12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and in wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 2 Cor. 12:12, 13
Let’s see that again.
“Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and in wonders, and mighty deeds.”
Did I read that correctly? No; this cannot be true. It cannot be possibly true what Paul is saying here. Where is the evidence of all these things that he claims he did? Where else has he talked about this? He could not have done all these things – signs, wonders, mighty deeds – and not let us know about it in the loudest terms possible. I mean, this is the news; it should be all over his epistles! No, no, no. If Paul did these things, then these accounts are what should fill his epistles.
But it is not so. Paul says nothing more about his exploits in his epistles. Paul single-handedly, so to speak, wrote more than half the entire New Testament (14 out of 27 books). Now, considering the fact that the Bible is God’s handiwork, i.e., it was God who allowed what would enter and what would not be entered into the Bible, it was God, therefore, who moved Paul to write as he wrote. No doubt Paul would have wanted to write more about his exploits; but God stayed his hand. The Bible is God’s voice, not man’s. It is God talking, telling us all about Himself. Paul’s writings therefore tell us tons about not just the character of God, but also about God’s priorities. Considering, therefore, that in his epistles Paul makes only passing mention of the mighty deeds that he accomplished in his ministry, it is clear that God is trying to tell us something here. Indeed, here, God makes it clear as day that His priority is not signs and wonders and mighty deeds. Nor is His boasting in these things. God’s priorities and boasting are elsewhere. Far, far elsewhere.
So what is all this obsession that Christians today have with signs and wonders and mighty deeds? I mean, today every two-bit preacher wants to gain recognition through the ‘mighty deeds’ they do on behalf of God. So much so that, unable to get the real thing, many have crossed over into trickery, deception and outright witchcraft, the extremes that we see today in Pentecostalism. People trying to prove how ‘powerful’ or ‘anointed’ they are. And yet we see God, who is supposedly the power behind these preachers’ farcical ‘miracles’, He Himself did not make any such claims through the Apostle Paul.
Paul himself was following in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. On countless occasions, after Jesus had done a simple miracle as healing someone, He strictly forbade them from trumpeting it abroad. One of the most interesting among these accounts is the well-known story of the blind man whom Jesus touched twice to have him healed. The man who saw men walking as trees. The account in Mark 8:26 states, after Jesus had healed the man:
“And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.”
The Swahili version tells it even better:
“And he took him to his house, and told him, Do not enter even into the village.”
In other words, Jesus took the man right up to his house. Probably locked him in for a while. Just to make sure the man would not begin broadcasting what had happened.
I am wondering whether I would have been capable of such restraint as Jesus had. Wouldn’t it be so much more wonderful to have people knowing about and wow-ing at my accomplishments? Wouldn’t it also be a way of advertising God’s power? But this kind of approach is far removed from God’s character and will.
For this reason, therefore, every preacher who wants to be recognized for their ‘handiwork’ – miracles, signs and mighty deeds and, indeed, every other kind of recognition – is outside of God’s will. God is not happy with what these preachers are doing. They are leading God’s people away from God’s true purpose in calling them to Him, for God does not call us to come and receive miracles from Him. God calls us for a completely different purpose.
12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 2 Cor. 12:12-13
One day I had a dream. In the dream, we were at a sort of pier, and people were queuing up to pay for their tickets. Upon looking behind me, I saw Jesus standing right behind me. He had a sort of string purse, and He was trying to dig inside, looking for some money. But there was nothing inside.
In the dream, I turned around and, with tears in my eyes, I said to Him, “Jesus, I could never have thought that you would not be having money!”
At which I gladly took out my own money and paid for His ticket.
I woke up from my dream my heart pounding with excitement. This was one of the clearest dreams I had ever had, and in it I had unmistakably served the Lord in the clearest way possible! I stayed there in my bed for a while, awed by the wonder of it that dream.
The Lord, however, was not about to let me have a picnic with that. He quickly brought me down to earth by bringing a few scriptures to my mind.
“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17); and,
“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (Jam. 2:14-17).
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20)
The Lord showed me that loving and serving Him was all about loving and serving my brothers and sisters whom I dwell with down here on earth. Doing so pleases the Lord just as much as if I had served Him in person.
I have not written this story to show how cozy I am with Jesus. Only God truly knows about that (1 Cor. 4:5). Rather, I have written it to illustrate that when He was here on earth, the Lord walked in need, in spite of the fact that He had many women ministering to Him (Mk. 15:40-41). It was the kind of lifestyle He had chosen.
