How Christ Chose The 12
Our Lord Jesus Christ chose 12 men to be his apostles. They were fishermen by training, most of them by trade. We don’t know much about their background, but we know the God of the universe chose them. After Jesus stayed awake all night long praying for His selection, He picked these 12 men, whether they were trained, knew rabbinic law, or knew the law just because they grew up around a righteous home.
They would then spend the next three years eating, sleeping, drinking, traveling, ministering, getting, in a sense, the ultimate three-year master’s degree, sitting at the Master’s feet. Then, beyond human measure, because they’re chosen, they become these apostles, the sent ones. And they will be sent to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria through most parts of the earth to spread the gospel that Jesus Christ is entrusting to them.
They will be disciples, students, and followers. They will have their own failings, and yet God will use them. As their lifelong sacrificial ministry flourishes, it will change the world. One, of course, will defect. He’ll be replaced a little later on. Unfortunately, we know very little about his replacement. By the geographic and theological outline of Acts 1, we will encounter a man named Saul.
Paul, An Apostle of Christ
Paul, the disciple-maker, the apostle, the missionary, the church planter, and in his final years, the elder statesman of the church, will do more perhaps than any human second to Jesus Christ.
He had different kinds of credentials than the fishermen. He had different types of credentials than those picked in the Galilean area. Paul was a scholar, knew the law of God, was brilliant, and his pedigree was unimpeachable. How he defends himself to the Jews and Gentiles and those who don’t know God is different every time. He dealt with critics and confrontation. Much like the Savior, he had an affinity toward those who were truly looking for help while affronting those who were self-righteous and arrogant, who knew it all and were attacking him.
Besides all of Paul’s credentials, Christ chose him. In Paul’s unique ministry, we often see slivers of how God is using this man. In Acts 9, Saul is on the road persecuting Christians, jailing them, and taking them back to Jerusalem for trial, and he is encountered by the voice, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And in very short order, God taps His prophet Ananias to visit Saul.
It’s an initially reluctant conversation, but reluctant conversations with God never worked. In Acts 9:15-16, we read, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer in behalf of My name.”
Paul’s Suffering For Christ’s Sake
As a Roman scholar, Saul understood talionic justice. This eye for an eye concept could relate to God’s word to him. Because the apostle’s sufferings are enumerable because his call to ministry is, ‘I will show you how much you will suffer for My name’s sake.’ It’s hard to dodge the fact that the persecutor of Christians becomes persecuted for Christians. Saul was a hard case, and now he’s a hardwired Paul.
After his conversion, he spends time away. He learns he studies, he does not fail, flag, falter, or grow tired. He knew how to minister to those in need, but he knew how to fight the right issues for the sake of the gospel. Many students and scholars have observed that Paul, second to the Lord Jesus Christ, maybe the most important figure in human history.
Because of our New Testament that we love and cherish, and the letters he wrote, we learned great insight not only into the context to which he ministered but to the person of Paul and what he was impacted by. We get insights into his struggles, health, relational challenges, and butting heads with people.
He’s a human being, but God uses him in an extraordinary way. Depending again on Paul’s audience, the city he’s in, and the culture he’s speaking to, he is going to address them as they need. Paul has critics everywhere. Some of the criticisms have to do with his credentials. Some have to do with the fact that he wasn’t chosen the same way Jesus chose the original 12 or the replacement for Judas. Nevertheless, it’s not unreasonable to say we are here today because of Paul.
The Critics of Paul
God chose this man intent on destroying the church of Jesus Christ, turned his life upside down, and because of the persecutions perhaps with which he persecuted believers, God made him the voice.
In 2 Corinthians 11:21, we need to understand the dripping sarcasm. 2 Corinthians 11:21 says, “To my shame, I must say that we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—I am speaking in foolishness—I too am bold.” So he provided credentials, but not the ones we would expect because he knew his audience and critics.
