DUNCAN/Called and ordained
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 10:1-4. Here we will see Jesus commission His disciples to go out into the villages and towns of the surrounding region and preach the message of the kingdom. So, what we have in Matthew 10:1-4 is basically an ordination sermon, a message that the Lord Jesus Christ gives to His disciples as He commissions them to their first gospel task. They had been called to Him as disciples. Now they are being sent out after a period of testing and training. We will see three things from this text. First, Jesus made His disciples apostles. Second, Jesus vested His apostles with His own authority. And third, Jesus, by His selection of this diverse inner circle, aims to found through their ministry a New Israel.
I. Jesus made His disciples apostles.
The disciples had been with Jesus for some months. He had called them to be with Him, to follow Him, to learn from Him, in short, to be His disciples. Now in verse 1, He sends them out as messengers, heralds, angels, His own representatives. It was those who had been followers, close associates, acquaintances, men who had been with Jesus, that He sent out to represent Himself to the nations. These ambassadors of Christ were first followers of Christ, friends of Christ, acquaintances of Christ, before they went to witness for Him.
We can learn from this that if we are to serve Christ well, in whatever capacity, in whatever vocation the Lord has put us, we must know Him, and be known of Him. We must be His disciples; we must fellowship with the Lord. Now we can’t be physically present with the Lord Jesus like these disciples, so how do we do it? How do you commune with Christ? At the very least, if we are to be with Christ, to fellowship with Christ, that is in part going to mean studying His Word, being in His Word, memorizing His Word, meditating on His Word, reflecting on His Word. Do you love to study the Word? Do you want to master it, to know it, to know the stories that it teaches, to understand the implications, the applications of it for your own life? Is that something that’s a desire for you? That’s a mark of a disciple because it draws you close to your Lord. Those are the words of your Lord, and as you hear those words and reflect on those words, you get a taste of your Lord.
Another way that we grow close to the Lord is through faith in Him. We think of being justified by faith, and that’s a glorious truth, but did you know that faith is a very important part of sanctification and discipleship? Learning to trust the Lord Jesus Christ in difficult situations is one of the ways that He grows us; it’s one of the ways He grew the disciples. We also grow in fellowship with Him in prayer; that is how we converse. It’s business with God, conversation with God. We commune with our Lord Jesus in prayer and in meditation upon Him and upon His Word. In all these ways, in all these means of grace, we grow in fellowship with the Lord, we are with Him.
II. Jesus vested His apostles with His own authority.
Also in verse 1, we see that Jesus vests His apostles with His own authority. The Lord Jesus does not intend for these apostles to do their ministry in their own strength. He intends for them to be entirely dependent upon His power. In verse 1 we read that Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. The Lord Jesus imbues them, He endows them, with spiritual power for these great feats. And this reminds us that all true Christian ministry is done by the power of Christ. Christ gave them His own power over the forces of evil and sickness. He transfers that power to His representatives and tells them to minister in that power, and it was so vital that He give them that kind of authority and power.
This is important because all true Christian ministry is done not in our power, but beyond our power. All true Christian ministry is done beyond our personal resources, and that means that if we are going to do Christian ministry, we must do it in dependence upon the Lord. Our best strategizing, our brightest minds, our best plans will not bring us success in and of themselves. We must be prayerfully dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ, because His grace accomplishes its goal. His gospel is the power of God unto salvation, not our designs, not our particular strategies.
Isn’t it ironic that it is precisely when we are most aware of our own limitations, that we are most useful to the Lord? Because a vessel which is broken and aware of it, is ready to be used by the almighty hand of God to accomplish something that no human power could accomplish. And so, when we recognize that all ministry is done by the power of Christ, we recognize that our profound limitations are not the limits to our usefulness. But my limitations are not the limit of what God can do through me. If we will be but aware of our weakness and dependence upon the strength of God, we not only can but will be used for the sake of the kingdom of God.
III. Jesus, by His selection of this diverse inner circle, aims to found through their ministry a New Israel.
Finally, in this passage we learn that Jesus, by His very selection of this diverse group of disciples, aimed through their ministry to create a New Israel. Isn’t it interesting that He selects twelve? Notice twice that it’s stressed in verses 1 and 2, twelve disciples are now made twelve apostles. That number is not accidental. The Lord Jesus was well aware of the fact that the twelve sons of Jacob had been ceremonially and symbolically represented in the twelve tribes of Israel, and in saying that He would establish His kingdom via these twelve disciples He is showing that He is going to create a New Israel. And their very diversity is a witness to the Lord Jesus’ greatness. We are a new people, we are a people created by God, we are His people, we are chosen, we are a New Israel. Pursue Him in godliness that you might in fact be the New Israel and that your lives might be a testimony to the Gentiles. You are no longer of that carnal, fleshly nature, but you’ve been reconstituted, remade, and you’re being conformed to the image of Christ. We the Church are the new Israel. God help us to live in accordance with the reality that has been created by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at email@example.com.