But, back to Paul. Let us have another look at that scripture.
“12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.” (2 Cor. 12:12-13)
This is the only place in the scriptures where Paul refers to the mighty works that were done through him by the Lord. Is that not so different from many modern preachers, some of whom have raised up ministries based solely on the mighty works they perform? Many years ago, when I was living in our neighboring country of Kenya, I saw a poster that said, “A man of miracles comes to Nairobi.”
The Apostle Paul would not have written such a poster. A man once asked me, “Who are you in your church?”
He wanted to know what position I held in church.
I told him, “I don’t know.”
He thought I was being arrogant. But he was trying to back me into the very corner that I was scrambling to get out of.
Today, many men of God want to be something. But neither Jesus nor the Apostles had that goal.
Anyway, to end. The Apostle Paul talked extensively about himself in all his epistles. But all the talk about himself was only about his weaknesses, or his “infirmities”, as the Bible refers to them. He talked only about the things he suffered for the gospel’s sake. That was his singular boast. He would gladly have boasted in his many accomplishments; but the Lord told him, “No.”
And now, in these scriptures, he reveals a mind-blowing fact about his life. That he gloried in his LACK. Paul worked in the church at Corinth in great want. So much so that the church in Macedonia had to come to his aid (2 Cor. 11:9)
Whilst great miracles and mighty deeds were done through him by the Lord to confirm Paul’s calling as an apostle; yet Paul would not glory in these. On the contrary, he was looking to and rejoicing at his material and financial lack in the midst of the Corinthians. In other words, what concerned him most was the cross working in him!
I don’t know about you. But my heart rejoices when I see the beauty of the cross. The cross was the singular revelation that drove Paul’s life. And today, you cannot afford to preach the gospel without mentioning Paul, so influential is his life.
Under the Old Covenant, the highest spiritual ministry that God gave to his people was the ministry of the prophet. In other words, if God wanted to communicate something really important to His people He sent the prophets. The Bible tells us so in Hebrews 1:1:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets…”
But in the New Covenant, we see the arrival of a new ministry, the apostle. This ministry is greater than that of the prophet, for in 1 Corinthians 12:28 the Apostle Paul writes: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers …”
So what does the apostle do? Actually, he does not do much. All he carries is a message. But it is a message full of the power of God. The apostle’s message has the power to transform a man from being carnal to being spiritual. In other words, from a person of sin to a person of righteousness. In even better words, from a person who does not please God to one who pleases God.
The message that the apostle carries is the message of the cross. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:17-18).
The message of the cross of Jesus is greater than baptism or any outside markings. There are some Christian denominations that put all their emphasis on baptism. To them, getting baptized is synonymous with being born again. But one could come out of the water and be no different from someone who has just taken a bath.
The second birth, however, is a miracle of God that occurs in a man’s heart, and this miracle is what transforms a man. That is why the Apostle Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Gal. 6:17).
In Hebrews 6:1 the Apostle Paul also writes:
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…”
And in Colossians 1:28: “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Even as God wills that we all be saved, yet it is our perfection that God is most concerned. Hence the revelation of the cross through the apostolic gospel.
In the Old Testament, the cross had been revealed since God’s dealings with Adam. But it was never revealed clearly, for God waited until the fullness of time would come, when Christ, the perfect Lamb, would be sacrificed on the cross. All the Old Testament prophets therefore saw the cross, but they did not see it clearly. Nonetheless, everyone who pleased God in the Old Testament had to have carried the cross, one way or another. But it is clear from the Bible that these were only a handful of people.
When Jesus went up to heaven, He sent us His Holy Spirit. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…” (Jn. 16:8)
That statement by Jesus immediately sets alarm bells ringing in us that these things – sin, righteousness and judgment – were not dealt with sufficiently under the law of the Old Covenant.
Or they were not dealt with at all.
But now, through the ministry of the apostle, the Holy Spirit would effectively deal with these things. If it is sin it would be defeated. If it is righteousness it would be established. And men will be made to know that a time is coming when all will be judged by a righteous Judge.
Everything is bound up within the cross of Jesus Christ. It is through the cross that these things will be accomplished. If these things were not made clear under the Old Covenant, now, under the New, they will become clear as day, for Christ has accomplished all.
The apostle, therefore, is like a professional, sent by God. If you are taught something by an amateur, it is not always clear or perfect. When the professional arrives, however, everything flows smoothly. He brings things out more clearly and perfects everything.
