A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate
- the Human Condition
- God’s Revelation of His Plan
- God’s Fulfillment of His Plan (Current location of study)
- Our Response
“He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);” – Mark 3:16
As we continue our look at the 3:16 verses in the Bible, we shift now into examining how God’s plan is being fulfilled through the church. First, we find here in Mark a listing of the twelve disciples that Jesus chose “so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. (Mark 3:14-15)” Our 3:16 verse for this week begins the list, which is continued through verse 19.
“He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.“
One account from Matthew’s gospel has Jesus talking to the disciples about what people are saying about him. It is at this point that Peter acknowledges Jesus’ divinity, and Jesus explains his plans for the Church.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20)”
These disciples (also later known as the apostles) were instrumental in beginning the work, through the Holy Spirit, of establishing the Church. It is important to remember the admonition of Psalm 127:1, which says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” The Church was built by the apostles according to the plan that God laid out for them. Its early development story is told in the book of Acts. Acts 2 relates the first sermon by Peter and we see the effects and activities of the first church in Acts 2:42-47:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.“
Not only were the apostles called to start Christ’s church, they were also called to write the scriptures of the New Testament. Jesus told them in John 16:12-15, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” I believe that Jesus was referring here to the declarations through the Holy Spirit of the letters and gospels of the New Testament to the apostles.
It is through the apostolic letters that we learn more about the functioning of the church. Two items I’ll mention here come from Paul’s letters. In 1 Corinthians 3:4-9 Paul addresses divisions in the church brought about through focusing on individuals rather than on God.
“For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.“
Finally, Paul told the Ephesians (4:11-16) about how the apostles and the other appointed leaders of the church were to establish the church.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.“
It was God’s plan to establish the church to be His body on earth to fulfill the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ until His return. We will look further at the work of the apostles in Acts 3:16 next time.