Summary: This is a message that will help us understand that the Apostles were men just like us. They had character that was uniquely given to them by God for His mission and purpose.
The Search for the Twelve
November 2, 2000
The impetus for this message arose out of Luke’s allusions to the twelve being groomed to take over the leadership of Israel. Luke also makes reference to the twelve judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 19:11-27; 22:30). This is written of by John in Revelations. However Luke (Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-5:11), says it was fulfilled when they took over leadership of the Jerusalem community (Johnson 232).
The early church was not big on history as we know history. The apostles’ popularity came and went over periods of time in Christian history. That is in part why we have only fragments and myths about the twelve. The twelve were too busy making history to write it down. The only history book of the church is seen more of an apologetic-polemic writing than pure history. It was doing two things. First, it was showing the emergence of a Gentile Christian movement that was breaking away from the Jewish community it was born in. Second, it was defending and validating one of the latter apostles’ ministries, (Paul).
There were certainly periods of silence in the early church. This was in part because the early Christians did not see themselves as building a movement that would last through the ages. They were expectant of Christ’s imminent return and as such saw no need to record any historical document.
This being the case little is known about them prior to the dispersion of the church at Jerusalem in A.D. 69. This time shows however that many had already left to begin their missionary expeditions and many had been martyred.
Little information is known of the twelve in secular history as well. Christianity was largely ignored by the empire. Only the writings of Pliny the Younger, hold any significance for historians and Christianity. It leaves it to Hegesippus and Eusebius to give us more details on the twelve. They do not tell us about the actual story of the individual apostles, but it does tell us what possibly was likely and unlikely or impossible. The empire of this time was relatively safe with its system of highways that were traveled frequently and to various destinations.
The Roman empire was considered a family of nations under one common language under one common government. The time of the apostles was a wide area of civilization, awaiting them, civilized, united and tied together through transportation and tongue. The era of the twelve was one in which they took seriously the great commission of Jesus. Their story is the story of evangelism of the early church. They witnessed to both the elite and nominal of society. They supported themselves through their own labors. And shared the good news by any and all means possible.
They had a great missionary strategy. They would go to the large cities located on the trade routes first. Then send out their disciples and converts to the rural areas. They understood the importance of delegation and the secret of strategic locations. Thus they were able to replicate themselves at a much quicker pace than missionary organizations of today.