That is what the apostle does through revealing the power and grace that is found in the cross. Any child of God who submits himself under the ministry of the apostle can understand all that the cross is meant to do in their lives, not bits and pieces about salvation. When the message of the cross is delivered to the church under the anointing of the apostolic ministry, God’s people can understand that, even as they rejoice at the fact of their salvation, yet, more importantly, they realize they are called upon to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
In this way, both the flesh and sin are confronted in church.
In the Old Testament, very few people pleased God. Not many did His will. God had a difficult time dealing with His people. But God bore with them, sometimes punishing them according to the law, although He never punished them according to the extent of their evil ways because He is a merciful God.
But in the New Testament, God expects all His children to walk in the fullness of His will, and to please Him fully. Not by law, but by grace.
Still, for the believer who does not walk in this revelation, the gospel of the cross is as difficult as trying to commit a Ph.D dissertation to a kid in kindergarten. He will say, “Too hard!” – and seek for an option that eases the suffering on his flesh. That is why, for many Christians who are not under the apostolic ministry, all they know about the cross is that Christ died there for their sins (the initial salvation). They do not know the role of the cross in enabling them to live a victorious life over their flesh and over sin.
The apostolic message is one of self-denial, of taking up our cross daily and following Christ:
“…For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” – Rom. 8:36.
“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” – Gal. 6:12
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” – Gal. 6:14.
That is why all the other ministries, including that of the prophet, must come under the ministry of the apostle, for grace’s sake. The grace of Jesus Christ diffuses from this one ministry – this ministry that clearly sees the cross – to the other ministries. Any ministry purporting to work outside the authority of the apostolic ministry is simply lighting strange fires.
The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, “You may have ten thousand teachers, but it is I who bore you in the gospel!”
There are many churches today where you find the pastor is the alpha and omega. In others it is the bishop, or the archbishop. In others it is make-believe ‘apostles’, ‘prophets’, etc. There are all kinds and all levels of spiritual leaders, but the true father of the church is the apostle. He has the authority and power in the Spirit to bring and men and women into the true image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Where the apostolic ministry is not, there is no grace, there is only law. That is why pastors introduce long strings of rules, laws and regulations (do’s and don’ts) in church.
The Apostle does not do that. Did you ever read how Paul dealt with the Corinthians even after they had reneged on their contributions for the church in Jerusalem for a whole year? He did not threaten them. Nor did he set a law on them. Nor did he tell them, “Ok, let’s try the ten percent.”
On the contrary, he used the example of the Macedonians to encourage the Corinthians to give. He dealt with them the way a father would deal with his children.
Instead of giving them rules and principles, Paul talked to them about the grace of God. Indeed, he was in effect telling them: If it is not of grace, it is not worth it. All that God accepts is what has been accomplished in our hearts as a result of the working of the Holy Spirit.
Now, today, you have very many teachings in church about giving. All are geared to make God’s people to give. I went to one church where I found five different categories of envelopes, each one for a different offering!
All this is due to a lack of a connection with the apostolic gospel. Without the apostolic message, law reigns supreme. It might be more so in some churches than in others; but still it is law.
The gospel is about setting people free and only the apostolic gospel of grace and truth can do that.
Have you seen the light? Which by interpretation means, have you met up with the true ministry of the apostle,the one who can show you the strait and narrow way?
Is the cross close enough to you that you are able to take it up daily and follow Christ? (Lk 9:23)
[“Have you seen the light?” One of the most beautiful songs, here beautifully sang]
You notice in the Bible that the word “apostle” is not there in the Old Testament. We find it only in the New Testament. That means that the ministry of the apostle begins under the New Covenant.
But before we get to that, let me first share something in connection with this.
We humans are wired in such a way that we want to understand things rationally. We want everything that comes our way to be explainable and to be understood by the human mind. That is okay as far as this world is concerned. We wouldn’t be where we are progress-wise without the great rational and deductive minds of this world.
But this human predisposition becomes a problem when we turn to God. Deduction and rationalization are hardly the ways to get to know God. God is Spirit, and the human mind is matter; how can it understand spirit? It is not possible. And man’s inclination to do just that has proved to be his undoing.
This is why especially intelligent people of the world have a problem understanding God. I can assure you that when we get to heaven we will find very few intelligent people up front. Now, I know someone is probably about to burst a neck vein over this statement, but notice I did not say there will not be intelligent people up front. All I said is that they will be very few, at least in proportion to the ‘dumb’ people that you normally find in church.
