Brief Notes

With the
Eleven

by | 30 July 2022

In the New Testament,
ministry is always
a matter of individual
responsibility

In our previous Note we considered several points concerning the “twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:14; see “The Twelve”). Now there is one additional point to see regarding this group of apostles. That is, there were two sides to how they carried out their testimony.

When they had to deal with the arrangement in the church for the daily distribution, the book of Acts considers them speaking together as a group:

Then the Twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.”
— Acts 6:2

It does so because here they are exercising their common authority to take care of a matter within the church.

In contrast, when Peter stood up to speak on the day of Pentecost, Acts does not say he was “of the Twelve” or that “the Twelve spoke.” Rather, it states that Peter was “standing up with the eleven” (Acts 2:14), that is, with the other eleven apostles. Then it recounts his message to the Jews.

Why is this? It is because, even with this unique group of twelve apostles, there was no “group” ministry. The others could, and did, stand with Peter, but he alone bore the responsibility before the Lord for what he ministered that day.

Indeed, in the entire New Testament there is no such thing as group ministry; it is always a matter of individual responsibility before the Lord. There is a unique, overall ministry, but within that ministry each servant of the Lord has his own unique portion (Acts 1:17), for which he alone is accountable to the Lord.

This does not mean ministry is individualistic, for we serve together in the coordination of the Body of Christ, as Peter did that day with the eleven. Yet, when we function, it is our own personal responsibility. Just as it is in our physical body, so in the Body of Christ each member is related to all the other members, and still, each has its own unique function, which no other member of the Body can replace.

We also see this in the New Jerusalem itself. The twelve apostle’s names are on the twelve foundations of the Holy City, but each foundation is distinct from the other, being made of a different kind of precious stone (Rev. 21:19-20).

But if the function of each member of the Body of Christ is unique and distinct from all the others, rather than an indistinct part of some “group” ministry, what does that imply for us personally? Simply, that even if we feel we are not a particular, great servant of Christ, we still have a unique function within the Body of Christ that only we can fulfill; no one else can replace us or our function.

And so, for the sake of the building up of the Body of Christ, may we all heed the Apostle’s admonition:

Take heed to the ministry you have received in the Lord, that you fulfill it!
— Colossians 4:17

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— 30 July 2022 —