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The APOSTLES of CHRIST - The "Seventy" Disciples - The Seven Deacons & The Evangelists - (PART 4)

"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. . ."

(Mark 16:15 NKJ)

(Mark 16:15 NKJ)

The "SEVENTY" DISCIPLES

DISCIPLE = Dictionary: one of the (12) personal followers of Christ, who later became His Apostles; one of the 70 followers sent forth by Christ; any other professed follower of Christ; OR a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; a follower or member of a religious order's dis·ci·ple·ship.

GREEK: ("mathētēs") - a learner, pupil, disciple; from the Root: ("manthanō") - to learn, be apprised; to increase one's knowledge, to be increased in knowledge; to hear, be informed; to learn by use and practice; to be in the habit of, accustomed to.

The Gospel of Mark (Mark 6:7-13) states that Jesus initially sent out the twelve Aposltes in pairs. This was done not just for security reasons but because it allowed the individuals to more easily collaborate with one another, as each could always attest to the other's respective words and otherwise the pair could corroborate each other's testimony and gospel about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Later, after the Tranfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18; John 1:14) witnessed only by Peter, James (the Elder), and John, all of the Apostles were assembled together again. Jesus had already predicted His future death to the Apostles and now was preparing for His arrival later in Jerusalem. Being fully imbued with the Holy Spirit, the Lord decided to consecrate more disciples to prepare the way for Him. The "Seventy" Disciples were then personally chosen by Jesus and sent out two by two, to saturate Judea with the gospel and go "into every city and place where He Himself was about to go." (Luke 10:1-12)

On their first trip out, the disciples returned to Jesus overcome with joy in the successful results they were having. They stated, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." And Jesus said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20)

In the above verse it is most interesting to note that, Jesus, having fully blessed His disciples and being imbued with the Holy Spirit themselves, had gone out and performed miraculous works in addition to spreading the gospel. It is also important to note that in His response to them, he also stated that their names had already been written in the "Book of Life" in Heaven. At which point, the disciples went out again and continued their work in Judea witnessing to the people of the land.

These "Seventy" missionaries and evangelists were laying down the groundwork and infrastructure for the early church of Jewish Christians. They had also gathered together later after Christ's Ascention and elected a replacement for the twelveth member of the immediate Apostleship (Matthais). The numbers of the elect discipleship were growing as indicated by Peter: And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty] (Acts 1:15) and they continued "steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship" (Acts 2:42).

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"Saint Peter Consecrating the Seven Deacons" - fresco by Fra Angelico - Niccoline Chapel - Vatican

"Saint Peter Consecrating the Seven Deacons" - fresco by Fra Angelico - Niccoline Chapel - Vatican

The SEVEN DEACONS

Early in the ministry as the numbers of evangelists and followers grew, the church began to experience "growing pains" (Acts 6:1-4). Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 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. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

The twelve Apostles had to deligate their authority as not to diminish their own evangelistic efforts and ongoing work. As a result, the discipleship convened and decided on those members who would carry on these duties and oversee many other administrative aspects of the church as it continued to grow.

The SEVEN Chosen to Serve (Acts 6:5-7)

Stephen, Philip the Evangelist, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas

"And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte [newly converted] from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith."

Qualifications of DEACONS

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"Likewise DEACONS must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 3:8-13)

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"The Lapidation of Saint Stephen" by Rembrandt van Rijn (1625) - Museum des Beaux-Arts de Lyon - France

"The Lapidation of Saint Stephen" by Rembrandt van Rijn (1625) - Museum des Beaux-Arts de Lyon - France

1- Stephen

Stephen was the "first matyred" disciple; According to the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was tried by the Sanhedrin for blasphemy against Moses and God (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Temple and the Law (Acts 6:13-14). The priesthood was getting nervous about the rapidly growing Christain movement and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which Stephen spoke. "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people." (Acts 6:8) Therefore, they secretly induced men to say that Stephen was committing treacherous acts and also set up false witnesses against him. Stephen was arrested but at his trial, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and answered his accusors by giving them a lengthy dissertation on Abraham, Moses, the law and the prophets, quoting from the scripture: And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15) Stephen then angered them further by pointing out the error of their ways: "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it." (Acts 7:51-52)

