Of Apostles And Prophets – Part 2

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Eph. 3:1-5)

Let us begin with the Old Testament. In proverbs 17:11 we read:

“An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”

Notice how these words align with what the Apostle Paul went through as he describes in 2 Corinthians 12:7.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”

A messenger of Satan was given to Paul, to buffet him in the flesh.

Was Paul an evil man?

It is clear from these scriptures that the “evil man” that the writer of Proverbs 17:11 is referring to is not our human idea of an evil man; on the contrary, the “evil man” here refers to the flesh. In essence, therefore, this scripture addresses all of us, for we are all carnal. If you thought you were good or holy, the Bible says no, you are “evil”. You haven’t become good until you meet with that cruel messenger. If you haven’t met him yet, get prepared; it is God’s will that he be sent… to buffet you!

With regard to his candidacy for meeting the cruel messenger, Paul states in Romans 7:14:

“… I am carnal, sold under sin.”

And again, in Romans 7:21-23:

“21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

Do we not all experience this? We are at war! And the cruel messenger has been sent our way. Strangely enough, he has been sent to help us win this war.

Who is the cruel messenger then?

The cruel messenger is the cross. The cross was set up against Paul’s carnal nature, for Paul’s carnal nature was evil.

We read in Romans 8:7-8:

“7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

In his case, therefore, scripture had to be fulfilled:

“An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”

In order for Paul to do the will of God and please Him fully, God put him under this cruel messenger. Unscribed in the ways of God, Paul prayed to God thrice to have this messenger taken away from him, but God told him:

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

In other words, God was telling Paul, “Paul, you cannot serve me as you are. But that thorn will constantly keep your flesh under, for your flesh only wants to rebel. That cross will produce the grace needed to bear fruit for Me.” (Rom. 7:4)

In 2 Corinthians 4:12, the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians just as much concerning what the cross accomplished in his life :

“So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”

When the cross worked death in the apostles’ lives, life came to the church!

It is the same today. The problem with the church today is that there is a huge number of people calling themselves apostles and prophets. But death is not working in these people! Their condition is exactly as it was with the false ministers of Paul’s day. Paul spoke of the ministers of his day thus:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:13)


Paul tells of what they were doing to the church.

“For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.” (v.20)

This is exactly what is happening in church today. These so-called apostles and prophets are doing these same things to God’s people!

“Smite you on the face” means to degrade, to demean, to humiliate. Just as in Paul’s day, today’s false apostles and prophets are doing extremely inhumane things to God’s people. Every kind of evil is being done against God’s people by ungodly men who are in actual fact ravenous wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. The Swahili Bible uses the word “cruel”. It calls them “cruel wolves”.

Indeed, there is probably more cruelty going on in the church than in the world. But, just as in Paul’s day, people are thronging to these crude ‘ministries’. Wonders.

Because the church today is largely under the influence of these false apostles and prophets, there is no life left in much of today’s church. Everywhere, God’s people are suffering terribly, and they are in deep mourning.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

Thank God, there is. Let’s recap again to our key scripture in Ephesians chapter 3 and verse 5.

“…Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit”.


“holy apostles and prophets”.

The key lies in the word “holy”. God’s Holy Spirit will minister the true gospel only through holy apostles and prophets. These are they who will preach and live the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached:

“Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2 Cor. 2:2).

Unfortunately, the church has always had unholy ministers, and these nearly always outnumber the holy ones. But we are to be on the look-out. Jesus said,

“15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

Jesus was talking about entering into God’s Kingdom through the narrow gate; and here He declares that false ministers will not live a life that reflects this lifestyle. They will live the high and sinful life.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that these false ministers have not the vaguest idea of the gospel of the cross, which was the singular gospel that the apostles preached. They preach

“another Jesus”; “another spirit”; “another gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).

They preach the prosperity gospel. I heard one of them say, “I am a billionaire.” A billionaire preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Another has jets (“Jets, with an ‘s’!”, effused the reporter). Etc, etc. Incredible.

Others skirt the prosperity gospel but carry equally demonic doctrines. But any other gospel, apart from the revelation of the cross, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And Jesus told us to beware of all these fellows.

“Beware of false prophets”.

This is a responsibility the church must bear. You cannot just say of your pastor, “Oh, I did not know his life.” How can you not know your pastor’s life? If you have no access to your pastor, stop going to that church. You should have access right into his bedroom (it could be that’s where he beats his wife).

Jesus gave us the responsibility to know what those who minister to us are carrying in their hearts.

“Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

False apostles and prophets have not been granted the revelation of the cross. They will preach and live other things altogether.

God’s people today need to desire and to heed the gospel of the cross which has been revealed to God’s holy apostles and prophets . Otherwise, there is no end to the spiritual grief they will endure and, in the end, most likely miss heaven altogether because they have been led along the wide and broad way.

[Another of my favorite dishes in the villages: freshly boiled pumpkins]


Paul’s Thorn in The Flesh

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Cor. 12:7-10

I remember in my early days after I became born-again, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. As foggy as my memory is, I do seem to recall that no preacher seemed to have a grasp on this one, nor did I receive much help from the many books that I read. Looking back now, I find that to be incredibly strange because the answer to this question is right there in these very verses. Paul says in verse 10, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake”.

These things, “infirmities… reproaches… necessities… persecutions… distresses”… these were what constituted Paul’s thorn in the flesh.

By infirmities Paul is not referring to physical illnesses, no. He is referring to something far more profound, a forfeiture in the inner man.

In this post, however, I want us to go beyond there and attempt to see why God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh, and why this thorn would accompany him throughout his earthly life. It is clear from the scriptures that God allowed this thorn in Paul’s flesh for just one purpose: so that Paul could serve God the way God wanted him to serve Him. These are the kind of things that make me root for God – that God is God and that He will always work things to the end that He alone receives the glory.

