“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7). God makes himself very clear. The reason He chooses to use ordinary people to accomplish the supernatural work of spreading the saving gospel of Jesus Christ is so that His power and glory are made more manifest and so that our confidence is not in ourselves, but in Him alone.
More often than not, God chooses to use plain, ordinary, weak men and women to do His work. This is one of the many ways we see that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Jesus’ calling and choosing of the Twelve is a vivid example.
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-16)
After spending 8-10 hours in prayer, Jesus chose the Twelve. He called them to Himself, for Himself, for His purposes. The Gospel of Mark “says that this purpose was threefold: that they might be with Him (for training), that He might send them forth, and that they might have authority to cast out demons” (Herschel Hobbs). These twelve He then called “apostles,” sent ones, ambassadors, His official representatives.
But who were these men? Whom did Jesus select to be responsible to take the only saving message to the ends of the earth? Though they would go down in history as being very significant, they were insignificant when they were selected. Christ would build His church upon them (Ephesians 2:20) and the wall of the heavenly city would forever pay tribute to them (Rev 21:14).
So, whom did Jesus build His entire church upon? Were they men with powerful speaking skills? Were they highly-educated men? No. They were just common, ordinary men; men with many flaws.
- Simon, whom He also named Peter was a fisherman. He was a man of extremes with strong emotions, who “swayed from one position to its opposite” (Hendricksen). At times he trusted Jesus, while other times he doubted. He boldly confessed Jesus as the Christ, but when filled with great fear, denied Him three times. Nevertheless, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit transformed this man into a powerful leader and preacher.
- Andrew his brother followed Jesus first. Then he brought his brother Peter to Jesus. Andrew was also a fisherman.
- James and John were also fishermen. These two were men of fiery personality and nature. Therefore, Jesus called them “Sons of Thunder.” You could probably hear them before they entered a room.
- Philip lived in the same town as Peter and Andrew. He introduced Nathaniel to Jesus. When faced with 5,000 hungry men, Philip lacked trust in the Lord and informed Jesus that there was no way they could find enough money to buy enough bread.
- Bartholomew was also named Nathaniel. He was a bold man who spoke his mind. When he first heard of Jesus, Bartholomew said to Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
- Matthew was a tax collector, the type of person who was hated by most. When Jesus called him, he immediately left his lucrative business to follow Him.
- Thomas will be forever known as “Doubting Thomas” because he did not immediately believe in Jesus’ resurrection. He was a man of great devotion, but also deep despondency. He experienced a roller-coaster of emotions.
- James, the son of Alphaeus, was also known as “James the Less,” which some interpret as meaning “James small in stature.”
- Simon who was called the Zealot was a former member of a terrorist group that spread rebellion against the Roman government.
- Judas, the son of James, was also called Thaddeus. This Judas wanted Jesus to be more public, more in the limelight.
- Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. This is the infamous Judas, the false disciple who betrayed Jesus. He was a wicked, selfish, and self-serving man. Judas was a lover of money who mocked the gracious gift of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her perfume. Having surrendered his heart and will to the devil, Judas fulfilled the prophecies of the betrayer who would sell the Messiah for 30 pieces of silver.
Clearly, we can see that there really was nothing special about these guys. There were no “big guns” in the group. No high-society influencers. No guys showing off “power ties” at their business meetings. They were just ordinary, run-of-the-mill kind of people. More than that, they had more flaws than you could shake a stick at. But they had something else—or should I say Someone—who made all the difference.
Acts 4:13 informs us that the opponents of the gospel “observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” Can that be said of me? Can that be said of you?
Ordinary, but Precious to the Savior
These men were dear and precious to our Savior. One evidence of this is the manner in which Jesus prayed for them in the night before He was betrayed by Judas (John 17:6-18). These beautiful words give us a glimpse of the tender love and compassion that Jesus had toward these very ordinary men. But He did not stop there. He went on to pray for you and for me. “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20).
This brief look at the Twelve should encourage us greatly. God is not looking for superstars. He is looking for common, ordinary men and women who will surrender all for Him and His kingdom. And whenever God calls us to be involved in His work, He also equips us for it. He gives us just the right spiritual gifts. And, of course, He has already given us the Holy Spirit, who is the true power behind anything that you and I accomplish for the Lord’s glory.