the weblog of Alan Knox

Learning about Apostles

Posted by on Sep 15, 2008 in gathering, missional, scripture, service | 7 comments

Sunday, I taught from Matthew 10:5-15 as we continue to study through the Gospel of Matthew. In this passage, Jesus sends out the twelve after telling them to pray that God would send workers into the harvest fields. I learned something very interesting about the term “apostle” while I was studying this passage.

Did you know that Matthew only uses the term “apostle” once? You can find that one occurrence in Matthew 10:2 – “The names of the twelve apostles are these…” (then the names are listed). I already knew that John didn’t use the term “apostle” for the twelve (John uses the term once in John 13:16, but it doesn’t refer to the twelve), but I didn’t realize that Matthew only used it once. It turns out that Mark uses the term twice in Mark 3:14 (a parallel to Matthew 10:2) and Mark 6:30 which refers to the twelve when they returned after Jesus sent them out. Luke, on the other hand, uses the term “apostle” six times in his Gospel and 28 times in the Book of Acts (only in chapters 1-16, but no uses in chapters 17-28).

So, Matthew and Mark uses the term “apostle” only in reference to Jesus sending out the twelve to the “lost sheep” of Israel in order to proclaim that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Thus, it seems that for Matthew and Mark the focus of the term “apostle” was on being sent, not on the fact that these twelve spent time with Jesus nor on their authority because of their association with Jesus. Elsewhere in Scripture the term “apostle” is used to identify those who had spent time with Jesus and who had authority because of their association with Jesus, but that does not appear to be Matthew’s or Mark’s focus. By the way, the term “apostle” is also used elsewhere in Scripture in reference to those who were “sent”, but who did not necessarily spend time with Jesus: Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), Silas and Timothy (1 Thess 1:1; 2:6), Apollos (1 Cor 4:6, 9), and Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7).

As we’ve studied through Matthew so far, we’ve noticed that Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom of God (Matt 3:2; 4:17; 9:35). Now, Jesus is “sending out” the twelve as his representative. What is their “charge”? They are also to proclaim the kingdom of God (Matt 10:7). (Luke also indicates that Jesus later sent out seventy others to proclaim the kingdom.)

To me, this study puts the “Great Commission” in perspective of the whole Gospel of Matthew. After Jesus rose from the dead but before he ascended, he told his followers:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

This commission is not something tacked onto the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Instead, the idea of sending out representatives to proclaim the kingdom is part of Jesus’ plan throughout the Gospel. This should remind us again that we are both a gathered people and a sent people. (see “The Gathered and the Sent“) God gathers us out of the world in order to send us back into the world.

Problems ensue when we begin to focus on being gathered and neglect being sent, or when we focus on being sent and neglect being gathered. We are both. Just as Jesus called the twelve to himself and then sent them out. Jesus also calls us to himself (gathers us – Matt 16:18; 18:20) and sends us out.

If someone were to examine your life from the outside, do you think they would see a balance between being gathered and being sent? Or would they see an emphasis on one and a neglect of the other? If so, which one is emphasized and which is neglected?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-15-2008

    Do you suppose that there is a problen with our new, relatively speaking, way of combining gathering and sending out? In our modern churches where services are designed more for the unbeliever than edifying, unifying, uplifting and exhorting the church in a celebration of the mystery that we all profess, we confuse the two, gathering as a church and proclaiming the gospel to the unbeliever. And in my opinion I see that it weakens both, greatly.

  2. 9-15-2008


    Yes, I think there is a problem with a church meeting designed for unbelievers. I think this is one reason that the church in general is immature.


  3. 9-16-2008


    I’m not totally sure where I stand on being gathered and sent, in terms of which I do more of than the other. My walk with the Lord is in a transitional phase.

    If someone were to look from the outside at this time, I’m not sure there would be a balance of the two.

    I’m in a very busy place in my life right now. So I tend to gather with other christians where I already am. I also tend to give out right where I am. That would be in the work place. I have alot of opportunity to do both there.

    So perhaps it’s more balanced than I think.


  4. 9-16-2008


    I had a very interesting conversation with a couple about how, when, and where God “sends” us. I think many times, we are exactly where God is sending us. The concept of being “sent” does not only affect our “where”, but our “how”. Can we live our lives – even busy lives – recognizing that God has sent us where we are for a reason. Perhaps, recognizing that God has sent us will help us also recognize the opportunities that God is giving us where we are. So, while being “sent” can be about a location, I think it is primarily about living as a representative of God wherever we are, and taking advantages of those opportunities that God gives us.


  5. 9-16-2008


    Good word on this post. Also, just a thought for Lanny…our simple church just baptized 4. We clearly have our gatherings for believers to built up and equipped. We don’t “dumb down” the gathering to accommodate them but keep right on doing what we normally do so they can fall down on their faces and say “surely God is among you.” That being said, we consistently have non-believers coming because they are blown away and intrigued by the power of Jesus in the gatherings.

    Hopefully, our simple story is encouragement for us not to be either/or in our approach. We just choose to be the opposite of “seeker friendly” and raise the bar to a Biblical standard on what it means to be a disciple. We find the lost responding to this approach in our gatherings.

  6. 9-21-2008


    I was wondering if you would please read my latest blog post on apostles, I have just read yours and you might be interested with what I have written as something extra to think about :)


  7. 9-21-2008


    I’ll be glad to read it… probably sometime tomorrow. Thanks.