The Calling of the Twelve
“And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” (Mark 6:7-13)
All true gospel preachers, all who are called, gifted, and sent of God to preach the gospel are, like the Lord’s chosen apostles, his messengers. God’s servants are not just men who went off to Bible College or seminary and learned how to study, preach, and exercise the political savvy it takes to avoid ruffling the feathers of the wrong people. God’s servants are messengers. They are men with a message from God. I want you to understand what I mean. One Sunday night, I said to our congregation…
“I am not here tonight merely to give you the facts recorded in this text. Any honest man, woman, or child here who studies the passage carefully can give you the facts revealed and the doctrine taught in these verses. I have been studying this passage this week, seeking a message for your souls from God. And, I believe God the Holy Spirit has given me a message to deliver to you.
Perhaps you are thinking, ‘Pastor, what is the difference between giving out a sermon, factually expounding a text or a doctrine, and delivering a message?’ Let me tell you. — If all I have is a sermon I have prepared, it really does not matter whether you are here to hear it or not. But, if I have come here with a message from God, (a message fresh from God’s heart, to my heart, for your heart), and you miss that, you’ve missed something! You’ve missed something that can never be repeated. You’ve lost something you can never regain. Tapes will not make up for it. You can put my words on tape; but you simply cannot put the Spirit of God on tape!
Do you understand what I am talking about? God’s servants are messengers. This is what Paul said to the Corinthians, ‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:20).”
Our Lord Jesus is called “the Messenger of the Covenant” because he was commissioned by God the Father to fulfill the covenant as our Surety. He came into the world with a commission from God, with a specific work assigned to him as Jehovah’s Servant. He came to save his people from their sins; and he did it.
Even so, every man who is called and sent of God into the work of the gospel has a commission from God, a work to do, a work which no other man can do, a work which he must do. He has a messianic mandate. A commission is a mandate. A commission from God is a mandate from God almighty. I cannot imagine a nobler work, or a greater burden of responsibility! Mark 6:7-13 describes the commissioning of the Apostles by our Lord Jesus Christ as his messengers. As our Lord Jesus, the King of Glory, sent out messengers (Apostles) from the beginning, so today he sends out messengers of mercy, calling sinners to repentance and rebels to surrender, with the promise of grace, salvation, and eternal life to all who obey the gospel they preach.
What Christ Did
First, look at and carefully consider what the Lord Jesus did, as the Holy Spirit describes it in this passage. Whenever we think about men and God, us and our Savior, what we do and what he does, we would be wise first to find out what he has done. We cannot really understand what we do under his influence and for his glory until we understand something about what he has done and is doing for us, in us, and with us. So Mark first describes what the Lord Jesus Christ did for, in, and with these men, before telling us what they did for him.
He called his messengers. — “And he called unto him the twelve.” You will notice that Mark does not here name the twelve Apostles, as Matthew did in his account. That may be because he is giving a shorter account of the same event and had already listed the names in chapter three; or it may be that Mark is describing a different account of the sending out of the disciples. Be that as it may, I want you to notice this one thing here: — Those men who are God’s messengers to your soul, God’s servants in this world, God’s preachers are men who have been specifically called by Christ. Every true gospel preacher has a twofold call from Christ.
First, these men were called to Christ himself, as their Savior and Lord (Mark 3:13-19). When first he called them to be his Apostles, these men had first been called into union and fellowship with the Lord himself. They must know him before they can make him known. They must sit at his feet before they can run on his errands. They must walk with him before they can represent him. Before a man can be a preacher, he must be a believer. Before a man can be a leader of others, he must prove his faithfulness as a disciple. Before a man can teach, he must be taught. Before a man can be a messenger, he must get a message.
Then, after they had been some time in the Lord’s company, the Lord Jesus called these men to be his Apostles, his messengers. As the prophetic office ceased with John the Baptist, so too, the apostolic office began and ceased with the twelve Apostles. There are no inspired prophets or apostles in our day. We have the complete Revelation of God in his Word. Yet, every true gospel preacher is, in a sense, both a prophet (a proclaimer of the gospel) and an apostle (a messenger of God). Therefore, the things revealed in Mark 6:7-13 are in every detail applicable to us today, and specifically identify those men who are sent of God to preach the gospel.
