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Marks of Apostleship (1 Corinthians 4)

The Bible gives marks of an apostle that are stunningly different than we might expect for such giants of the faith. Rather than praise and admiration in the world, they were met with hostility which often had them "condemned to death" (1 Corinthians 4:9). They became "fools for Christ's sake" and "without honor" sometimes even in the church (4:10)! Those today who have taken upon themselves the title of "apostle" often fly in and out of events as the “man of the hour” with a celebrity air about them. Yet, in the Bible, the marks of apostleship included being "hungry and thirsty," "poorly clothed," often "roughly treated" or even "homeless" (1 Corinthians 4:11). To be known as "the scum of the world" and "the dregs of all things" is a cross that no one volunteers for, but apostles that are really sent by God endure it for the joy of obeying the Father (4:13).

Apostles are marked by God's power, not by eloquence. Paul declared that he would find out "not the words of those who are arrogant but their power" (1 Corinthians 4:19). This statement came from a man who was a walking testimony of the power of God; I say this not to lift up Paul on a pedestal but to make a factual statement. He was once stoned by a crowd of opponents, and they dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead; but other believers watched as Paul rose up and walked back into the city (Acts 14:19-20). He is also the man who purposely refused to trust in eloquent words when he preached, so that the power of God was on display, rather than human ability (1 Corinthians 1:17). This is the same Paul from whom people took handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him; even through these pieces of cloth, God healed the sick and cast out demons (Acts 19:12)!

Some people presume to speak with the authority of an apostle but lack the reality of the power of God's Spirit. There are times when genuine Spirit-filled men and women who are living in victory over sin are called to rebuke, to bring conviction, and to exhibit the same righteous anger Jesus had toward the Pharisees. There are other times, however, when men and women choose to throw stones at others in the church, sometimes using the same language Jesus used, yet at their core they have not experienced victory over sin. Their words are usually fueled by bitterness, unforgiveness, or offense. We can fall into the trap of trying to be in word what we simply are not in spiritual power. There is such wisdom in choosing not to speak until we are certain the living and pure God has told us to speak. Better not to speak until we know He has given us authority to say it, than to be quick with our words while we ourselves lack the power and authority in the core of our being to be the person we are calling others to be.

Have you received power from the Spirit? We can and should ask the Holy Spirit every day to fill us. Is there any area in my life where I have right words but no power? Lord, enable my life to be a demonstration of your power!

Alex Mack

Teaching Pastor

The Rock Church

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