The Commission of the Twelve Apostles

This morning I was studying the term and concept of “apostle” in the NT. Of course, this is a huge discussion that overlaps with the term and concept of “disciple.” One article I found helpful is Eckhard Schnabel’s entry in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Schnabel listed eight elements of Jesus’ commission to the twelve. Here they are in summarized form:

(1) The twelve apostles are commissioned to “fish for people.” The term “fishers of people” (halieis anthrōpōn [Mt 4:19 // Mk 1:17]) has no genuine parallels in ancient literature, including the OT. …The commission to “fish for people” is an assignment to assist Jesus, who gathers the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:6; cf. Mt 15:24; Lk 15:4, 6) in view of the dawn of the kingdom of God. The Twelve are commissioned to bring people to accept the message that Jesus proclaims, with the result that more and more people follow Jesus and join the movement of messianic fulfillment that Jesus has set in motion….

(2) The twelve disciples are commissioned to “go” (poreuesthe [Mt 10:6; cf. Mt 10:7; 28:19]); Luke speaks of Jesus “sending out” (apostellō) the Twelve (Lk 9:2). They do not stay at home; they go to the people who live in the towns and villages into which Jesus is sending them. Their “going” involves a journey….

(3) The Twelve are commissioned to “proclaim” (kēryssō) the good news of the nearness of the kingdom of God, following the lead of Jesus’ own proclamation (Mt 10:7; Lk 9:2)….

(4) The Twelve are commissioned to cast out unclean spirits and to cure diseases (Mt 10:1, 8; Mk 6:7; Lk 9:1). They will be able to do what Jesus is doing because Jesus grants them the power and authority to perform these miracles….

(5) The Twelve are sent out in pairs of two (dyo dyo [Mk 6:7])—that is, in six groups of two disciples each. The pairing of the disciples serves mutual encouragement and support, attests the veracity of the testimony of two *witnesses (cf. Deut 19:15; Num 35:30) and represents the new community that is being established…

(6) The Twelve are warned that they will not be welcomed by every house or every town (Mt 10:13–14; Mk 6:11; Lk 9:5). Jesus sends them “like sheep into the midst of wolves” (Mt 10:16). This prediction reflects Jesus’ own experience: the proclamation of the presence of God’s kingdom provokes opposition….

(7) The Twelve are sent as Jesus’ envoys to all nations in Matthew 28:18–20 (cf. Lk 24:47), or, in Acts 1:8, from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to the end of the earth. This happens only after Jesus’ resurrection. The missionary work of the Twelve includes *Gentiles, but it does not exclude Jews…. 

(8) The mission of the apostles whom Jesus sends is patterned on the mission of Jesus, whom God had sent (Jn 20:21). The disciples are the envoys of Jesus, in whom God reveals himself to the world: “Whoever sees me sees him who sent me” (Jn 12:45), and “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6)….

 The above quotes are found in E. J. Schnabel, “Apostle,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 39.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015