This business of gospel preaching is not a chosen career, or a vocation for which a man volunteers his services, though every man called to the work chooses to do so and volunteers most willingly, counting such a call to be an indescribable honor put upon him by God (Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:12-17).
God’s call upon a man is made manifest by the fact that the Lord God has put him into the ministry. There is no way a man can know that he has been called to Christ until he is brought to Christ. And there is no way a man can know that he is called to the work of the ministry until God puts him in the ministry. More often than not, those who wear the name “preacher” have simply assumed the name. They have entered their office untried, unproved, inexperienced, and uncalled. They have run without being sent. They have no message, no mandate from God. Therefore, they soon tire of the work, become over-burdened, get ulcers, have nervous breakdowns, burn out, and find something else to do.
Those men who are called of God to preach the gospel, to pastor a local church, or serve as a missionary are gifted for the work to which they are called. By the gift of God the Holy Spirit, they are men who are “apt to teach.” If a man is not gifted to teach the Scriptures, he is not called to be a preacher. Those who are called are qualified by the grace of the Spirit for the work to which they are called (Jeremiah 3:15; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:1-9). If a man is not qualified for the work, he has not been called and gifted to perform the work of the gospel ministry.
And any man who is called of God to preach the gospel and pastor his people is doing the work. No man has been called of God to be a preacher who is not a preacher. No man has been called to be a missionary who is not a missionary. And no man has been called to be a pastor who is not a pastor. As my first pastor used to say to young men who presumed that God had called them into the work of the ministry, “God never made a possum that he didn’t make a persimmon tree; and he never made a preacher that he didn’t make a pulpit.” Those who are called of the Lord to preach the gospel are sent by him. They are not waiting to be sent. They are sent. When the Master called these men, “He began to send them forth by two and two.”
The word “send” that is used here is the verb form of the word “apostle.” It means, “to set apart, to send out on a mission (Not just to send out, but to send out on a mission!), send away, send forth, or set at liberty”. God’s servants are men who have been set apart for the work of the gospel by God’s decree and God’s call, sent out on a mission for God himself, sent away into the world as God’s ambassadors, and set at liberty in their souls by the call and power of God residing in and upon them. They have been separated unto the gospel by God’s call; and they separate themselves unto the gospel continually (Romans 1:1).
Two by Two
Mark was inspired to tell us specifically that our Master sent his disciples out in pairs of two. He sent them forth “by two and two.” Neither Matthew nor Luke make mention of this fact; but the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to record it for us to teach us, no doubt, the advantages of serving Christ in the company of others. The wise man had a good reason for telling us that, “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). In most labors two men working together can do much more than one man alone, or two men working separately. Two men together assist one another in judgment and make fewer mistakes. They aid one another in difficulties, uphold one another in temptations, encourage one another in trials, and arouse one another in times of languishing. Two men together comfort one another and are less likely to be cast down.
It seems obvious to me that our Lord is teaching us a principle. God’s servants are not free-lance, self-appointed apostles, who are answerable to no one. While a church is under the pastoral direction of one man, the work of the ministry is not one man’s work. It is the work of the entire assembly. Moreover, it is our privilege and responsibility to, as much as possible, work together with other gospel churches and other gospel preachers. The Apostle’s words to the Hebrew Christians are applicable to us all: pastors, elders, deacons, teachers, and all believers. — "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Power and Provision
Every man called by Christ to the work of the ministry is sent by Christ into his vineyard. Next we are told that our Lord gave power to his messengers. — He “gave them power over unclean spirits.” These men were commissioned to attack Satan’s kingdom in the name of Christ. Therefore, they were equipped with the God given power that was necessary to do their work. Their miraculous, apostolic power to cast demons out of men’s bodies was an emblem and sign of the power of Christ and his gospel, which we preach, to bind the strong man armed in the City of Mansoul and cast him out. The gospel of Christ, the doctrine of the cross is “the power of God unto salvation.”
