Apostolic Call and Commission


And he goeth up into a mountain,
and calleth unto him whom he would:
and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve,
that they should be with him,
and that he might send them forth to preach,
And to have power to heal sicknesses,
and to cast out devils: And Simon he surnamed Peter;

Mark 3:13-16

It has been beautifully remarked that:

"God's narratives in the New Testament are like many-sided polished stones, so cut as to reflect their luster in different directions."

There is scarcely a narrative in the New Testament that does not portray, to discerning and thoughtful minds, the glorious character of the Lord Jesus, in one or other of His different characters. He is the METROPOLIS of the Scriptures, and there is no book, no chapter, no verse, through which we may not find a way to Him.

 The Saviour's actings on earth are frequently symbolical. They present us with a beautiful picture of what He would be to His people after He had left the world. Doubtless the Holy spirit designed that every action of our Lord on earth should be a reflex picture of what He would be to His people throughout all time. Some of these actings are so true in this respect as to arrest our attention. they are so like God's dealings with His people at the present hour, that it would almost appear as if they were designed to represent these alone; while at the same time they are so natural, so simple, that they appear to be only the history of the actor and the hour in which He live.

The passage we have selected for consideration confirms these remarks. It is a picture of what the Lord has been doing ever since He was on our earth. It is so correctly drawn as to arrest our attention, and make us wonder and adore. May God teach us by His Spirit, and enable us to understand its spiritual meaning. Above all, may we not be readers of His truth, but doers also.

We are all familiar with the beautiful and touching narrative of the storm on the lake, recorded in the sixth chapter of St. Mark's gospel. While the little boat, with its precious charge, was tossed about on the dark water, the Lord was on the mountain-top praying for them. We are accustomed to regard that boatful of disciples, driven to and fro on the stormy deep, as an emblem of the Church in this world, tossed from wave to wave by the tempests of persecution sorrow, and sin; and the Lord on the mountain-top as a picture of the Lord's intercession, on heaven's mountain-height, for His storm-tossed; trembling people.

The passage under consideration presents a similar picture. "He goeth up into a mountain." the Lord has gone up to heaven's-height. And what has He been doing there for the last eighteen hundred years? A great and glorious work. Even that which he is represented as doing on this mountain-height of Capernaum—"calling unto Him whom He would." He has been sending message after message to a dying world and a sorrowing Church, calling them unto Him. The Spirit of God has borne these messages from one to another in ten thousand different ways. From heaven's mountain-top the voice of the Lord has been uttered time after time, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters;", "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth;" "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Every sinner brought nigh to Jesus bears witness to that call. Every wanderer restored to the fold attests the mighty power of that voice. Every blessing enjoyed by the believer on earth owes its origin to the Lord's grace, and bears witness to his all-prevailing intercession on the mountain-height in glory. But for His presence there, the Church would long ago have been overwhelmed by the water-floods. But for that intercession, the world—little as it thinks of it—would be in intolerable torment or crushed to an atom. What upholds the one and spares the other? Only the presence of Jesus at the right hand of the Father. Let us not think of the death, the resurrection and the ascension of Christ, so as to push out of view the Saviour's intercession. What would they all be with out it? What would have been the value of the blood to the Israelite of old, had it not been presented by the high-priest upon the altar within the most holy place? the conscience of the worshiper would have remained unpurged and the blood of the lamb been valueless. Oh how inestimably precious to us, then the intercession of the Lord Jesus!

But mark the first important truth brought before us, "He calleth unto Him." This solemn and instructive. The Lord Jesus need not have called the disciples first to Him. he might have sent them forth on their mission of salvation without this. He might just simply have said, 'go forth, and make known the gospel, and draw sinners unto me.' but He did not. There was a more important work to be done first—a preparatory work. They must first of all be called "unto Him." They must have close personal dealing with Him. They must come into His presence, look Him in the face, and hear His voice speaking to their iner most souls with living power. They must go forth from that presence to their solemn work. Without this preparatory work they would have run in vain, they would have labored in vain. Without this work He would not send them. Without this they would have gone forth to meet with failure and defeat. Without this their mission would have been fruitless, immortal souls would have been lost, Christ's name would have been sullied with dishonor, and a dying world would have perished in its sins. "He calleth unto Him." Here lay the secret of their strength, the explanation of their victory. Here is the solution of the question, 'How is it that Christianity has made itself such a name in the world?' Here is the answer to the question, 'will it ultimately triumph?' Yes! It will triumph. It began in the presence of Jesus. It went forth from the presence of Jesus. And whatever work begins and goes forth from His presence, must have 'victory' inscribed on its banner. It will triumph, for the strength of the Omnipotent accompanies it.

