"And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles" (Luke 6:13). A disciple, by definition, is a follower or student of another. From among Jesus' disciples, He selected twelve men to become apostles. An apostle is one who has been chosen and sent out to accomplish a specific work. Not all of the disciples of Christ became apostles, but all of His apostles were disciples.
Why did Jesus select twelve apostles instead of seven, twenty, or some other number? It is reasonable to suggest that this number was chosen since there were twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Luke 22:30; Rev. 21:12-14). According to Mark 3:14,15, the purpose for appointing apostles was for training and miraculous ability in three areas: (1) preaching, (2) healing the sick, and (3) casting out demons.
Let us now offer some biographical sketches of each of the apostles, in the order in which they are listed in Matthew 10:2-4 - "Now the names of the twelve apostles are these..."
1. "SIMON, WHO IS CALLED PETER"
The Lord gave Simon the name Peter (or Cephas, from the Greek word petros meaning "a pebble or stone"). Andrew, Simon's brother, initially brought him to Jesus (cf. John 1:40-42). Although Peter's name is at the top of every inspired listing of the apostles, such does not imply that he was preeminent above the rest (contrary to Catholic theology which affirms him to be the first "pope"). There is no passage of Scripture that teaches that one apostle was exalted above the others in authority (cf. II Cor. 11:5). Acts 2:42 declares that the early Christians "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine," not in Peter's doctrine. This is not to say that Peter wasn't a strong leader, even among the apostles. He was undeniably among the inner circle of Jesus' friends (cf. Matt. 17:1ff; 26:36ff).
Peter was well known for his impulsiveness in speech and actions. Sometimes this characteristic was a strength to him, but at other times it was a liability. For example, he was the first mortal to declare Jesus' identity as the Son of God (Matt. 16:16). He was courageous enough to step out of the boat and walk on water with the Lord--at least briefly (Matt. 14:28,29). He affirmed that he would die before denying Jesus--and then denied Him three times only hours later (Matt. 26:35). In the meantime, he bravely cut off an ear of the high priest's servant (John 18:10). He rebuked Jesus for predicting the suffering He would endure at Jerusalem (Matt. 16:21-23). Peter spoke up at the transfiguration (Matt. 17:4) and also as Jesus prepared to wash his feet in the upper room (John 13:6ff). He ran to the tomb of our Lord after learning that Jesus' body was missing (John 20:2ff). After the apostles recognized the risen Lord in John 21:7,8, Peter dove in the water and quickly swam to shore (while the others came in the boat). It is easy to see that Peter was a man of great passion and faith--he loved Jesus dearly. He was far from perfect, but his love for the Lord was unquestioned. Peter wrote two New Testament epistles that bear his name.
2. "AND ANDREW HIS BROTHER"
Andrew is a Greek name. It means "manly." He, like his brother Peter, was a fisherman. The apostle John noted that the brothers came from Bethsaida (1:44). However, at the time of Jesus' ministry, they lived in Capernaum (Matt. 8:5,14). Andrew had been a disciple of John the baptizer. It was John the baptizer who singled out Jesus to Andrew and his companion--perhaps John the son of Zebedee--with these wonderful words - "Behold, the Lamb of God" (John 1:36)! As was mentioned above, it was Andrew who, after finding and believing in Christ, set the proper example for all men by bringing his brother to the Lord.
We will conclude these biographical sketches tomorrow.