A question that frequently arises regarding the ministry is this: was there a scriptural reason that Jesus sent forth his disciples in pairs, or was it simply due to practical matters such as support, encouragement, companionship, etc? While acknowledging that these things are greatly beneficial, are there deeper, scripturally-based reasons that extend beyond the first-century ministry and thus are still in effect today? Jesus came to do his Father’s will, as He said, “I do always those things that please my Father,” so it would be logical to expect that He would send forth his disciples in the way that pleases his Father. Jesus had intimate knowledge and understanding of the mind of his Father both when He was in Heaven as well as when He was on earth.
From the Mind of God
Jesus sent forth the twelve “by two and two” (Mark 6:7). Later, He sent forth “other seventy” disciples in the same way, by “two and two” (Luke 10:1). Then in the first chapter of Acts after his resurrection it is noteworthy that He did not change the way the disciples went forth. He simply allowed the existing pattern to continue. If the two-by-two ministry had been due to temporary circumstances, this would have been the ideal time for Him to change it before He ascended back to Heaven. But instead of changing it, Jesus validated this pattern by extending it into the future without even a hint of a terminus when He said to his disciples, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me… unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This would not be fulfilled completely for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years. When the disciples later wrote their Gospels and Epistles they gave no indication that they had encountered any problems with this arrangement nor any desire to change it. Thus it seems to be certain that Jesus was following the plan and pattern that originated in the mind of God. The question then becomes this: is the same principle found in other places in the Bible? When we examine the scriptures we find that the answer is “yes.”
Many times the Bible (especially the OT) does not explicitly spell out certain principles but they are revealed and reinforced in types. God has never expected anything of mankind that he did not announce beforehand, either directly or indirectly. This is true of God’s pattern for the ministry – the principle of the “threefold cord,” which is found throughout the Bible. It is found in Ecclesiastes 4:12 “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Typologically, the threefold cord speaks of strength and unity. Three cords, which alone are weak, are made into
one strong cord. In the same way, God (and only God) is able to bring unity out of diversity. This is to His glory because it proves that it is the work of God and not man.
The threefold principle is evident in the two-by-two ministry. In John 15:26 Jesus promised the disciples that when He returned to his Father He would send the Holy Spirit, and “He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness.” Together, these three make up the threefold cord: two disciples going forth (as they were sent by Jesus), plus the Holy Spirit. When Jesus sent forth 70 other disciples, He sent them the same way (Luke 10:1).
Long after Jesus had left the earth, it is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples continued going forth in the same two-by-two manner that Jesus had originally sent them – Paul and Barnabas, Judas and Silas, Peter and John, etc. They were simply following what Jesus had established. This model is seen far back in the OT – Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, etc.
The threefold principle also seems to be God’s preferred way of proving the credibility and reliability of witnesses. The OT Law required the guilt for any sin to be established “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses” (Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus applied this verse in Matthew 18:16, as also Paul did in 2 Corinthians 13:1. Under the law, the testimony of the person being accused was not accepted in court, as Jesus said in John 5:31 “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” At the trial of Jesus, two witnesses were required, but two who agreed could not be found.
God provides every believer with a threefold advocate. When Jesus said, “I will give you another Advocate” (John 14:16 NIV), the Greek word that he used (“allos”) means “another of the same kind.” In other words, He was saying that we have three advocates and all are in agreement. One is in Heaven with the Father – “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1), one is on the earth (the Holy Spirit) – “with you” (John 14:16), and the other is the Father himself. Our Advocate in Heaven (“Jesus Christ the righteous” – see 1 John 2:1) represents us in the court of Heaven when we are accused by Satan. Satan is “the accuser of our brethren who accuses us before God day and night” (Revelation 12:15). Satan is a liar, but
when he accuses us he may be telling the truth – he cannot lie to God (at least not successfully). We are guilty as charged. Then Jesus Christ the righteous, our advocate (the Greek word is suggestive of a defense attorney) pleads our case based on HIS righteousness.
Here are a few other things that follow the same Biblical pattern. Notice that each of these is characterized by strength and unity. Each also has a Divine origin.
Trinity – Most importantly, it is seen in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Jesus – Jesus came to fill a threefold office: Prophet, Priest, and King.
Marriage – It is also evident in God’s plan for a strong marriage, which is comprised of three: a husband, a wife, and God.
Man – Man was created as a threefold being: body, soul, and spirit.
The purpose of this www.thefellowshipoftruth.com is to provide information about a non-denominational network of home-based churches that can be found in nearly every country of the world. We are imperfect people trying hard to fulfil the plan that God has laid out for each one of us. We do our best to follow the teachings of the Bible at home, work and in the place of worship. The format and structure are Bible based and very similar to what we read about the early church in Acts and I Corinthians (Acts 1:13 and I Cor 16:19.) Each week we meet in homes for fellowship and worship on Sunday mornings and Bible studies on Wednesday nights. From time to time, we also have larger Gospel services where multiple home-based churches meet together. These meetings serve to strengthen the faith of the believers, and also, help to explain our beliefs to those who are being introduced to our faith for the first time.