Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 21, 2017
12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
— Luke 6:12-19, ESV
The church is the visible expression of the spiritual kingdom of God. When did this spiritual truth become visible? Some say the birth of Christ was the dawn of the new covenant. Some say it began at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, with the baptism by John and the first four fisherman followers. Some say it started at the end of the first coming, with the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Messiah, followed in fifty days by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Each claim is valid, but it is actually here, at some midpoint of Jesus’ ministry, that the King went public with His kingdom.
The Spiritual King
The kingdom of God exists wherever, or in whomever, God is king. But before we say much about the kingdom, we need to understand some things about the king. God is king, Jesus Christ is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is the power behind the throne.
God the Father is spiritual and invisible. No one has seen God the Father at any time, yet God has revealed Himself opaquely through the veil of an epiphany or theophany. The Angel of the Lord, the talking donkey, the burning bush, and the fourth man in the fire are all examples of how God has shown up from time to time, but never the Father in the fulness of bodily form. But, when God got ready to show Himself vividly and concretely to the world, He did it in the perfect person and work of His only Son, Jesus Christ.
God the Son is spiritual and visible. You can see Him here, in this episode, doing things with a visible body that are entirely spiritual. He prays all night. He appoints representatives, leaders, ambassadors, apostles for His new kingdom. He preaches, heals, loves, and saves, in ways and means you can see, all through the power of the Holy Spirit, whom you cannot see.
God the Spirit is spiritual and invisible. The Holy Spirit is like the wind, out of sight but never out of mind. The silent member of the Trinity is not mentioned here, but He is always here, there, and everywhere God is at work in His kingdom and the world.
God is spiritual, yet only visible in the person of the Son. To see the Son is to see the Father. To see the Son is to see the Spirit at work. The Lord Jesus Christ is the spiritual and visible king of the kingdom of God.
Worldly kings rule by worldly means and offer worldly rewards. Our spiritual king works in spiritual ways and offers spiritual rewards. You can serve worldly kings but you should not worship them. You can worship and serve the spiritual king, Jesus Christ, and worship and serve Him you must. Such worship and service will be quite visible, to God, to one another, and for the whole wide world to see.
The Visible Kingdom
Jesus the Messiah put twelve men front and center for the other disciples, the nation of Israel, and the whole world to visibly see. These twelve men were different disciples from different demographics, and I dare say that one of them was not even a disciple at all. Yet even Judas was an answer to Jesus’ all night prayer to put His visible kingdom into action for all the world to see.
What is important, at first, is that there are twelve of them. This is Christ’s signal, a bold statement, that the old covenant between God and the twelve tribes of Israel is giving way to a new covenant, a bigger and better and broader covenant, to visibly represent the kingdom of God until the second coming of the Messiah. If not the precise beginning of the church, this is the rock and blocks upon which Christ determined to build His church.
These twelve men Christ named apostles. In one sense they were Apostles above the disciples. As Apostles with a capital “A,” they were given a special place and special powers above and beyond the more ordinary followers of Jesus Christ. They were given authority and became essentially the first elders or pastors of the church. They were given miraculous powers, unseen in human history other than in the epochs of Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and the Apostles.
In another sense, the twelve were ordinary apostles along with the other unnumbered and unnamed disciples. As apostles with a little “a,” they had gathered with Christ and were now being sent by the Lord to worship Him, serve others in His name, and tell others about His kingdom. All of this was done in a most visible way.
I cannot say this is the definitive beginning of the church, but I can say that the church since this era, built on the witness of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, is the visible expression of the kingdom of God on earth. This is why we meet publicly, we preach openly, we baptize and share communion weekly, and we serve and share the gospel daily in our effort to expand the kingdom of our God.
Our Mission is Spiritual and Visible
Since we have such a great spiritual King, and since He has established a visible presence, the church, in which to give Him glory, let us do today what was done on this great day recorded by the Gospel writer Luke. Let us do spiritual things that will bear visible fruit upon the earth for God and people to see.
Let us pray with great passion for God. How do you speak to the one you love? Often, I hope! In the mystery of the Trinity, so great was the Son’s love for the Father that they spent all night together in prayer. So great was the Son’s task in building the church, He spent all night consulting with the Father before taking this step of establishing the Apostles. Do you love God? Do you have great things to do for God? Pray, people, pray!
Let us take our stand, on level ground, with Jesus. I’m not sure why Luke included this detail, but our world, like Jesus’ world, is a topsy turvy world. People have lost their minds and their morals. Pharisees pull against Sadducees, right against left, old against the young, law and order against freedom. Where is the level ground, the center, that can give us the spiritual and moral compass we need to put people together again? Only in the saving cross and spiritual church of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Let us show up, visibly, in support of the Apostolic, Biblical, New Covenant church. Let us come to worship, pray, praise, and, as those gathered that day with Jesus, hear the word of the Lord. Some refuse to do so because they do not need God. What unbelief! Some professing believers will refuse to do so because they do not need pastors and people. What arrogance! We need God and we need one another to accomplish the spiritual and visible mission commissioned to us by the Lord.
Let us help and heal other people. The people who met with Christ and the Apostles that day had great pains relieved by great power. If I had that rare power, I’d use it until every hospital was out of business, but I do not. Yet people are still sick, still troubled, still in physical and financial and mental and spiritual messes. I may not have miraculous powers to heal, but I can spiritually and visibly help, and so can you. But wait, there is one spiritual and visible miracle we can strive to perform, and it is the greatest one of all.
How does one see the great invisible God and come to live in His spiritual and visible kingdom? It is the miracle of grace. By the grace of God, through faith in the Son of God, we come into the kingdom of God. Once we are in, we invite others to come in, too. If we are Christ-like in our walk, if we offer Christ in our witness, if they will accept Christ as Lord and Savior, then the power will come from Christ which “healed them all.” The power to heal sickness may be limited to Christ and the Apostles, but the power to save is present in every generation, in every Christian, and in every true church.
There were moments in English history when brave British soldiers took to the battlefield with the battle cry, “For God, for King, and for Country.” We have a God who is King and invisible to us now, but worthy of our visible worship and work. We have a country God is making, invisible and incomplete to us now, but a visible expression called the church.
Let us worship the King, publicly and unashamedly. Let us work for the kingdom, openly and tirelessly. Let us enjoy the glimpse the church gives us of the ultimate place God is preparing for us. And let us do it for the King and His kingdom.
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