by Mike Ratliff
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22 ESV)
It seems just like the other day, but I suppose it was a few years ago that the old Slice of Laodicea blog was going full tilt, Ken Silva and Ingrid were taking it as well as giving it from those who hated to hear the truth that there actually is a dividing line between Orthodox Christianity and everything else that calls itself Christian, but isn’t, that is, apostasy in one form or another. I came into the battle seeking the truth. I was desperate because my church was being sucked into the Purpose Driven paradigm and no one there would listen to my warnings. Ken was a great help to me. In any case, it was during all of that that we witnessed a group of individuals declare war on the Orthodox Christianity we defended, refusing to be called “Christians” any longer, preferring to be called “Christ followers.” I always looked at that with humor because that seemed so “self-righteous” and “pretentious” and if we look carefully at what these people were trying to say by that, they were driving themselves even further into a “works righteousness” religion. Let’s look at our Lord’s own words in his calling people to follow Him.
I placed Matthew 4:18-22 from the ESV at the top of this post. Please read it carefully. Here is this passage from the Greek New Testament:
18 Περιπατῶν δὲ παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας εἶδε δύο ἀδελφούς, Σίμωνα τὸν λεγόμενον Πέτρον, καὶ ᾿Ανδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, βάλλοντας ἀμφίβληστρον εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν· ἦσαν γὰρ ἁλιεῖς·
19 καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου καὶ ποιήσω ὑμᾶς ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων.
20 οἱ δὲ εὐθέως ἀφέντες τὰ δίκτυα ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ.
21 Καὶ προβὰς ἐκεῖθεν εἶδεν ἄλλους δύο ἀδελφούς, ᾿Ιάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ ᾿Ιωάννην τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ μετὰ Ζεβεδαίου τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῶν καταρτίζοντας τὰ δίκτυα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐκάλεσεν αὐτούς.
22 οἱ δὲ εὐθέως ἀφέντες τὸ πλοῖον καὶ τὸν πατέρα αὐτῶν ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ.
In v19 our Lord calls Simon Peter and Andrew to follow Him (δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου) or, literally, “come after me.” The word δεῦτε means “to come hither.” The promise is that if they will δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου Jesus will ποιήσω ὑμᾶς ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων or, “I will make you fisherman of men.” The call is miraculous. It is from God and it strikes the heart of these men causing the intent He purposed for them, which we see in v20, “οἱ δὲ εὐθέως ἀφέντες τὰ δίκτυα ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ.” This literally says, “The ones but immediately having left the nets followed him.” The word translated here as “followed” is ἠκολούθησαν the aorist, indicative, active form of ἀκολουθέω or akoloutheō. This grammar structure is a gold mine for us and we must stop here my brethren to dig for eternal treasure. The aorist, indicative, active form tells us that, yes these men left their nets and followed Jesus, but, no, the power to do so was not from their free will but, instead, came through God’s grace to move them. This is no different than when people turn in repentance to believe the Gospel even though what they are hearing is the offense of the Cross and to most people it is a repulsive, insulting thing to be called a sinner in need of a Saviour. However, when God’s grace kicks in, miracles happen and these fishermen left their nets and became Jesus followers. This has nothing to do with these men seeking to do good works to earn salvation. This has nothing to do with trying to please Jesus. This is turning to do God’s will because God’s will was for them to do so. In one of my Grammatical Lexicons for Aorist Indicative Active verbs it uses as an example 1 John 2:27, which reads, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” The bold part is the Aorist Indicative Active verb. So you see, it is action that we do as believers, but is by the grace of God that we do it. What about James and John in vv21-22?
In v21 Jesus called them and then in v22 we have, “οἱ δὲ εὐθέως ἀφέντες τὸ πλοῖον καὶ τὸν πατέρα αὐτῶν ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ.” Again, we have the very same verb, ἠκολούθησαν. Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen who left there nets, turned and followed Jesus when He called them to do so. The verb grammar structure tells us that this was action done by them in the power of God according to His will.
All true followers of Jesus Christ follow Him in salvation. To come to Christ means true conversion, commitment, and change. As the calling of the Apostles illustrated this, there were also examples of those who failed this test as in the rich man (Matthew 19:21-22) and the man who supposedly had to bury his father first (Luke 9:61), genuine salvation is a forsaking all to follow Christ.
True Christ followers follow him in separation. I hear from so many of you about how your stand for truth and your refusal to bend and fellowship with apostates has cost you. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew “they forsook their nets, and followed him (Mark 1:16-18). They not only left it all behind, it stayed behind. The true believer is separate from the world and no longer follows the works of darkness.
We follow Christ in service. We are called to be a proclaimer of Christ, to be fishermen of men.
We follow Christ in suffering. Mark 8:34 says, ‘And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”’ To follow Christ means to suffer, and perhaps even die, for Him. That is why He also said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)
Soli Deo Gloria!