Having dealt last month with the call of Peter, we will now consider the Lords call to Matthew (or Levi), and also to Philip.
The Call of Matthew
This incident is recorded in three chapters of the synoptic Gospels: Matthew 9, Mark 2, and Luke 5. There are three features of Matthews experience that merit our attention. First, notice the simplicity of his obedience - he simply and immediately responded to the word of the Saviour: "Jesus saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him" (Mt 9.9). It would be good if we were all like this: simply obeying the call of the Lord, whether in matters such as baptism, service in the local assembly or further afield, or simply in the daily routine of life. Note that the call came to Matthew as he went about the normal business of the day. His obedience cost him something. In Lukes account we read that he "left all" (Lk 5.28), acting as did Peter and John who had left their nets to follow Christ.
The next matter that demands our notice is the devotion of his house. Matthews determination to follow the Lord was not merely for public consumption, it affected his home life also. His house must have been of a considerable size, since each Gospel records that there was a substantial crowd that gathered to the feast he prepared, yet Matthew was willing to use what he had for his Master. Many believers in the UK today live in considerable comfort. Are we using what God has given us for His glory? Note the things that characterised Matthews house.
1. It was a place where Christ could feel at home. If the Lord Jesus was (speaking reverently) to call unexpectedly at my house today, would He be comfortable there? Equally, would I be embarrassed and have to hide certain things? May God give us grace to keep our houses fit places for His presence!
2. It was a place where publicans and sinners could meet the Saviour. How wonderful it would be if each believers house was like this! Perhaps not all of us are called to reach the outcasts of society, but we can each witness to friends and neighbours. In todays way of life it is increasingly rare for people to come to gospel meetings, yet if they will come to our homes it gives us an opportunity to present them with the Saviour. Whether this is done (graciously!) in conversation, or by having appropriate Scripture texts on the wall, or simply by our behaviour, we should seek to ensure that the gospel sounds out from us to our neighbourhood.
3. It was a place where spiritual things were discussed (Mt 9.11-17; Mk 2.16-20; Lk 5.30-39). Is this true of my house? Sometimes it seems that Christians find it far easier to talk about the affairs of earth rather than the things of God. This is a sign of spiritual poverty, since if I am continually immersing myself in thoughts of the Lord and His Word I will find no difficulty when the conversation turns to heavenly things. The present writer can still recall the deathly, embarrassed silence that fell at one dinner table when a brother interrupted the flow of social chatter to ask a question about the Scriptures. May God deliver us from this!
Despite all that Matthew had done for Christ, however, we must not fail to notice his modesty. In his own account of these events, he says simply that "Jesus sat at meat in the house" (Mt 9.10); it is Luke who tells us that it was "a great feast" and that it was "in his (Matthews) own house" (5.29). It is never becoming for Christians to make much of what they do for the Lord, as that is the mark of a Pharisee (Lk 18.11-12). We should leave Him to pass judgement on our service for Him.
Finally, let us notice the contrasts of his life. Having been a servant of Caesar, he is now a servant of the King of kings; having been marked by inactivity ("sitting", Mt 9.9) he is now active in the service of Christ; having been noted for taking ("the receipt of custom", Mt 9.9) he is now a giver, making his great feast. Has my life been changed by Christ? Am I different from what I was, or at the very least different from what I would have been had I never met Him? God grant that we may be!
The Call of Philip
In John 1 there is recorded the call of Philip. His call was a very simple one - "Jesus findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me" (Jn 1.43), but it is most instructive to notice Philips spiritual development, and to learn from him some lessons that we can apply in our own testimony for the Lord.
First, in John 1, we see that his witness began locally. No doubt he was acquainted with Nathaniel, since he knew where to find him. The Scriptural pattern was that witness began in Jerusalem (i.e. my own locality) before it moved out into wider spheres of service (Acts 1.8). Do my neighbours and work colleagues know that I am a believer? How encouraging it must have been for Philip to learn that even before he spoke to Nathaniel the Lord had seen him and knew all about him (Jn 1.48). Our God is well aware of all our efforts to spread the gospel, and knows beforehand both the problems and the encouragements we will meet.
Then, in John 6, Philip and the Lord Jesus are faced with the problem of the needy multitude. Here, Philip is learning that in situations where his own resources are woefully inadequate there is an abundant provision in Christ. Although the difficulty may seem overwhelming to him, the Lord has the matter well in hand: "He himself knew what he would do" (v.6). How important it is for us to learn that in our efforts to reach others for the Saviour it is true that, "without me ye can do nothing" (Jn 15.5). Notice that Philip does not suggest a way out of the problem; he merely makes the need known to the Lord. We would do well to copy his example. Perhaps the Saviour here is also testing Philips compassion for souls. Will he suggest sending them away to fend for themselves, or does he view them as shepherdless sheep, as his Lord did? Am I marked by a love for the lost, or am I too taken up with other things to worry about those that are destined for a Christless eternity? Do I have a care for those who have fallen by the wayside, or do I regard their situation as their own fault, and ignore them? May God give us compassionate, Christlike hearts!
In John 12 Philip is approached by certain Greeks who desired to see the Lord. It is not stated why they wished to do so, but one thing that we can learn from this is that Philip was an approachable man. Am I? As disciples of the Lord Jesus we ought to be, since we follow a Man to whom mothers could fearlessly bring their infant children.
When we come to John 14, Philip is present in the upper room with the other disciples as the Lord leaves His final words of ministry with them. From this (and particularly from his question in v.8) we learn that he was a man with a longing for spiritual progress and a greater knowledge of the Father. Despite Philips failure to understand that to see Christ is to see the Father (v.9), we can at least give him credit for this: he was not satisfied with "second hand" Christian experience. I will never amount to much in spiritual things, and my witness will be notable only for its ineffectiveness, if I have no desire for a deepening of my experience of God. At every stage of the Christian pathway there is always something more to learn, some new aspect of God and His Word to appreciate - God grant that this may be our desire!
To be continued.