Disciples and Apostles

Luke 6:13.---'And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.'

So there was a time when out of the heart of the disciples came the apostleship. And what do these words mean? 'Disciple,' of course, means learner. The idea rests entirely between two persons, the teacher and the scholar. It involves nothing but the receiving of knowledge by one of docile mind. But 'apostle' means missionary. Its idea is utterance, or sending forth. It sees and feels the great wide world. it looks out to the very horizon of humanity. It takes truth not as a lesson, but as a message. What the disciple has drunk into his own satisfied soul, the apostle is to carry abroad, wherever there are men to hear it.

When Jesus took this great step forward, He did not leave behind His old life with His disciples. He chose out of the number of His disciples twelve, whom also He named apostles. They were to be disciples still. They did not cease to be learners when He made them missionaries. The plant does not cease to feed itself out of the ground when it opens its glorious flowers for the world to see. All the more it needs supply, now that it has fulfilled its life. And so this great epoch in the Christian Church was an addition, not a substitution. John, James, and Peter were all the more devout disciples of the Master, filled themselves all the more eagerly with His truth and spirit, after they had become His apostles and were telling His truth to other men.

It is out of the very heart of the discipleship that the apostleship proceeds. It is the very best, the choicest, as we say, of the disciples, that are chosen to be apostles. This is apparent to anyone who reads the story. Jesus calls all His disciples together, and out of them He chooses twelve. It is no inattentive idlers hanging on the outskirts of the group who listen to Him that He thinks good enough to go and carry His message. It is they who have listened to Him longest, and most intelligently, and most lovingly. It is Simon and Andrew, his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas; it is men like these, the very heart and soul of the discipleship, whom He selects and calls apostles.

And so it always is. Always it is the best of the inward life of anything, that which lies the closest to its heart and is the fullest of its spirit, that flowers into the outward impulse which comes to complete its life. It is the most truly thorough learning that by and by begins to be dissatisfied with its own learned luxury, and to desire that all men should have the chance of knowledge. It is the most true refinement that believes in the possible refinement even of the coarsest man. it is one of the most beautiful and reassuring facts in all the world that the purer and finer any good attainment grows, the more there comes to it the necessity of expansiveness. It is the crude and half-formed phases of any good growth that are selfish and exclusive. It is the half-cultivated people who guard their feeble culture by arbitrary lines of separation. The heart of any good thing is universal and expansive. It claims for itself the world. It longs to give itself away, and believes in the capacity of all men to receive it. This noble and true and beautiful truth, whose illustrations are everywhere, was it not declared by Jesus when, out of the choicest heart of the group of His disciples, He selected His apostles?

Most deeply is this truth illustrated in the history of man's idea of God. It is the purest and loftiest and Divinest thought of God that is most generous and world-embracing. Most men dream of their gods that are scarcely higher or better than themselves; gods stained with passion and with selfishness; and those gods do not care for men.

Shall we not then set down as absolutely fundamental in our study of the Christian Church this relationship between the disciple life and the apostle life, that is, between the inward and the outward impulse? In the life of every parish this relationship ought to be recognized. The failure to recognize it is what makes so many of our churches very far from what they ought to be, keeps them uneasy with a constant doubt of themselves, and a continual sense that they are suspected by the world outside. What is the church for? What is the meaning of a little company gathered out of a great community, which meets in church Sunday after Sunday, year after year? No doubt they are, in the first place, learners, disciples, students together of the truth of God, listeners at the lips of the Master for His revelations. But unless there is continually issuing from the heart of their discipleship a true apostleship, unless the best souls among them keep fresh and live the outward impulse, the consciousness that their church and they exist not for themselves alone but for the world, their church life becomes dead.

There is always an inward, self-enclosing tendency to be resisted by every congregation. Very often the more the congregation wakes up to earnest life, the more this inward tendency asserts its strength. Given its full sweep, it would make the congregation a club, existing for high ends indeed, but existing for its own benefit alone. It would make the pew as exclusive and private a piece of property as the den or living room. It would judge the way in which its work was being done by the way in which few selected people were becoming wiser and better men and women. If it admitted outsiders at all, they would come in simply as spectators of that process of culture which was going on. It would be a church of disciples. It is a constant effort, requiring continual watchfulness in both minister and people, to see that an earnest church does not come to this, to see that it is kept apostolic, with the outward consciousness always alive, knowing that it exists not for its pew-holders, but for the community, for just as many of the human race as it possibly can reach; knowing that its pew-holders will get the best good out of it the more completely they can feel, that it is in no real sense their church. It is first God's church, and then the church of all or any of God's children.

There are two uses of a Church---to do good to those within it and, through them, to those without it; the best Church is that which helps most these two ends.

What a satire it is upon our Christianity and our civilization, that the existence of these colonies of heathens and savages in the heart of our capital should attract so little attention! It is no better than a ghastly mockery---theologians might use a stronger word---to call by the name of One who came to seek and to save that which was lost---those Churches which in the midst of lost multitudes either sleep in apathy or display a fitful interest in a chasuble. Why all this apparatus of temples and meeting-houses to save men from perdition in a world which is to come, while never a helping hand is stretched out to save them from the inferno of their present life? Is it not time that, forgetting for a moment their wranglings about the infinitely little or infinitely obscure, they should concentrate all their energies on a united effort to break this terrible perpetuity of perdition, and to rescue some at least of those for whom they profess to believe their Founder came to die?

Nothing is more true than that the devotion and loyalty of the Church to her missionary calling is the secret of her success, the Divinely appointed method of her advance both at home and abroad. In this she will find her joy, her inspiration, her endowment of power, her earned reward of honor, her irresistible claim to the world's reverence, and her final, unanswerable apologetic. Devotion to this sublime calling will be her password to an unchallenged place among the most influential forces which sway and mould the progress of the race. Nothing would so fully vindicate the claim of Christianity to stimulate, to inspire, to lead the world's progress. The reflex influence of this service would fan the graces of the Christian life and make the Church aflame with thoughts and deeds which were Spirit-born and God-given! If the Church could do its work under the stimulus of a faith-quickened vision of a triumphant Gospel and a redeemed humanity, it would feel the pulses of a new life, and cheerfully give itself to sacrifice and toil, which God would quickly and grandly reward.

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha