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Twelve Normal Guys Who Changed the World

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Introduction: As we have mentioned in this class, during the Dark Ages the Catholic church wielded a massive amount of power. As part of that power, the Catholic church taught that they alone, as the representatives of Christ on earth through the succession of Peter, had the authority to bestow sainthood. This is why the word saint is somewhat tainted today. In the Bible, the word saint simply refers to a believer in Christ and not to someone of some kind of extraordinary, unachievable degree of holiness and favor with God. Of all the saints, the ones that are supposedly the most holy and influential are the twelve apostles. Even today, after visiting religious institutions in Europe, you might come away with the idea that the apostles were extraordinarily heroic men worthy of being put in paintings and on stain-glassed windows - immortalized for all time.
However, the reality is that the apostles were extraordinarily ordinary. By placing them on pedestals we have dehumanized them and taken the glory which belongs to God and given it to men who were just like you and me. In fact, the reason Jesus chose them was because they were so very average. These guys were from Galilee. Galileans were considered to be the lower class - rural and uneducated. The picture the New Testament wants to paint of these men is that they were commoners. In the grand scheme of things they were nobodies. If they were live today they might have a whopping total of 200 Instagram followers - just like you or me.
So, for the next twelve weeks we are going to be taking a look at the twelve apostles. Our goal is that we want to see how God took twelve extraordinarily ordinary men and turned the world upside down.

Jesus’ Ministry

From what the gospels tell us about Jesus’ ministry, Jesus’ popularity rose and fell very quickly. Early on he amassed a following of many people called disciples (which simply means followers), but, also early on, we are told in that many of his disciples went back and walked with Him no more. We are told as early on as that Pharisees and teachers of the law came out of every town of Galilee, Judea, andJerusalem in order to find fault with Jesus. Throughout Jesus’ ministry they became what we call nitpickers or naggers.
They nitpicked because Jesus’ allowed the disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath in order to eat
Luke 6:1–2 NKJV
Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”
They nitpicked because Jesus healed a man with a withered on the Sabbath.
Luke 6:6–11 NKJV
Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
They even nitpicked concerning the disciples hygiene habits
Matthew 15:1–2 NKJV
Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
Which, by the way, Jesus used this incident as a teaching moment
Matthew 15:3–4 NKJV
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’
Because of small issues like these, coupled with the fact that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God the religious leaders sought to kill him as early as .
Mark 3:6 NKJV
Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
In seeking to get rid of Jesus they even involved the Herodians.
So Jesus, knowing that He came from God, knowing that He came for the purpose of humbling Himself - even humbling Himself to death on a cross, knowing that others would need to carry His good news after His inevitable death began to look for and choose his apostles.

What is an Apostle?

The word apostle is the transliteration of the Greek word ἀπόστολος. ἀπόστολος means “one who is sent out.” The apostles were specifically chosen by Jesus Himself to be His personal messengers. ἀπόστολος carries the idea of an ambassador or an official representative. The Sanhedrin had apostles as well. In the Jewish culture of the time the Sanhedrin, the religious ruling body of the Jews, would send out representatives with a message. Unlike, a generic messenger though, this apostle would carry official authority as if he himself were the Sanhedrin. Although this apostle would have the authority of the Sanhedrin, he only had authority as as long as he was consistent with the message and goals of the Sanhedrin. This apostle, before he acted, was always to ask the question, “What would the Sanhedrin do?” As long as he acted consistently with the will of the Sanhedrin he had the authority of the Sanhedrin. They even had a saying at the time, “The one sent by the man is as the man himself.”
When Jesus appointed apostles, he was doing the same thing. He was appointing men to be His representatives who spoke with His authority. As long as the apostles were consistent with the message of Jesus, they had the power and authority of Jesus.

The Importance of the Apostles

The role of the apostle was hugely important to the formation of the early church.
Ephesians 3:5 NKJV
which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:
In other words, since the New Testament hadn’t been written, the apostles were then the source through which the Spirit of God spoke and gave to the church all valid church doctrine. They spoke with the authority of the Word of God. It is worth noting that the New Testament is mostly the preserved revelation of God to the apostles. Their teaching is the only way we can test truth even today.
The apostles were also to exemplify virtue. They were the examples the believers in the first century church were to emulate.
Philippians 3:17 NKJV
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
The apostles also had the power to perform unique miracles.
Hebrews 2:3–4 NKJV
how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
God confirmed His message that He was sending to the world through the apostles by giving them the ability to do the miracles that they did.

The Calling of the Apostles

The apostles’ calling must have been an incredible moment for them. Consider that in there were 5,000 men not including women and children. So there could have easily been up to 10,000 people who called themselves disciples (followers) of Jesus. So during the early part of Jesus ministry they were just twelve followers among thousands. However, when they were called they took on a special role of leadership.
Jesus likely chose twelve disciples due to the fact that Israel was made up of twelve tribes. Remember that according to one of the first public acts of Jesus ministry was to enter into the temple, quietly make a whip of cords, and drive out those who were making the temple nothing more than a marketplace. From the beginning, Jesus made it clear that he disapproved of the current state of Jewish leadership. He was now choosing twelve who would be His “sent ones” to replace the current Jewish leadership. And the statement that was made when Jesus chose twelve men would have been painfully unmistakable to the Jews. He had already publicly disapproved of the religious establishment, he had already made statements that he viewed it as hypocritical, legalistic, and self-righteous; full of meaningless ceremonies and man-made traditions. In short, he was calling the religious establishment of the day heretical. They had removed faith in the promised Messiah and replaced it with works-salvation. The twelve apostles were Jesus’ official new leadership who represented Jesus the true God of Israel. The twelve apostles symbolized judgment against twelve tribes of Israel and what they had become.
Luke 22:29–30 NKJV
And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Conclusion: So over the next twelve weeks we will look at who the apostles were as individuals. Who were these guys who, when Jesus ascended into heaven, were the “sent ones”? Who were these guys who were given the task of literally changing the world? Who were these extraordinarily ordinary guys? And one final question - “Can God use us in the same way?”
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