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Is an apostle a super-Christian with all of the spiritual gifts?

Posted by on Aug 1, 2012 in spiritual gifts | 13 comments

Is an apostle a super-Christian with all of the spiritual gifts?

We know more about Paul than almost any other person in Scripture (except Jesus), because much of the Book of Acts focuses on his service for Jesus Christ and because he wrote so many letters that were collected in Scripture. In Scripture, we also read that Paul is identified as an apostle, and we read that Paul identifies himself as an apostle.

We also know that “apostle” is designated as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 and Ephesians 4:11, for example.) Almost everything that we know about what it means to be an apostle we know because of the narratives in Acts about Paul and because of the letters that Paul wrote.

However, as we read about Paul in Scripture and read what Paul wrote in Scripture, we also find something interesting: Paul exhibited many of the things/activities identified as “spiritual gifts.”

While no passage in Scripture specifically says that Paul prophesied (as far as I can tell, although Acts 13:1 could indicate that Paul was both a prophet and teacher), it can be inferred from several passages, especially 1 Corinthians 14. However, there are several examples of Paul discerning prophecy, such as in Acts 21:10-14.

There are several examples of Paul evangelizing – proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. That are several examples of Paul evangelizing both Jews and Gentiles, and, in fact, he tells the Galatians that God set him apart to evangelize the Gentiles before he was born. (Galatians 1:15-16)

Teaching is an important aspect of Paul’s service to the church, as demonstrated in several passages including Colossians 1:28 and Acts 15:35. It’s hard to count the number of times that Scripture records Paul encouraging/exhorting others. (For example, see Acts 16:40 and Acts 20:2.) While the term “shepherding” or “pastoring” is not used specifically in reference to Paul, he does present himself as a model of a shepherd to the elders from Ephesus in Acts 20, and his description of his work among the Thessalonians is certainly pastoral. (See 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 for example.)

Paul told the Corinthians that he spoke in tongues more than they did. (See 1 Corinthians 14:18.) In the Book of Acts there are several of examples of Paul healing people and performing other miracles. (For example, see Acts 14:9-10.) Giving was something that Paul practiced on many occasions, including the time recorded in Acts 11:30 and 1 Corinthians 16:1.

So far, besides the gift of being a apostle, I’ve recounted times when Paul performed acts related to the spiritual gifts of prophecy, evangelism, pastoring, teaching, discerning prophesy, speaking in tongues, encouraging, healing, miracles, and giving.

What about the gifts of service, helps, faith, leading, showing mercy, or the other various gifts listed in Scripture? It’s not hard to imagine Paul doing things related to each of these gifts as well, and several passages could be used to point out those gifts in Paul’s life.

So, what does this mean? Paul is primarily an apostle, and yet we see him exercising almost all (if not all) of the spiritual gifts.

Does this mean that the gift of apostleship is (in some way) a “super-gift” that encompasses all of the other spiritual gifts?

Well, that’s certainly a possibility. However, I think there’s another possibility – a possibility that, I believe, better explains other passages and exhortations in Scripture. I’ll explain my view in my post tomorrow.

For now, I’ll leave this post for your consideration and discussion. What do you think?


13 Comments

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  1. 8-1-2012

    Alan,

    I believe God gave Paul the gifts he needed when he needed them. Paul found himself in wide-ranging situations. God provided whatever happened to be needed at the moment. This does not mean that Paul was permanently gifted in all the areas we see at all times. However, when the situation called for certain gifts, the Spirit provided them.

  2. 8-1-2012

    Paul was gifted and chosen as an apostle.

    Keeping in mind that this was the world before the Internet and mega-churches, this meant that he was tasked with literally bringing The Gospel to wherever The Lord sent Him, for the purpose of establishing local ekklesia.

    His calling and gifting was as apostle, but I also believe firmly he was gifted as The Spirit willed, in whatever circumstances he was in, to teach/demonstrate the Spirit’s power. 1 Corinthians springs to mind. This was so necessary since no one had really heard that much about Jesus and His earthly ministry.

