October 3, 2021 The Commission of the Twelve

The Commission of the Twelve

October 3, 2021


Read 10:1-15.


The Lord commissions the twelve apostles. The disciples become his apostles. The word “apostle” means “sent one.” Whereas before they were his followers, his learners, now they receive authority to carry his message and to minister healing and deliverance.  We have similar authority, but it is not as extensive and all-encompassing as that of the apostles. We can expel demons. We can heal others, but not “every disease and every affliction.” We cannot raise the dead in the same way that Jesus did. The reason why Jesus and the apostles had more authority and power than we have is because the truth of their message had to be testified[1] (proven). But once something is proven it need not be proven again.


Then Matthew lists the twelve apostles in couplets. Immediately after this we read: “These twelve Jesus sent out…(vs. 5)” This implies that he sent them out two by two and they were paired up as they were listed. Later, when Jesus commissions the seventy-two, this is made explicit:


After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. [2]


Jesus does this more than once (Mark 11:1; 14:13). The church continues this practice. Often, when evangelists are sent out, they have gone in pairs. A few reasons can be considered as to the wisdom of this practice. When two go together they can encourage one another (Eccl. 4:9-10). Jesus said that where two or more are gathered there he is in their midst. Even though he spoke this in the context of church discipline (Matt. 18), many have experienced a heightened sense of the Lord’s presence in the presence of others with kindred faith. There is a measure of protection when two are together (Eccl. 4:12). When speaking about the truths of God and the gospel, what one forgets the other may remember. Or, one may have an experience to relate that the other does not have and that experience may minister to the hearer. Last, it is a protection against false accusations (John 8:17). The practice of going out in pairs was instituted by our Lord and should be continued.[3]


These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’[4]


Why did Jesus command them to only minister to fellow Israelites and not Gentiles? In order to answer this we need a better understanding of what they were to proclaim. They were to proclaim that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”


We have previously seen that the kingdom of heaven is the earthly kingdom that Jesus would establish when he returns. How is it then that it “is at hand” at the time of his first coming? Some have said that it is because the church was soon to be established and the church is, in a sense, an expression of kingdom life. But, this does not explain why the kingdom would only be proclaimed to Jews at first. Therefore, that explanation is not adequate.


Remember that both John the Baptist and Jesus himself spoke in similar terms, that it was at hand (3:2; 4:17). And they both said that, because it was, the people had to repent.


 “If the kingdom were simply personal salvation why proclaim it only to Israel? There must be a national element – and there is. There was a real presentation of the kingdom to Israel in all its dimensions.”[5]


Thus, the kingdom would come as a fulfillment of the promises in the OT. But these promises were conditional. The condition for fulfillment was repentance of the nation (Lev. 26:4-45; Jer. 3:12-18; 2 Chron. 7:13-14). The nation never repented and even increased their sin by putting to death the King of Glory. Therefore, the kingdom did not come at that time, except in a hidden way (because when the rulership of God is practiced there is a sense in which the kingdom is realized, since the kingdom is, in great measure, about God’s will being done). But, the fullness of the OT prophecies regarding the kingdom are yet to be fulfilled.


9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.[6]


The apostles were to depend completely upon the grace and supply from the Lord through those to whom they ministered. They were to essentially go with nothing but the clothes on their back (not even a bag!). Everything would be supplied by their hosts (the house that is worthy). If their hosts provided for them then they would experience peace. If they would not then the potential hosts would not experience peace.


This principle is no longer in operation today. The apostles were ministering to the covenant community of Israel. There would be many among these that possessed the Holy Spirit and would realize that the apostles spoke words of God. Thus, they would be moved to support them. Once Israel rejected their Messiah, the exact opposite principle was instituted:


Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6 who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.[7]


Thus, today we should travel fully prepared with money, extra shoes, extra clothes, expecting nothing from anyone.


When you read this passage, where Jesus commissions his twelve disciples, you should envision yourself as receiving this commission. Why? Because Jesus has further commissioned every believer to the ministry of reconciliation. That is, reconciling people to God. The Scriptures testify to the fact that every person born into this world is born estranged from God. We begin sinning as soon as we come into this world! Everyone!


Although this commission is for the twelve, the commission to make disciples is for all followers of Christ. If you are a follower of Christ then you have a commission from the Lord to make disciples. What would you think, as you were reading this passage, if you also read “But James, the son of Alphaeus, did not go out. He just stayed in his house while the other eleven went out.” I think you would be shocked. And your opinion of the other James would be quite low. But, isn’t this exactly what so many Christians do today? They have been given a commission to make disciples, but they are just staying home!