God made it clear to Paul that the minute that thorn was removed from his flesh, he would cease to serve God in exactly the way God wanted him to serve Him. And so God put Paul permanently “in the stocks”, so to speak.

That is a far cry from how many of us serve God. Yes, we serve God all right, but without the thorn in the flesh. We serve God with too much freedom in the flesh. Which translates to the fact that we do not serve God effectively.

But the things that Paul endured in the flesh enabled him to serve God more effectively than any of the other apostles: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Cor. 15:10

You don’t want to think that something for which a man like Paul prayed three times to have removed from his life was a small irritation. No sir. I can say with all confidence that Paul most likely was involved in a life-and-death situation every day of his life. And God told Paul he would have to endure this state of affairs all his life here on earth.

To paraphrase God’s words to Paul: “Paul, I cannot allow you to be not without this thorn. This thorn is what will confine you to Me. It is impossible for you to serve Me without this thorn. If I allow you to serve Me without this thorn, you will easily boast in your achievements for Me, and not only will I not receive the glory, but you will lose your reward in heaven.”

And so God sent a messenger of Satan to buffet Paul.

in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses…”

In Paul, God had found a willing servant. Having accepted this thorn as God’s will in his life, Paul was ready for God to invest in him the fullness of His revelation of the cross of Christ.

Many people are in church today, not to partake of the thorn in the flesh, but to seek reprieve for the flesh!

Many people are in church today because they want God to put food on their table, to help them pay their bills, to prosper their businesses, to heal their bodies, to provide them with a marriage partner; the list is endless. In short, many are in church to have God solve the many problems they are facing in the flesh.

The single reason there are so many un-Godly doctrines in church today, including the doctrine of prosperity, is because people went to church in the first place to seek for something other than the life of Christ. But Christ’s church has only one thing to offer: the cross. But men do not want to hear of the cross. The minute men saw the cross, they fled Christ’s church and started another church right across the street. And there, they comfortably allowed in every doctrine that would cater to the flesh. As they sang, “Glory, Hallelujah!” they consoled themselves that they were in the perfect will of God!

Every doctrine in church, apart from the singular doctrine of the cross that the Apostle Paul preached, is there because men have a hunger for things other than the righteousness of God.

But praise be to God for men like Paul who, in the face of God’s thorn in his flesh, said, “I rejoice!”

God had told him, “There is only one way you can serve me: it is by carrying this thorn in your flesh!”

That is a question we should all seriously ask ourselves. Where is the heart of Christ in Christian ministry? It can only be there when there is that thorn in our flesh.

[Below: Despite the thorn in Paul’s flesh, yet he was the happiest of men!]


We Bring Life By Suffering – Part 1

If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. 2 Cor. 11:30

This is undoubtedly one of the most profound statements in the Bible made by a man apart from Christ.

It is impossible for a person who has not suffered in the flesh to bring life into the Church. He may preach and do many things in the Church; but he will not bring life. I am not talking about this physical life. There are many things that we do, even in church, that bring life to us in the natural. And it is a man’s right to boast in whatever they have accomplished.

Today there are born-again Christians who have been ‘perfected’ in the flesh. They can therefore boast in the things of the flesh. A man was speaking at an open-air evangelistic meeting in one of our major towns and he said, “I have more than one degree. I have more than one car. I am not a thief. I am a big executive in one of the biggest banks in this country. My car that you see parked there is brand new, as you can see; I just removed it from its wrappings!”

Unbelievable, but true. He went on to say that his certificates had been prayed upon by anointed men of God, and that was how his journey to glory began. He was trying to point out that we born-again Christians are not supposed to live low-class lives; that we are to live the high life because we are blessed!

It is unfortunate, but the Church of Christ has been brought to the place where it believes that that is the life God has for them. Today, you are expected to apologise if you touch negatively on this aspect of the Christian life. You are supposed to say, every time, “God is not against us prospering materially, but…”

It is time to stop saying that. It is time to boldly reproof a Church that is clearly becoming more and more materialistic-minded.

When the Bible talks about life, it talks about the life of the Spirit, the life of Christ.

The Bible says we are to be “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5). That means we have died with Christ and risen with Him. There are no short-cuts to becoming a “living stone” in the Body of Christ. The Bible also says that “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Mat. 7:14. I have asked this question here before, but I will ask it again: How can we believe that the many masses in churches today are truly following that narrow road? Jesus Himself said that “few there be that find it”.

The Apostle Paul was as human as you and I. When therefore God decided to work in him in order for him to become an effective vessel for Him, Paul instinctively tried to resist. It was painful. He says he prayed three times for God to remove the thorn from his flesh. Three times! For a man of the calibre of Paul to pray three times for God to set him free from a certain situation, it shows how difficult it will be even for us to accept the will of God in our lives.

But God was adamant. He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”(2 Cor. 12:9). In other words, God told Paul, “No, my friend, I want to use you; and that is the only way you can become of any use to me. I have no alternative but to break you down.”

The Apostle Paul received much grace from the Lord. Why? Because he came to understand what the Lord wanted to do and he agreed to align his life with what God wanted to do in his life. He obeyed God. Immediately thereafter, Paul says, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Cor. 12:10

It is not easy to obey God. It needs the grace of God. I have heard of people saying they obeyed God and He blessed them with this and that material blessing. That is so easy! If someone tells me to “plant a seed” of so much money so that I may “harvest” a hundredfold, that is so easy and comfortable to do.

But it is time to believe and obey God in enduring suffering on His behalf.