Three times in the Gospels and once in the book of the Acts we have a record of the apostles. Much has been considered why these men were selected from a larger number, Luke 6. 13. We must remember, however, that the Lord spent all night in prayer beforehand and, although we are not told what He prayed for, surely the burden of His heart was that the right choices might be made in His selection the following day. We recall the words of the Saviour to Peter, ‘but I have prayed for thee’, 22. 32. Having prayed for them, in the twelve were potential for the future, and they were to be sent by the Lord personally, Matt. 10. 5. Then, in a limited way, His commission to them was to go further afield, 28. 19, 20. In this meditation I want to draw out of each passage a simple truth that was for the twelve but also a challenge for us today.
In Luke chapter 6 verses 12 to 16, having continued all night in prayer to God, in the morning, out of a larger group, ‘he chose twelve’, v. 13, and their names are given. Not one of them was powerful or influential. They were just ordinary men from various backgrounds and occupations, but they became the foundational apostles, Eph. 2. 20.1 The Lord chose them. He said to His disciples, in His farewell ministry, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’, John 15. 16.2 What a thought! From all the millions in the world, and in all humility, He has chosen us to follow Him. As McCheyne wrote, ‘Chosen not for good in me’.
In Mark’s account of the calling of the disciples,3 he records, ‘that they should be with him‘, v. 14. The Gospels record many occasions when the Lord was with His disciples. For some three years, they watched and listened in on His movements, messages and miracles. Perhaps the stand-out incident is that of which Peter wrote, ‘when we were with him in the holy mount’, 2 Pet. 1. 18. Such occasions should have an impact upon us. Peter’s associations were noted, ‘Did I not see thee in the garden with him?’ John 18. 26. Again, with John, and in a better context, ‘they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus’, Acts 4. 13. Perhaps the words of Crosby might be applied to us, ‘I must have the Saviour with me for I dare not walk alone’. What a joy to know that the Lord’s aim is that we will be with Him through all eternity, ‘Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am’, John 17. 24.
In Matthew’s account of the call of the disciples,4 they were ‘sent forth’, v. 5. The mission given to them at this time was restricted but when the Lord ascended the instruction to them was widened, Matt. 28. 19, 20. The disciples were to go out into all the world, Acts 1. 8, as ambassadors for Christ, 2 Cor. 5. 20. The Greek word, apostello, means ‘one sent forth with orders [a commission]’.5 That commission is still ours today and to fulfil it with our Lord’s help and enabling. He empowers and equips those called.
The last time we read of the apostles together is in Acts chapter 1 verses 13 and 14. Having committed suicide, Judas Iscariot is missing, and he is replaced later by Matthias, v. 26. Luke points out something that we should not overlook, ‘These all continued’, v. 14. In chapter 2 verse 42, as the company expands, the three thousand souls ‘continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers’.
As disciples in the 21st century, the question that should be asked of us is, ‘are we continuing in the things of the Lord?’ Some of the exhortations in the New Testament are: ‘continue ye in my love’, John 15. 9; ‘continue in the faith’, Col. 1. 23; ‘Continue in prayer’, 4. 2; ‘continue thou in the things which thou hast learned’, 2 Tim. 3. 14. Over all of these, we might write, ‘Let brotherly love continue’, Heb. 13. 1. It is good to start well, to continue well and to finish well!
May we, His followers in the 21st century, rejoice that He has chosen us, sent us forth as He leads, and that we will be with Him. May He enable us to persevere till the end of the journey, until He comes or calls.