This is because it is the lowly people that God choses to be the heirs of His Kingdom!
The Apostle Paul tells the carnal-minded, intelligently puffed-up Corinthians: “26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).
In James 2:5, the Apostle James also echoes Paul’s words: “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”
Notice it is God who has chosen them.
Do you know the poor? Living in Africa, I know the poor. Being poor, of course, means, first, that they have nothing. Secondly, they are uneducated, and not very intelligent. Thirdly, they have absolutely no class. It requires a strenuous effort for someone who has class to even notice this group of people. These are people that no one has any need of.
I once knew of a certain rich man in my home town who would keep people – his own employees – standing outside his house the whole day waiting for him to get out and see them. And sometimes he would not come out at all.
Generally, however, worldly people are not so cruel. Most people do all sorts of kindly things for the poor. It is called philanthropy, and much of the time it comes from a true heart of compassion. More so in church we are taught to love others as we love ourselves. But let’s face it, there are very few even amongst the best of us who do not have a red line drawn somewhere deep in our subconsciousnesses where we do not allow certain classes of people to cross over.
But God is the great I AM, and He has no such qualms. He would laugh at our weak attitudes were it not for the fact they sadden Him so much. God is so rich in grace He can do things which we can only dream about. And to prove it, God reaches out and calls the very people that this world has no need of. Now, notice the Bible does not say that God first consults with the rich people of this world on whether He should call the poor, or which poor people He should call. No. Nor does He call up a panel of illustrious university professors and ask them to prepare a list of which uneducated folk He should share His deep mysteries with: (“Oh, y’know, I am not sure whether they can handle it.”)
God is above the high and mighty of this world, and He does not consult them.
God expressly calls and uses the ‘dumb’ and lowly. Some of the Old Testament prophets that we revere today were mere shepherds!
Even when God used educated people, in the spirit they first had to relinquish their stations in life. The great man of law, the Apostle Paul, says that he “suffered the loss of all things”! (Phil. 3:8) All!! When he says all, it means even his intelligence, his doctrines and beliefs, his high office as a Pharisee; and even his very identity. Remember Paul was once known as Saul. He lost even that.
And why does God call and use “the foolish”, “the weak”, “the base” the “despised”, and “things which are not” and not “the wise”, “the… mighty”, or “things that are”?
It is so “that no flesh should glory in his presence”!
The biggest thing that mankind glories in is their mind. But we cannot presume to know God by our minds, however fine they are. We can only know God through our hearts and for that a miracle must happen in our hearts.
As we study the apostolic message, therefore, it is good to pray to God to open our spiritual eyes that we might understand His heart for the church, of whom we are a part.
[Below: In order to interact with God we must have humble hearts]
The father figure is God’s greatest creation. There is no bigger tragedy than for a child to grow up without a father. I know people who will point to so-and-so to try to prove that you can achieve so much without being raised by a father, but I am not talking about achievements here.
Whatever way one looks at it, God certainly had a purpose in putting a man in the house. A father in the house carries authority. That is what he was created for above everything else. And authority brings order.
To be honest, I personally cannot claim to have accomplished even half of what I know I need to accomplish in my house. I cannot even claim to be half the idea of what some people regard as a man (After these two submissions, I am sure my enemies can now sleep in peace).
But one thing I have stone-cold accomplished in life is that my children know that there is a father in the house. Of that I have no doubt. They know the meaning of authority in our house. There are times I have gone to extremes, sure, but it has served in them knowing that there is something called authority in our house.
My wife can scale Mt. Everest and come back, but she can do nothing when it comes to authority in the house. That is my office and even if I am not there she cannot usurp it.
I have been away from home many times and there are times when my wife thought she could “control” our teenage kids. But every time she would try such a stunt, it always back-fired, and she had to call me from wherever I was, even when I was far away in a neighboring country. And all the kids needed to hear was my voice – and order would return to that house.
I am not saying they became angels or anything. Nor am I saying that my children will succeed in life because of that. But my children have always known there is a father in the house. And that has always brought order back to that house even in the worst of situations. If my children refused for me to chastise them, they would become bastards. The Bible says so in Hebrews 12:8.
Today people fear the term “order”. But it is a spiritual term.
(It is in connection to these issues that the Bible says that every woman must be under the authority of a man, and that every man must be under the authority of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). Anything outside this order is unbiblical.
