The Training of the Twelve
For the carrying on of His work, Christ did not choose the learning
or eloquence of the Jewish Sanhedrin or the power of Rome. Passing by
the self-righteous Jewish teachers, the Master Worker chose humble,
unlearned men to proclaim the truths that were to move the world. These
men He purposed to train and educate as the leaders of His church. They
in turn were to educate others and send them out with the gospel
message. That they might have success in their work they were to be
given the power of the Holy Spirit. Not by human might or human wisdom
was the gospel to be proclaimed, but by the power of God.
For three years and a half the disciples were under the instruction
of the greatest Teacher the world has ever known. By personal contact
and association, Christ trained them for His service. Day by day they
walked and talked with Him, hearing His words of cheer to the weary and
heavy-laden, and seeing the manifestation of His power in behalf of the
sick and the afflicted. Sometimes He taught them, sitting among them on
the mountainside; sometimes beside the sea or walking by the way, He
revealed the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Wherever hearts were open
to receive the divine message, He unfolded the truths of the way of
salvation. He did not command the disciples to do this or that, but
said, "Follow Me." On His journeys through country and cities,
He took them with Him, that they might see how He taught the people.
They travelled with Him from place to place. They shared His frugal
fare, and like Him were sometimes hungry and often weary. On the crowded
streets, by the lakeside, in the lonely desert, they were with Him. They
saw Him in every phase of life.
It was at the ordination of the Twelve that the first step was taken
in the organisation of the church that after Christ's departure was to
carry on His work on the earth. Of this ordination the record says,
"He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto Him whom He would:
and they came unto Him. And He ordained twelve, that they should be with
Him, and that He might send them forth to preach." Mark 3:13, 14.
Look upon the touching scene. Behold the Majesty of heaven surrounded
by the Twelve whom He has chosen. He is about to set them apart for
their work. By these feeble agencies, through His word and Spirit, He
designs to place salvation within the reach of all.
With gladness and rejoicing, God and the angels beheld this scene.
The Father knew that from these men the light of heaven would shine
forth; that the words spoken by them as they witnessed for His Son,
would echo from generation to generation till the close of time.
The disciples were to go forth as Christ's witnesses, to declare to
the world what they had seen and heard of Him. Their office was the most
important to which human beings had ever been called, second only to
that of Christ Himself. They were to be workers together with God for
the saving of men. As in the Old Testament the twelve patriarchs stood
as representatives of Israel, so the twelve apostles stand as
representatives of the gospel church.
During His earthly ministry Christ began to break down the partition
wall between Jew and Gentile, and to preach salvation to all mankind.
Though He was a Jew, He mingled freely with the Samaritans, setting at
nought the Pharisaic customs of the Jews with regard to this despised
people. He slept under their roofs, ate at their tables, and taught in
The Saviour longed to unfold to His disciples the truth regarding the
breaking down of the "middle wall of partition" between Israel
and the other nations--the truth that "the Gentiles should be
fellow heirs" with the Jews and "partakers of His promise in
Christ by the gospel." Ephesians 2:14; 3:6. This truth was revealed
in part at the time when He rewarded the faith of the centurion at
Capernaum, and also when He preached the gospel to the inhabitants of
Sychar. Still more plainly was it revealed on the occasion of His visit
to Phoenicia, when He healed the daughter of the Canaanite woman. These
experiences helped the disciples to understand that among those whom
many regarded as unworthy of salvation, there were souls hungering for
the light of truth.
Thus Christ sought to teach the disciples the truth that in God's
kingdom there are no territorial lines, no caste, no aristocracy; that
they must go to all nations, bearing to them the message of a Saviour's
love. But not until later did they realise in all its fullness that God
"hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the
face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and
the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply
they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every
one of us." Acts 17:26, 27.
