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TEXT: Luke 6:12-16

SUBJECT: Luke #18: Apostles Chosen

If you want to understand what you're reading in the Bible, you've got to ask yourself two questions: (1) what does it say? And (2) why is it there?

Most of the time, the first one is easy to answer, especially in the historical parts of the Bible.  The verses say our Lord healed a man or Peter went fishing or Saul was converted on the Road to Damascus.  If the stories are narratives, and not parables, they ought to be taken quite literally.  You waste your time looking for secret meanings in the story and run the risk of getting into foolishness--if not heresy.

The second question though is a lot harder: Why is it there?  The Bible never claims to give a complete record of anything.  By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, men saw fit to put some things in and to leave other things out.  They also put the stories where they are and not somewhere else.

That brings us to the short story Luke has for us today.  It begins with an all-night prayer vigil on some mountain in Galilee and goes on to tell whom the Lord chose to be His Apostles.

Why is it there?  The Early Church knew who the Apostles were.  And we could find out in other places.  Yet the Holy Spirit wanted this story in Luke's Gospel.  And not only in the Gospel, but here, in this place.  Why?

We'll get to this in a few minutes, Lord willing.  But first, the story.

THE STORY

The story takes place "in those days".  Luke is a little fuzzy here, but judging by the context, it must have been shortly after the Lord had His run-in with the Pharisees over the Sabbath.  This would have been in the first year of His ministry when He was tremendously popular, and the opposition to Him was still unorganized.

One day the Lord slipped away from the people to spend the night on some mountain.  Scholars have speculated why He chose a mountain-as though it may have alluded to Moses on Mount Sinai or even the sense that a high mountain gives you of being closer to God.  There may be something to this, but I prefer a simpler answer: He hiked up a mountain because the people weren't there!  If they had been, I suspect He would have sneaked off to the valley.

Up on the mountain, our Lord spent the whole night in prayer.  What was He praying about?  He was praying for the Apostles. He was asking for wisdom to select the right men and praying that God would preserve them and gift them and use them to fulfill His purpose in putting the Church on a solid foundation.  Humanly speaking, the Kingdom of Christ would largely depend on these men.  And the Lord was praying for them.

After the night of prayer, He came back to His disciples, and from that group (numbering in the hundreds, maybe, or more), "He chose twelve, whom He also named Apostles".

Luke names the twelve men for us.  They are:

"Simon whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John, Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas, James the Son of Alphaeus and Simon called The Zealot; Judas the son of James And Judas Iscariot who also became A traitor".

DISCIPLES AND APOSTLES

Note the difference between disciples and apostles.  The two words are often used interchangeably, but they're not quite the same.  A disciple is a follower of Christ.  An Apostle is too-but he's more than that.  He's someone who is sent from Christ.  In other words, He is am ambassador or a spokesman for the Lord.

In one sense, all believers are sent by Christ.  But not everyone is an Apostle.  The distinction is made right here, "From the disciples He chose twelve and named them Apostles".

Others would preach, cast out demons, and do heroic work for the Lord Jesus Christ.  But they weren't Apostles.  That was an office for these men alone (plus Matthias who would take Judas' place and, of course, Paul).

APOSTLES SPECIAL

What made the Twelve so special?  Why do they have a place in the Church that other excellent men don't have?

Negatively, it isn't a matter of character or special holiness.  Aside from Judas, the Apostles were good men, but they had their faults.  Peter talked too much, James and John were hot heads, Thomas wasn't real eager to believer-and for Pete's sake!-Matthew had been a Publican!

No, the Apostles differed from other Christians and preachers in the following ways:

Firstly, they were eyewitnesses of the Lord from the beginning of His public life.  This means their knowledge of Christ-what He said and did-was first-hand knowledge.  Unlike Augustine, Calvin, or Spurgeon, (all very superior men) the Apostles could say,

"That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled.we declare unto you".

When charged with spinning tales, Peter replied,

"We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty".

How did they know the Lord really died?  One of them saw the blood and water pour out of His side, that's how!  How did they know He rose from the dead?  Because they saw Him, talked to Him, and ate breakfast with Him after He died!

There's no witness like an eyewitness.  Especially when several see the same thing and vouch for each other's story.  And that's exactly what the Apostles were-and did!

Secondly, they received a special gift of the Holy Spirit that enabled them to accurately remember, understand, and communicate what Jesus Christ had said.

Do you ever get a story mixed up?  You've got the right person and place, but the wrong time?  Or the time and place are right, but it was someone else?  Or maybe you've got the right person and the right time, but it was in Hawaii not Mexico?  We all do this.  As the years go on, we do it more and more often.

The Apostles had a story to tell-and the details mattered!  How can we expect a dozen men to tell the same story in several languages for fifty years-and get it right every time?

Here's how, John 14:26,

"But the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring All things to your remembrance, what- Ever I have said to you".

