The Twelve Apostles of Jesus

This week’s scripture reading – Matthew 10:2-3

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.

Naming the Twelve

Well this verse certainly answers the question of what are the names of the twelve apostles and how many apostles did Jesus have, at least initially. Recall from the last Bible study the calling of the twelve apostles of Jesus and how he gave them power to cast out unclean spirits and to heal all sick and diseased people. This week’s scripture now clarifies just who the twelve apostles of Jesus were according to Matthew who was one of them. This account is also recorded by Mark and Luke with the latter noting it both in his gospel account and in the Acts of the Apostles (Mk. 3:16, Lk. 6:14, Acts 1:13). It is interesting to note that neither Mark or Luke were included in the list of the twelve apostles and yet they had such a profound impact on Christianity by writing detailed accounts of the gospel from being eyewitness to so many events.

Interesting Insight

What about the twelve apostles and their characteristics? Let’s look at some further interesting observations from the twelve apostles of Jesus and how they are appointed. Peter is always listed first from all four accounts likely indicating his influence upon the group and in spreading the gospel message. This was attested to by Luke in the book of Acts on many occasions. There are three sets of brothers included in the twelve apostles – Peter and Andrew, James and John and James and Lebbaeus with the two James being different individuals. The profession of some apostles are noted such as Peter, Andrew, James and John being fishermen. Matthew was the self proclaimed publican or tax gatherer and given this shady profession it is interesting that he continued to identify himself in this manner.

Simon was associated with some form of revolutionary party with intent to overthrow Roman rule but other than these records little is known from scripture of the other apostles. Philip had a notable role early on with Jesus and was from the same city of Bethsaida where Andrew and Peter were from. Philip found Nathaniel and declared to him that he had found the Messiah as recorded in the Mosaic law and prophets (Jn. 1:45). But what of Bartholomew or Thomas or James (son of Alphaeus) or Lebbaeus or Simon the Cannanite. Scripture is remarkably quiet about all of these apostles and while there may be references from secular sources of literature time does not permit to authenticate this depth of study.

We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

John 1:45b

Notable Apostolic Authors

It would be remiss of this Bible study on the twelve apostles of Jesus to not highlight the truly astonishing written work from some of these apostles. Matthew wrote the gospel from his perspective which tended to portray Jesus as the Jew’s long awaited Messiah. He used extensive references to Old Testament scripture to accurately and eloquently support his premise. Peter wrote two letters (1 and 2 Peter) and is recorded over fifty times in the Acts of the Apostles with many incredible oratory messages. James, son of Zebedee wrote the book of James which helped to articulate how true faith transforms people into producing good works.

John wrote his gospel account portraying the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. John also wrote three smaller letters (1, 2, 3 John) and wrote the book of Revelation to culminate the New Testament with future prophecy. This leaves eight apostles where no writings from them personally are recorded in scripture. Anything outside of that should be considered suspect and spurious since it was deemed unfit for holy scripture over time with the church. It is of interest that three of these authors, Peter, James and John were part of the inner circle of Jesus, notably witnessing many events unseen by the other apostles such as the transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. 17:1-2).

Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve.

John 6:70a

Judas Iscariot – the Betrayer

Then finally, there is Judas Iscariot. What a sorry state to be chosen as one of the twelve apostles of Jesus but for such a despondent and despicable role to betray him for a sum of money; which he later threw at the feet of the religious rulers upon realizing his mistake. Consider how greed took over him as he asked the religious rulers in Matt. 26:14, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? In somewhat of an irony, Judas Iscariot was the apparent apostle in charge of the money since he held the purse bag (John 13:29).

Scripture identifies Judas Iscariot with the ill-fated words noted in Mark 3:19, …which also betrayed him and in Luke 6:16, …which also was the traitor. John also records the betrayal in several passages (John 6:71, 12:4, 13:2, 26). But this man to whom the devil put betrayal into his heart (John 13:2) is never noted anywhere in scripture outside of the four gospel accounts. This is of course with the exception of the first chapter of Acts when the apostles, led by Peter, chose to replace him with Matthias by casting lots (Acts 1:26). Perhaps of final interest on Jesus appoints his apostles is that Judas Iscariot was the only apostle not from Galilee.

Apostle’s Mission & Credentials

As the twelve apostles of Jesus, they were the ones sent forth to proclaim a message on behalf of someone and in this case it was Jesus, their Lord. Consider them as missionaries from the ancient world but miraculously empowered by Jesus to herald a new covenant with his people. As apostles, they were initially only sent into the Jewish world but this was later expanded following Christ’s resurrection into the world of the Gentiles who were considered non-Jewish people (Acts 9:15, 10:45, 11:18).

But what were the credentials for being one of the twelve apostles of Jesus? First they had to have been with Jesus from the early days going right back to John the Baptist as noted by Peter’s words. Secondly, they were all eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ as recorded again by Peter’s words in Acts 1:22, 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. While these words were written looking back, it was clear Jesus knew whom he had chosen from John 6:70a, Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve. Further to this, the selected twelve apostles were endowed with gifts of a miraculous nature allowing them to cast out evil spirits, heal sick and diseased people and to even bring back people from the dead as noted early on in Acts 9:40-42.

Are you an Apostle?

So where does all of this leave us today after observing Jesus appoints his apostles? Technically, none of us would qualify as officially designated apostles since we were not witness to any of these events. Nor have we been imbued with miraculous powers directly from Jesus. This apostleship involved considerable cost after all as Peter once exclaimed in Matt. 19:27a, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee. More tragically for the early apostles, the fate of some of them was recorded in scripture such as in Acts 12:2, And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. Being a select apostle of Jesus came with both cost and rewards for them but this was more of a heavenly reward and should not be confused or interpreted with earthly rewards, especially as it pertained to amassing wealth and prosperity.

Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:5

New Life in Christ

To close off this Bible study on the twelve apostles of Jesus, perhaps it is fitting to reference the writings of Peter from one of his letters. It is here that Peter proclaims the magnificent and majestic position of believers in Christ from 1 Peter 1:3-5, Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Notice how Peter describes new life in Christ through his abundant mercy, as an incorruptible inheritance, undefiled, one that never fades away and most importantly, that it is reserved in heaven for you! If you are seeking faith and would like to experience new life in Christ why not come to him now in prayer. Accept his atoning work on the cross through his shed blood for the remission of your sins for it is in Christ where our calling and foundation is sure and is certain to produce in us a desire to follow him in faith much like the early apostles.

Bible Study Questions

  1. Why do you think Jesus chose common people such as fishermen to fulfill such an important role as the early apostles?
  2. In this Bible study on Jesus appoints his apostles, what does it mean to be an apostle for Jesus?
  3. What were some of the qualifications for being an apostle for Jesus?
  4. Who was the apostle noted first in the list of them and why?
  5. What was the name of the apostle that betrayed Jesus and who was it that instilled in his heart this betrayal?
  6. Bonus points – memorize 1 Peter 1:3-5 for a faith building experience?
  7. What is something you could do in your faith to be more apostle-like in your daily walk with God?

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