The Training Strategy
There is a time to pull back from work and ministry - to be with God. On this occasion, Jesus' retreat from the pressures of healing, exorcisms and teaching may have been misunderstood by the disciples. Jesus had called quite a number of men to learn from Him and now He was going to form His definitive team. In preparation, Jesus had been alone on a mountainside in prayer all night (Luke 6:12). The Father and Son agreed the composition of the team. They were still disciples, but these twelve men were also appointed as apostles (Luke 6:13). Those 'founding apostles' had all been with Jesus and would all meet the resurrected Lord (Acts 1:21-22).
Some Christians use the words 'disciple' and 'apostle' interchangeably, but they are different. Disciple means 'pupil' and apostle means 'sent one'. 'Sent' - as an ambassador of a country, or representative of the company. They were still to be with Jesus and to learn from Him, but they were also being trained to be sent out away from the stability and comfort of the group, into hostile territory in Jesus' Name. The hostility would come from people who refused to submit to Jesus and those whose personalities has been taken over by demons. So, the apostles were being trained to preach the good news of the kingdom, and also to confront evil spirits – expelling them from the people they had invaded and left in fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
The trainee apostles were not yet ready to be sent out; first they would be equipped to go on 'training missions' (Luke 9:1). Their training would come through being with Jesus, explaining the truth to crowds and applying the truth to individuals. The two key areas of ministry were preaching, announcing Jesus and inviting people to believe in Him, and exorcism, a sign of Jesus' authority over Satan. The key to the apostles' training is the authority of Jesus. If He had not commanded them to go in His Name - they could have no power against evil demons. They never lost their responsibility to be disciples (being with Him, to learn from Him) but, in addition, they now could also learn to act on His behalf.
Some Christians think that the call of Jesus begins and ends with a prayer of commitment and infusion by the Holy Spirit. But that is only the start: after that - we become disciples. We are at the beginning of a training course with our tutor, Jesus – through the writings of the apostles and the interpretation of the Holy Spirit. Although the 'founding apostles' had a unique role to define the Gospel and complete the canon of Scripture, believers in every age are also being trained to be His messengers and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Although this can sound scary, the key to confidence is the authority of Jesus ... it was He who called us to come to Him, and He will teach us all we need to know (through the Bible). That way, we can go out into an unbelieving world and announce that He is Lord, and how sinners can be saved.
© Dr Paul Adams