I love a good summer Bible study! Something about summertime makes gathering around the word a less harried and lingering thing. I’m not sure why it feels that way. But I love it!
Of course it helps when the group you’re studying with has your two of your best friends who love the word of God at least as much you do, along with a handful of women eager to learn whatever they can. In any event, our study of the book of Acts this summer has been invigorating so far!
I’m sure that over the next few posts you will see me referencing the themes of this book and I hope we have some stimulating discussions around these themes. Of course I am also facilitating another study with two more good friends on the book of Jonah so we might get our feet wet in that book too!
One thing I noticed immediately in the book of Acts is that Jesus’ disciples ~ the twelve whom He chose ~ get a change in their job description.
For the most part throughout the four gospels these men are designated as THE disciples. In the Greek, mathetes, it means simply a pupil, a learner. As it is applied in Scripture however, the nuance of the word implied someone who followed one’s teaching, which then became a basis for their conduct. For example, when Jesus taught that we are to be forgiving, these men who were following him would have taken that to heart and become more forgiving people.
They would also have taken seriously their charge to make more disciples of the nations, and the presumption from Matthew 28:19 is that disciples make disciples who can make more disciples.
As believers we too are His disciples. Therefore as we come to know and understand what Jesus asks of us, we use this as the basis for our conduct. When Jesus asks us to trust, we practice trusting. When He asks us to have faith, we practice being firmly persuaded that He is who He says, and can do what He says. When He asks us to go or do or be, we practice going and doing and being.
By practice I mean, as expressed in Scripture, we make this a habit, something that characterizes our lives. It is the rule of our lives rather than the exception. This does not necessarily mean we respond this way each and every time ~ it means that we strive for that standard in our lives.
If we look at the conduct of Jesus’ disciple Peter, we see the many times when Peter failed to put his faith into practice, but we also see a man who slowly but surely was being transformed into a disciple of great character. He certainly had a special place in Christ’s heart for his loyalty and eagerness to learn.
Eventually though, these men in Jesus’ life became more than disciples. When the time drew near for Christ to go the cross, as He labored to teach them all that He could in a short period of time, He became confident that this small band of hand-picked disciples were ready for their next task.
After He had been crucified, buried and raised from the dead, He appeared to His disciples teaching them over a period of about 40 days. At the end of the book of Luke Jesus tells them, just before He ascends to the Father, that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” and that they will be His witnesses, matures. They are the ones who have knowledge of what had happened and therefore are able to shed light on these events that others who may not have been there might also believe.
When Luke takes up the account of what follows in the book of Acts, he uses a new designation for the disciples in chapter one, verse two. He calls them the apostles. Having learned all that Jesus taught them they are no longer pupils. They have now been called as witnesses, but so much more. They are now ambassadors, ones sent out with a message.
Do you remember the message from Luke’s gospel? To proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His name. With their first-hand knowledge of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they are now able to shed light on this message of repentance. That Jesus paid the debt for our sins, therefore upon repentance we are cleansed from our sins and have salvation in His name.
Before the apostles would head out to fulfill their comission though they must obey one last command that Jesus had given them ~ wait. He had made them a promise and wanted to fulfill that promise first. Indeed, they would need what He had promised in order to carry out their new objective. Of course, we know that they then “received power when the Holy Spirit came” upon them as described in Acts 2:8. Immediately they began to witness as ambassadors of Christ in all the world ~ apostles working by the power of the Spirit to bring a message in Jesus name.
It would seem then that this designation apostle rested only on those who had an eye-witness account of the resurrection and had been charged with this comission. Yet we see the names of other who were not part of the twelve tagged with the term apostle. Paul, Barnabas, and Silas. Paul called Titus and Timothy his fellow-workers in the gospel. And a pair who only receive one mention in Scripture.
Who on earth were Andronicus and Junias? Paul in his letter to the Romans says, “Greet Andronicus (a male) and Junias (a female), my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7) We hear no other mention of these two anywhere else in Scripture but know that Paul always loved to commend those whom he felt had been of particular service to him or the saints.
Does the inclusion of these people mean that all of Christ’s disciples eventually become apostles? No. Unlike disciples which can be made, apostles are gifted disciples as we see in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. These gifts are given by the Spirit and a part of a person’s Ephesians 2:10 calling.
We also know that although not apostles, all disciples since the time of Pentecost receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when we repent and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38.) Only we don’t have to wait for that power come. We receive it instantly when we hear and believe His gospel (Acts 10.) It is what gives us the power to accomplish much for the kingdom!
For your consideration:
Where do you sense the power of the Spirit acting in your life? What has God given you the power to accomplish as His disciple? Part of growing up in Christ is learning to employ our area of gifting for the work of the gospel. Spend some time considering Ephesians 2:10, I Corinthians 12, Romans 12:6-8, and 1 Peter 4:10.
Rejoicing with you,