The Apostolic Giving
Rev. Kurt Lantz St. Barnabas, Apostle Mark 6:7-13
June 11, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people to whom apostles are given,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now you have heard how the Lord Jesus summoned the Twelve, and sent them out two by two with authority but nothing else, so that they might preach repentance to the people. These were the twelve men that Jesus had called to Himself and named Apostles, distinguishing them from the larger group of disciples. These titles, “disciple” meaning learner and “apostle” meaning sent out, can be confusing. All apostles are disciples, but not all disciples are apostles. The apostles are the disciples whom the Lord Jesus has sent out to preach.
We often think of the twelve apostles as we hear of them in our Gospel reading, but these are not the only apostles. We know that Judas Iscariot who later betrayed Jesus left this office and was replaced with Matthias, the ascended Lord summoning Him through the gathered Church (Acts 1). Today is the Feast of St. Barnabas, who was not one of those Twelve that we heard about in the Gospel reading, but we find that the church later refers to him as an apostle along with Paul (Acts 14:14).
Barnabas is first referred to by name when he came to Jerusalem after the Ascension of Jesus and joined himself to the Christians gathered there. He had sold a piece of property and gave the proceeds to the apostles in order to meet the needs of the poor and the widows (Acts 4). The Church in Jerusalem recognized that the Lord Jesus had given them a gift in this man who was such an encouragement to them. They sent him out, i.e., “apostled” him to Antioch to serve a growing Christian community there.
While in Antioch, Barnabas retrieved Paul who had received his vision of the resurrected Lord (Acts 9). Barnabas mentored Paul while in Antioch and the Church there sent them out, “apostled” them, for a mission journey. On that first mission journey Barnabas was the quiet leader and Paul the blossoming preacher. When they were to begin a second mission journey, they parted ways. Paul took Silas with him instead, and Barnabas took John Mark (the author of our Gospel according to Mark) back to Cyprus.
As in the account of the twelves apostles in Mark’s gospel, Barnabas was sent out by Christ with authority to preach His Word—that Word that has authority over unclean spirits. Paul and Barnabas cast out many on their mission. Barnabas was sent out two by two paired with Paul for the first, and then Mark for the second mission journey. He took nothing on the way as he had already given away his property. He joined in the preaching of repentance and of the kingdom of God, casting out demons, anointing and healing the sick.
It was a great encouragement to the Church that Jesus didn’t stop at Twelve in His sending out. For one of those Twelve betrayed Him, lost faith, and killed himself. Although the other apostles were received and found benefactors like Barnabas among their own kinsmen, they were eventually martyred (murdered for their preaching of repentance). Even the beloved Elder, John, exiled and persecuted through his life, died in his old age.
Yet the apostling continued. Christ continued to summon men, to send them out, to give them authority over the unclean spirits, taking nothing on the way, cared for by those who received their preaching of repentance. They cared for them because those who received and heard them recognized them as the blessed gift coming from Christ Himself, men whom the Lord of the Church apostled. As the Twelve were depleted through persecution, age, and even apostasy, the Lord kept summoning and sending—Matthias, Barnabas, Paul, and others sent by Christ through His Church with the Word that bears His authority.
Jesus sent out the initial twelve among the descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel, to bring to them the preaching of repentance, because their God had come to redeem them. In the account in Mark’s Gospel the twelve are sent out just like the children of Israel were led out of Egypt, with staff in hand, wearing sandals and belt. At that time the children of Israel ate the Passover Lamb and were delivered with the LORD going before them in a pillar of cloud and fire. The LORD gave them bread from heaven to eat and water from the rock to drink, and did not allow their sandals and clothes to wear out. He spoke to them words of repentance and promise from Mount Sinai through Moses and Aaron, and He led them to through the wilderness to the Promised Land (Exodus-Deuteronomy).
When Jesus came preaching repentance and the kingdom of God, He came to lead His people out of their self-righteous understanding of ancestry that held them captive. He came to lead them by the Gospel of their deliverance through Himself being offered as their Passover Lamb for all. He spoke as the voice of the LORD speaking repentance and release for all. He sent out twelve apostles to take his message to the descendants of the twelve tribes. But after Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostolic mandate stretched beyond Jerusalem and Judea, and even beyond Samaria, as it went to the ends of the earth.