That is why also there can be no woman in the five-fold ministry because these are ministries of authority within the church. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
A woman can minister in many other areas within the Body of Christ, but not in the five-fold ministry.)
A lack of a father in the church has brought about all the chaos and disorder that we are witnessing in the church today.
And the Apostle Paul, speaking with regard to the ministry of the apostle, he writes the Corinthians, “14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. 15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” 1 Cor. 4:14-15
Paul was telling the Corinthians that he was their father. He had begotten them in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of the cross (1 Cor. 2:2). He had preached the singular gospel – the gospel that tells you to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ – that only could produce mature sons and daughters in the Spirit. As a result, they were now his bona fide “sons” – but sons of God’s Kingdom also because Paul was under the authority of Christ.
Paul therefore could “shame” them if it came to that, as he does in 1 Cor. 6:5 and elsewhere, he could warn them; indeed, he could do anything with them to bring order into their lives.
No other ministry can beget sons in the gospel of Jesus Christ except the ministry of the apostle. He alone has been put by God in the church to bring the revelation of the cross in the church. All other ministry are dependent on this ministry together with the ministry of the prophet. Upon these two ministries is the church built (Eph. 2:20). People may beget many other things, I don’t know; but the Bible makes it clear that it is only the ministry of the apostle that can beget sons in the gospel.
Indeed a lack of this ministry within the church, or a lack of submission to it, has brought about so much destruction to the church of Jesus Christ.
I doubt any book exiting would suffice to list all the different things that are going all wrong with the church today. Every one of us is a witness of at least something that is wrong with the church.
The root of this problem is that there is no father in the house. There is no man in the house to bring order.
That is why, if you look carefully particularly on many Christian TV channels, you will find many young preachers today. (In Africa nearly all of them dress the same way). You will find these young men saying and doing the most abominable things in their “churches”; and if you follow them up they will tell you they have their own independent “ministries”.
They have no one they are subject to. They do not know anything about authority, nor submission.
But with the early church, if you saw a young man preaching or pastoring a church, he always had a father behind him. The Bible is replete with these examples. We find Timothy and Titus, for example, and many others.
You wouldn’t have found these young preachers telling their congregations to eat grass, for example, or to bring in all their money so they could live like kings.
No; these were young men (notice, not women) who had been raised the hard way. There was no spiritual frivolousness about their lives. They had a father, and there was order in their lives.
It is high time that the church woke up and acknowledged that it desperately needs the five-fold ministry, and to allow the ministry of apostle and prophet to have their true place in church – that there may be order and growth in the Body of Christ.
As long as this blog exists, it will be dedicated to bringing out the singular apostolic revelation that Christ bequeathed the church, and which the Apostle Paul so ably set forth in his writings and without which there is no true church.
[Below: the twin ministries of the apostle and prophet are the foundation of the true church]
In 1977 U.S. scientists launched a spacecraft, Voyager, into space to take images of our solar system, including the planets within. It was a one-way mission; the spacecraft would never return to earth.
In 1990, the scientists commanded Voyager to turn around and take snapshots, in a panoramic view, of everything that it had covered on its way so far. By that time, the spacecraft was over 3 and a half billion miles away from the earth!
We could hardly claim to have gone that far with 1 Corinthians 2, so we will turn back and take one last look at this scripture.
Let us look up close, in particular, verse 3:
“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
These are words that we should take very seriously. Not unless, of course, we choose to underestimate Paul. (We haven’t even touched on God here yet!)
Y’know, in several places Paul asks the church to consider him a fool. But Paul is trapping us!
Paul was no fool. He had more physical, mental and spiritual clout than any man that we know of. Indeed, Paul is the father of the modern church.
It is therefore wise and safe for us to heed every word that Paul says.
Now here Paul says that he preached the gospel to the Corinthians “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
Why would Paul do so? It was because he feared to bring in something different from that which he had been commissioned to bring. You see, Paul was a bond slave of Jesus Christ, and in his desire to please his Master, he feared lest he deviate from the message that he had been sent to deliver – the singular message of the cross.
This, of course, was tied in with the fact that Paul loved the church with the love of Christ and he knew that the only thing that would bring it to the perfection that Christ purposed for it to arrive at was the gospel of the cross.
He writes to the Colossians: “1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:1-3).
That was Christ’s love at work in Paul’s heart.
I believe that if we are serious with God, we too should fear and tremble. We should fear and tremble lest we are carrying and working on and glorifying something other than the singular message that the Apostle Paul carried – the message of the cross.