Now, James did go out. I was only being hypothetical. In fact, James went all the way to Egypt after the Lord’s resurrection and ascension in order to proclaim the gospel. There, he was crucified in a town called Ostrakine, according to tradition. He was faithful!


Let us be assured that the commission to proclaim the gospel is for every believer:


Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” [8]

In this passage we see that Jesus is again teaching the original eleven (Judas had already betrayed him.), but see what he says in verse 17: “And these signs will accompany those who believe…” It is clear that the commission to proclaim the gospel is for all those who believe, not just the original twelve, not just evangelists or elders.


So, then, this commission to the twelve in Matthew 10 is also for us. The only aspects that do not apply to us is limiting our going out and not taking provisions for our task. We can heal the sick (we saw this two weeks ago). We can cast out demons. I do not think we can raise the dead. Raising the dead is not listed as one of the signs in Mark 16. But please surprise me. If you come across a person who has died and you raise them from the dead, please let me know.


We are commissioned to go out and proclaim the gospel. Note verse 13:


And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.[9]


It would be quite appropriate to proclaim peace on those who receive your words. And to deny peace to those households who reject Christ!


14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. [10]


This illustrates the principle of accountability based upon knowledge. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were great, but they did not have the revelation that the towns to which the apostles ministered. Let us all be faithful to what we have been shown! If you have been shown something, either through your own reading of God’s word, or through the teaching of another, don’t ignore it! Sadly, this is a common practice among God’s people. They get more knowledge, but they do not act upon the knowledge they receive! We must live what we know! If we do not, there will be disappointment at the Judgment Seat.


This principle of accountability according to knowledge applies to every judgment. There are at least two judgment days coming and, possibly, three. The two that are certain are the judgment of the church upon Christ’s return, that is, our own judgment. Our judgment will not be to determine eternal destiny. If you have placed your faith in Christ and repented of your sins then your eternal destiny is secure. Rather, the judgment of those who belong to Christ will be for rewards or discipline in the next age.


And, the other judgment is the final judgment at the end of the Millennium, where every person who ever lived will be judged. The judgment of the nations upon the Lord’s return to earth is likely a separate judgment. By the Lord’s grace we will consider that judgment when we get to Matthew chapter 25.


The principle of knowledge determining the severity or leniency of judgment applies to all judgments. Thus, it applies to our own judgment, too.


In one sense, we are quite blessed to be living in the USA, where there are many Bible-believing churches and there is a wealth of resources to enable us to understand the Scriptures. If one attends a faithful church then they will hear the word of God taught every week. This is unquestionably a blessing. But, in another sense this will bring us into a stricter judgment. The more we know the more the Lord expects us to live by what has been revealed to us.


Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. [11]


If you are a Christian and you live in the USA you have been given much. This means much is required of you! This is what the Lord has said.


If you are a Christian and you live in any Western nation, you have been entrusted with much truth. This means much will be demanded of you! This is what the Lord has said.


I am alarmed for myself. I know so much. Yet, I do not live according to my level of knowledge. But, do you know what? I am not discouraged by this. I press on towards the goal to which I have been called. I resolve to overcome all sin and to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. I know that I can, not because of who I am, but despite of who I am. I know that the Spirit lives within me and that he is empowering me to live the life that I desire to live! His grace is sufficient for me!


But I am also alarmed for some in our church. Why? Because I preach and teach things but, except for a few, many ignore the teaching. They hear it but they do not put into practice.


I am alarmed for some because what that which we know is The Lord’s measuring rod for our judgment as believers in Christ. The same is true for the lost. If you live in the USA and have never submitted to the gospel then your judgment will be worse than those living in a place where the gospel is not accessible. But, this morning I hope to stimulate the disciples of Christ to live by what they know.


The commission of the twelve is also your commission. You have authority over unclean spirits and you have authority over disease. You have been commissioned to proclaim the gospel. The Lord told the twelve to “go.” He commissions you to go! Are you going? Or, are you sitting?


What will you do with the knowledge that you have a commission? I am asking! What will you do with your knowledge?


[1] Hebrews 2:3-4

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 10:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3]  Going out in three’s is also good (Eccl. 4:12b).

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:5–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Michael J. Vlach, He Will Reign Forever (Lampion House Publishing, Silverton, OR; 2017) 276-277.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:9–13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (3 Jn 5–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 16:14–18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:14–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 12:48b). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.