaeus, who was called James the Less, and then there was James the brother of John, the son of Zebedee, who was known as James the Greater. And James had the distinction of being the first apostolic martyr in Christian history. He was not the first Christian martyr. The first martyr, of course, was Stephen. But the first of the twelve, the first of the apostles to be martyred was James.

In the year 44 A.D., this was in a Jewish persecution led by Herod Antipas, and it was the occasion where Peter was thrown into prison right after James had been executed. And so he is remembered as being the first of the apostolic martyrs in church history. Now, his brother John had the distinction of being the only one of the twelve not to suffer a violent death. Ten out of the twelve were martyred for the faith. One out of the twelve took his own life in remorse, and that, of course, was Judas. But of the rest, the remaining eleven of the original twelve, ten were martyred and one was not.

The only one who died at home in peace was John. Now, we are told in church history that all the rest of the apostles, apart from Judas, suffered and died for their faith. And it was said of John that he suffered and lived for the faith. This because he escaped martyrdom does not mean that he escaped suffering. He was subjected to suffering throughout his whole life, which was a long life. He became the oldest of the disciples and apostles to die. And he died in Ephesus, and he's buried in Ephesus. And some of you were with us when we made the trip to the Holy Land and went to Ephesus, and I spoke briefly by standing on the top of the tomb where John is buried.

And that was a moving moment for me in my life to be there that close to the grave of one who was such a faithful follower of Jesus. John wrote five books in the New Testament, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, the book of Revelation, and of course, the gospel of John. Peter wrote 1st and 2nd Peter, and he didn't write any of the gospels, but it's been thought that actually Mark was Peter's disciple and was really fulfilling Peter's teaching in providing the gospel of Mark. But John was known as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and he was also known for being the disciple or the apostle of love, as his admonishment to the Christian community would always be again and again, beloved, love one another. Now, John experienced exile under the emperor Domitian and was exiled to the island of Patmos, where there he received that heavenly vision that he recorded as Jesus instructed him to, which comes to us now as the book of the revelation of Saint John. And in that book of Revelation, we have this marvelous vision of the triumph of Christ over all of His enemies and the triumph of His people who will participate in that.

Hence, we have the Apostle John to thank for that magnificent vision as well as his great gospel. As I said, he suffered many times. On one occasion, he was scheduled to be executed by being boiled in oil, but somehow we don't know how he was able to escape that particular fate. On another occasion, tradition tells us that he was supposed to be executed and was administered some kind of poison, just as Socrates had been executed by being forced to drink the hemlock, so John the Apostle was to be executed by drinking poison.

This time it wasn't rescheduled. According to tradition, he drank the poison, and it didn't affect him. He suffered but did not die.

He didn't die until the Lord was ready to take him. These are only four of the twelve that we've looked at briefly this morning, but can you imagine how these four that I've already mentioned were used of God to turn the world upside down? And God willing, next week we'll look at some more of these men who were selected by our Lord as His succession plane here on earth as He established His church upon the foundation of these apostles. Learning about the apostles provides us with a glimpse into their day-to-day life.

We see their weaknesses, their lack of faith in some instances. They were sinners just like us, but we are also encouraged and challenged by their growing faith and trust in Christ. We'll continue this study next week here on Renewing Your Mind, and I do hope you'll join us. On each Lord's Day, we return to Dr. R.C. Sproul's sermon series from Luke. You can deepen your own study of this gospel when you contact us today and request his commentary.

Dr. Sproul cared deeply about explaining God's Word accurately and clearly, and his commentary on Luke reflects that. That's why we're offering a digital download of this nearly 600-page resource. You can request it with a donation of any amount to Ligetor Ministries when you go online to

I'm pleased to bring you this bit of encouraging news. Because of your gifts to this ministry, we have just launched a new Korean language website. Growing Christians in that part of the world now have access to online teaching and discipleship resources by Dr. Sproul, along with other gifted teachers. The site also features historic creeds and confessions, the Ligonier Statement on Christology, and weekly articles. If you'd like to check it out, maybe you have family members or friends who speak Korean, just go to And thank you for your ongoing support of this ministry. 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 Sunday.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-27 01:56:14 / 2023-05-27 02:04:26 / 8

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