    Now then, are there apostles today? If so, are they superior (in abilities) to the other four equipping gifts? Does our Father need apostles today, or has The Gospel reached every corner of the earth?

    You tease us, Alan, with telling us we need to wait for your next posting on this topic. Fine. I’ll wait. :)

  3. 8-1-2012

    I have no idea how to answer your question, Alan. However, I like what Eric has said and it makes sense to me.

    It is interesting to me that Paul never referred to himself as “the Apostle Paul,” but rather simply as “Paul, an apostle.” Somehow this seems significant to me.

  4. 8-1-2012

    Is it possible that Paul is describing the role of an Apostle: to prophesy, to evangelize, to shepherd and to teach. Just a thought.

  5. 8-1-2012

    Eric,

    Yes, God definitely gave Paul the gifts that he needed in given situations. Is this something special that God did because Paul was an apostle?

    Donald,

    Many times I will ask questions and foster discussion before stating my own views. Like I said to Eric, God definitely gave Paul the gifts he needed in given situations. The question is, is this something that God does for apostles only?

    Scott,

    Yes. As far as I know, spiritual gifts are never used as titles in Scripture.

    Jon,

    I think we’re asking the same thing: does being gifted as an apostle include being gifted in the other ways as well?

    -Alan

  6. 8-1-2012

    Alan,

    “The question is, is this something that God does for apostles only?”

    Nope. But I am quite sure you’re going to dig deeper into this later on.

  7. 8-1-2012

    I’m looking for my calipers and rulers to see if I can figure out which person indwelt by GOD is bigger than another… (and looking forward, as always, to tomorrow’s post).

  8. 8-1-2012

    Great topic Alan, for years I wondered why Paul was a “super believer”. Was it due to his prodigious heritage, depth of understanding O.C law, was it his Jewish perspective, or was Paul just the benefactor of “super” grace?

    In my mine it is quite clear, Paul caught a glimpse of Christ, his life turned on a dime. Paul was awestruck at the love, and majesty of his Lord, Savior, and friend Jesus the Christ. In this he counted all previous aspects of his life dross, dung, and despised.

    Paul lived, moved, and had his being in Christ, and this was more than enough, it was and is everything.

    We are chosen, gifted, and ordained by none other than Jesus Christ himself. Like Paul we die daily to our flesh, and move and have our being in, through, and for Jesus Christ.

    To rest in Christ, we must rest in Christ.

  9. 8-1-2012

    Donald,

    So, if “exercising” various spiritual gifts is not for apostles, then who is it for, and what is an apostle? (I’m not saying that I disagree with you, btw.)

    Art,

    For a long time, I used those calipers backwards. According to Paul, the ones who measure as least important are actually more important. Who’d a thunk it?

    Jim,

    I think I agree with you. But, just to make sure, why are you saying that Paul was able to exercise so many spiritual gifts?

    -Alan

  10. 8-2-2012

    Might it be that Jesus was himself the greatest of all apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, healers etc?

    Might it be that Paul is just like us, receiving from the Spirit of Christ whatever he needs in the moment to do the work of Christ in every situation? Might there be the potential of all these things in each of us, ready to grow and flourish when needed?

    What did Paul mean when he wrote, ‘Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?’ Might it be that personality, experiences, and environment make it more likely for some to develop in this and others in that?

  11. 8-2-2012

    Chris,

    Yes, I think that Jesus was the greatest of all men, and thus exhibited perfect service in all areas.

    -Alan

  12. 8-2-2012

    Alan, to respond to your question, Paul was a clay pot with treasure inside. As Paul died to himself, the life within him (zoe life) was able to manifest these gifts. Paul was living by the indwelling of Christ and fruit of this life was abundantly displayed. As Paul stated in his letter to Galatia.

    “What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

  13. 8-2-2012

    Jim,

    Yes. My conclusion (in my next post) is that the indwelling Christ can serve through anyone in any of these ways. So, the areas of service are not relegated only to apostles or only to people with those particular spiritual gifts.

    -Alan