"He calleth unto Him." Not first to the Church, but to Himself. Not first to the waters of baptism, but to Jesus. Not first to ordinances or ceremonies, denominations or opinions, but to a crucified and living Saviour. Oh that ambassadors of religion would bear this in mind in their ministrations, in the pulpit and out of it! Jesus first—Jesus only. All the others are good only when He is first. All else subservient to His glory. All else deriving their luster from His dear name alone.

"He calleth unto Him." What Jesus did Himself, surely we may do. Surely Christ is our example. Did He call men first to Him? Then minister of Christ, do you follow His blessed example. Begin it with your next Sunday's sermon, and carry it on through life. First to Jesus. Then will everything else be beautiful, seen in His precious, holy light.

"He calleth unto Him." Why first to Him ? Who can do for us what He can? Who can give us strength for our work as He can? What can leave such an influence upon ourselves and upon our message as the presence of Jesus? What can give such living power to the heart, the life, and the lips, as communion with Him? To look God in the face, face and go forth to our work from that presence; oh, is not one hour of it of more value than hours of study and preparation, valuable though they may be?

"He calleth unto Him." Yes, the Saviour knew all this. He knew the soul wanted this. He knows it wants it still. Therefore he called them "unto Him," because He could give them what nothing else could give—power for their work, blessing on their labors, victory in their conflicts, triumph in defeat. Oh may our first call ever be "to Him;" our life, our labour, our beginning, our ending, ever be "to Him."

"He calleth unto Him whom He would." Mark it well, reader, "whom He would." It is altogether a work of sovereign grace. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." It is "not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who giveth the victory." If you have come to Jesus, it is because He and not you have willed it. If your will is towards Him, it is solely because he has drawn it. "No man can come to me, except the father which hath sent me draw him." Your song must always be of grace. Your crown must ever be laid at His feet. You have nothing to boast of, nothing to glory in, nothing to distinguish you from the vilest around you. It may seem to have been your own will, your own act, which first led you to Jesus, but there was behind a moving, directing, overruling power which you saw not, and but for which you would have been at this moment a slave of sin and death.

"Whom He would." Yes, dear Saviour, the work is all Thine, and Thine be all the praise and glory throughout eternity! Every crown shall be placed on Thy brow! Every song be vocal with Thy praise! Every chord of the golden harps on high shall be strung to the riches of Thy grace! Each shall utter, throughout the countless ages of eternity, "Worthy the Lamb." Christian reader, this is the "new song" of heaven. Oh learn the measure of it now! Learn it well. Within the city of the pearl-bright portal and jasper walls on high no other note is heard. Let no other be heard now from thy lips. Let it be always—Jesus only.

"And they came unto Him." Here is the evidence of our calling and election. We come because He calls. Let us not trouble ourselves with the doctrine of election. Let each one ask himself the question, 'Have I come to Jesus?' If you have, reader, then Christ has called you, and you have heard that call. You are one of the elect, for you have come to Jesus. To ask the question, 'Am I one of the elect?' first ask another, 'Have I come to Jesus?' But if there are two questions in the matter of salvation, such is the perversity of the human heart, that men are certain to ask the wrong one first. 'Am I one of the elect?' is not the first question, reader. 'Have I come?' ask that first. Your answer to this question will be the answer—the only answer—to the other. Oh, have you come to Jesus? Have you heard His call? Are you at His feet?

"And they came unto Him." All who hear His voice go "to Him;" "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me." take care, dear reader, you make no mistake here. Take care it is "to Him" you go. There are many voices all around you. One calls to 'baptism' Another calls to the 'Church.' Another calls to the 'sacrament.' God's call is to come first to Jesus. This is the voice of the Good Shepherd. Not that I would undervalue the others Oh no. They are all ordinances of God. But Jesus first—Jesus only. O, reader, in the midst of the many strange voices on every side of you, see that you hear God's voice calling you to Jesus.

