Dear Apostle, You Are Not Always Right!
As an apostle, it’s easy to forget that you have weaknesses too. A call to this office can often come with a false expectation and false pressure, both internally and externally, to always be right and to know everything; but the truth is we don’t. Identifying these weaknesses allows the power of God to be perfected in us (2 Corinthians 12:9); therefore, it is important that we can identify the weaknesses of this office so that we might grow in His grace.
For Our Learning
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, KJV)
The scriptures are a useful tool to help us grow into the vessels God needs us to be. As an apostle, this is a very particular kind of vessel, that has its very particular weak points. In this article, we are going to look at an incident that took place with Paul the apostle, so that we might identify two of the main weaknesses of an apostle.
A Look at Paul
In Acts 15:35-40, we read about a strong contention that arose between Paul and Barnabas, so strong in fact, that it led to them departing their separate ways:
Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
This passage of scripture links directly to 2 Timothy 4:11, where we see that Paul has had a change of heart about John Mark and asks him to be brought to him;
Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
This scripture reveals that Paul realised his mistake… yes, he was wrong! But in what ways exactly? Let’s take a closer look and see what we can learn about the weaknesses of apostolic office through this incident recorded in scripture.
Weakness 1: A Need to Feel Appreciated
An apostle wants to feel appreciated and this is what we see in Acts 15. Paul and Barnabas had been preaching and teaching “with many others” in Antioch and I believe this led to the feeling of not feeling appreciated. Where there are many individuals who can preach and teach, why would they need Paul to preach and teach all the time? Exactly, they wouldn’t. I believe this is what led Paul to come up with his own fleshly idea.
And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. (Acts 15:35)
Paul had clearly had enough. He wanted more, something greater. He wanted to use his gifting in a greater way, he wanted to lead without other people, he wanted to complete his own work. I believe He didn’t really feel important in Antioch because he was just another one of the many teachers and preachers there. However, when out on his missionary journeys he was appreciated, and that’s what he wanted to experience again. This is what I believe Paul was really saying to Barnabas; “Hey Barnabas, let’s go where we’re more appreciated. We’re not really needed here, so let’s go somewhere that our ministry is actually needed.”
This wasn’t a God idea; it was just his “good” idea. This wasn’t Paul being led by the Spirit, it was Paul being led by his flesh. Other places in Acts clearly state when it was the Lord leading Paul, but this wasn’t one of those times. Paul didn’t want to be one of many preachers and teachers, no, he wanted to do his own thing… He wanted to be an apostle! That’s how apostles are built. We want to pioneer; we want to do our own thing. But the weakness of this gift is the motive from which we do it. Whenever we allow the lie of unappreciation to settle in, it will lead us to operate in our flesh.
At times the Lord will have you working as one of many. This is where we must learn to identify our weaknesses and rely on His grace. Just because there are many others who can do what you do, does not make your gift any less valuable. The Lord has you there for a reason and it is not your job to decide when it’s time to “move on”. Just because you can move on and do other work, doesn't mean you should (1 Corinthians 10:23). Trust Abba during these seasons and don’t allow frustration to cause you make fleshly choices.
Weakness 2: Taking it Personally
The second main weakness we can identify in this passage of scripture is that apostles take any separation with their ministry as a personal rejection. This is what Paul experienced with John Mark. After Paul made his suggestion to return to the brethren they had previously ministered to, Barnabas suggested that they take his cousin, John Mark. However, Paul firmly disagreed because John Mark had previously left them when they were in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13). Paul clearly felt rejected by John Mark and had not dealt with it yet. He probably said something like this; “If John Mark left us before, then clearly he does not value the work God is doing through us. How can he think there is anything more to do apart from the work God has us doing? If he left us before, then he certainly does not deserve to come with us now.”
This is the weakness of the apostle. You are your ministry and so if a person disagrees with what you are ministering, or moves on to do something else, it is like a personal rejection of you. Paul’s unresolved feelings of rejection led him to even sever the relationship he had with Barnabas; the very person the Holy Ghost had chosen as his ministry partner (Acts 13:1).
Now that you know this is a weakness of the apostle, you must learn to deal with all feelings of rejection quickly. The enemy will try to use it as a door to enter into your life and ministry, but Abba’s grace is sufficient.
Keep on Maturing
By 2 Timothy 4:11, the Lord had clearly done a work in Paul, and so he asks for John Mark to be brought to him. Previously, Paul had not understood John Mark’s true role in his life. He had thought that it was to assist him practically, but actually, the Lord used him to deal with Paul’s weaknesses. Not every person has to side with you, apostle, and you will not always be right. This is something that Paul learnt as he continued to mature.
The Lord can use whoever He wants to teach us and we should be humble enough to admit our mistakes when we are wrong. John Mark did not have to stay with Paul in his ministry, he had every liberty to leave them at Pamphylia and it could have been the Lord Himself that led him to do so. Paul had taken personal offence at John Mark’s decision, but the Lord had used John Mark to teach Paul that a person doesn’t have to do what he wants them to do, say what he wants them to say or act how he wants them to act. A person is free to be who God has called them to be, just as you are free to be who God has called you to be. We need these types of people in our lives who are not afraid to do or say what God is telling them to do or say, just because we are apostles. If the Lord places these types of people in your life, then truly they are profitable to you for the ministry. Amen.