Not that we are not going to pray for the sick or that we are not going to desire miracles and other manifestations of God’s power in our midst. We definitely will. But we must first be settled on the right foundation – the foundation of the cross.
Notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11: “10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
There can be no other foundation for the church apart from that which has been laid by the true apostles of Jesus Christ, which is none other than Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
We cannot make the physical manifestations of God’s power to be the foundation upon which a mature and perfect church is going to be built. Jesus told the Canaanite woman that the manifestations of God’s power are “children’s bread”! (Matt. 15:26)
But the Apostle Paul talks of something else. He says that there is strong meat which “belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14)
Notice the words “full age” in this scripture. Paul is here talking about the gospel that he carried, the gospel of the cross, which alone had the ability to bring God’s children into maturity.
We should fear and tremble lest we build on a gospel that will never bring God’s people to spiritual maturity, which is any other gospel apart from that singular gospel that Paul carried, the gospel of the cross.
[Below: Passengers board the bus that is to take us from Mwanza to Musoma…
44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46
A brother and I were discussing this verse recently and he asked me whether I had ever seen a pearl. I told him no. He told me he had also never seen one.
To our amazement we found that neither of us had ever even heard of anyone who had seen a pearl, let alone own one.
From the scripture above, it appears that a pearl is something of incredibly great value. Jesus compared it with hidden treasure. He also said this pearl was something for which someone – in one instance an astute merchant man – was willing to go sell all that he had to come buy it.
You notice also that the men mentioned in these verses of scripture were seeking after something – something of value. And when they found it, they let go of everything they had, that they might gain this thing, which was the object of their heart’s desire.
I might never live to see a pearl in the natural. But I do know that I saw something the day I heard the gospel of the cross preached. There is no doubt about that. I found what my heart had been seeking for all my life long. In the revelation of the cross I found Truth.
When I heard the gospel of the cross, it shook me. I will be forever grateful to God for enabling me to see something of value in the cross. When I say “me” I mean my spirit, of course. Were I dependent on my mind, I would have run away from it, it shook me so bad. But I saw something. I can never explain what it was that made me to stay around after I had heard a gospel that brought the sword to my heart. But I am sure my spirit saw something, and that was why I stayed. And I am still right there.
One of Apostle Paul’s prayers for the churches was that their spiritual eyes might be opened. “What you see is what you get”, they say.
I once heard of an ‘apostle of money’. In other words, this ‘apostle’ sees money, and he preaches money. No doubt his followers also see money.
Today there are ‘apostles’ for every commodity, on earth and in heaven.
But the revelation of the cross causes you to focus on the all-important aspect of the gospel – the crucifixion of the flesh.
A lack of this revelation leads to a gratification of the flesh. There are many Christians today gratifying the flesh “in the Name of Jesus”.
The Apostle Paul knew where to find the life: it was in identifying his life with the sufferings and death of Christ. Have you ever wondered why Paul would want to “know” nothing among the Corinthians “save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? (1 Cor. 2:2) There is much food for thought there.
Ever since my heart grasped the revelation of the cross, my focus has been drastically changed. I desire only one thing: to know Him and His sufferings and death that “if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). It is the life of Christ that I seek after. I am not perfect, which makes me wonder how long it took these gentlemen to “sell all they had”. Certainly not as long as I am taking; but I am assured in my heart that as long as my eyes stay focused on that pearl – the cross and the grace to be found therein – I will one day find myself in God’s perfect will.
[Below: God’s Kingdom is way deep down in a man’s heart]
For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. 2 Cor. 2:17
I keep coming back to this topic because it is so vital to the Church. There is something about this topic that made the Apostle Paul to weep. In our culture, if you see a grown man weeping, it shocks you. When we as born-again believers read in the Bible about a man like the Apostle Paul weeping, that should shock us. There was something there that caused untold grief to the Apostle.
Before I continue, let me say that I know that in writing these kinds of things I run the risk of reducing the readership of this blog. But I am quite comfortable with that because, in the first place, I am not seeking any kind of popularity through running this blog. I am not even seeking to be accepted by anyone. I am simply seeking to present the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ as sincerely as I find it set out in the Bible. I want to thank WORDPRESS for affording me this opportunity. I also want to thank my dear sister, Louise Echstein, who encouraged me to begin writing this blog. Lastly, I thank my readers, and in particular Pastor Rob Barkman, for inspiring me on.
