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The Christadelphian | October 2013

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Being together
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning Being born again | Jamie Whittaker
  • The Lord & the nations 04 – The nations of the earth | Andrew E. Walker
  • The apostles of our Lord | Allan Harvey
  • Care Homes: How we support the dying | David Morgan
  • For better, for worse … 10 – Priscilla & Aquila | Mark Vincent
  • Israel’s Geography 10 – Gates of Hell | Nathan Kitchen
  • Faith Alive! Joseph | Joe Mullen
  • The Christadelphian Conference 50 years on | The Conference Committee
  • Introducing our ecclesias Halifax, UK & Halifax, Canada
  • 100 years ago
  • Readers’ Q&A
  • Signs of the times Crisis in Syria
  • Israel and their Land New homes
  • The Christadelphian Magazine Back issues 2001-2010 | Tecwyn Morgan
  • Epilogue “My meditation all the day” | David Caudery
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

The apostles of our Lord

OUR position in the purpose of our Father is an elevated one. Peter’s description of it reveals how well blessed we are to be called into the purpose:

“Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God …” (1 Peter 2:9,10)

All that was necessary to be done to clear the way for our redemption was done by our Lord Jesus, who –

“… suffered for us, leaving us an example, that [we] should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth … when he suffered, he threatened not … who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.” (verses 21-24)

So, this wonderful hope we have carries with it the responsibility to “follow his steps”: to pattern our daily life on his life as we endeavour to live the Truth.

The twelve apostles

As Jesus proceeded with his ministry the twelve disciples followed his steps day by day. Whatever occupation was centre to his work on each and every day, be it teaching, healing, feeding or whatever, those twelve would be watching every action, listening to every word: thereby being moved and motivated to work in his service. Even so, they all reacted differently to what they saw and heard.

We need to remember they heard and saw the absolute perfection of his life:

  • they saw there was no sin – not one of his actions was out of place;
  • they heard no guile from his mouth – every phrase, every word was clear and perfect;
  • they saw there was no reviling, no unscriptural answer back to his many enemies;
  • they saw his overwhelming commitment to his Father’s work and will;
  • they saw those cruel stripes as they unfolded – though not perhaps understanding.

Those twelve witnessed all this and it made a different impact on each. So let us look at the twelve and see them fitting together as an ecclesia; and at the same time ask ourselves, What kind of a disciple am I? What impact does the recorded life of the Lord Jesus Christ have on me?

Andrew

Andrew seems to have been one of the first to be called by Jesus after he had heard John the Baptist refer to Jesus as “the Lamb of God”. His discipleship as we know it is summarised in John 1:40,41: “He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah.” He had a genuine concern for others, as here he made sure his brother Simon knew about the presence of Jesus. He is always ‘doing’ things for others – a man of action in some cases, behind the scenes. Notice verse 42: “He (Andrew) brought him (Peter) to Jesus.”

He was also very good at anticipating the needs of others. Jesus, surrounded by hungry crowds, asked Philip where they could buy bread to feed them. Philip was at a loss. Andrew had already anticipated the need, and says to Jesus: “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes.” He recognised this was not sufficient, but he had done what he could. In the event it was more than enough as John 6:5-9 shows.

He proved to be a helper to a brother in need in John 12:20-22. Some Greeks approached Philip, asking him to introduce them to Jesus. Philip seems to have been unsure of his position – would Jesus see these people? However he knew there was one in that group of disciples to whom he could turn: so he told Andrew and together they went to Jesus. We note that Andrew did not push him off: they worked together, strengthening one another and Philip would know what to do next time.

Surely that is the way we should be working together in our ecclesias.

Philip

This disciple was a little more retiring: he without doubt found work to do, but more so in the background, where a lot of work has to be carried out. It would seem his knowledge of Jesus was not complete in John 1:43-45, when, in telling Nathanael, “We have found him of whom Moses … did write” – he then adds the identity, “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”: when of course Jesus was not the son of Joseph, but the Son of God.