Quickly interrupting, the council immeditely sentenced him to death by stoning, but Stephen then began to experience a theophany (a vision of the pressence or manifestation of God) in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son: "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56) Then the assembly cried out and covered their ears, as an infuriated mob being encouraged by Saul (who would one day convert to Christianity and become the Apostle Paul) ran at Stephen, dragging him out of the city where they began to stone him. As Stephen's fate was concluding he knelt in prayer before his many tormentors and made the final statement, calling on God: "Lord, do not charge them with this sin", and he fell to the ground as if he were asleep. He was thus killed (c. 34–35 C.E.) becoming the first Christian in history to have suffered martyrdom.

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2- Philip the Evangelist

*(LISTED BELOW)

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3- Prochorus

One of the "Seventy" Disciples and was later selected to become one of the Seven Deacons. He was the nephew of Stephen and a close companion of John the Evangelist (John "the beloved" disciple), who later consecrated him as Bishop of Nicomedia in Bithynia (modern-day Turkey). Prochorus was traditionally ascribed the authorship of the apocryphal text, the Acts of John, and was said to have ended his life as a martyr in Antioch during the 1st century.

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4- Nicanor

One of the "Seventy" Disciples that was later chosen by the Apostles to become one of the Seven Deacons. He held the position as Deacon and Minister of Charities in Jerusalem. Nicanor was a Cypriot Jew (Cyprus) who is said to have returned to his native island and died a martyr in 76 A.D.

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5- Timon

One of the "Seventy" Disciples that was later selected by the Apostles to become one of the Seven Deacons. Timon is said to have been a Hellenized Jew who became the Bishop of Bosra in Syria. His preaching brought the anger of the local governor, who martyred Timon by setting fire and burning him alive.

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6- Parmenas

One of the "Seventy" Disciples that was selected to become one of the Seven Deacons. He held the position as Minister to the Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem, that had converted to Christianity. Mixed accounts show him as being an interim Bishop in Pompeiopolis or Soli, Cyprus. Parmenas is believed to have preached the gospel in Asia Minor for some years until he suffered martyrdom in Philippi, Macedonia around 98 A.D., under the persecution of Trajan.

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7- Nicolas

One of the "Seventy" Disciples that was later chosen to become one of the Seven Deacons. Nicholas is described in Acts as a convert to Judaism, but is not remembered fondly by some early writers. According to Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses, the Nicolaitanes, a heretical sect condemned as early as the Book of Revelation, took their name from this early deacon. In the Philosophumena, Hippolytus writes that Nicolas inspired the sect through his indifference to life and the pleasures of the flesh; his followers took this as a licence to give in to lust. The Catholic Encyclopedia also records a story that after the Apostles reproached Nicholas for mistreating his beautiful wife on account of his jealousy, he left her and consented to anyone else marrying her, saying the flesh should be maltreated. In the Stromata, Clement of Alexandria says the sect corrupted Nicholas' words (originally designed to check the pleasures of the body) to justify their licentiousness. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the historical accuracy of the story is debatable, though the Nicolaitanes themselves may have considered Nicholas their founder.

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The APOSTLES

"Truly the signs of an APOSTLE were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds... For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls... We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification ...my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented..." (2 Corinthians 12:12,14-15,19,21)

APOSTLE = Dictionary: the original (12) disciples called by Jesus to preach the gospel; any of the early followers of Jesus who carried the Christian message into the world or a title borne by persons sent on foreign missions; the first Christian missionary in any region or country; the title of the highest ecclesiastical offices (members of the clergy who address the assembly) and upper executive administration of the church officials.

GREEK: ("apostolos") - a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders; specifically applied to the twelve Apostles of Christ; in a broader sense applied to other eminent Christian teachers (i.e.: Barnabus, Timothy, Silvanus); from the Root: ("apostellō") - to order (one) to go to a place appointed; to send away, dismiss; to allow one to depart, that he may be in a state of liberty; to order one to depart, send off.

