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HIL_ENICH_FMS_1_33From one point of view, the survey of the Apostles I promised Jessica, was an odd exercise, as I’d somehow expected there to be more to say.  If you were making up the New Testament narrative, you’d have the Apostles doing great deeds to justify their selection; indeed, the early Christians did just that, inventing stories about John, Peter, Andrew, James, Philip, Thomas and Bartholomew.  THat’s very understandable, we are introduced to these men, they are selected by Jesus Himself, and we get glimpses of them, but not much more for most of them, so it is natural that the imagination should have sought to have filled the gap.

The Twelve clearly represented the Twelve Tribes of Israel and remind us that Christ’s mission was to the Jews and, if I read Scripture aright, it was only late on in His earthly mission that He extended it to the Samaritan woman and the Roman Centurion, and when He came to do it, He selected one who had never been an Apostle, Saul of Tarsus, for the job.

Saul, like Simon-Peter, had already failed the Lord, in his case by leading a fierce persecution of the Jewish Christians. It is plain that the followers of Jesus were very wary of this new recruit, and it seem likely that some of them never took the man to their heart.

Paul’s letters, like those of the other Evangelists, show how prone the church was to splits and arguments from the start, and if I read aright what Clement of Rome was getting at in the passages quoted by C451, it sounds as thought there was a tradition that Peter and Paul had both the victims of in-fighting and back-biting.

In short, anyone thinking that there was some golden age of Christianity when, under the impulse of the influence of the earthly Jesus, folk got on well with each other and didn’t jostle for position or gossip about each other, is looking for something which never existed. One does not have to look very far in what Paul wrote to the Corinthians or the Galatians to see how sorely he himself was tried – the latter in particular shows how the accusations and enmity of the Judaisers pursued him, and those who think that he wrote Romans in response to such struggles seem to m to ahve a good point.

So, even the Apostles struggled with the crooked timber of fallen humanity, and that included their own weaknesses. They laboured long and hard, planting churches here, encouraging them there, and rebuking them elsewhere.  It was a labour sustained by the Holy Spirit, whose support was clearly much-needed at times.

The best comment made on the life of mission was that made by Paul himself in his last letter to Timothy, when clearly the shadow of death already hung over him, and he longed for his heavenly reward:

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

And if, at the last, we can say with Paul and the other Apostles:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Then we can hope He will say unto us

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

So be it.