Guest Article by Mike Pettengill

Jesus’ twelve disciples had studied at the feet of the Master. They had followed and learned from him. The Twelve were not always together at Jesus’ side. Some tended to homes and families. In fact, Jesus would call the Twelve together only on three occasions. But on the rare occurrence of Luke 9:1-6, Jesus gathered them together. They had learned enough. It was now time for them to teach others and multiply the faith.

Jesus equipped the Twelve to have power over demons and illness, and he authorized them to teach in his name. The newly commissioned twelve apostles would learn from experience how to combat physical, spiritual, and emotional hardship. They would learn to trust in only the provisions of God.

The calling and the sending of the twelve apostles would usher in a new era for the young Christian faith. The apostles served as a model for future evangelists and missionaries. The sending of the twelve apostles was a pivotal point in the development of Christianity. No longer were Christ’s followers focused only on serving, learning and sacrificing for Christ. From this point forward in the history of Christianity, being a disciple meant adding a new component – multiplication.

The Twelve did not merely provide an example for a select group of teachers, preachers or missionaries. They provided a model for all Christ centered disciples that would be echoed in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. The calling and sending of the twelve disciples signaled the launch of the spread and multiplication of Christianity.

The Call

There are several purposes for the specific call given by Jesus to the Twelve in Luke. They were called in order to be instructed by Christ and learn the qualities needed to be founders of the church following Jesus’ resurrection. The twelve apostles not only performed these miracles during Jesus’ life but also following his ascension. Herman Bavinck confirmed, “Accordingly, when he sent out his disciples, he not only charged them to preach the good news but, with equal firmness and emphasis, to cast out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

This call to the Twelve was geographically and ethnically limited to the Jews. Following Acts 1:8, Christ called his disciples to go beyond Israel and into the entire world. But Luke 9:1-6 is the beginning of a new era for the followers of Christ. Christ is no longer seeking attentive students. This call ushers in a period of dynamic involvement. From this point forward, Christian disciples are called to share their faith and participate in evangelism and missions to the lost.

The Caller

The call itself must come from Christ, or else it carries no authority. When the call came from Jesus, the twelve apostles carried with them both the ability and right to perform their actions and declare Christ as the Way.

Without the call originating from Jesus, the apostles were either liars or should be considered mad. No man on his own can perform miracles of healing and control over demons. Shy of a Christ-given call, the apostles were simply telling a fictional and rather cruel tale of salvation. R.C. Sproul said, “Here we see the apostolic mission sanctioned by Jesus. He called his twelve apostles together, to commission them and to endow them with power and authority to carry out a specific mission.”

The Called

The twelve disciples who were commissioned as the twelve apostles are not the most learned, nor the most devout. There is little to indicate they stood out as superior in their faith. They were full of doubts and sins and misunderstanding. But they had everything they needed – they were called by Jesus.

Does the calling of the apostles simply speak to those twelve men in history, or does the call apply to modern missionaries as well? It is indeed both. The twelve apostles were given very explicit instructions, but modern missionaries have much to learn here as well. Modern missionaries are not called apostles, but they too should go with a heart dependent upon God and reliant upon his strength and not their own. Modern missionaries can certainly benefit from emulating the faith of the twelve apostles.

To The End Of The Earth

Jesus originally limited the twelve apostles to Israel. The first phase of his salvific plan would show that a transformed Israel would result in a transformed world. The Twelve gained experience in evangelism and faith that would bear great fruit when they were unleashed upon the rest of the world (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

The actions and faith of the twelve apostles provide a resounding example for all disciples of Christ to follow. Strong faith, reliance upon God and discipling and mentoring others are not actions for a select few Christians, but for all who proclaim Christ as Lord.

Luke 9:1-6 shows Jesus as a sovereign and compassionate Savior who chooses to use common and sinful men as vessels for the salvation of his elect. There was nothing unique or noteworthy about the twelve apostles, as there is nothing noteworthy of the disciples who follow Christ today. The Twelve demonstrated a faith and reliance on the Lord that resulted in the conversion of other sinful men. All that is good comes from Christ and is poured out on the world by his obedient disciples.


Editor’s Note: The featured picture is The Calling of the Apostles, depicted by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1481.

Mike Pettengill

Mike Pettengill is a full-time missionary serving in La Ceiba, Honduras, with Mission to the World. Mike is a team leader of a 12-person mission team. To learn more about the Pettengills’ mission work, visit www.pettengillmissionaries.org.

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