St. Barnabas is instrumental, not only as one of the apostles sent out by Christ to the ends of the earth, but also as an encouragement to the Church. For even as the twelve recorded in today’s Gospel would ebb away, the LORD would continue to send out men with the preaching of repentance and authority over the unclean spirits. He would continue to send men to speak the Word that brought deliverance and healing to every distress of body and soul. Does this give us comfort and encouragement for the continuation of the gift of the apostolic ministry among us? We should be assured that Jesus has not stopped summoning and sending even to us.
There are some heterodox churches that believe there must always be twelve appointed apostles in the Christian Church to direct and to make decrees in the place of Christ. They have merely multiplied the papistic error twelve-fold. Even in the days of the resurrected Lord, while He was still on earth, the number was not always twelve. The removal of Judas left eleven and when they replaced him the Lord quickly added more. The numbering of twelve apostles was symbolic of a ministry to the descendants of the twelve tribes, it was not a necessity imposed on Jesus to limit His gifts to the Church.
It was a necessity that not only Judas be replaced with Matthias but that other apostles also be added, so that the preaching of repentance would continue and extend with the authority of Christ. We reject the notion that the Church cannot exist without twelve men ruling and governing over her for Christ continues to rule and govern by His Word alone. But we do confess that the Church cannot exist without Christ sending out men with His authority to preach repentance, His Word not theirs.
On the twenty-fifth of this month (June) we will mark the anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, the primary document defining the Lutheran faith to which all of our pastors and congregations pledge themselves. Article V. On the Church confesses:
That we may obtain this [saving] faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administrating the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.
The Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments is the authority that Christ gives to those whom He sends out. This is the means by which people come to faith and are saved by His grace. It happens according to the working of the Holy Ghost in those who hear the Gospel, that is, take it to heart. So those who would not hear the preaching of the apostles were left behind and the very dust of the apostles’ feet became a testimony against them.
As the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent [apostled]?” (:14-15). Christ must continue to send out men with the authority of His Word. He has and He does. St. Barnabas is our first encouragement that the Lord has not abandoned His Church. He did not leave it to die out with the last of the Twelve. He continues to summon and to send out so that we might hear and receive, not only the message, but the messengers as well.
In contrast to those who rejected the apostles and had the dust of their feet shaken off against them, St. Paul continues in his letter to the Roman Christians by quoting the prophet Isaiah, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (:15; Is 52:7). Their dusty feet do not serve as a sign of condemnation, rather they carry the herald of the peace that comes with the words of Jesus.
Many of the men whom Christ sends go without provisions of their own. Many, like Barnabas have already given up their property or any hope of owning some. They are dependent on the provision of Christ through His Church, those who hear and receive them. And the people of the church provide for them as miraculously, generously, and lovingly as the LORD sending manna from heaven every morning. It is when their provision is assured that those sent out are able to go out confidently with staff in hand, girded to stand firm, their feet shod ready to lead the way to the promised paradise of God.
Do we acknowledge that Jesus still summons, sends, and gives authority, that we might receive and hear those who bring the preaching of repentance? Is that how we have received our pastors and teachers continuing in the apostolic ministry? Do we realize that we are dependent upon these whom the Lord Jesus summons and sends? How long will He continue to do so?
He has sent to us Pastors Grabowski, Murray, Humann, Balasch, Putzman, and Lantz. We have seen Him summon dozens of seminary students, sending out the best to minister to those who are children of Abraham by faith. He has summoned Vijay and we pray that he, too, will be sent out in due time with the authority to preach repentance, to cast out unclean spirits, and to heal the sick with the precious words of Jesus.
Who else will the Lord of the Church summon and send from our midst for the next and future generations? We have a good number of young men and boys in our midst whom the Lord of the Church may call. St. Barnabas encourages us in our reception and provision of those who have been sent out, and our doing so is an encouragement to others whom the Lord is summoning and sending, an apostling that will continue until Jesus Himself shall come.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.