“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine . . . and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 This week’s assault on Facebook is 2 Timothy 4:3-4, with assorted memes and photos (one is a shot of the verse, in situ, […]
“These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (Matthew 10:2)
Do apostles exist today?
It’s an important question, because we don’t have to wander far through the Christian arena to find people who put the title in front of their name, thereby claiming a unique and special status as teachers of God’s word.
Such status can easily be, and frequently is, misused and abused, so the wise Christian gives thought to the warning, expressed by Peter, one of the most recognized apostles of them all, in 2 Peter 2:1, 3:
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teacher among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord . . . In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.”
It’s interesting that this much damage is caused by mere teachers, not apostles, and it’s worthy also to note that their primary motivation is making money — which they do, because there will always be foolish, albeit well-meaning, people.
So the first question for any Christian, confronted by someone claiming to be a modern-day apostle (or prophet, or stately evangelist, or mighty teacher) is — “Are you making significant amounts of money at this?”
“Ah, but Apostle Holiness is collecting money to spread his ministry throughout the world. He needs money to do this because television air-time, you know, is expensive. So is renting football stadiums.”
Regarding the issue of money, the Apostle Paul — who described himself as the “least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9) and despite his position being questioned by others (1 Corinthians 9:2) asserted his right because, like the 12, he had seen Christ (Galatians 1:1) — makes a point of not focusing upon the generation of money, even though he realistically deserved a minimum wage for the work:
“Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?” (9:7)
Although Paul acknowledges his right to be paid for his work — payment which, it should be unnecessary to point out, is not so excessive that it involves owning a private jet, running a multi-million dollar religious corporation under his name, and living a lifestyle far, far outstripping that of those who listen to him — he chose not to:
“But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.”
So when we encounter our modern-day apostle, we ask, “Does his attitude reflect that of Paul? Is money NOT a focus?”
Another question to ask is, how humble is this guy?
Peter, Andrew, John and James were fishermen; Matthew was a tax collector; regarding the others, we know little, but nowhere do we find encouragement for any of them to aggrandize themselves by virtue of their position as apostles. Indeed, when Jesus asked them once,
“What were you arguing about on the road?’
they kept quiet, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. (Mark 9:33-34)
Even at this level in their maturity, the disciples who literally walked with Christ knew that putting forth their own glory did not mesh with the teaching of their Rabbi.
I am reminded of some words I read recently by an acolyte who attended a grand conference of some modern-day, self-proclaimed apostle:
“He touched me! He came forth and put his hands upon me!” as if the man were our Eldest Brother Himself.
Rather than disabuse the woman of her misconception of who he is, this VIP continued through the swooning crowd, soaking up the love.
How a Real Apostle Responds
How did another apostle, a real one, respond to adoration such as this? In Acts 10:25-26, Peter greets the seeker Cornelius, who falls at his feet in reverence:
“But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.'”
Does our modern day apostle respond in kind?
And a third question — is this apostle, this great teacher, this wise prophet — part of a family dynasty?
There is no guarantee, you know, that every child and grandchild of a minister of God, real or self-imposed, will follow in the literal spiritual steps of his forebears — 1 and 2 Kings list one ruler after another who either kept in the ways of his fathers, for good or evil, or did not, but as is pointed out in Ezekiel chapter 18, each man is judged for his own righteousness, and does not receive a free ride — or built-in publicity, instant ascendancy in the family ministry, and automatic speaking engagements — because of the name of his earthly father.
Or he shouldn’t, in the kingdom of God. But he frequently does, in the kingdom of man.
Whether or not the position of apostle is an ongoing one, or a title limited to the first century, is not clearly and succinctly spelled out in Scripture, but if we keep in mind what is, then we can avoid falling for a charlatan:
“Watch out for false prophets,” Jesus — who knows a lot about these things — tells us in Matthew 7:15. “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Check out also 1 John 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:3; Colossians 2:8, among others.)
They look, and sound, like holy men. They live and speak, however, like greedy ones.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage Christians to be well steeped in God’s word for themselves, so that they can recognize when it is mis-used by others.
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