My teacher assigned 1 Corinthians 4:1-13 for me to translate by Wednesday. In this passage Paul is sarcastically saying how wise and accomplished the Corinthian Christians are (meaning they aren’t) and contrasting that puffed up view with the humble lives of the apostles. I’ve read this passage many times, but while going over it slowly word by word I began to feel some degree of Paul’s pain and struggle in a way I haven’t before. Here is my translation of the relevant bit:
For I think God has displayed us apostles as last of all, as men condemned to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world and to angels and to men. We are fools on account of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are distinguished, but we are without honor. Until the present hour we are hungry and thirsty and poorly clothed and beaten and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Having been abused we bless. Having been persecuted we endure. When we are slandered we appeal earnestly. We have become as refuse of the world; the dregs of all things to this very day.
“The dregs of all things.” Wow. If you are a Charismatic, think of the guys who call themselves apostles. The crowds love them. They are making six figures. They are polished. They have speaking tours and book deals. What does the life of a real apostle look like?
1. Being displayed as a man condemned to death
2. Being a spectacle
3. Being seen as a fool
4. Being weak
5. Not receiving honor from men
6. Going without
7. Working very hard so as not to be a burden on others
8. Enduring persecution
9. Being abused
10. Being slandered and not answering back
11. Being the refuse of the world
12. Being the dregs of all things
My Presbyterian brothers and sisters will disagree with me, but I see no reason there can’t be apostles today (sorry I don’t have time to defend that right now). But if someone is going to claim to be one then he needs to be commissioned by God personally – meaning the resurrected Christ physically commissions him – and his life needs to be marked in some degree by items 1 to 12 above. If not, then let’s make up some other name for the leader. I’m not saying the person is bad; I’m saying he is not an apostle and we shouldn’t call him one.
PS. I believe there are people in my own church family who are called apostles. This wasn’t written with them in mind, but I am suggesting that we are careful what titles we give people.