Well, hello there! Thanks for coming back to visit!
As we wrapped up last month, I said we would take a look at the promise that G-d causes all things to work together for good. Paul wrote about that in his letter to the Romans.
Beginning in Romans 8:22, Paul notes that the “the whole creation groans and suffers” and believers also “groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (v23) He makes the point that such a redemption has not yet occurred, for if it had, we would have seen it and “who hopes for what he already sees”? (v 24)
It is in this context of the unseen-and-still-hoped-for redemption of our bodies that Paul says that G-d causes all things to work together for good to those who love G-d, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Does this mean G-d is going to cause you to have a good life… a happy life?
A great marriage?
A successful career?
How about just a plain old "happy Valentine's Day"?
Have you ever thought of how the twelve disciples would have understood these words? I mean, since the Word of G-d is true, these words must have been as true for them as it is for us, right? Have you ever thought about what happened to the Twelve after the events recorded in the book of Acts? Let’s take a quick peek back in time.
The Bible only tells us the fate of Judas and James the son of Zebedee. We know unbelieving Judas betrayed Messiah then hanged himself (Matthew 27:5) and we know that James (son of Zebedee) was put to death with a sword by King Herod (Acts 12:1-2) but what about the rest of them?
Scripture is silent and so we must turn to the annals of history to find out more. The writings of Hippolytus of Rome, Eusebius of Caesarea, and others shed some light on their lives.
Philip went to Phrygia (modern-day Turkey) and preached there until he was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified upside down around 54 of the Common Era (CE).
Matthew served in Parthia, near modern-day Tehran and was slain (according to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) with a halberd around 60 CE.
James (the son of Alpheus) lived to around ninety-four years old and was beaten, stoned to death, and then buried in Jerusalem.
Matthias (Judas’ replacement) was stoned to death in Jerusalem and beheaded. Little else is recorded about him.
Andrew went and preached in what is modern day eastern Europe (Georgia and Bulgaria) and was later crucified on an “X”-shaped cross that was affixed to an olive tree in Greece.
Peter preached in Rome and was crucified upside down there around 66 CE.
Thomas went to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians, and was “thrust through in the four members of his body with a spear” in India.
Bartholomew preached extensively in India and was later beaten and crucified in Allanum, Armenia (modern day Georgia).
Simon the Zealot preached from Africa to Britain where he was crucified around 74 CE. He was later buried in Jerusalem.
Thaddeus went to Edessa and to all of Mesopotamia and was crucified in Berytus around 72 CE.
John was initially exiled to the Island of Patmos but was released and later died of old age in Ephesus during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan (c 98-117 CE).
According to history, all of these men unfailingly preached Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom as Messiah had taught them. They were given every opportunity to recant their testimony and save their lives… but they didn’t. They stood firm in their faith and (with the exception of John) were killed for for their faith.
This was the “your best life now” experience of the disciples.
They lived according to the promise that G-d would cause all things to work together for good— the good of spreading the Gospel, the good of discipling others, the good of teaching and preaching the Word, the good of extending the Kingdom and shepherding those entering it— but not the things the world would consider good.
How does that compare to the "good" we want in our lives today?