In verses eight and nine the Lord Jesus expressly commanded his messengers to take nothing for their journey. To many, this seems to be insignificant and relatively meaningless. But nothing in this passage is more important, more instructive, or more needed than the instruction given to gospel preachers in these two verses.
"And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats."
There is no discrepancy in the fact that in Matthew we are told that our Lord forbade his servants from taking staves for their journey and that here Mark tells us he told them to “take nothing for their journey save a staff only.” That which seems to be a contradiction to some is explained very easily in two ways: 1st, They were not allowed to carry two staves, which would be a needless encumbrance; but it was perfectly proper to carry one staff, which might be a very useful instrument. 2nd, Though they might not be allowed to carry staves for their protection and defense, they were allowed to carry a staff for their assistance in walking.
The doctrine taught in verses eight and nine needs to be taught with emphatic clarity in our day. The doctrine of these two verses is as plain as the nose on your face. There is nothing mysterious about it. Yet, it is almost universally ignored by churches and preachers. Three things are here taught; and these three things are taught throughout the Word of God.
1. Gospel preachers must take great care not to be, or appear to be, covetous, self-serving, worldly men, men who enrich themselves by the ministry.
2. Gospel preachers are not to provide for their own livelihood, or entangle themselves with the affairs of this life, but to give themselves wholly and entirely to the business of study, prayer, and preaching.
3. Gospel preachers are to be provided for by those to whom they minister, provided for by local churches in a manner comfortable enough to keep them from the mundane concerns of feeding, clothing, educating, and properly caring for their families.
John Gill was exactly right in his exposition of these verses. He wrote…
“A minister of the Gospel ought not to be a worldly minded man, (a man) that minds earth and earthly things, and seeks to amass wealth and riches to himself, and preaches for filthy lucre's sake. Neither should he be a sensual and voluptuous man, serving his own belly, and not the Lord Jesus Christ, feeding himself, and not the flock. Nor should he be filled with worldly cares, overwhelmed in worldly business, and entangled with the affairs of this life. He ought to have his mind free from all solicitude and anxious concern, about a subsistence for himself and his, so that he may with greater and more close application attend to his ministry, to preparations for it, and the performance of it; and give up himself entirely to the Word and prayer, and not have his mind distracted with other things. Upon which account it is highly necessary, that the people to whom he ministers should take care, that a sufficient provision be made for him; that he may live without any anxious care and thought about such things, and his mind be more intent about the work he is called unto. This is what our Lord chiefly designs by all this, who has ordained that they that preach the Gospel, should be comfortably provided for, and live of it; and which, as it makes for the peace of their minds that minister, it issues in the advantage of those who are ministered to.”
In verse ten the Lord Jesus specifically told these first gospel preachers how they were to be provided for as they served him. — "And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place." As they went about from place to place, they were, according to Matthew, forbidden to ask anyone for anything. They were not to go from house to house. God’s servants are not groveling beggars! They are the servants of the most high God, the King of glory! Not only does our Lord forbid begging, he commands his servants not to provide anything for themselves. Yet, he tells them, as they serve him, to live, and expect to live upon the generous charity and hospitality of those to whom they preach the gospel.
Proud men do not like to live upon the generosity of others. And miserly men do not like to generously provide for others. But gospel preachers are to be comfortably supported in their labors by the generous, voluntary, free gifts of those whose souls are served by them. — "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" (1 Corinthians 9:11). — "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14). — "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things" (Galatians 6:6).
God’s servants ought to be, and faithful men will be content to live upon the provision God supplies through the generosity of his people.
