Who were the 70 disciples/apostles?
The 70 disciples are those referred to in Luke 10 – who were sent out to preach the gospel (and heal the sick), apart from the 12 disciples mentioned in the previous chapter, in Luke 9.
There are some Christians who are convinced of that the spiritual gifts (such as healing and speaking in tongues) were given only through the hands of the disciples (the 12 and the 70), and that these gifts therefore ceased after their deaths. The Bible, of course, claims no such thing. Paul even spends a large amount of text in his letters to the Corinthians to sort out rules and give advice when it comes to the spiritual gifts. Not once does he claim that they would soon cease to apply, but instead he encourages his readers to eagerly seek the spiritual gifts. Satan could not be any happier about the false teaching of cessationism, because this idea strips Christians from using excellent spiritual resources provided to us by the Holy Spirit.
Luke 10:1 After these things the Lord appointed OTHER SEVENTY ALSO, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.4 Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.5 And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.6 And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.8 And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:9 And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.10 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,11 Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.—17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
During the time of Jesus, the disciples/apostles were sent out by him to spread the gospel two and two. This does not mean that it is better to stay at home if we cannot find a friend to preach the gospel with, nor is it a great sin to sometimes go out three and three or more, if there is a reason for it. In the above chapter we are just informed how Jesus chose to arrange things for his disciples, and going out two and two is a great recommendation since you will always find support in your Christian brother/sister. If you have 12 disciples as your resource, it would be less beneficial to go out three and three since this would make up 4 teams instead of 6 (and having 35 teams is better than having 23 teams, if you have 70 disciples at your hands) because this means that fewer people will get the benefit to hear the gospel.
Jesus also had other specific recommendations for his disciples, such as “Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way”. This was his advice during his time in history and during his circumstances. (Going out preaching the gospel barefoot on the snowy streets of Sweden is not what Jesus had in mind.) Jesus does not say that all those detailed instructions were required everywhere during all times in all circumstances with no deviation.
We can find information about the 70 disciples in Luke 10, but in Luke 9 we can find information about his closest 12 disciples and they had similar instructions. Just like the 70 mentioned later, they had the authority to cure diseases and to cast out unclean spirits (demons). They were told to preach the kingdom of God (the gospel, including the importance of repentance) and healing the sick, and this is advice also for us. We can share the gospel in various ways, and today we also have the Internet as means.
Luke 9:1 Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.3 And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.4 And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.6 And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.
Mark 6:7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two;and gave them power over unclean spirits;— 12 And they went out, and preached that men should REPENT.13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
Mark. 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Matt. 10:1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
Jesus commanded his disciples to teach people to observe the things that they themselves have been commanded to do
The following section is important for our understanding because here we can see that Jesus commanded his disciples to teach people to OBSERVE ALL THINGS whichever he had commanded them (his disciples). According to the books of Luke, Mark and Matthew (and Acts) Jesus taught his disciples to preach the gospel to all people (including the importance of repentance) and to heal the sick. He also explained which signs would follow the believers (such as speaking in tongues).
Judas Iscariot was one of the 12 and had the same authority as the other disciples, but he was later replaced with Matthew.
Matt. 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:20 Teaching them TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
This means that healing was not just a task meant for Jesus and his disciples. We can see this also in the book of James. He writes to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad”, and not only does this signify individuals outside of the 12 and the 70 disciples, but the whole book of James applies for all of us – just like the rest of the books in the New Testament. James advice for all us and the church (the Christian fellowship):
Jam. 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the ELDERS OF THE CHURCH; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:15 And the prayer of FAITH shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be HEALED. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Paul’s advice for all of us concerning the spiritual gifts:
1 Cor. 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.28 And God hath set some in THE CHURCH, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
Paul’s physical contact with handkerchiefs and aprons resulted in people getting healed when they touched these items. Even demons were cast out. This is nothing that Jesus ever taught in the gospels, but Jesus never spoke against such a procedure.
Acts 19:11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
Healing and speaking in tongues are spiritual gifts which apply for everyone. The Bible nowhere claims that such useful gifts will cease before the return of Jesus (when such gifts are no longer needed). The spiritual gifts are useful tools for all Christians.
John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME, the works that I do he will do ALSO; and GREATER WORKS than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
Mark. 16:17 And these signs shall follow THEM THAT BELIEVE; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
But does it not say in Acts below that the holy Ghost was received when the disciples of Jesus, such as Philip Peter, and John, laid their hands on believers, and does this not in extension mean that the same applies when it comes to the ability to heal people? No, it does not say that the giving of the holy Ghost, or healing, are restricted to the disciples only. In Acts 8 the context is Simon (the former sorcerer) who erroneously believed that the giving of the holy Ghost could be bought for money – and the ones he happened to be in contact with were Philip, Peter and John. The book of Acts concerns the life of the disciples/apostles and the very first Christians, and naturally then we can read about their particular lives and comments.
Jesus again taught others to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:20 Teaching them TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU”, and what he commanded them was to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”. Jesus sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. This means that we should do the same since it was not a task restricted for the first generation of Christians. Why would future generations not be in need of the same teaching?
Acts 8:13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
When it comes to healing, FAITH plays a huge role, and naturally the power of the Lord.
Mark. 5:34 34 And he said unto her, Daughter, THY FAITH hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
Acts 15:9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that HE HAD FAITH TO BE HEALED
Matt. 9:2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus SEEING THEIR FAITH said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. — 6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
Matt. 9:22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; THY FAITH HATH MADE THEE WHOLE. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
Matt. 15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
Mark 5:34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
Mark. 10:52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.
Matt. 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Luke 5:17 17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to HEAL THEM.
Gal 3:5 Did then the One supplying you the Spirit and working miracles among you do it because-of works of the Law, or because-of the hearing of faith? (DLNT)
This verse shows that it is ultimately God through the Spirit and not the laying on of hands by the Apostles that bestow spiritual gifts. It also shows that the Galatian church continued to experience miracles in the absence of the Apostles.
I wonder why though, through the centuries the church has not witnessed the same level of supernatural activity described in the pages of the NT. Unbelief is likely one reason but I also think that the gospel message itself has been compromised and distorted to such an extent that miracles which are supposed to bear witness to the veracity of the gospel message have diminished greatly because of this. After all, why should miracles bear witness to and confirm a distorted gospel?
You’re right about Gal. 3! Sure, the laying on of hands (a physical contact) might be a natural way for a person with the gift of healing to reach out and heal someone, but it is not required. But also here “faith” plays a big role. There is also the famous Biblical example with the woman who touched Jesus’ clothes and got healed, partly because she believed it would happen. But naturally it would not be able to occur unless God has provided this power to mankind in the first place.
We don’t know for certain that such miracles and healing were not in effect in history, but I believe that the spiritual gifts are more in use in environments where they are encouraged and believed in. Unfortunately there are pastors today who don’t even mention them or even worse; warn against them.