"And He ordained twelve that they should be with Him." Mark the important word here—"with Him." "He called them unto Him." For what purpose? That they should be "with Him." Christianity is not an isolated fact, accomplished eighteen hundred years ago on Mount Calvary, and ending there. No. It is a germinating seed, a living principle, the first step only to a great end, and that end walking with God. It did not end with saving the soul; it only began there. How often do we hear it spoken of as if its only design were to make us happy and to take us to heaven. True, this is its design, but much more that this. We were redeemed that we should walk with God. We were chosen in Christ that we should be His traveling companions through this wilderness. We were bought with His blood that we should be "with Him." That we should never leave His side, that we should have Him nearer to us than any earthly friend, however near or dear. We were redeemed that we should be so near as to hear His whispers and speak to Him, heart to heart. This was the end for which he chose the twelve; this is the end for which God chose us, for which He chooses any man. Ah, many Christians seem to know Jesus very little! He is rather an abstraction than a living Person. He is known at best in some of the prominent displays of His grace, such as in His death, and resurrection and ascension, in His miracles of healing. These are but the outer court of Christianity. We cannot know Jesus thus. We know much of principles, of doctrines, of creeds, of the landmarks of divine truth; but what do we know of a living Person, what of the beating heart, what of a tender bosom, what of a constantly realized companion, what of abiding nearness to One whose eye of love is never off us, whose heart of love is ever open to us, and out of the fullness of whose grace we are hourly drawing and feeling satisfied? This, only this, is to know Jesus. Why do we remain in the outer court ? Why so little thirsting to be within the vail? Why are so many satisfied with having been "called unto Him," and care so little about being "with Him?" Ah! most of God's people now are walking at a distance . They have forgotten why the Saviour called them—that they should be "with Him." Dear Christian reader, this is the only tenure on which you hold the great blessings of redemption through Christ. You have no right to one of them, except on this condition—that you walk 'with God.' Oh, remember it and live not on at a distance from Him. Know your Saviour by living very near to Him, having close and constant dealing with Him. Know Him, not as an abstraction, the embodiment of everything holy and everything good; know Him as a living Person, a constant companion, and abiding friend, a very present help. Only thus can any one know Him. Christian, be it yours to know Him thus. Live very near. Deal very closely. Drink deeply from that well of living waters. Strike you tent at its very side. Then how unspeakably precious will He be to you! Oh what a Friend will you have found!

But how can we be always "with Him?" Are we to be always "looking unto Jesus?" Can we always "pray without ceasing?" Surely not. The passage does not mean this. The disciples were not always "with Him." Jesus was in one town and they were often in another. In this sense they could not be always "with Him," nor was this needful. Always "with Him," always "looking," always "praying," refers not to the fixed attention, the ordered words. It is the disposition of the soul, the bent of the heart, the native element of the believer. He is to be like the bird—not always flying, but ready to fly. He may be engaged earnestly in life's daily duties, he may have the weight of life's daily cares, and yet there may be such a disposition of soul towards the Saviour that he may always be said to be looking, praying, living "with Him." This is what the passage implies. This is what God demands. This is the disposition we should carry about us everywhere, from the moment we wake in the morning till our eyelids relapse into slumber. This is what it is to be "with Him" in the passage under consideration. This disposition of soul can only be had by being very much in the presence of God. It is not knowledge that can give it us, not even scriptural knowledge. It can only be had by being alone with Him. We contract the disposition, and habit, and manner of some people wonderfully. There are some cases where association begets assimilations rapidly that we seem to gaze upon another being altogether from that which we formerly knew. Dear Christian reader, it is the same with Jesus. Be much alone with Him. In no other way can you obtain the disposition of soul that will make you to be always "with Him," and thus become like Him. God grant that you may know Jesus thus!

Let us now mark the next point in this beautiful passage. "And that He might send them forth to preach." Mark, reader, the three beautiful links in this divine chain—unto Him, with Him, from Him. God will only use His own instrumentality. If we are to be 'sent forth' to do His work we must be called "unto Him," we must be living "with Him." Why is there so much speaking for God and so little result? Because we are not "with Him," and He cannot send us. Why is there so much machinery at work in God's service, so much revival work, so much instrumentality of every varied kind, with which no previous age can bear comparison, and yet so little blessing? Why so many complaints, of ministers and others, that so little fruit is borne? Ah! it is because we are not 'with Jesus,' and He cannot send us forth. True, God may use a worldly-minded minister, or an unconverted minister, just as He used Balaam, or even as He used Judas. But these are the rare exceptions, not the rule. They are the meteors in the dark sky, dazzling by their brilliance, and by that brilliance showing that absence of all substance. They are beacons, not examples. If, reader, you want to be used for God, you must live with God. Depend upon it He will not use you without. And if, on a calm retrospect of your labours, you find He has not used you, depend upon it this, and only this, is the secret, the real cause. Though you may try to persuade yourself it is to be attributed to other causes, to the nature of your parish or the character of your people, it is here . If you are living "with" Jesus, he will surely send you forth. And being "sent forth," it is to do His work, and that work will sooner or later be seen.