This is a verse we sometimes apply to ourselves.  There's some truth in that.  God's Spirit teaches every believer and often, when we need to say something, but don't know what to say, a Scripture verse will flash into our minds, one we haven't read in a long time, maybe, or had never seen in this light before.  This is the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.

But that's not the point on John 14:26.  This is a unique promise made to the Apostles.  After their Master left the world, He sent them His Spirit who gave them a sure memory of what He taught-and what it means.

This Spirit-given memory and insight were not only used in their preaching but also in their writing and overseeing the New Testament.

Peter was not a brilliant man; Matthew was not a professional historian; yet these men-and the others-put down the truth about Christ and all the truth we need to know about Him and how to please Him.

Again, not because they were more qualified than other men-smarter, holier, more literate, better story-tellers-no!  It's because Christ chose them to be Apostles and gave them everything they needed to get the job done!

In his sermon, No Little People, No Little Places, Francis Schaeffer gives a study of.the rod of Moses.  It was a rod-a big fat stick-and nothing else.  Yet God used this rod to.convince Moses that He would deliver Israel from its slavery, to confound the magicians in Egypt, to turn the Nile into blood, to part the Red Sea, to bring water out of the Rock, and more.  An old stick, in the hands of God, was a mighty weapon!

And so are ignorant fishermen in the hands of Jesus Christ!  Except for Paul, the Apostles weren't scholars at all.  They never claimed to be-and didn't need to be scholars.  Why?  Because they were chosen and infallibly led by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Their words, therefore, are His Word.

THE CONNECTION

This explains why this story is in the Bible and why Luke put it where he did.

Think about it: What comes just before the choosing of the Twelve?  It's the story about the Sabbath-and its Lord.  Jesus Christ had just made a staggering claim: He said-in effect-that He is above the Law-not because He wants to break it-but because He is the Lawgiver.

The Old System is like an old wineskin-old, hard, and cracked.  It cannot hold the New Revelation that has come with Messiah's arrival.  A New Mediator has come, and with Him, a whole new system.

And with it, New Teachers.  What the prophets did for Moses-that is explain the Law and apply it to Israel in the years to come-the Apostles are going to do for Christ.

They're going to put down His words on paper, explain them to the Church and apply them to God's People living under the New Covenant.

The Lord could have done all this Himself.  But He chose not to.  He chose to commit the work to Twelve Men whom He would guide in such a way that they would say and write all He wanted them to-and nothing else.

We have a name for their work. It's The New Testament.

IMPLICATIONS

If the New Testament is the Word of Christ, then certain things must follow:

First of all, there are no contradictions in the New Testament.  It's true that James and Paul and Peter were different men, but they all wrote by the direct supervision of Jesus Christ.  Their writings, therefore, may emphasize different things, but they do not contradict each other.

This means we cannot accept one part of the New Testament by ignoring or mutilating some other part.  Let me give you two examples here:

Justification.  In Romans 4, Paul says Abraham was justified by faith without works.  But James 2 says he was justified

"By works, and not by faith only".

I know a man who couldn't preach on James 2 if you put a gun to his head.  I know another man who feels the same way about Romans 4.  Both men preach one part of the Bible (and hope you forget the other part is there too!).

But they're both there.  And you have to do justice to both.

A second issue is touchier, I suspect: The Bible's teaching on divorce.  Matthew 19 says no divorce-except for fornication.  Mark 10 says no divorce at all.  I Corinthians 7 allows for divorce in the case of abandonment by an unbeliever.

Which one is right?  They're all right.  We should not take a position-especially a hard-line one--until we can fit them all together-I mean honestly fit them together--and not explain them away.

This is hard work.  But if we're to understand the will of Christ for our lives, we've got to do it.  The contradictions of the New Testament are-literally-all in your head.  Gordon Clark called them "A charley horse between the ears".

In the second place, the New Testament has the final word on everything.  I talked about this at length last week, so I won't repeat it all today.  Suffice it to say, we interpret the Old Testament in light of the New and not the New in light of the Old.

Why?  Not because the New Testament is truer than the Old or more inspired by God.  Both Testaments are equally God's True Word.

It's because revelation is progressive.  The later books throw light on the earlier ones.  And in the Light of Christ, the whole meaning of the Old Testament-so often dark or shady-becomes plain.

Finally, the New Testament is authoritative.

We Reformed Christians often want to defend the Ten Commandments.  And-done in the right way-that's the right thing to do.  But we often do it in the wrong way.  We often take the Law as law while putting the commands of the New Testament in the category of advice.

For example, committing adultery is law-breaking while treating your wife like garbage is.well, unwise or insensitive or something.

Baloney!  Of course committing adultery is a dreadful sin.  But so is not loving your wife and not respecting your husband.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ commands you to love her or to submit yourself to Him.

You and I can give advice-good, bad, and indifferent.  But Jesus Christ advises no one.  He's Lord and His Word is Law!  For the person, for the family, for the church, for everyone everywhere.

That's why our story is in the Bible-and where it is in the Bible.  May the Lord bless it to our understanding and obedience.  Amen.

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