"...an APOSTLE (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)." (Galatians 1:1)

"...called to be an APOSTLE, separated to the gospel of God, which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures." (Romans 1:1-2)

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"Conversion on the way to Damascus" - by Caravaggio (1601) - Cerasi Chapel - Santa Maria del Popolo

"Conversion on the way to Damascus" - by Caravaggio (1601) - Cerasi Chapel - Santa Maria del Popolo

Saul of Tarsus (The Apostle Paul)

The Book of Acts identifies Paul as being from the Mediterranean city of Tarsus (in present-day south-central Turkey) that was well-known for its intellectual environment and as such, he was also a Roman citizen, a fact that afforded him a privileged legal status with respect to laws, property, and governance. His Hebrew name was Saul, being "of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law" (Philemon 3:5) and he was "a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee" (Acts 23:6). This will probably be the most lengthy of the reviews as entire books have been written about the life of this man. Paul would later became known as the "Apostle to the Gentiles" and is recorded as doing more for the advancement of the Christian Church outside of Judea than many of the other disciples. This however was not the case at the beginning of his introduction in scripture.

After the crucifixion of Christ (Friday-April 3, 33 A.D.), the disciples had scattered but quickly rebanded after His resurrection and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, whereas they regained much of the momentum for their cause and movement. The Pharisees were greatly troubled by what this represented and enlisted the aid of many Jewish zealots to undermine the efforts of the Christian Jews. Saul was one of these people: "I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers." (Galatians 1:14) Saul (Paul) is then noted as being the instigator of the crowd that stoned the early Deacon Stephen, consenting to his death (Acts 7:58-8:1). At this time, a great persecution began to arise against the church in Jerusalem and most of the discipleship scattered again throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison." (Acts 8:3)

Then one day while traveling on the road to Damascus, "Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1), was struck by a bright light from Heaven and he fell to the ground. Then Saul, heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. (Acts 9:4-7) Saul stood back up but was blinded, so the men he was with led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. There he stayed for three days and neither ate nor drank.

"Ananias Restoring the Sight of St Paul" - by Jean II Restout (1719) - Museum du Louvre - Paris

"Ananias Restoring the Sight of St Paul" - by Jean II Restout (1719) - Museum du Louvre - Paris

Meanwhile, a disciple in Damascus named Ananias (one of the "Seventy") received a vision from the Lord, whereas he was instructed to seek out Saul of Tarsus and lay on his hands, "so that he might receive his sight." (Acts 9:11-12) Ananias had heard of Saul's deeds and was afraid, but the Lord instructed him: "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake." (Acts 12:15-16) Ananias complied and he thus laid hands on Saul which immediately cured his blindness. Saul then arose and was baptized, where he then remained in Damascus for some time with the disciples.

This conversion had dramatically changed the course of his life. Saul immediately began preaching about his testimony in the synagogues, and that Christ is the Son of God. All who heard his testimony were amazed and Saul confounded the Jews, who after many days plotted to kill him. However, their plot became known to Saul, so the disciples hid him in a basket and lowered him safely over the city walls at night so he could escape (Acts 9:23-25).

Saul then went to Jerusalem but the disciples there were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he had been converted. But Barnabas brought him to the twelve Apostles and declared how Saul had seen the Lord who had spoken to him. He confirmed how Saul had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus Christ. So Saul was then received by the discipleship and began to witness in Jerusalem. He spoke with conviction in the name of the Lord and firmly against the Hellenists. Then both the Jews and the Gentiles alike, attempted to kill him, but the disciples brought him down to Caesarea and then sent him back to Tarsus in safety (Acts 9:26-30).

Those who were scattered during the persecution traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch spreading the gospel. Peter had already begun preaching to the Gentiles and Barnabus had been sent to Tarsus to seek Saul, where he brought him back to Antioch. They assembled the church and taught there for the whole year and it was here that the disciples were first called "Christians".

In those days, a prophet (Agabus) had come from Jerusalem to Antioch and predicted a great famine. It is said that Peter, Saul and Barnabus traveled frequently between Antioch and Jerusalem at this time offering relief efforts for their brothers in Judea (Acts 11:27–30). In the interim, Heord Agrippa I had gone to Rome and instigated the banishment of his uncle, Herod Antipas, whose tetrarchy over Galilee and Peraea he was then granted (41-44 A.D.). It was during this time that the "new" King Herod, stretched out his hand to harass the church and further persecuted the Christians (Acts 12). This was when he had James "the Elder" (the brother of John) executed and later, also had Peter arrested (who then escaped with the angel).