He was perhaps a little slow of comprehension, for later in the ministry it was Philip who made the request of Jesus, “Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us”; to which Jesus replied, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father …” (John 14:8,9). For about three years Jesus had been manifesting the character of his Father, yet Philip had not seen it as such. Nevertheless, he was happy to work for the Master.

Peter

Peter was what we might refer to as a front line disciple, one who could be counted upon: resolute, always at Christ’s right hand; immovable and vocal in his devotion. For example, when some were saying that Jesus was John Baptist, he asked his disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” Without hesitation Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15,16). On another occasion when some were leaving Jesus he asked the twelve, “Will ye also go away?” Again it was Peter who answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:67,68).

Yet he was a satan for rejecting the teaching of Jesus regarding his death in Matthew 16:22-23.

Without taking offence he carried on with his discipleship, even to the last day when he assured Jesus, “I will not deny thee”, but it was not long before a cock crew.

James & John

These were equally strong in their faith and devoted to the Lord they loved. No duty was too great for them: they were prepared to bring down fire on Samaritans who did not receive Jesus. Then they went too far.

In Mark 10:35-37 they seek self-promotion by asking to sit in the kingdom, one on the left and the other on the right of Jesus; but note the way they address him: “We would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.” That in itself was bad enough – but can we imagine the effect in the ecclesia? We are told in verse 41 that the ten were much displeased with them. So their self-seeking, with no doubt the best intentions, brought upset in the ecclesia. Do we ever cause unnecessary upset?

Though the one was put to death and the other was banished, they will be there on thrones judging the twelve tribes.

Matthew

Called by Jesus to “Follow me”, Matthew left all: and think what that meant – his position, the wealth that went with it and the prestige. Yet it is so easy to read Luke 5:28, “He left all, rose up, and followed him”. All was given up for Jesus’ sake. Even that was not all he did; he made a great feast with Jesus in attendance, so that others, it would appear, could hear the Lord (verse 29).

Simon the Zealot

We read nothing of Simon but we can infer that the Zealots as a group hated tax gatherers for they were assisting Rome; while tax gatherers hated Zealots, whom they saw as troublemakers. So we could imagine a few barbed comments between Simon and Matthew to begin with – from those two opposites. But they learned to live together in the ecclesia and will do so for eternity.

Thomas

We know all about Thomas; he doubted the resurrection:

“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

Why is it we quite often remember the bad points of others? There is a far better way to remember Thomas. In John 11:8-16 Jesus expresses his intention to “go into Judæa”, which causes consternation among his disciples: “The Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” Jesus repeats his intention. We note that Peter is silent, and there is not a word from James, John or any of the others – except Thomas, who says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him”. That is the way to remember Thomas: as one ready to die with Jesus. What of ourselves – doubting or dying?

Judas Iscariot

“Mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted (LXX, on whom I set my hope)”; “A man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.” Such were the feelings of Jesus regarding his “own familiar friend”. However he did not follow his Master’s footsteps; there will be no throne for him.

Three apostles remain of whom little or nothing is recorded.

Three others

Nothing more is to be gleaned of Bartholomew’s character – unless, as is generally thought, he is Nathanael who was addressed by Jesus as “an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). What a wonderful character he must have had, whoever he was, to be so addressed by our Lord.

James the son of Alphaeus, and Judas brother of James, are the other two.

“One accord”

After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciples were not at a loss what to do. Acts 1:13 tells us that they met together and ‘all sorts’ were there: just as ‘all sorts’ meet week by week to this day:

  • some like Andrew – a thoughtful worker behind scenes;
  • some like Philip – more retiring and, perhaps, a little unsure how to go about the way;
  • some like Thomas ready to die if need be;
  • some like James and John – perhaps regretting the unrest they caused;
  • some like Matthew – wishing to spread good news.

All sorts were there, with the exception of Judas Iscariot who had thrown it all away.

These all had one thing in common. Acts 1:14 tells us: “they met with one accord” (that is, with one mind, one intent), as we do to this very day. This is emphasised at the beginning of the next chapter: “They were all with one accord in one place.” Whatever ‘sort’ they were, here were people united together in their faith. May we ever be the same.

Allan Harvey

 

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