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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: F.E. Marsh :: Readings 451-500 (The Word - Wedges)

F.E. Marsh :: 458. Twelve Apostles

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MARK 3:13-19

THE Lord Jesus, in choosing and ordaining the twelve apostles, had a six-fold purpose in view, as we are told in the following verses. He chose them to, and for Himself (John 13:18; Acts 1:2), to be with Him, to be sent forth by Him (Mark 3:14), to be separate from the world, and to bring forth fruit (John 15:16-19).

Many of the names of the twelve men chosen are indicative of their character. Let us note the meaning of the names, and one leading trait in the life of the persons who bear them, as suggesting what we should, or should not do, as believers in Christ.

  1. Honoured Peter. Peter was honoured, because that to him were given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” that is, not that he had or has the power to admit into heaven or refuse admission, but that he was privileged to open the dispensation of the Spirit to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, and to the Gentiles, as illustrated in the case of Cornelius (See Acts 10). Those who believe are also honoured in that they are privileged to proclaim the Gospel of the grace of God, and offer salvation to all who will believe in Christ.
  2. Privileged James. James, the son of Zebedee, was one of the apostles who was among the privileged three, the others being Peter and John. They were with Christ when He was on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2); they were with Christ when He raised the ruler’s daughter to life (Mark 5:37); and they were also with Him when He went to the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37). Thus James was privileged to behold the glory of Christ, the power of Christ, and the agony of Christ. Those who believe in Christ have seen the agony of Christ, in that they have beheld Him by faith dying for them on the accursed tree; they have experienced the power of Christ, in that they have been quickened by His power from the death of sin; and they shall see the glory of Christ when He comes again.
  3. Loving John. John was loving because he was loved, and he was loved because he was loving. He was loving because he was loved; that is, he knew the love of Christ, and that was the constraining power which moved him to love others, even as the steam in the engine is the motor that moves the train. And he was loved because he was loving; that is, the love of Christ that acted through him drew others to him, even as the law of gravitation draws things to the earth.
  4. Faithful Andrew. The faithfulness of Andrew flashes out in more ways than one, but especially is it seen in his seeking out his brother Peter after he had found Christ for himself (John 1:40-41). A man who is full of faith is sure to be a faithful man, and his faithfulness will evidence itself in seeking the salvation of his own kith and kin, and telling them of the Lord who can save.
  5. Friendly Philip. Godet says: “It seems that Jesus was on terms of special cordiality with him.” This is borne out by Christ’s question in John 6:5, in the action of the Greeks who came to him when they would see Jesus, and in Philip’s question to Christ as recorded in John 14:8. He evidently was an approachable man. If the love of God is in the heart, the joy of the Lord in the countenance, and the peace of God in the mind, they will make a way to the hearts of others; so that we, in turn, shall be able to introduce others to Christ, even as Philip did (John 12:22).
  6. Devotional Bartholomew. “The name Bartholomew signifies son of Tolmai; it was, therefore, only a surname. It has long been supposed that the true name of this apostle was Nathanael, for in John 21:2, Nathanael is named amongst a number of apostles, which proves unquestionably that he was one of the twelve.” The devotional spirit is the one thing that Christ commends in him, as we read in John 1:48. Prayer and praise are the lungs of the Christian life; but if we allow the congestion of neglect to set in, there will be pain and defeat. The prayer of faith is the inbreathing of God’s bestowed blessing, and the act of worship is the outbreathing of the soul in thanksgiving and praise to God.
  7. Humble Matthew. It will be noticed that the apostles are seen in pairs. Thus Matthew and Thomas are together. I draw attention to this fact for the simple reason that in the way he speaks of himself, without straining to do it, he brings out his humility. For instance, in Mark 3:18 the name of Matthew appears first; the same order also occurs in Luke 6:15; but when Matthew is recording the call of the apostles he puts the name of Thomas first. Again, Mark and Luke, in speaking of Matthew, simply call him “Matthew,” but when Matthew speaks of himself he calls himself “Matthew the publican” (10:3). The epithet would remind him of the old life in sin. While God in His grace calls us His “children” and “saints,” the humble soul always says “sinner” (1 Timothy 1:15).
  8. Confessing Thomas. In looking at the doubting of Thomas, we are apt to forget the confession of Thomas after he was convinced that Christ was risen from the dead (John 20:28). Trapp says of the confession of Thomas: “This is true faith indeed that individuates God, and appropriates Him to itself. Were it not for this possessive ‘mine,’ the devil might say the creed to as good a purpose as we. He believes there is a God and a Christ; but what torments him is, he can never say ‘my’ to an article of faith.”
  9. Discriminating James. This James is distinguished from James the son of Zebedee, by being called “the son of Alphaeus.” It is generally thought that this James is the one who is so often mentioned in the Acts and in the Galatians, as the brother of our Lord. He was the bishop of the Church in Jerusalem. It is in his address, as recorded in the fifteenth of the Acts, that his discrimination and holy common sense are seen (see Acts 15:13-21). To discriminate between God’s will and our own will, in whole-hearted obedience to the former, is the secret of joy; and to discriminate between the world and Christ, by being separated from the former to the latter, is the essence of holiness.
  10. Silent Thaddaeus. Godet has well remarked upon the apostles about whom little is said: “All these men have had their share in the fulfilment of the apostolic task, the transmission of the holy figure of Christ to the Church through all time.” Many a Christian who has never been known, and whose name has never been mentioned, will be found to have fulfilled his mission in the day of Christ, even as the unseen stone is essential to the support of the prominent outside stone.
  11. Zealous Simon. “The surname Zealot, given to Simon, is probably a translation of the adjective kanna, zealous.” To be zealous in good works is the best form of zealousness.
  12. Betraying Judas. Even Judas fulfilled his apostolic function; his despairing cry, “I have betrayed the innocent blood,” is a testimony which resounds through the ages as loudly as the preaching of Peter at Pentecost, or as the blood of the martyr James. Let us be careful not to imitate the example of Judas in any way, and neither in work, look, nor action to deny our Lord.
457. Trinity ← Prior Section
459. Two Adams Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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