When they had fulfilled their ministry, Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch where, having fasted and prayed, they were anointed by the church to begin spreading the gospel in Asia Minor. Their first notable account was later, having traveled to the island of Cyprus, when they were preaching the word of God in the synagogues with John Mark as their assistant (Acts 13:5). In Paphos (Cyprus) the three had a notable encounter rebuking a local sorcerer and false prophet (Bar-Jesus). The sorcerer interfered with them when translating to Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul in charge there, seeking to turn him away from the faith. "Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, 'O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.'" The sorcerer was blinded and this event resulted in the conversion of Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12). This is where Saul first becomes known by his Roman name, "Paul". The group then sails back to Asia Minor going through Pamphylia, where they depart company with John Mark and return to Antioch.

From that point forward the "Apostle Paul" spends the next twenty some years being an instrument in spreading the gospel and helping to establish new churches throughout Asia Minor and Greece. "For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47) Paul's evangelistic work is filled with numerous confrontations, attempted murders and various prisons stays. He was exemplary in not being ashamed of his ministry work or afraid of persecution and imprisonment for his faith, until the time of his martyrdom around 68 A.D.

The Apostle Paul is credited with being the originator of the Book of Acts and the Book of Romans, as well as authoring several Epistles, or "letters", in the New Testament where he communicates with the newly founded Christian churches. He is also speculated as being the originator of the Book of Hebrews though this is still debated. Paul's influence on Christian thinking has arguably been more significant than any other Biblical author. The rest of Paul's life and ministry are too lengthy to elaborate on here and will be covered with more detail in another article.

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The EVANGELISTS

EVANGELIST = Dictionary: a preacher of the gospel; a layperson who serves as an itinerant or special preacher, esp. a revivalist; a person who first brought the gospel to a city or region; a person marked by evangelical enthusiasm for or in support of any cause.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS and CALLING of the MINISTRY

"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift."
(Ephesians 4:7)

"And He Himself gave some to be APOSTLES, some PROPHETS, some EVANGELISTS, and some PASTORS and TEACHERS, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:11-16)

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Coptic icon of Saint Mark

Coptic icon of Saint Mark

Mark "the Evangelist"

Mark is the traditional author of the Gospel of Mark. He is one of the "Seventy" Disciples of Christ, and the founder of the Church of Alexandria, one of the original four main Sees of Christianity. Much confusion originally happened in the historical accounting of scripture due to the mixing of names with this Mark (2 Timothy 4:11), as being distinct from John Mark (Acts 12:12,25; 13:5,13; 15:37) and Mark "the Cousin of Barnabas" (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24), which all likewise belonged to the "Seventy" Disciples who were sent out by Jesus to saturate Judea with the gospel. This Mark has thus been known since as "the Evangelist" to help aid in his identification.

Mark the Evangelist is also reported as being one of the disciples who left the ministry after not being able to understand Christ's teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum, about Him being the "bread of life" and to "eat His flesh and drink His blood." Many of the early disciples and jews present quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?", not realizing that Jesus was making a symbolic spiritual reference to the gift of salvation through the coming new covenant (John 6:48-66).

One tradition believes that Mark the Evangelist is the one who hosted the disciples in his house after the death of Jesus, and it was here that the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to the remaining Apostles (John 20:19-31) and restored Mark's faith. The same Coptic tradition also holds that this was the house where the Holy Spirit indwelled in the disciples at Pentecost some 50 days later (Acts 2:1-4), though these details of the accounts are not supported by actual Biblical scripture.

Later, during the persecution of King Herod Agrippa I, when James the Elder was executed and Simon-Peter managed to escape out of the realm to Antioch, he picked up Mark the Evangelist on his way to Asia Minor. As a result, Mark's position was restored by Peter and he is ordained as an Apostle. Mark then goes on to travel with and become Peter’s interpreter. It is believed that he accompanied Peter through Asia Minor (visiting the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia - as mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1), eventually to arrive in Rome. Peter's preaching in Rome was so successful that he was honored by the inhabitants with a statue in the city; and by popular request, Mark the Evangelist wrote down the sermons of Peter, thus composing the "Gospel according to Mark".