While these apostles were in a house, as long as they were there, they lived according to the ability of the household to provide for them. That is the idea conveyed by our Lord’s words. If a man pastors poor people, he should not seek to live above the people he serves. If there are ten families in a congregation who are willing to support a pastor and give of their means no more than a tithe, the pastor and his family ought to be able to live on what those other families live on. If a man pastors a wealthier congregation, they ought to provide more comfortably for him; but he should never take more than he needs. In either case there is no need for the gospel preacher to maintain a side job and give himself “part-time” to the work of the ministry. Our God deserves better than our left over time!
It is true, when the Apostle Paul preached at Corinth, and among other Gentiles, he made tents to support himself and his companions. But a few things need to be remembered about that.
1. Paul did not make tents to enrich himself, but to provide for his expenses and the expenses of those preachers traveling with him.
2. The fact that Paul labored with his hands was a fact for which the Church at Corinth ought to have been embarrassed and ashamed.
3. It is the Apostle Paul, more than any writer in the entire Bible, who deals with and insists upon the necessity of pastors and missionaries being supported by God’s people.
This much is certain: — If God almighty sends a man out as his ambassador, he will more than sufficiently provide for him and his household (Luke 22:35).
A Great Responsibility
In verse eleven our Lord shows us what an awesome thing it is to be privileged to hear the gospel. — "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city."
To receive an ambassador is to receive the king who sent him, the king he represents. To reject an ambassador is to reject the king who sent him. This is our Lord’s teaching, not mine (Matthew 10:40-42). To receive Christ’s servant and the gospel of the grace of God which he preaches is to receive Christ himself. But to reject, despise, or ignore God’s servant and his message is to reject, despise, and ignore God himself! That is the most horrible crime and offense against God in the universe. Not even the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah rivals the wickedness of willful unbelief!
Commenting on verse eleven, J.C. Ryle said, “One of the greatest sins a man can commit in the sight of God is to hear the Gospel of Christ and not believe it…To reject the Gospel will sink a man to the lowest place in hell.” That is exactly what the Apostle Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.
"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?"
What the Disciples Did
Now, look at verses twelve and thirteen, and see what the disciples did.
"And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them."
Matthew Henry wrote, “Though they were conscious to themselves of great weakness, and expected no secular advantage by it, yet, in obedience to their Master’s order, and in dependence upon his strength, they went out as Abraham, not knowing whither they went.” These men, like all God’s messengers today, went out into the world preaching exactly what they had experienced, what they had been taught, and what the Master himself preached — Repentance. Repentance is a change of mind about myself, my sin (my nature), my sins (my wicked acts), and my righteousnesses (those filthy rags by which lost sinners hope to win God’s favor). Repentance is a change of masters and a change of motives. It is the turning of our hearts to Christ.
True repentance is inseparably connected with a proper view of God, a revelation and knowledge of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (His Eternal Deity — His Glorious Humanity — His Effectual Accomplishments!), right views about holiness, right views about sin, and right views about justice. Repentance is the gift of God, the result of the new birth (Jeremiah 31:19). It is the fruit of faith’s look at the crucified Son of God (Zechariah 12:10).
The Apostles anointed with oil many that were sick. They did not anoint all who were sick, but many. Oil, as you know, throughout the Scriptures, is a symbol of God the Holy Spirit, who was yet to be given in his office capacity. While the ceremony of anointing with oil may not be practiced by faithful men today, the thing symbolized is keenly understood by them all. — Without the blessing, unction, and anointing of God the Holy Spirit, our labor is utterly vain and meaningless. Only God the Holy Spirit can make the labor of his servants in the gospel effectual to the healing of sin-sick souls.
We must not fail to see that all who were anointed with oil were also healed. So it is now. All who are anointed by and given the unction of God the Holy Spirit in regeneration are effectually healed by God’s sovereign grace, by the application of Christ’s sin-atoning blood and his saving power. Christ is that sweet Balm of Gilead, by whom our souls are healed.
Have you repented? Our Savior declares, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish!” It is not enough to have our creed right. Our hearts must be right. It is not enough to know truth. It must be experienced. Behold the crucified Son of God, now risen from the dead and seated upon the right hand of he majesty on high, and repent (Lamentations 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21). My God grant you repentance, for Christ’s sake!
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