And what is another result of being "with Him?" We see it in the passage itself. "And to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out devils." In His presence we get just what we all need for our work—power. It is not carnal power, not the power of knowledge, of eloquence, of learning. No. it is the power of the Spirit of God. We are weak and helpless. Who so weak as we? Foes without, and fears within. Who so weak as we? An evil heart, a feeble body, an unpalatable message. Who so weak as we? A feather in the hurricane, a straw in the tempest. What do we need? Power. Who can give it us? Jesus. Where alone can it be had? In His presence. And what power that is! It is "mighty through God," even "to the pulling down of strongholds." Yes, it is the power to "heal sicknesses and cast out devils." But has the child of God this power? Is not the age of miracles past? No. The age of miracles is here still. The child of God has this power, even now. What said our Lord? "Greater works than these shall ye do, because I go to the Father." Yes even the weak and feeble Bible woman, or the unlearned Scripture-reader, may be seen going to the bedside of some poor failing tabernacle, and so speaking of Jesus and His salvation as to lift the sufferer above pain and every sickness, in the joy of sin forgiven and peace with God through His precious blood. And is not this a healing greater than the healing of any bodily disease? Yes, the trembling servant of Christ, goin forth to her work from His presence, can so speak the "word in season" as to cast out the devil ready to leap forth from some heart in the shape of foul language or brutal assault. Oh, is not this a casting out of devils as truly as anything ever yet seen by the world? Is not this a mightier power, a grander work than all the miracles earth has ever known? And this shall be the "power" of all those who go forth to their work from the presence of Jesus. O, ambassador of a living Saviour, think of this! Be "with Him," and then fear not how feeble your body is, how weak your efforts, how poor your utterance. "Power" will be yours in spite of them all. For God will send you forth. "Power" will be yours, while feebleness will be stamped upon all else that man calls power. Ours will, with all your weakness, shine forth in direct contrast, because the "treasure" is in the "earthen vessel." The excellency of that power will not be of you , it will be of God. O, minister of Christ, if you rise from your breakfast table to pay some sick visit in your parish without first going into God's presence, no wonder you are unblessed! If you go forth from your study to your sermon or your lecture without spending a large portion of your time in secret prayer, no wonder you are not blessed! If you go forth among your people, from your house, without first having looked God in the face, and take away with you the bright shining of His countenance, no wonder you are unblessed! There is no mark of heaven upon you. God cannot, God will not use you. Think of this, then , and change your entire plan. Try this for once, if you have never tried it before; and, depend upon it, God will bless you.

One point more in this passage, and I close. "And Simon He surnamed Peter." When we give a name to anything, we claim that thing as our own. The Lord gave a new name to Simon. He thus declared him to be His own property. It was a new name, the name given him by Jesus. It is thus the Lord calls His people by a new name, and declares them to be His by so doing. We are no longer our own, but His. We are to go through the world with the name He has put upon us, and henceforth to be known only by that Reader, have you Christ's new name? Are you really His? Does the world know you as a disciple of the Lord Jesus? Oh, take not that holy name in vain! If you are called a Christian, be one. Be not a lukewarm, half-hearted one, under such a holy name as that you bear. Far rather fling away your profession altogether. No misery like that of being half Christian, half worldling. Nothing so unsavory as salt that has lost its savor. God sends His own judgment on the secret heart of such a soul. There is no joy. no peace, no light of God's countenance. All is dreariness within. All is a "fearful looking" forward to. All is a dismal blank between that soul and God. It stands on the brink of a precipice. A terrible stroke must come from God's hand ere it can be brought back. A bleeding heart, a reddened eye, a mountain weight, making every fiber of the frame quiver, and the whole body, soul, and spirit, stoop under the crushing blow. Reader, to know the joy, the peace, the hopes, and blessings of Christianity, you must be a Christian out and out . You can never know them without. Oh bear the new name, and let the world see it on you! Live near to God—very near. See that this threefold link be the mark of your life. See that Jesus has called you, and that you have gone to Him. Make no mistake here; it is fatal. See that, having gone to him, you are "with Him." See that being "with Him," you ever go forth into the world from Him. Then God will bless you, and make you a blessing.