But I am also a part of the Body of Christ and I want to assure you that I write with a heart of love. I have to say this last one because some one accused me of being ‘insensitive’. I may not be the most loving person within the Body of Christ, but I know I strive to present my observations with as much love as I know how.
(Have you ever noticed that the Apostle Paul does not come out as a particularly ‘loving’ person in his epistles, in the way we have been conditioned to view love? He had many hard and difficult things to say to the Church of his day. But, I assure you that Paul was and still is the most loving father the Church will ever know. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not there to please anybody in the flesh. That is why Jesus and Paul could call people ‘dogs’ and ‘Satan’ and get away with it. When therefore someone writes or says some hard things about the Church it does not necessarily mean they are unloving.)
Secondly (as far as I am concerned), if even one person – just one – were to come to a realization of the true purpose of God for the Church through what I write in this blog, that would be sufficient for me. Sometimes we might not be writing for ‘the multitudes’. We hardly know the importance of a single person who has caught the purpose of God in their hearts. But God does. You can see that in the Bible.
During Abel’s time there were many men and women in the world. So it was with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Ruth, the prophets and all of the Bible heroes that we read about. During each one’s tenure on earth there were probably thousands or even millions of other people living; but the Bible has space to talk only about these very few persons. Why so? It is because they carried God’s plan in their hearts.
You can see that also with John the Baptist. In Luke chapter 3, the Bible takes only one and a half short verses to chronicle the many powerful men that ruled the world during his time, after which it settles down to talk unhurriedly about John the Baptist’s life “in the wilderness”. In purely human terms, John was a nothing. But he was everything with God.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 and in Galatians chapter 1 we read and recognize that even if there were other apostles in his day, yet the Apostle Paul “received” something – a revelation – that was distinctly superior and he received it directly from the Lord Himself.
All these men and women of God were a very small group who somehow paid the price to carry God’s plan and purpose in their hearts during their lifetime. That is how important one man (or woman) can be with God.
As I just said, there is a price to pay in carrying the plan and purpose of God on earth. Not many who are called are able or willing to pay that price. That is why Jesus said that many are called, but few are chosen. But Jesus said something else also concerning this. He said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14)
“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way” That is the price. Jesus lays it out clearly.
But notice also that phrase, “few there be that find it.”
How we can believe that all the multitudes in the churches today are carrying the plan and purpose of God in their hearts is incredible. Jesus Himself said that few will find it. We must be scriptural and not let our emotions (or brains) overrun us.
When I see the number of preachers today and hear what the majority of them are preaching; and when I see how Christians love listening to a gospel that forever tells them that God loves them and that He does not want them to undergo any kind of trouble, I realize that indeed, few will find that narrow way. For that narrow road is the road of the cross: it is the road (or lifestyle) of crucifying the flesh, forsaking our rights and this world and following Jesus.
In I Corinthians 11:1 Paul says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Through the example of giving his life, the Apostle Paul took up his cross, just as Jesus did.
Having established a ‘background’ of sorts there, let me now get back to my topic: Peddlers of the Gospel, Enemies of the Cross. You can follow it up in the second and third parts of this post…
Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. 2 Cointhians 11:1-4
Have you ever played a game of chess? I do sometimes play it – with my computer. The most dangerous piece on that chessboard is called the queen. The queen strikes terror in any opponent’s heart. The minute I see my adversary’s queen begin to take position I always know I am in trouble. The real terror, of course, is that the queen always moves with purpose. She knows exactly where she is headed, and she is always headed for a kill.
Whenever I see the other player’s queen begin to move, I know I have made a wrong move somewhere, and that I have given the queen the chance to move in for the kill.
As a born-again Christian, I equate the queen with sin in a Christian’s life. The minute we get into another gospel, other than the right gospel, we have made ‘a wrong move’, and sin moves in and it kills us. There are many Christians today who, unawares, are dead although they still profess Christianity.
In the above scripture the Apostle Paul was warning the church of Corinth against accepting ‘another’ gospel other than that which he had preached to them – the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ. The gospel that Paul had preached to these people was a gospel designed and given to him by God Himself to accomplish the task of presenting a ‘chaste virgin’ to Christ. ‘Chaste’ means ‘clean’, ‘untainted’. In gospel-speak that means holy, righteous, pure, completely sinless.
Sin dwells in a man’s heart, of course, and the gospel that Paul preached dealt with exactly that – Christians’ hearts.
In many scriptures Paul calls the gospel a ‘mystery’. It is the mystery of Christ, revealed to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and prophets.
