“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” (Matthew 10:1)
Jesus gathered his twelve disciples or students, later known as Apostles or special messengers, and gave them special, miraculous powers. In II Corinthians 12:12, Paul refers to these special powers as proof that they were God’s apostles. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds”. They would need these gifts to accomplish the job he had given them.
I Corinthians 12:28-29 Makes it very clear that there are different positions in the church and not everyone has the same responsibilities. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?”
I Corinthians 12:7 is quite specific that those gifts are given as needed to accomplish the job God has given to each person, and None of those spiritual gifts are given to every Christian. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” Who gets which gifts is determined by the Holy Spirit as he sees fit, to accomplish the purpose.
“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.” (Matthew 10:2-4)
Jesus had many disciples, but from them he picked twelve special ones for special training to be his apostles. After Judas committed suicide, the apostles would choose a man to take his place in Acts 1. The criteria were that it had to be a man who had been taught personally by Christ just as the others had. Peter’s statement of what is required is found in Acts 1:21-22. “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”
Seventy more of his disciples were sent out at a later date, but they were not called apostles. Paul is the only one referred to as an apostle who did not come from that original group and he referred to himself as being born out of season in I Corinthians 15:8. At one point his entire team was referred to as apostles in much the same way an evangelistic team might be referred to as evangelists, even though only one actually was the evangelist. Modern day preachers or missionaries or evangelists are not apostles.
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-6)
On their initial journey, the apostles were not to go to the Gentile districts, nor were they to go to the Samaritan communities, even though they worshipped God and were of Jewish descent. The Jews had developed new standards of interpretation and practice and were ignoring many who clung with the older interpretation, much as we see many contemporary groups rejecting those who cling to traditional values today. Initially, Jesus sent his apostles to reach out to those who clung to the old traditions and were isolated from the current religious clique, the lost sheep the Pharisees and scribes were ignoring as too old fashioned to mess with.
“And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:7
Their message was to be that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, which the traditional Jews had sought for hundreds of years, as prophesied in Jeremiah 32:38-41. “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.” They were to focus especially on those who were already interested, performing the various healings and other miracles to convince them that they were from God. They were to give as freely as it had been given to them.
“Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.” (Matthew 10:9-10)
They were not to worry about raising money or provisions for their ministry, but were to depend on God to supply their needs. After all God is a righteous God and will provide what his employees need and deserve. There was little resemblance to most modern missions programs.
“And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.” (Matthew 10:11-13)
They were to seek out those with an established reputation for trying to obey God and ally themselves with them if they proved to have a sincere interest, or to move on to others if not.
“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Matthew 10:14-15)
If they were not welcomed by a family or a community, they were not to waste time trying to convince them to change, but to shake the dust off their feet as a testimony against them and go elsewhere looking for those who were willing to listen. The priority was to be reaching those who were already interested.