This is a transcript of what I shared for our cell group meeting last night. My main reference is John MacArthur’s book, Twelve Ordinary Men.
- First ministry experience – what and how it began. Feeling and result.
We are ordinary men and women—Christians who are saved by the grace of God and not by our own works. We are all prone to make mistakes, have bad moods, back slide, be jealous, be selfish … name it! Sin is in us and though we are Christians already, we are still constantly struggling, constantly being tempted. We are works in progress.
The chief end of men is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. One way to give glory to Him is to serve. Some people might be hindered to serve because of lack of skill and “credibility.” Some of us might be hindered by our own personality and limited talents. But by studying the Apostles of Christ, I will show you how God uses ordinary men like us, in the advancement of His kingdom.
- A. Meaning of Apostle: Messenger of God
- They have seen The Lord
- They were called directly by Jesus Christ
- They have the Holy Spirit of God
- They respect and teach The Word of God, not their own philosophy
- They have done miracles
The apostles were ordinary men, just like us. They were not theologians nor were they exceptionally outstanding or intelligent. Just like us, they sometimes showed a lack of faith, exhibited wrong attitudes and made mistakes.
Yet, Christ chose them, flaws and all. Twelve ordinary men were chosen by Jesus to carry on His ministry after His ascension to heaven. These men became Jesus’ closest companions in His last remaining years here on earth. There were no backups should they ever fail.
- B. How God called them to be Apostles
Phase 1: This is the conversion part (Jesus said in John 15:16 )
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 1
Recognize Jesus as Christ – their Lord and Savior, and embrace Him by faith
Phase 2 – called to ministry. (Luke 5: 1-13)
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,(sea of Galilee) [a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Phase 3: called to apostleship where Jesus gave them training: Internship – Mark 6:7 “7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.”
Phase 4: call to martyrdom – occurred after Jesus’ resurrection – where each of the apostles gave his life for the sake of the gospel. History actually showed that all were killed for their testimony, except for John.
The fact that we have the gospel now, is a testimony to the wisdom of the divine strategy. Despite all the persecution and all the obstacles they faced, they were victorious. They accomplished the task.
If ordinary people like them can serve Christ and be the foundation of Christian church (with Jesus being the chief cornerstone (eph2:20), so can we!
All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Paul even called himself the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15.
- C. How Jesus Equipped them:
The Apostles, whom Jesus personally and clearly called, were also imperfect people. But clearly, Christ changed their lives, taught them, and empowered them. What happened to them can also happen to us.
- They lacked spiritual understanding (Matthew 15:16 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.) (Luke 24:25 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!)
Remedy: Jesus continued to teach and teach
- They lacked humility — self-absorbed, proud (Luke 9:46 46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.)
Remedy: Jesus washed their feet and became an example of humility
- They lacked faith. (oh you of little faith – Matthew 6:30 8:26, 14:31, 16:8)
Remedy: Jesus performed miracles for them — not for unbelievers — to strengthen their faith.
- They lacked commitment — miracles – thrilled, but arrest — fled.
Remedy: Jesus prayed on their behalf (John 17:6-19 6 “I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of[b] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by[c]that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.) prayer of intercession – Jesus prayed for them!
- They lacked power – cannot cast demons out,
Remedy: Holy Spirit! (Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”)
In conclusion, let me ask this: Why did Jesus select this group of ordinary and weak men? Simple: 2 Corinthians 12:9 (9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. )
God has chosen the foolish, the weak, the broken people, so that no man can boast before God. He does this so that the credit and the glory will go to no one but Him.
So the next time the Lord give you a nudge to do something, do not hesitate. Trust that the Lord will use you and equip you for it. Just like the apostles, serving God is similar to the trials we experience in life – what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger 🙂