The Credentials of Paul
We have a threefold credential in 2 Corinthians 11:22. “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.” It is important to understand that Abram did not have a choice. God called him out and told him that he would be a blessing. God will do what God will do, period. Abraham doesn’t cooperate perfectly, but God still uses him. Too many Christians miss the Abrahamic covenant. He was to be a blessing to the world, not just the Jew.
These Corinthians may not have understood that, but those who needed to understand it did. Romans 11:1 says, “I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Philippians 3:4b-6 says, “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”
What kind of person could say, ‘Line up the law of God. I’ve not done anything wrong.’ That was his credential to the Philippian believers. His birthright is ironclad. His nationality is undeniable; his credentials are impeccable. But in this text, he will brag about being a fool.
Christ Chose Paul For His Purposes
The most important thing about Paul is that Christ chose him. It wasn’t all the training, the backdrop, or the knowledge, but that God said, ‘You are going to be a chosen instrument of Mine, for My name’s sake.’ Fortunately, Paul is all in. D.A. Carson suggests Paul’s opponents anticipated him saying something like, “I’ve established more churches. I’ve preached the gospel in more lands to more ethnic groups. I’ve traveled more miles, won more converts, and written more books, etc.” That would be the normal way we joust this dragon.
Tragically, we must wonder how many large ministries would brandish accomplishments versus Christ choosing them. If you believe in Jesus Christ, He chose you in Him before the foundation of the world, that you should be holy and blameless and walk in love. The apostle elder statesman, Paul, is not one to brag, and in his next sentence, he injects the word servants abruptly. Its meaning here is to be a servant to a Master. Paul’s saying, ‘I serve Christ. I’m going to tell you about Christ.’
The Price of Paul’s Obedience
2 Corinthians 11:23-27 shows us that Paul endured the culmination of what every person fears. It’s a catchall of all the external things that we’re terrified could happen to us in life.
2 Corinthians 11:24, “Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.” This is a reference about which we hear many interesting interpretations. More than one preacher says it was “one lash short of death,” but Scripture gives no indication. What is clear from Deuteronomy 25:1-3 is that the one inflicting the punishment was not to exceed 40 because it would degrade your brother. More than 40 was a disgrace, dishonoring, at least here not life-threatening but rather a shameful disgrace to beat a man so.
More striking is that poor Paul felt 195 lashes plus innumerable beatings. Had they wanted to kill him, they could have. These beatings were not meant to kill but were more likely to brutalize and silence him. God gave Paul the Holy Spirit to endure the beatings because “I will show him how he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Finally, 2 Corinthians 11:28 says, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
We Have an Unbiblical View of Suffering
Somewhere we got the idea we shouldn’t suffer, shouldn’t have cancer, and shouldn’t have people hurt us! These are childish and unbiblical platitudes. Prosperity theology, health, and wealth are a lie from hell. Find biblical examples of men and women who did not suffer, did not hurt, were spared all injustice, and were such goody-goody Christians that they “lived happily ever after?” We will suffer and face pain. We will be hurt. And may it be, in God’s great kindness, for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of Jesus, not just because we are foolish sinners reaping the consequence of our sins.
Are we as Concerned For Jesus Christ’s Church as We Are For Ourselves??
We are to be good stewards of all that Jesus has entrusted us. We are too casual when we say our “time, talents, and treasures,” but it is a good way to think. The harder part is to think vertically more than horizontally. “I, me, my” consumes us. How much of our lives are looked at through our lens? Do you see your lost friend? Do you see your co-worker whose marriage is falling apart? How do you serve your master and others? Do you see how you – not someone else, not “the church,” not the professional, but you are the church?
You are that marvelous sheep in the mirror for whom Christ died. Are we concerned, involved, and serving His church? As obvious as it can be, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His field. Pray you’ll get your boots on and be that worker for Him and His church. The apostle Paul was beaten, bloodied, and bowed. Through dried blood and a sweaty brow, he was overwhelmed by his concern for all the churches for which our Savior died.
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