Apostolic Credentials

What are the marks of a genuine apostle? “Signs and wonder?” Visions and dreams? Eloquent speech and a commanding presence? Such things are wonderful and have their place, but are they criteria by which disciples of Jesus can evaluate claims of apostolic authority?

The Apostle Paul provides us with insight into this question in his second letter to the Corinthians.

Some voices were challenging his apostolic credentials. They derided him - “His bodily presence is weak and his speech of no account.” Unlike Paul, these alleged “super-apostles” had letters of commendation from Jerusalem. They could point to the abundance of their visions and their Jewish pedigrees.

Nevertheless, Paul labels them “false apostles,” men who are preaching “another Jesus” and a “different gospel.”

In contrast to his opponents, Paul points to the things he suffered for the gospel to validate his apostolic authority:

  • Are they ministers of Christ? So am I - In labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the Jews, five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods. Once was I stoned. Thrice I suffered a shipwreck. A night and a day have I been in the deep - in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness…Who is weak, and I am not weak? If I must glory, I will glory of the things that concern my weakness.”

Yes, miracles did occur in his ministry. Yes, he experienced visions and revelations. And, yes, once he received a vision of the “third heaven.”

Nevertheless, these things did NOT confirm or define his apostleship and ministry.

What matters, and what Paul learned through his sufferings, is that the GRACE OF GOD IS SUFFICIENT, especially when manifested despite or even in our human weaknesses:

  • My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made complete in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore, I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, IN PERSECUTIONS, in distresses, for the sake of Jesus - for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

Paul’s “qualifications” for apostleship and his “credentials” stand in stark contrast to many of today’s “apostles” and “prophets,” the ones who point to their “signs and wonders,” visions, multiple visits to the “third heaven,” and angelic visitations as proof of their apostolic and prophetic authority.

Does this mean a person must suffer as Paul did to be a legitimate apostle? No. However, if any alleged prophet or apostle claims that God only wants to prosper his people or that suffering for the faith is not His will, or points to “mighty signs and wonders,” visions and dreams as the irrefutable evidence of his or her divine appointment to apostolic "office," grab your wallet and RUN!



The Living Word

The Suffering Servant