In these first disciples was presented marked diversity. They were to
be the world's teachers, and they represented widely varied types of
character. In order successfully to carry forward the work to which they
had been called, these men, differing in natural characteristics and in
habits of life, needed to come into unity of feeling, thought, and
action. This unity it was Christ's object to secure. To this end He
sought to bring them into unity with Himself. The burden of His labour
for them is expressed in His prayer to His Father, "That they all
may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also
may be one in Us;" "that the world may know that Thou has sent
Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." John 17:21, 23.
His constant prayer for them was that they might be sanctified through
the truth; and He prayed with assurance, knowing that an Almighty decree
had been given before the world was made. He knew that the gospel of the
kingdom would be preached to all nations for a witness; He knew that
truth armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in
the battle with evil, and that the bloodstained banner would one day
wave triumphantly over His followers.
As Christ's earthly ministry drew to a close, and He realised that He
must soon leave His disciples to carry on the work without His personal
supervision, He sought to encourage them and to prepare them for the
future. He did not deceive them with false hopes. As an open book He
read what was to be. He knew He was about to be separated from them, to
leave them as sheep among wolves. He knew that they would suffer
persecution, that they would be cast out of the synagogues, and would be
thrown into prison. He knew that for witnessing to Him as the Messiah,
some of them would suffer death. And something of this He told them. In
speaking of their future, He was plain and definite, that in their
coming trial they might remember His words and be strengthened to
believe in Him as the Redeemer.
He spoke to them also words of hope and courage. "Let not your
heart be troubled," He said; "ye believe in God, believe also
in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I
would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and
prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself;
that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the
way ye know." John 14:1-4. For your sake I came into the world; for
you I have been working.
When I go away I shall still work earnestly for you. I came to the
world to reveal Myself to you, that you might believe. I go to My Father
and yours to co-operate with Him in your behalf.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the
works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he
do; because I go unto My Father." John 14:12. By this, Christ did
not mean that the disciples would make more exalted exertions than He
had made, but that their work would have greater magnitude. He did not
refer merely to miracle working, but to all that would take place under
the agency of the Holy Spirit. "When the Comforter is come,"
He said, "whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the
Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of
Me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from
the beginning." John 15:26, 27.
Wonderfully were these words fulfilled. After the descent of the Holy
Spirit, the disciples were so filled with love for Him and for those for
whom He died, that hearts were melted by the words they spoke and the
prayers they offered. They spoke in the power of the Spirit; and under
the influence of that power, thousands were converted.
As Christ's representatives the apostles were to make a decided
impression on the world. The fact that they were humble men would not
diminish their influence, but increase it; for the minds of their
hearers would be carried from them to the Saviour, who, though unseen,
was still working with them. The wonderful teaching of the apostles,
their words of courage and trust, would assure all that it was not in
their own power that they worked, but in the power of Christ. Humbling
themselves, they would declare that He whom the Jews had crucified was
the Prince of life, the Son of the living God, and that in His name they
did the works that He had done.
In His parting conversation with His disciples on the night before
the crucifixion the Saviour made no reference to the suffering that He
had endured and must yet endure. He did not speak of the humiliation
that was before Him, but sought to bring to their minds that which would
strengthen their faith, leading them to look forward to the joys that
await the overcomer. He rejoiced in the consciousness that He could and
would do more for His followers than He had promised; that from Him
would flow forth love and compassion, cleansing the soul temple, and
making men like Him in character; that His truth, armed with the power
of the Spirit, would go forth conquering and to conquer.
"These things I have spoken unto you," He said, "that
in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but
be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33. Christ
did not fail, neither was He discouraged; and the disciples were to show
a faith of the same enduring nature. They were to work as He had worked,
depending on Him for strength. Though their way would be obstructed by
apparent impossibilities, yet by His grace they were to go forward,
despairing of nothing and hoping for everything.
Christ had finished the work that was given Him to do. He had
gathered out those who were to continue His work among men. And He said:
"I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but
these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through
Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as
We are." "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also
which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one;
. . . I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one;
and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them,
as Thou hast loved Me." John 17:10, 11, 20-23.