Bulletin Articles

Bulletin Articles

“Ambassadors for Christ”

Categories: Iron sharpens iron

…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

(2 Corinthians 5.19-21)

Jesus chose Apostles to be his ambassadors, carrying on his work of spreading the gospel of redemption and salvation, after he ascended to his Father’s right hand.  They deserve respect and admiration.  God visually depicted his kingdom, surrounded by a wall, which “had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Re 21.14).  But who were they, and what did they do?


The first named disciple (Jn 1.40), Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist, but when John pointed out the Messiah, he immediately began to follow him, instead.  His first act as a disciple was to share the good news with his brother, Peter.  He is mentioned a few more times in the Gospels and once in Acts, remaining steadfast and outgoing, even bringing Gentiles to Jesus before the Apostles generally understood that was Jesus’ plan all along (Jn 12.20-22).


In the Gospel that bears his name, it’s a reasonable assumption that Andrew’s unnamed fellow disciple of John the Baptist (Jn 1.35, 40) was John the Apostle.  Paul described him as a “pillar” in the early church at Jerusalem (Ga 2.9), and he later was exiled to the island of Patmos for his preaching (Re 1.9).  He wrote the aforementioned Gospel, as well as three Epistles and Revelation.


Peter was the most brash and outspoken of the twelve.  Always willing to speak up—sometimes without thinking (Mk 9.6)—Peter naturally became a spokesman for the Apostles in the early church, and frequently got into trouble with the authorities.  He left Jerusalem for Rome (symbolically called “Babylon” in 1Pe 5.13), where he was likely Mark’s main source in writing his Gospel account.  He wrote two Epistles of his own, before being killed as a martyr, in accordance with Jesus’ prediction (Jn 21.18-19).


Another of Jesus’ earliest followers, Philip gets very little attention.  Only in John’s Gospel do we see his contributions to the story, and he drops off the radar in Acts, where another Philip, “Philip the Evangelist” (Ac 21.8) is featured in three episodes.


Little is known about Bartholomew.  He was apparently also called Nathanael (Jn 1.45), and was brought to Jesus by Philip.


The brother of John, James was regularly included in Jesus’ inner circle in the Gospels (e.g. Mk 5.37, 9.2, 13.3, 14.33).  He was the first Apostle to die as a martyr (Ac 12.2).


Thomas features most prominently in an episode in which he refused to believe the report that Jesus had risen, until he saw it for himself.  Of course, the rest of the Apostles had already seen the resurrected Christ, so the “doubting Thomas” trope is rather unfair.


Also called Levi (Mk 2.14, Lk 5.29), he was a well-to-do tax collector, and a meticulous writer.  He is responsible for the Gospel that bears his name, which is one of the greatest gifts the world has ever received.

James (the son of Alphaeus)

James was one of several extremely popular names in 1st-century Jewish society, and arguments continue to this day over identifying details of this James.  All we know for sure is that he was one of the Apostles. 


Also called “Judas the son of James” (Lk 6.16, Ac 1.13), he is only mentioned in lists of the Apostles, and at the Last Supper, at which he was the last of three to ask Jesus a clarifying question (Jn 14.22).


Almost nothing is known of Simon, except that he “was called the Zealot” (Lk 6.15).  Since the Zealots were the sort of people we today would call terrorists, this label gives a striking sense of how broad a net Jesus casts!


Judas was the treasurer, and regularly used the trust placed in him to steal for his own personal gain (Jn 12.6).  He also betrayed Jesus to murderers for money, and then killed himself rather than face his guilt.


Matthias followed Jesus throughout his ministry, but did not bear mentioning, until a replacement was needed.  Since he’d seen the risen Lord and the lot fell to him, he took Judas’ recently vacated “office” (Ac 1.20).


Finally, Paul began as a persecutor of the church, believing Jesus to be a false prophet, justly killed.  When Jesus confronted him on one of his missions to purge Israel of this new heresy, he reexamined his conclusions in the light of this resurrection, and turned around completely.  Thus began three decades of the most impressive and important work ever accomplished by mortal man, in service of the same Jesus whom he’d formerly persecuted.

These were only men, and yet—with the exception of Judas—they achieved amazing things by the power of God.  Honor and appreciate them.  Trust their teachings.  Imitate their selfless service.

Jeremy Nettles