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Levi, Part 3

20th October 2017

In our last two studies, we've considered the calling of Levi, as described in Luke 5v27-32. The next time Luke mentions Levi, he calls him "Matthew":

Luke 5v12-16
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

We don't know why this disciple is sometimes called Levi and sometimes called Matthew; we can only speculate. Maybe "Levi" was his professional name, and he was "Matthew" to his friends. Maybe he had two names (like John Mark) or maybe Jesus renamed him. What matters, though, is that God chose him to be a apostle.

This makes me think about the doctrine of election. As we saw in our first study, the Jews despised tax collectors in those days. Peter and Andrew, James and John would not have chosen Levi, but Jesus did. God doesn't choose in the way we would choose; He doesn't choose us because we're good, or because we're nice. His choice is exactly that - God chooses whom He chooses. As Paul wrote:

Romans 9v15
For he [God] says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

And we never know the reasons for God's choice, but we do know that God chooses:

Ephesians 1v4
For he [God] chose us in him [Jesus] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment — to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.

Those who believe in Christ were chosen. We were predestined to believe and be saved. Why us? I don't know. But I do know that the calling of Levi proves that God is happy to choose despised and wicked people, to forgive their (our) sins, to adopt them (us) as His children, and to clean us up.

Soon after He called Levi to follow Him, Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray. He spent the night praying to God. And next morning He designated twelved of His disciples as apostles. And Levi - also called Matthew - was one of those twelve.

We don't know how the other disciples reacted. We can guess how the Pharisees reacted. How would we react? Suppose a member of your church, who was a recent convert, who until a few weeks ago was following a wicked way of life, most of whose friends were "tax collectors and sinners", was made a member of the leadership team?

Some people might be foolish enough to suggest that calling Levi/Matthew wasn't fair. They might point to their own godliness (but not their humility!) their scholarship, their background, their previous hard work for Jesus, or a dozen other things, but God's choice of leaders isn't supposed to be fair. We don't earn a leadership position. The only true qualification for leadership is God's call.

I know that both 1 Timothy and Titus contain lists of qualifications for leadership but, even if you've got all those qualifications, you're not a church leader unless God has called you to lead.

And God called Levi.

It's simple, really. God calls whomsoever He wants, to do whatsoever He wants. If God has called you to lead, then lead. If God hasn't called you to lead, then don't.