Today, just as in Paul’s day, may false apostles and prophets have risen up to proclaim a gospel of their own. The main difference between their gospel and the gospel that Paul preached is that (just like in Paul’s time) this other gospel is a worldly gospel. It is not a gospel of the heart, meaning it does not deal with the heart. When the gospel deals with the heart the flesh dies. The flesh and all that clings to it, dies away.
On the contrary, this ‘strange’ gospel not only does not deal with the heart, but it feeds the flesh. (I once attended a service where a famous preacher told us to ‘claim that Mercedes Benz’!). God’s people are taught how to prosper materially, how to have their bodies healed, how to live healthy lives – all things which have to do with this “body of death”, that is, a body which will ultimately die.
In the final analysis, these kinds of gospels appease the flesh; and sin moves in for the kill. Sin closes in, because sin fears nothing except the cross of Jesus Christ. It was through the death of the cross alone that Christ was able to triumph over the powers and principalities of darkness, including the total defeat of sin. Where the cross of Christ is working in a man’s life, sin cannot show its ugly head.
We stand and we fall before God strictly in relation to the condition of our hearts. We need to cry to God so that we might find ourselves walking that narrow road where we are keeping a pure heart and walking holy lives before God. The Bible is clear that this can only be accomplished through the working of the cross in our hearts.
That is why the Apostle Paul would not preach any other gospel other than the gospel of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” 1 Cor. 2:2. In other words, he determined to preach no other gospel other than the gospel of the cross of Christ. In many of his writings Paul calls this gospel a ‘mystery’.
Not that Paul had a choice. He reckoned himself a bond slave of Jesus Christ, which meant he could only preach that which God commanded him to preach.
The gospel he preached – the revelation of the cross – was the only gospel that could deliver man from the power of sin.
That is the gospel that will show you how rotten your heart is and that you need to have it cleaned up. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”. Seeking the Kingdom of God means being at peace with God in our hearts. And we cannot be at peace with God while our hearts are carrying every sort of filth.
The material and physical life (of which Christians are so concerned today) follows after. That is why Jesus used the word “seek first”.
Christians should not be walking about with dark hearts. Jesus died on the cross for the very purpose, and He has put apostles and prophets in the church to reveal His cross and the power therein to totally banish sin in Christians’ lives. When we are walking in that revelation we will walk in victory over sin and the world, and all the deceptiveness that goes with it.
I visited a brother the other day and immediately I sat down he turned on the TV. He told me he had 70 Christian channels. I watched in fascination as he flipped from one channel to another. It was obvious that he had no favorite station; he would watch whatever program appeared most titillating at that time. As he turned from one station to another I could not help noticing how Christianity had gone clearly overboard. So many other things appear to have replaced the true ministries that Christ set in the Church “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”Eph 4:12
Because of a lack of the ministry of the apostle in the church today there is so much deception, folly and even outright witchcraft going on. Now in Christian churches there are things like:
‘Business Breakthrough and Financial Increase’;
‘Receive Undeniable Favor and Breakthrough as you Partner with Us’;
‘Our U.S. Dollar Account No.’;
‘Counselling/ Deliverance Ministry’;
‘Duplication of Anointing’;
‘Enforcing Redemption: Taking Back What The Devil Has Stolen’.
Needless to say, the list is endless.
The Church should be made aware that the devil is able to transform himself into an angel of light and his servants are able to transform themselves into ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-14). That means that in these last days there is going to be deception of enormous proportions from the enemy. Paul calls these ministers ‘deceitful workers’. Workers of what? No doubt, workers of miracles. Therefore, through powerful spiritual manifestations it will be possible even for the elect to be deceived. That is why it is so dangerous for Christians to swallow anything and everything that is thrown at them “in the Name of Jesus”. It is also very dangerous to seek after signs and wonders, for therein many will be deceived. The Apostle Paul says: “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:23-24
The true ministries of Jesus Christ within the Church, under the fatherhood of the apostle, will confront and deal with the flesh. This is where many Christians diverge off to something else because they do not want to be confronted. They want to hear sweet things. But the apostle is a father. Under his leadership and authority these ministries will not misuse people, nor trample upon them as men seek after their own glory. On the contrary, they will edify and build up the Body as one, holding onto the Head, Jesus Christ Himself. Men and women will learn to surrender their lives and allow a deep work in their hearts so their lives can be changed to reflect the true character – the life and love – of Christ. That is what constitutes true spiritual maturity.